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Predicting Career Outlook of Second-Year Running Backs

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We all know DeMarco Murray has immense potential in Dallas, but it’s always nice to see some extra evidence that he is likely to fulfill that potential. I wrote about Murray awhile ago at DallasCowboys.com, and I recently did a piece on predicting the careers for all second-year running backs over at the New York Times.

I think the best way to predict the career success of second-year running backs is to assess both their rookie YPC and rushing yards. Even though YPC is probably superior to yards in terms of determining running backs’ talent, yards are still strongly correlated to future success. You always want talented players, but there’s no substitute for a heavy workload.

When drafting second-year running backs, here is what to consider (in order):

  • Rookie YPC
  • Rookie rushing yards
  • Draft spot

All other things being equal, I’m going to select second-year running backs who were extremely efficient in their rookie seasons. Rushing yards should also be a consideration, and you can really use a combination of the two stats. Finally, look at where each back was drafted. You can put up with a lower YPC a little bit more if a player was drafted highly because you know his team will stick by him longer. Trent Richardson could struggle wildly in 2012 and he’ll still be the Browns’ starting running back in 2013, while the same isn’t necessarily true for a guy like Ronnie Hillman in Denver.

Read the whole post here.

Cowboys fans might point to Felix Jones as someone whose career path hasn’t followed that which is outlined above, but I wouldn’t label Felix a bust just yet. His problem has been remaining healthy, but he’s been really, really efficient when he’s been on the field.

Meanwhile, Murray’s second year will be telling. I recently projected Murray at around 4.7 yards-per-carry in 2012, and people asked me if I’m crazy. Look, there’s almost no chance that Murray averages nearly 5.5 YPC again this season, and 4.7 is a really good number. If both he and Felix are in that range, the Cowboys coaches would be quite happy.

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