Running Back Breakdown: Yards After Contact
We have broken down quarterback play and our receiver route data over the last several weeks, and now we are going to give running backs a similar treatment by taking a closer look at their success and usage from a statistical standpoint. Naturally, there is a correlation between running back statistical performance and offensive line blocking, but we believe our grading still provides the best overall picture of a player’s success beyond their blocking.
Beyond traditional rushing data, we gather a whole host of extra information on each rushing play. From the specific gap of the point of attack to run concepts and blocking schemes to first contact defender and location, all of which is utilized by NFL teams. Which player has the most success running ‘power’ concept plays? Who really faces eight defenders in the box the most often? Do players see a benefit from running behind a lead backfield blocker?
-To qualify, a running back must have had a minimum of 70 rush attempts, with 62 players meeting the qualification.
-Post-season data is included.
Yards After Contact
After looking at overall run lengths in a pair of psts (here and here) earlier, we are going to similarly inspect how much yardage running backs pick up after contact. Now, yards after contact (YCo) can come in many different forms. A runner who drags the first defender for several yards and a run with a broken tackle early that gains significant yardage in open space afterward are very different despite the numbers measuring the same thing. But overall, these are some of the best and worst players at gaining yards after contact in 2014.
Highest Percentage of Runs with 10+ Yards After Contact
— James Starks has struggled with injuries over the years, but when healthy he always seems to have a knack for breaking off big runs. He had seven with 10-plus yards after contact on 95 carries in 2014.
— To probably no one’s surprise, Marshawn Lynch led the NFL with 17 runs where he gained at least 10 yards after the first hit.
— As you will see more of later on, Knile Davis is quite the boom or bust in terms of yards after contact.
Highest Percentage of Runs with 3+ Yards After Contact
— Three yards after contact is where you will see more of the players who are able to churn out a few extra yards on the end of shorter runs more often than others.
— Jonathan Stewart also seems to be oft-injured, but when on the field he has consistently graded very well, so it is no surprise to see him at the top.
— Four players broke triple-digit runs with three or more yards after contact, with DeMarco Murray leading the way with 137 but failing to make the top ten due to his high amount of carries.
Lowest Percentage of Runs with 3+ Yards After Contact
—Latavius Murray made some big plays in 2014, but they rarely included much for yards after contact or missed tackles.
—Dallas brought in Darren McFadden as one of DeMarco Murray’s potential replacements, but McFadden gained three-plus yards after contact nearly 10 percent less often than Murray.
Lowest Percentage of Runs with No Yards After Contact
— The first running back drafted last year did not have as much of an impact as other rookie running backs, but Bishop Sankey excelled in gaining yards after contact and rarely was immediately stopped.
— Three sets of teammates make the Top 10 here, but Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon might be the surprise with Asiata averaging just 2 yards after contact and McKinnon adjusting to playing running back full-time.
Highest Percentage of Runs with No Yards After Contact
— As I alluded to earlier, Knile Davis has a few runs with significant yardage after contact, but overall he struggled in 2014 as he failed to gain a single yard after initial contact on over one-third of his carries. Davis also had the second-highest percentage of carries with zero or 1 yard after contact with 63.4 percent.
— As the Eagles move on to DeMarco Murray from LeSean McCoy, one notable comparison is that Murray failed to gain any yards after contact only four more times than McCoy even though he had 127 more carries.
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