Sig Stats: Elusive Rating

How much work are runners doing beyond the blocks they get? Gordon McGuinness shares the highs and lows.

| 3 years ago

Sig Stats: Elusive Rating

2013-ERThe week we are once again taking a look at players across the league based on some of our unique Signature Stats. These signature stats are somewhere between your everyday stats and our PFF grades, providing a greater look at player performance than regular stats can provide.

Last week we brought you our look at the best and worst of the league’s defensive backs when it comes to their work in the slot. Now, we’re taking a different approach, switching back to the offensive side to take a look at running backs and our Elusive Rating Signature Stat.

Our Elusive Rating gives a clearer picture on how a running back has performed, letting you know how much he was able to get beyond the help of his offensive line. For some running backs that’s all about making a player miss and cutting past them, but this Signature Stat isn’t just limited to shifty players who like to do that. It also looks at yards after contact, letting you know how many yards a player averages after the defense is able to first get a hand on them. So with that all in mind, let’s see who the best, and worst, performers in the league are.

To qualify, a running back needed to have touched the ball at least 99 times on offense.

Missed Tackles Forced

The Top Five

Rank Name Team Carries Receptions MT Rush MT Rec Touches Per MT
1  Marshawn Lynch SEA 301 36 75 11 3.92
2  Trent Richardson IND 157 28 31 16 3.94
3  Donald Brown IND 102 27 22 7 4.45
4  James Starks GB 89 10 19 3 4.50
5  Joique Bell DET 166 53 33 15 4.56

It’s no surprise to see Marshawn Lynch as high as he is, and it highlights how important it is to remember that forcing missed tackles isn’t all about making a cut that leaves the defender trailing. Famed for the “Beast Mode” run in the playoffs a few years ago, Lynch seems just as happy to run through an attempted tackle, as he is to cut away from it.

Trent Richardson may not have had the best year, but if there’s any hope for Indianapolis Colts fans to cling too, it’s that he has the natural talent to make people miss. Whether or not he can put it all together and become the running back many thought he would when the Cleveland Browns drafted him first overall remains a big question, but you only have to look back to Week 1 last year, where he forced a ridiculous 10 missed tackles, to see his talent.

Joique Bell’s success here highlights why the Detroit Lions apparently plan on having him split carries with Reggie Bush in 2014. Tough to bring down, we’ve been impressed by Bell in each of the past two seasons.

The Bottom Five

Rank Name Team Carries Receptions MT Rush MT Rec Touches Per MT
49  Ray Rice BLT 214 58 9 4 20.92
48  Willis McGahee CLE 138 8 12 0 12.17
47  Chris D. Johnson TEN 279 42 21 6 11.89
46  Frank Gore SF 276 16 23 2 11.68
45  Doug Martin TB 127 12 11 2 10.69

While it’s absolutely true that Ray Rice wasn’t helped by an offensive line situation in Baltimore that was amongst the worst in the league, he simply wasn’t making would be tacklers miss either. Forcing missed tackles, particularly as a runner, has never been a huge strength of his, but to see him rooted to the bottom, and so far from the next lowest player, is definitely a concern. Perhaps it was because he was playing through injury, but he simply can’t have another season like that in 2014.

Doug Martin’s inclusion in the bottom five may come as a surprise, but before he went down with a season-ending injury in Week 7, he wasn’t having anything close to as explosive a season as his incredible 2012 rookie campaign.

Yards After Contact

The Top Five

Rank Name Team Carries YAC YAC Per Carry
1 Donald Brown IND 102 335 3.28
2 Andre Ellington ARI 118 372 3.15
3 Chris Ivory NYJ 182 548 3.01
4 James Starks GB 89 267 3.00
5 Adrian Peterson MIN 279 829 2.97

Richardson may have been better at forcing missed tackles, but Donald Brown wasn’t far behind, and the new San Diego Chargers running back will have Colts fans wishing they’d re-signed him with his success after contact.

Andre Ellington’s successful rookie season was easy for all to see and, while plenty have questioned how he will be able to handle a larger role, he certainly didn’t struggle when it came to picking up yards after contact last year.

If you’re looking for a reason why the New York Jets want to add Chris Johnson, it makes sense if they believe he can be the lightning to the thunder that is Chris Ivory, we saw how tough he was to bring down in limited action in New Orleans, and he continued that as a Jet in 2013.

The Bottom Five

Rank Name Team Carries YAC YAC Per Carry
49 Ray Rice BAL 214 325 1.52
48 Bernard Pierce BAL 152 266 1.75
47 Willis McGahee CLE 138 243 1.76
46 Rashard Mendenhall ARI 217 393 1.81
45 Chris D. Johnson TEN 279 513 1.84

It really wasn’t a good year for the Baltimore running game, was it? Rice again find himself at the bottom, and again by a considerable margin, with the next closest player him teammate in Bernard Pierce. Pierce was also bothered by injuries in 2013, after finishing his rookie season in 2013 averaging 3.4 YAC per carry.

The Ravens pairing are the only players in the bottom five currently under contract with Willis McGahee and Johnson, at the time of writing, currently unsigned and Rashard Mendenhall announcing his retirement.

Elusive Rating

The Top Six

Rank Name Team Elusive Rating
1 Donald Brown IND 73.8
2 James Starks GB 66.7
3 Adrian Peterson MIN 64.6
4 Marshawn Lynch SEA 63.8
5 Andre Ellington ARI 62.2
6 Chris Ivory NYJ 62.2

Based on what we found earlier, in terms of both missed tackles forced and yards after contact, it’s not surprising that Brown is at the top, but it does highlight how well he performed in his final year in Indianapolis.

The Green Bay Packers made a wise decision to bring back James Starks this offseason, which allows them to continue to pair him with Eddie Lacy and give them an impressive pairing at the position.

The Bottom Five

Rank Name Team Elusive Rating
49 Ray Rice BAL 7.3
48 Willis McGahee CLE 14.5
47 Chris D. Johnson TEN 15.5
46 Frank Gore SF 17.1
45 Darren McFadden OAK 19.2

How bad was Rice’s 2013 season? Well, his Elusive Rating of 7.3 is the lowest we’ve seen since Thomas Jones’ 4.5 in 2011. Rice is a better back than that, so you would expect to see him improve in 2014 now that he’s back to full health.

It took Willis McGahee until into the 2013 season to find a team and that might be the case again in 2014 if he is to wind up on a roster. He still holds some value, but he’s only really going to get what the offensive line can give him.

While signature stats give a clearer look at how wide defensive backs have performed beyond their offensive line, nothing quite compares to our PFF grades. The grades take into account things like a running back using his speed to burst by a defender without being contacted or having to make the defender miss. The good news, is that a PFF membership gives you access to both the grades, and our various signature stats, coming in at just $26.99 for a year’s membership.


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| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • [email protected]

    As a Seahawks fan i’m happy that the 49ers appear to be sticking with Frank Gore. He doesnt look like the same player that he was earlier in his career. I think all 3 of the Seahawks backs are clearly better at this stage.

  • Ben

    I think you guys missed something on this line “While signature stats give a clearer look at how wide defensive backs have performed beyond their offensive line”

  • Leo

    I’d like to see where Zac Stacy is on this list. I can’t imagine his yards after contact being under 3. I wonder if he was even evaluated at all.

  • gump

    richardson wasn’t drafted first overall…