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Statistics 101: The Running Back Edition

Jerious who?! Michael who?!
Jerious who?! Michael who?!


In this series, we're looking at some of the commonly-used and less-commonly-used foozbah statistics available over the interwebs. Last week we discussed statistics that can be used to judge an offensive line's performance. And this week we're taking a closer look at running back statistics.

Running backs thrive behind strong offensive lines, which means you cannot simply blame Burner's effort (or lack thereof) if he has a bad week numbers-wise.  Look no further than the Falcons' 11th ranked Stuffed Rate for support of that proposition.

RB stats are just important. Not as important as my anniversary or my leopard-print Snuggie, but gosh darnit if they don't come close.

And since I just risked death-by-fiancee to creatively illustrate the importance of RB stats, please join me after the jump! 

You basically have 2 options when it comes to RB statistics. Your first option is an array of traditional statistics, what I like to call "rushing average et cetera." Your second option is some next-level stuff, what I like to call "DVOA et cetera."


(1) Rushing Average Et Cetera

Rushing average is more-or-less the #1 measuring stick for most traditionalists. But rushing average depends on the offensive line's performance, coaching decisions, attempts/game, total attempts, total yardage, the defense's performance, and - depending on the time of year - the weather. Rushing average obviously cannot - at least by itself - account for the 20+ yard runs that distort rushing average (just ask Warrick Dunn), lost fumbles, and poor pass-blocking ability.

But if you're a traditionalist, more power to you. Stick with rushing average et cetera. It certainly serves it purpose. Find traditional RB stats in sortable form here.


In the first four weeks, our gruesome twosome hasn't fared all-that-poorly. Let's take a look:


1 TD

18.5 attempts/game (74 total attempts) 

3.8 yd average

70.2 yds/game (281 total yards) 

0 fumbles

18.9% of attempts for first down





2 TDs

11.8 attempts/game (47 total attempts) 

4.8 yd average

56.5 yds/game (226 total yards) 

0 fumbles

36.2% of attempts for first down


(2) DVOA Et Cetera

From my perspective, the best starting point.

In case you've forgotten, DVOA is explained here. Basically it gauges an offensive player's value in a kooky, defense-adjusted manner (and it's displayed as a percentage). DYAR is explained here. Basically it represents the value of an offensive player's performance on plays where he carried or touched the ball relative to replacement level (and it's displayed as a positive or negative number).  Aside from DVOA and DYAR, there are some other Football Outsider-provided stats worth taking a gander at too. 

Effective Yards converts DVOA into a yards per attempt figure (yards/carry muliplied by total carries). If you have more effective yards than regular yardage, then you're probably playing better than your numbers would otherwise suggest. Success Rate tells you how consistent an RB is; it is not adjusted for opponent, but it tells you - very simply - how often a RB gets the needed yardage.


Just for the heck of it, let's take a look at weeks 1-4:


DVOA is -9.4% (29/37 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)

DYAR is -3 (29/37 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)

277 effective yards

42% success rate (29/37 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)





DVOA is 31.2% (4/37 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)

DYAR is 77 (6/37 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)

291 effective yards

55% success rate (6/47 RBs with minimum of 32 rushes)


What say you? Are you a traditionalist, or do you kinda sorta maybe-just-a-little-bit enjoy DVOA et cetera? All I know is that my worst nightmare is coming true. Snelling is - without a doubt - trying to pull a Michael Turner. Oh sweet irony.

Next week, we'll discuss TE stats. But as always, GO FORTH AND BE STATISTICAL!