Signature Stats: Drop Rate – Running Backs

Khaled Elsayed concludes his assessment of the NFL's best pass catchers by analyzing the league's running backs - and PFF's unique data favors a rejuvenated back on the West Coast.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: Drop Rate – Running Backs

In case you missed it, this week we’ve been looking back at which offensive players have been dropping the ball the most. On Monday it was the turn of wide receivers, and yesterday we looked at tight ends.

Today? Well, today is naturally the time for running backs.

To do so we’re using our Drop Rate signature stat that adds up the amount of catches and drops a guy had to create a catchable balls figure. You then divide the number of drops by catchable balls, multiply by 100, and you get yourself a drop rate.

For running backs, a minimum of 20 catchable balls is required to be part of the study.

Bad Hand Sproles

One of the constants with the New Orleans offense this year? Darren Sproles keeps on dropping balls. Given that he once again led running backs in targets it’s not a big surprise, but the 10 balls he dropped are still an exceptionally high number. Dangerous as he may be with the ball in his hands, for the second year in a row he led his peers in dropped passes.

His 10 drops were two more than Darren McFadden on 45 fewer catchable balls, with the Raider having a ‘career’ year in terms of drops. Considering he’d dropped only five balls in his first four years in the league, I can’t say I saw this coming and it just added to what was a horrible year for McFadden in a Raiders’ scheme ill-suited to taking advantage of him.


1 Darren SprolesNO937510
2 Darren McFaddenOAK58428
3 Doug MartinTB62497
4 Reggie BushMIA48356
5 Trent RichardsonCLV61515
5 Arian FosterHST53405
7 Ray RiceBLT80614
7 Matt ForteCHI59444
7 Steven JacksonSL49384
7 DeMarco MurrayDAL41354
7 Jamaal CharlesKC43354
7 Mikel LeshoureDET45344
7 Frank GoreSF34284
7 Willis McGaheeDEN31264
7 Michael TurnerATL29194
7 Vick BallardIND24174


Rocky Rookie

Still, McFadden didn’t walk out of the year with the worst drop percentage. No, in that respect he had only the third-lowest score in dropping 16% of all catchable balls. Instead he was put in his place by Colts rookie Vick Ballard, who put a staggering 19.05% of catchable balls on the ground. That was in part due to making 17 receptions, but for as much promise as he showed as a runner, there’s still a lot of work for him to do if he’s going to be an every-down contributor.

Sandwiched between the two was the Falcons’ Michael Turner. Not known as much of a factor in the passing game, he caught only 19 balls while dropping four, which is just another one of the reasons why it’s likely Atlanta moves on from him this offseason.


NameTeamTargetsCatchesDropsCatchableDrop Rate
 Vick BallardIND241742119.05
 Michael TurnerATL291942317.39
 Darren McFaddenOAK584285016.00
 Bilal PowellNYJ291732015.00
 Reggie BushMIA483564114.63
 Shonn GreeneNYJ261932213.64
 Willis McGaheeDEN312643013.33
 Doug MartinTB624975612.50
 Frank GoreSF342843212.50
 Darren SprolesNO9375108511.76


Reliable Ronnie

At the other end of the scale, credit to Ronnie Brown who took his talents to San Diego and reinvented himself as a third-down back who could make something happen in the passing game. He was one of three backs to see at least 20 catchable balls who didn’t drop any of them. The others were the ever excellent Pierre Thomas and dependable Ahmad Bradshaw, but by virtue of catching more balls Brown’s the winner this year in terms of having the best drop rate of all running backs.

Other names on the list include C.J. Spiller, who in addition to nearly breaking the elusive rating, dropped only one pass this year. You really can’t get him involved enough whether you’re running or passing, and his ability on every down is likely to be the thing that turns the Bills’ offense around.


RankNameTeamTargetsCatchesDropsCatchableDrop Rate
1 Ronnie BrownSD56490490
2 Pierre ThomasNO45390390
3 Ahmad BradshawNYG26230230
4 C.J. SpillerBUF55431442.27
5 Danny WoodheadNE50401412.44
6 James CaseyHST41341352.86
7 Jason SnellingATL35311323.13
8 Mike TolbertCAR35271283.57
9 Jacquizz RodgersATL59532553.64
10 Knowshon MorenoDEN24211224.55


So there you have it for another year, the best drop rates of running backs in the NFL. You can find out how everyone else did, as well as historical drop rates and many, many more PFF signature stats, by making the jump to PFF Premium.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • JJ

    Sproles has the highest HB catch rating on Madden lol.

    • BK

      And Bradshaw has one of the lowest catch rating’s in Madden. And yet I see Donny Moore pop up in the testimonials on this site saying that PFF makes his job easier. SMH.