While we're all playing Monday morning quarterback, debating the now infamous Knowshon Moreno fumble, I thought I'd point out some recent trends at the position. In no way is this an exhaustive study, and I'm sure that there are many outliers that could weaken or refute the data presented here. I just wanted to point out what I'm looking at when I make my judgments.
Let's start with his game log. I've added the current (week 11) defensive rushing rank, and the average yards per carry given up by that team. Additionally, I've added a column looking at Knowshon's deviation from the average yards gained against those teams.
|Week||Opp||Att||Yds||Y/A||Lng||TD||F||D Rush Rank||YPC||ΔYAC|
If we're to consider this weekend's game against the Chargers to be Knowshon's real breakout, you've gotta take it with a grain of salt because the Chargers run defense is decimated by injuries and giving up 4.2 yards per carry. I'd also like to point out that he's overachieved 4 times in his ten games, twice against a top ten rushing defense, and twice against teams in the lower third.
Here's the breakdown by rushing defense ranks:
|Versus top 16||58||214||3.69||6|
|Versus bottom 16||84||386||4.60||26|
How does Knowshon's 4.23 yards per carry compare to his rookie peers?
|Player||Draft Pos.||Record||Yr1 Att||Yr1 Yds||Yr1 A/C||Fumbles|
|Knowshon Moreno||Rd1 P 12||6-4||142||600
|Donald Brown||Rd1 P27||10-0||54||236||4.37||0|
|Beanie Wells||Rd1 P31||7-3||100||469||4.69||1|
|LeSean McCoy||Rd2 P53||6-4||106||452||4.26||1|
He's under performing the mean by a statistically insignificant margin, but he's clearly the only running back expected to perform as a number one back. Only LeSean McCoy has the outright number 1 spot on the depth chart because of Westbrook's most recent injury. Again, fumbles rear their ugly head.
What were some of the young "special" backs' rookie seasons like?
|Player||Draft Pos.||Record||Yr1 Att||Yr1 Yds||Yr1 A/C||Yr2 Att||Yr2 Yds||Yr2 A/C||Yr3 Att||Yr3 Yds||Yr3 A/C|
|Adrian Peterson||Rd 1 P 7||27-15||238||1341||5.63||363||1760||4.85||205||999||4.87|
|Maurice Jones-Drew||Rd 2 P 60||30-28||166||941||5.67||167||768||4.60||197||824||4.18|
|Chris Johnson||Rd 1 P 24||16-9||251||1228||4.89||170||1091||6.42||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Michael Turner||Rd 5 P 154||16-10||376||1699||4.52||165||831||5.04||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Steven Jackson||Rd 1 P 24||26-64||134||673||5.02||254||1046||4.12||346||1528||4.42|
The takeaway is that if we had something special on our hands, we'd know, and in many cases production will fall off or remain stagnant for the duration of the RBs career. RBs are typically finished by the time they're 30 because of the constant pounding they take, and it is very rare for a back that has consistently carried the ball early in their career to continue improving. Note that Michael Turner's statistics are based off of him taking over as the starter in Atlanta. I think it's important to note that he's a veteran getting plugged into a new system, yet his experience doesn't seem to matter, as he's below the mean of "special" players by nearly .6 yards.
My final bit of analysis. What is the recent trend in the NFL Draft?
2004 NFL Draft
2005 NFL Draft
2006 NFL Draft
2007 NFL Draft
2008 NFL Draft
2009 NFL Draft
Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Chris Wells all round 1. LeSean McCoy round 2.
- It appears that the evaluation period for an NFL running back is about three years. 2005 marked a big year for RBs, and 2006 and 2007 had relatively few productive backs taken. This would indicate to me that a team was not willing to take a risk on drafting a RB high, because so many had been taken that were still on rookie contracts (i.e. in the evaluation period). Talent was clearly down in '06 and '07, but it featured two can't miss prospects in Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush (he missed).
- 2008 saw a glutton of running backs flood the NFL, possibly because of my observation that the 2005 class had been completely evaluated.
- The most likely chance of success for a first round pick is towards the lower end of the first round, or much later in the draft. I would imagine this has something to do with having a line in place, or a passing game to take pressure off of that back in the case of backs taken late in the first round. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson had neither. A later round pick might benefit from a lighter workload in college (perhaps less carries, perhaps less hard hits).
I'm sure you all know what my opinion of Knowshon is without having to spell it out for you. I wanted to put this stuff out there so that you had the WHOLE picture. It's rare to find a superstar RB, and if you have one, you know by his rookie year, because their shelf life is so short that they have to be plugged into the system and succeed before their body gives out. Obviously the typical caveat applies-- there's always room for improvement, but unfortunately the stats seems to say that you get what you got at running back.