clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is CJ Anderson an elite RB?

CJ will have a cap number of $6.0 million in 2016. That's elite RB money. My eyes tell me he is elite, but do the numbers back that up?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

No discussion of RBis complete without discussion of the OL in front of them. So we'll begin there. Football Outsiders does a great job of comparing offensive lines in the running game. You can read their full analysis by following the link, but I like to take their analysis one step further. They calculate Adjusted Line Yards:  Based on regression analysis, the Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

Losses: 120% value

0-4 Yards: 100% value

5-10 Yards: 50% value

11+ Yards: 0% value

In other words, the OL is to blame for negative runs, gets full credit for runs of 0-4 yards and diminishing credit for longer runs with no credit for runs over 10 yards. I tend to agree with this assessment. I use the ALY and see how it compares to actual RB yards (average ypc). Teams with negative numbers had crappy RBs with good OLs, teams with positive numbers had crappy OLs and good/great RBs.

Team Adj. Line Yards RB Yards RBY-ALY
1 BUF 3.59 4.68 1.09
2 TB 4.00 4.86 0.86
3 PHI 3.25 4.09 0.84
4 MIA 3.45 4.28 0.83
5 STL 3.56 4.24 0.68
6 DEN 3.73 4.33 0.60
7 MIN 3.96 4.55 0.59
8 NYJ 3.55 4.06 0.51
9 PIT 4.08 4.53 0.45
10 GB 3.56 4.00 0.44
11 CLE 3.32 3.75 0.43
12 DAL 4.11 4.53 0.42
13 ARI 4.18 4.59 0.41
14 SD 3.18 3.53 0.35
15 SF 3.16 3.51 0.35
16 OAK 3.69 3.98 0.29
17 KC 4.15 4.43 0.28
18 SEA 4.18 4.44 0.26
19 ATL 3.82 4.07 0.25
20 CAR 3.89 4.10 0.21
21 WAS 3.64 3.82 0.18
22 DET 3.61 3.76 0.15
23 NO 3.88 4.00 0.12
24 BAL 3.87 3.97 0.10
25 HOU 3.72 3.79 0.07
26 NYG 3.96 4.02 0.06
27 IND 3.47 3.52 0.05
28 JAC 3.77 3.80 0.03
29 TEN 3.65 3.66 0.01
30 CHI 4.09 3.89 -0.20
31 CIN 4.21 4.00 -0.21
32 NE 4.19 3.88 -0.31

According to this analysis the success of running game last season was mostly a function of our running backs NOT our offensive line.

What did this mean for CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman?

According to Football Outsiders, if you don't factor in offensive line, CJ and Ronnie were the 28th and 34th best RBs in the league last season. Their top-line metric for this is DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Value Above Replacement). which takes into account the run defenses that each player faced

Player Team DYAR Rk
T.Rawls SEA 216 1
M.Forte CHI 192 2
De.Williams PIT 184 3
T.Gurley STL 170 4
L.Bell PIT 162 5
A.Peterson MIN 143 6
L.McCoy BUF 139 7
Da.Johnson ARI 133 8
R.Mathews PHI 133 9
G.Bernard CIN 131 10
J.Langford CHI 123 11
R.Jennings NYG 117 12
J.Forsett BAL 117 13
M.Ingram NO 108 14
D.Freeman ATL 90 15
J.Hill CIN 85 16
D.McFadden DAL 83 17
D.Martin TB 81 18
L.Miller MIA 81 19
C.West KC 77 20
L.Blount NE 64 21
A.Blue HOU 61 22
C.Hyde SF 60 23
C.Sims TB 50 24
M.Lynch SEA 47 25
T.J.Yeldon JAC 39 26
I.Crowell CLE 36 27
C.J.Anderson DEN 34 28
L.Murray OAK 32 29
B.Allen BAL 31 30
Du.Johnson CLE 30 31
C.Johnson ARI 26 32
J.Stewart CAR 23 33
R.Hillman DEN 21 34
E.Lacy GB 3 35
F.Gore IND 0 36
A.Abdullah DET -2 37
A.Andrews TEN -6 38
D.Murray PHI -29 39
C.Ivory NYJ -31 40
J.Starks GB -46 41
A.Morris WAS -52 42
M.Gordon SD -68 43
M.Jones WAS -92 44

So according to Football Outsiders, neither of our top RBs were close to being elite last season (only RBs with 100 or more carries shown). In fact, they were both in the middle or lower tier of NFL RBs - according to Football Outsiders. Is there another way that we could evaluate them? Of course their is, I wouldn't leave you hanging like that.

Run % by Yards Gained

I like to employ this anlysis for RBs. How often does a RB have a run for X yards? How does that compare to the rest of the league? This allows you to easily see the difference between consistent RBs who don't break off long runs and inconsistent RBs who do. In other words you might have two RBs with the same average yard per carry for a season (or a game). Let's use a single game as an example and let's say that both players had 10 carries for 40 total yards. An average of 4.0 yards per carry is respectable. RB 1A is the consistent guy who does not go down easily but doesn't have the speed to break long runs. He has 10 carries during the game and they go for these yardages

0, 5, 4, 4, -1, 6, 5, 4, 6, 7

RB 1B is the "boom or bust guy" his 10 runs go for

-1,0, 2,1, 2, 3, -2,15,12, 8

Which RB was better? The correct answer is - you can't know without context. How many of those runs went for a first down? Were any of the two yard runs on 3rd and 1? Was that 8 yard run a draw on 3rd and 12? We'll get to the context later, but first let's compare CJ and Ronnie to some of the other "top" RBs in the league (top RBs were mentioned by other staffers in a quick poll).

Yards Gained Thomas Rawls Ryan Mathews Doug Martin*+ Le'Veon Bell Charles Sims Todd Gurley* Giovani Bernard C.J. Anderson Darren McFadden Mark Ingram Ronnie Hillman Adrian Peterson DeAngelo Williams D. Johnson Lamar Miller LeSea McCoy Chris Ivory NFL Team Ave 2015
>10 12.9% 8.8% 10.1% 11.5% 9.4% 10.1% 12.3% 12.9% 9.6% 11.5% 10.1% 10.4% 10.5% 11.2% 11.4% 11.8% 10.1% 9.5%
10 2.0% 0.9% 1.4% 0.0% 0.9% 0.9% 1.3% 1.4% 1.7% 1.8% 1.0% 2.5% 1.5% 1.6% 0.0% 2.0% 1.6% 1.6%
9 2.0% 4.6% 1.4% 4.4% 4.7% 2.2% 5.2% 2.0% 2.9% 3.6% 2.9% 2.5% 3.0% 2.4% 2.1% 1.5% 3.2% 3.0%
8 3.4% 1.9% 1.4% 1.8% 2.8% 2.2% 1.9% 3.4% 2.5% 0.6% 1.9% 1.5% 1.5% 3.2% 3.6% 3.0% 1.2% 2.9%
7 5.4% 3.7% 4.2% 6.2% 7.5% 2.2% 2.6% 3.4% 5.9% 2.4% 7.2% 3.1% 5.0% 2.4% 5.2% 4.9% 2.8% 4.0%
6 6.8% 10.2% 4.2% 7.1% 7.5% 4.4% 9.1% 6.1% 5.0% 1.2% 2.9% 5.8% 5.0% 10.4% 5.7% 4.9% 4.5% 5.3%
5 8.2% 5.6% 9.7% 6.2% 11.2% 7.9% 9.1% 7.5% 5.9% 8.5% 5.3% 8.0% 5.5% 7.2% 6.7% 7.4% 4.5% 7.4%
4 12.2% 7.4% 11.8% 10.6% 11.2% 8.8% 11.7% 8.2% 10.9% 11.5% 7.2% 8.6% 9.0% 8.8% 6.2% 12.3% 8.9% 9.6%
3 12.9% 6.5% 13.5% 12.4% 8.4% 16.7% 8.4% 11.6% 11.3% 9.7% 12.1% 11.3% 15.0% 10.4% 7.8% 10.3% 15.0% 12.0%
2 13.6% 13.9% 12.5% 12.4% 2.8% 14.5% 13.0% 12.2% 16.3% 13.3% 15.5% 14.7% 13.0% 12.8% 13.5% 7.9% 13.0% 12.8%
1 8.8% 13.0% 10.4% 10.6% 13.1% 10.5% 10.4% 10.9% 10.9% 17.0% 12.6% 9.8% 11.5% 12.0% 15.5% 9.9% 13.4% 11.5%
0 5.4% 12.0% 6.9% 3.5% 5.6% 7.9% 7.8% 15.6% 7.1% 8.5% 9.7% 7.1% 9.5% 8.8% 11.9% 9.9% 11.3% 9.5%
-1 3.4% 2.8% 3.8% 4.4% 1.9% 3.1% 5.8% 3.4% 2.5% 5.5% 4.8% 6.4% 5.0% 2.4% 5.2% 6.4% 4.5% 4.5%
-2 0.7% 0.9% 5.2% 2.7% 8.4% 2.2% 0.0% 1.4% 3.3% 1.8% 3.9% 3.7% 2.0% 4.8% 2.6% 2.5% 2.8% 2.6%
-3 1.4% 1.9% 2.4% 2.7% 0.9% 3.9% 0.6% 0.0% 2.1% 2.4% 1.0% 2.8% 1.5% 1.6% 1.0% 2.0% 1.6% 1.5%
-4 0.7% 0.9% 0.0% 1.8% 3.7% 1.8% 0.0% 0.0% 1.7% 0.6% 1.0% 0.6% 1.5% 0.0% 0.5% 2.0% 0.8% ?
-5 0.0% 1.9% 0.7% 1.8% 0.0% 0.4% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 1.0% 0.5% 0.0% ?

* = Pro-Bowl, + = All-Pro

Before you shut down from data overload, take these two things away from the table above. CJ had, by far, the highest % of runs for 0 yards of any back on the list. League-wide the % of total runs that went for 0 yards was 9.5%. compare that to CJ's 15.6%. Ronnie had the highest % of runs for 2 yards. League-wide the % of runs for 2 yards was 12.8%, compare that to Ronnie's 15.5%. Those numbers would seem to indicate that neither CJ nor Ronnie were elite in 2015, but look at the % of runs for >10 yards. While both of our main RBs were above average last season, CJ shined here (one of the best in the league) while Ronnie was merely comparable to many of the backs on this list. For those who like pretty graphs, there is one below

RB Comparison 2015

Stuffed Runs

Neither of our top two backs were particularly good at avoiding stuffed runs, but as I mentioned before, that is more of a function of the OL than the RB. As you will see below, the Broncos were getting runs stuffed at a high rate last season (stuffed runs gain 0 or negative yards)

Team Stuffed%
NE 14.0%
KC 14.2%
CIN 14.6%
SEA 14.9%
CHI 15.0%
DAL 15.0%
CAR 15.4%
PIT 16.3%
OAK 16.4%
MIN 16.7%
BUF 16.9%
NYG 17.4%
HOU 17.4%
TAM 17.6%
ATL 18.2%
IND 18.3%
PHI 18.5%
NO 18.8%
SD 18.8%
NYJ 18.9%
JAX 19.3%
AZ 19.6%
GNB 19.7%
CLE 20.3%
WAS 20.5%
STL 20.7%
DEN 20.9%
BAL 21.0%
TEN 21.0%
SF 21.1%
DET 21.4%
MIA 21.6%
NFL Ave 18.1%

CJ had 20.4% of his runs stuffed. Ronnie had 21.26% of his runs stuffed. How do those numbers compare to other top backs? see below

RB Stuffed
LeSean McCoy 23.2%
Lamar Miller 22.3%
Adrian Peterson 21.2%
Chris Ivory 21.1%
Charles Sims 20.6%
C.J. Anderson 20.4%
Ryan Mathews 20.4%
Ronnie Hillman 20.3%
DeAngelo Williams 19.5%
Todd Gurley* 19.3%
Doug Martin*+ 19.1%
Mark Ingram 18.8%
David Johnson 17.6%
Le'Veon Bell 16.8%
Darren McFadden 16.7%
Giovani Bernard 14.9%
Thomas Rawls 11.6%

There were many elite RBs who got roughly 20% of their runs stuffed in 2015. So let's address the situational discussion. Can this RB get 2 yards on 3rd and 1? Can he get 4 yards on 2nd and 3? Football outsiders distills this down into what they call Success Rate.

Success Rate

This is basically a measure of whether or not the RB gained enough yards on a run to be "successful" divided by the total number of carries. You are welcome to read more about their methodology here. Here are the success rates for all of the RBs with greater than 100 caries last season.

Player Suc Rate
T.Rawls 62%
C.Sims 57%
Da.Johnson 56%
R.Jennings 56%
R.Mathews 53%
L.Blount 52%
A.Abdullah 51%
De.Williams 50%
L.Bell 50%
D.McFadden 50%
M.Lynch 50%
G.Bernard 49%
J.Hill 49%
C.Hyde 49%
E.Lacy 49%
M.Forte 48%
D.Martin 48%
L.McCoy 47%
J.Langford 47%
B.Allen 47%
C.Johnson 47%
J.Forsett 46%
D.Freeman 46%
M.Jones 46%
A.Peterson 45%
M.Ingram 45%
C.West 45%
A.Blue 45%
Du.Johnson 45%
R.Hillman 45%
D.Murray 45%
T.Gurley 43%
L.Miller 43%
J.Stewart 43%
C.Ivory 43%
J.Starks 43%
M.Gordon 43%
T.J.Yeldon 42%
A.Andrews 42%
I.Crowell 41%
C.J.Anderson 41%
F.Gore 40%
L.Murray 39%
A.Morris 39%

Note that, again, this doesn't account for OL performance. That being said, our top two backs had a large number of "unsuccessful" runs between the two of them last season as both are near the bottom of this list.

I guess, after all of this, it really doesn't matter if he was elite in 2015. He was good enough when we needed him to be good enough to run over All-Pro LB, Luke Keuchly, for the deciding TD in the Super Bowl. The question now is will he be elite in 2016 when he is making elite RB money? He has the ability to make people miss and he should have an improved OL in front of him. Will that translate into elite production?