Some Clarification is in Order: Steady Backs versus Burst Backs

A recent discussion I was having with another member got me thinking, how do backs earn their average yards per carry? I wanted to look at how many backs in this league get their averages by big gains offsetting a poor average otherwise versus how many actually run close to their average consistently. I am currently going to be analysing this as the season progresses, but I wanted to give you a review of the past two weeks.

So I went back and looked at each game for the top ten backs, as well as other big name backs. I then record each run and organize the data. The table is quite, um hefty will work, yea it's hefty, so be ready for that. Now for the jump!

So I collected  data from these backs, the abbreviation in () is what is on the table:

- Steven Jackson (SJ)
- MJD
- Thomas Jones (TJ)
- Rashard Mendenhall (RM)
- Frank Gore (FG)
- Arian Foster (AF)
- Chris Johnson (CJ)
- Tim Hightower (TH)
- LeSean McCoy (LM)
- Knowshon Moreno (KM)

On the table, I include average YPC, Total Runs, then the runs are broken up into groups by by yardage, as well as the percentage each group makes up of the total runs. I then take their average, form a zone of +/- 2 YPC. For example, if a person averages 4 YPC, their average zone would be 2-6. I do this to see how often then reach this zone which is close to their average. This zone is used to see how often a back stays close to their average, and to separate backs into two types of rushers I set boundaries. When a back reaches majority of their rushes in their average zone, they are a "steady back", those who have less then a majority are considered "burst backs," those who get their average by balancing poor runs with big runs.

So, are we ready for the table?

 Name Stats AP SJ MJD TJ RM FG AF DMF CJ TH AB LM KM Average YPC 4.9 3.8 3.7 3.7 4.2 4.1 5.8 5 4.1 7 4.5 6.7 2.8 Average Zone 3-7 2-6 2-6 2-6 2-6 2-6 3-7 3-7 2-6 5-9 3-7 5-9 1-5 Avg. Zone % of Runs 36% 44% 55% 60% 56% 57% 39% 36% 38% 4% 34% 32% 53% Total Runs 45 39 31 33 41 35 51 45 40 24 38 22 39 > 1 Yard Runs 5 8 4 3 8 3 5 4 12 3 7 2 12 > 1 % of Total 11% 20% 13% 9% 19% 8% 10% 8% 30% 13% 18% 9% 31% 1-2 Yard Runs 13 13 10 11 12 9 13 14 9 8 9 5 9 1-2 Yard % Total 28% 33% 32% 33% 29% 26% 26% 29% 22% 33% 24% 22% 23% 3-5 Yard Runs 9 8 11 12 13 15 10 9 9 9 8 7 12 3-5 % of Total 20% 21% 35% 36% 32% 43% 19% 19% 23% 38% 21% 32% 31% 6-7 Yard Runs 7 3 2 3 3 4 10 7 3 0 5 4 2 6-7 % of Total 16% 8% 7% 9% 7% 11% 19% 15% 8% 0% 13% 19% 5% 8-10 Yard Runs 4 3 3 3 3 3 7 4 4 0 1 0 2 8-10 % of Total 9% 8% 10% 9% 7% 8% 14% 8% 10% 0% 3% 0% 5% 11-20 Yard Runs 6 3 1 1 1 1 4 6 1 2 6 3 2 11-20 % of Total 13% 8% 3% 3% 3% 3% 8% 13% 3% 8% 16% 14% 5% < 20 Yard Runs 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 1 2 2 2 1 0 < 20 % of Total 2% 3% 0% 0% 3% 0% 4% 2% 5% 8% 5% 5% 0%

The Short Version:

Burst Backs (0%-33%):

- Tim Hightower
- LeSean McCoy

In Between Backs (34%-45%):

- Steven Jackson
- Arian Foster
- Chris Johnson

- MJD
- Rashard Mendenhall
- Frank Gore
- Knowshon Moreno
- Thomas Jones

Some Notes:

- Thomas Jones wins the award for best percentage of runs being in zone with 60%. Tim Hightower gets the worst  award with 4%, yes only 4%.
- Moreno has the greatest percentage of runs being under one yard with 31%, then again he is being compared to some of the best backs in the league. Frank Gore and Darren McFadden have the lowest with 8%.
- Tim Hightower has the highest percentage for runs of one to two yards as well as 20+ yards, thus creating his good average.
- Frank Gore leads the group for runs of three to five yards with 43% of his runs. Darren McFadden, Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson did very poorly here.
- Frank Gore and Thomas Jones are the picture of a consistent back who plays at a high level. Both have over 60% of their runs over three yards, Gore hasn't broke a big one, but he has over 50% of his runs from three to seven yards.
- If I'm going to take a back, I'd take Gore, Jones, or Mendenhall. While players like Chris Johnson or Steven Jackson have shown the ability to break it big, they don't do it at a good rate, Bradshaw is more likely per run to break a ten yard or more run.Throw in their likely hood of having more then 50% of their rushes be for two yards or less, they aren't as stable. Now this is just this season, not a look at their careers as a whole.

So after overlooking this data, I am pretty sure most backs get close to their average YPC versus breaking a big run but having lots of bad runs. This wasn't a complete case study, there are too many backs to do that, but I hope it gives a snap shot of the top backs in the league. One note, there can be steady backs who play poorly, look at Moreno, he's steady, but I'd take a burst guy like McCoy over him. And there are burst guys who I wouldn't take. So there are good and bad of both types. Take what you will from this, but it was eye opening to me, and at the mid point in the season and at the end of the season, I will do a complete review of the 2010 season. Any thoughts or suggestions that would help me would help me study the data.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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