OTD Improvement Project – Part 1: Intro, Rushing Analysis

Mike Clay explains upgrades made to his opportunity-adjusted touchdown (OTD) formula and examines the rushing data, including that of newly-added quarterbacks.

| 3 years ago
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OTD Improvement Project – Part 1: Intro, Rushing Analysis


LeGarrette BlountApproximately six months ago, I introduced a new statistic called “opportunity-adjusted touchdowns,” or “OTD.”

Today, I’m debuting an improved version of the same stat.

Created as a replacement for flawed but oft-referenced red zone data, OTD proved to be a much more accurate indicator of scoring potential throughout the 2013 season. But each version – receiving and rushing – had a glaring limitation.

Rushing OTD only included carries out of the backfield by running backs. That means end-arounds and all quarterback rushes were ignored. Receiving OTD didn’t factor in the depth of the throw, which means a quick slant into the end zone was treated the same as a 50-yard bomb.

Neither limitation significantly impacted the 2013 OTD data. We simply didn’t chart quarterback rushing OTD and, now that I’ve done the research, there were no receivers with massive changes in their receiving OTD following the tweaks.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the rushing data. In future installments, I looked at passing and receiving.

Rushing OTD

Players accrue Rushing OTD based mainly on the distance they are from the end zone. As the goal line draws closer, so do the odds of finding paydirt. Going forward, I’ll be breaking it down even further. Specifically, there are six different categories a player can fit into: tailback backfield carry, fullback backfield carry, quarterback scramble, quarterback sneak, designed quarterback run, and any end-around.

A carry from the 1-yard line always provides the best odds of a touchdown, but the actual rates are different depending on what position the player is and where he’s lined up. For example, tailbacks have scored on 53.8 percent of carries from the 1-yard line over the last six seasons. Fullbacks convert 45.7 percent of the time. A second example shows quarterbacks scoring from 1 yard out just over 59 percent of the time, regardless of whether or not it was a sneak or a designed run. The reason we split these two apart, however, is the carries from farther away. Of 76 quarterback sneak touchdowns since 2008, 71 are from 1 yard out. The other five came within 5 yards of the end zone. As you might imagine, scores on designed runs come from all over the field. In fact, quarterbacks have run for 31 touchdowns of 10 or more yards on designed runs over the last six years.

Rk Player Car OTD  TD  Diff
1 Marshawn Lynch 301 13.1 12 -1.1
2 Le’Veon Bell 244 10.6 8 -2.6
3 Frank Gore 276 10.5 9 -1.5
4 Jamaal Charles 260 10.1 12 1.9
5 Fred Jackson 206 9.4 9 -0.4
6 Eddie Lacy 284 8.9 11 2.1
7 Ray Rice 214 8.8 4 -4.8
8 DeMarco Murray 217 8.3 9 0.7
9 Matt Forte 289 7.9 9 1.1
10 Knowshon Moreno 241 7.7 10 2.3
11 Willis McGahee 138 7.6 2 -5.6
12 LeSean McCoy 314 7.5 9 1.5
13 Zac Stacy 250 7.5 7 -0.5
14 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 220 7.1 7 -0.1
15 Rashad Jennings 163 7.1 6 -1.1

Our first chart shows the rushing OTD leaders from the 2013 regular season.

If you followed by OTD series over at ESPN Insider during the regular season, it won’t be a surprise to see Marshawn Lynch atop the rankings. Lynch paced all rushers in scoring opportunity, which, not coincidentally, helped him to an NFL-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Seattle’s lead back punched in three of six tries from 1 yard out and was a healthy 4-of-9 from 2 yards out.

Ray Rice’s appearance on this list provides further evidence that opportunity wasn’t his issue in 2013. Per OTD, Rice should’ve finished seventh in rushing touchdowns. Instead, he averaged one score every four games. Rice converted on only three of 11 tries within 2 yards of the end zone.

Rk Player Car OTD  TD  Diff
1 Donald Brown 102 2.3 6 3.7
2 Adrian L. Peterson 279 6.4 10 3.6
3 LeGarrette Blount 152 3.7 7 3.3
4 Geno Smith 61 2.8 6 3.2
5 Cordarrelle Patterson 12 0.2 3 2.8
6 Knile Davis 70 1.5 4 2.5
7 Chris Polk 11 0.5 3 2.5
8 Christian Ponder 31 1.5 4 2.5
9 Andrew Luck 48 1.5 4 2.5
10 Chris D. Johnson 279 3.6 6 2.4

Next, we’ll take a look at the difference between each player’s actual and expected touchdowns. Our latest chart shows the players who exceeded their expected mark by the highest margin this past season. Determining if the gap should be attributed to luck, skill, or a mixture of both remains a work in progress.

Surprisingly, Donald Brown is our poster boy this time around. Brown scored on all four of his carries within 6 yards of the end zone. He took another in from 11 yards out and padded his numbers further with a 51-yard score.

The Patriots’ lead back down the stretch, LeGarrette Blount, only saw three carries from the 1-yard line. He converted one, instead making his bones from further distances. He was an impressive 3-of-4 on other carries within 7 yards of the end zone. On top of that, the big man scored three low-percentage touchdowns from distance of 35, 36, and 47 yards. And that’s not even including his four-touchdown playoff game!

Rk Player Car OTD  TD  Diff
1 Willis McGahee 138 7.6 2 -5.6
2 Ray Rice 214 8.8 4 -4.8
3 Bilal Powell 176 3.8 1 -2.8
4 Le’Veon Bell 244 10.6 8 -2.6
5 Michael Bush 63 5.5 3 -2.5
6 Pierre Thomas 147 4.4 2 -2.4
7 Philip Rivers 19 2.2 0 -2.2
8 Mike James 60 2.0 0 -2.0
9 Bernard Pierce 152 4.0 2 -2.0
10 Arian Foster 121 3.0 1 -2.0

Our next chart examines players with expected OTD marks significantly higher than their actual.

We discussed Rice earlier, Willis McGahee’s career is probably over, and Bilal Powell is a committee back, so let’s take a longer look at Le’Veon Bell.

Bell racked up an NFL-high 10 carries from the 1-yard line, but scored only four times. His other four touchdowns came within 8 yards of the end zone, which means he failed to provide even one long touchdown run. Bell racked up 220 carries from 10-plus yards away from the end zone and scored on none of them.

Michael Bush (nine), Jamaal Charles (eight), and Fred Jackson (seven) rounded out the Top 4 in carries from the opponent’s 1-yard line. LeSean McCoy, Rashad Jennings, Eddie Lacy, Lynch, Rice, and McGahee each had six.

Rk Player Car OTD  TD  Diff
1 Cam Newton 99 4.9 5 0.1
2 Nick Foles 42 3.1 3 -0.1
3 Russell Wilson 81 2.9 1 -1.9
4 Ryan Fitzpatrick 37 2.9 3 0.1
5 Geno Smith 61 2.8 6 3.2
6 E.J. Manuel 41 2.5 2 -0.5
7 Philip Rivers 19 2.2 0 -2.2
8 Ryan Tannehill 30 1.8 1 -0.8
9 Robert Griffin III 83 1.8 0 -1.8
10 Terrelle Pryor 79 1.8 2 0.2
11 Colin Kaepernick 81 1.8 4 2.2
12 Michael Vick 33 1.7 2 0.3

Because I just added it into the mix, I wanted to take a quick gander at the top quarterbacks in terms of rushing OTD from this past season.

There is no surprise here, as Cam Newton easily paced the field in 2013. Newton converted his only try from the 1-yard line and was 4-of-10 on all other carries inside the 10-yard line.

Of Robert Griffin III’s 83 carries, none came within 7 yards of the end zone. That helps explain why he failed to find the end zone. Consider that he scored six of his seven touchdowns in 2013 on carries within 10 yards of the end zone.

Russell Wilson failed to score on a pair of tries from the opponent’s 1-yard line. Regression hit him hard after he was 2-for-2 in the category in 2012. His only score this season came from 10 yards out. He also failed on a pair of carries from the 7-yard line.

Rk Player Car OTD  TD  Diff
1 Frank Gore 816 29.5 25 -4.5
2 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 679 28.1 24 -4.1
3 Arian Foster 750 27.9 26 -1.9
4 Marshawn Lynch 901 27.8 35 7.2
5 Ray Rice 762 27.1 25 -2.1
6 Cam Newton 334 26.8 27 0.2
7 Michael Turner 523 25.6 21 -4.6
8 LeSean McCoy 787 24.2 28 3.8
9 Adrian L. Peterson 835 23.9 34 10.1
10 Shonn Greene 606 21.3 18 -3.3
11 Stevan Ridley 555 21.0 20 -1.0
12 Mike Tolbert 275 19.9 20 0.1
13 Michael Bush 433 19.5 15 -4.5
14 Fred Jackson 491 17.9 18 0.1
15 Willis McGahee 554 17.6 10 -7.6

Our final chart shows the Top 15 players in rushing OTD over the last three regular seasons.

Working as the lead back in one of the league’s top offenses of the last three years, Frank Gore paces the league in rushing OTD. The veteran has scored 15 times on 29 carries within 2 yards of the end zone. Six of his 25 came on carries of 12 yards or longer.

Adrian Peterson exceeded his OTD by 10.1 during the three-year span. That’s easily a league-high. “AD” converted eight of his 13 tries from 1-yard out and racked up another eight scores from within 5 yards of the end zone. Peterson padded his stats with an impressive six 60-plus yard rushing touchdowns.

That’s it for today, but stay tuned for future installments of this study, which will examine passer and receiver OTD using our most-recent formula.

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

  • Jason Williams

    I didn’t follow the math on that at all.

    • PFF_Admin

      Jason – Sorry to hear that. I didn’t re-introduce OTD, but check this link out for the intro: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/06/28/introduction-to-otd/

      • Jason Williams

        I appreciate the engagement. I feel like you started to give an example at the top of this article (even a simple one) but then never put numbers to it. For something that is so hugely quantitative in nature, I think that would help.

        • PFF_Admin

          Not sure which example you’re referring to exactly. If you have specific questions, I’ll be happy to explain in more detail.