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Running the Numbers: Things Looking Up in Cowboys’ Backfield

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Jonathan Bales

My latest post at DallasCowboys.com deals with rookie running backs. I broke down some of the numbers of the top rookie running backs since 2000 to determine which stats are the best predictors of future success. It turns out rookie yards-per-carry is highly predictive of overall career value, more so than carries and yards. From the post:

When looking at the numbers of the other top 40 rookie running backs, I saw the same trend: Rookie YPC was a solid predictor of future success. In the graph below, I used Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value as a measure for NFL success. At a position like running back where players prosper by racking up stats, I think AV (or in the case of this study, AV per season) is an accurate judge of value. Since 2000, the top five running backs in terms of AV per season are Chris Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, and LeSean McCoy.

You can see that rookie YPC is just behind total yards in terms of how accurately it can predict future NFL value. The AV per season of the top 20 running backs (in terms of yards) was 7.0. It was just 0.1 point lower for the top 20 backs in terms of YPC. Meanwhile, the number of carries received by the top 40 rookie running backs had little impact on their future success.

I have another one of those “horrible, slide rule, team-colored graphics” at the site, but hopefully the bright colors won’t distract you from the content. You can head here to check out the rest of the article and see why DeMarco Murray has both statistics and the eye test on his side.

You have to be excited about the Murray-Jones combination in 2012.

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4 Responses to Running the Numbers: Things Looking Up in Cowboys’ Backfield

  1. bW says:

    Good stuff JB.
    Everytime I see Steven Jackson playing I think of that stupid/horrible 2004 draft.

    I’m definitely worried Demarco will be a Julius Jones clone. I can see big differences (he doesn’t go down immediately with first contact for example) but I get worried nonetheless.
    This article gives me some more hope he won’t be another let down.

    You mention Felix having a high rookie YPC. What is your assessment of him as a RB? Overall he’s been a disappointment for me. Flashes of great things, but still seems like a better change of pace option. Of course, the injuries don’t help either.

  2. bW–Yeah, I think Murray’s power is what separates him from JJ. It was horrible watching Julius go down on first contact the last three years in Dallas.

    I think I’m one of the few still on the Felix bandwagon. Felix is a good player and can provide the offense with a big play at any time. Almost every RB is limited these days, so it isn’t like Felix is “just” a specialty back anymore. I think you hit the nail on the head about injuries. He hasn’t proven to be durable, but he’s a really underrated player when he’s in there–running inside, outside, screens, improved blocking. I’d love to see Murray get 17 touches to Felix’s 10-12 this season.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I feel as i FL has been misutilized. The staarting RB for the Saints is Ingram, until he got hurt. Then it was Thomas. Sproles got more touches (more receptions but less carries) than both due to his skillset.

    I’m not saying FJ is Sproles, but they have similar skill. Use FJ in that manner and watch his production increase.

  4. Yeah, I think there’s far too much running between the tackles. With the line the Cowboys have and the skill sets of Murray and Jones, I’d really like to see the number of counters and screens increase (a lot). The effects of those plays would have an impact on the rest of the game plan as well.

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