Yards Per Attempt And What It Means For 2017: NFC East/West
I first read about yards before contact or “vision yards” in this article by Zero RB inventor Shawn Siegele. He explained that while it’s useful to see which running backs had the best blocking, it also helps to identify which backs got more than what was blocked on average.
We can’t say for sure, but by comparison, this is where we may be able to identify the better talent as far as vision and nuance is concerned.
Using this we can tell who got the most help from their line and also who may have under performed. Let’s dig in and see if we can project how next season may shake out for each backfield in the NFC East and West.
Arizona Cardinals –
David Johnson: 4.21 YBCPA / 1.66 YACPA
Chris Johnson: 3.65 YBCPA / 1.24 YACPA
No question David Johnson is the workhorse here and he posted impressive numbers both before and after contact. Chris Johnson is an average rotational back at this point and with Andre Ellington being rumored to move to WR, rookie T.J. Logan could end up as the handcuff to own.
Dallas Cowboys –
Ezekiel Elliott: 5.07 YBCPA / 1.45 YACPA
Alfred Morris: 3.47 YBCPA / 0.84 YACPA
Darren McFadden: 3.48 YBCPA / 0.79 YACPA
It’s no secret the Cowboys have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. That said, Ezekiel Elliott still showed off his superior talent by leading the team in both categories. Both Morris and McFadden were underwhelming but the team didn’t invest into anyone interesting. Nothing changes here for 2017.
Los Angeles Rams –
Todd Gurley: 3.17 YBCPA / 0.96 YACPA
Benny Cunningham: 4.58 YBCPA / 2.38 YACPA
Malcolm Brown: 2.04 YBCPA / 1.11 YACPA
It was a really tough situation for Gurley to succeed as the Rams line was abysmal and they had a rookie QB running the show. That said it’s concerning for his future that he averaged the fewest yards after contact per attempt. He almost certainly will improve this year but his ability has to be questioned after such a poor performance. Benny Cunningham bested the field in both categories and could be a name to watch in Chicago.
New York Giants –
Rashad Jennings: 3.26 YBCPA / 0.70 YACPA
Paul Perkins: 4.03 YBCPA / 1.56 YACPA
Shane Vereen: 4.64 YBCPA / 1.85 YACPA
It’s not hard to see why the Giants let Rashad Jennings go in the offseason. The elder journeyman was essentially a downgrade to the offense when getting touches. Paul Perkins performed well and is the perceived favorite to lead the team in carries but rookie workhorse Wayne Gallman could be hard to keep on the bench. With a likely committee approach, passing catching specialist Shane Vereen is probably the savvy way to approach this backfield.
Ryan Mathews: 4.24 YBCPA / 1.13 YACPA
Darren Sproles: 4.61 YBCPA / 1.87 YACPA
Wendell Smallwood: 4.0 YBCPA / 1.06 YACPA
LeGarrette Blount just signed on with the team and Ryan Mathews is expected to be released. The Eagles had a top-10 blocking unit last year so Blount is in a good position to duplicate the 1,000 yards rushing he posted in New England. Wendell Smallwood was an underrated prospect and while he struggled as a rookie, he’s still the likely early down handcuff to Blount. Both players upside is somewhat capped until Darren Sproles’ age catches up with him. Donnel Pumprhey could figure into the mix for passing down touches as well.
San Francisco 49ers –
Carlos Hyde: 4.53 YBCPA / 1.91 YACPA
Shaun Draughn: 2.61 YBCPA / 0.88 YACPA
Dejuan Harris: 3.54 YBCPA / 1.45 YACPA
This is a really interesting situation. Carlos Hyde, despite all the criticism that has come out recently, was pretty awesome last season. The 49ers offensive line was middle of the road yet Hyde posted an impressive 4.53 yards before contact on 217 rushing attempts. The one concern I would have though is according to PlayerProfiler.com, Hyde saw a light defensive front on 70 percent of his carries. This likely stems from Chip Kelly calling run plays no matter how far behind the team was. While that makes me somewhat skeptical of his performance, it’s tough not to be impressed by how much better he was than his teammates. However, rookie Joe Williams has garnered a lot of buzz and was hand-picked by Kyle Shanahan to join this offense. He’s lurking in the wings.
Seattle Seahawks –
Christine Michael: 3.91 YBCPA / 1.39 YACPA
C.J. Prosise: 5.54 YBCPA / 3.53 YACPA
Thomas Rawls: 3.17 YBCPA / 1.19 YACPA
On a small sample, C.J. Prosise did his best to make RotoViz proud. He crushed the field in both categories and appears to be in position to breakout in 2017. Christine Michael outperformed Thomas Rawls which probably derails that hype train but the addition of Eddie Lacy could make things messy as he performed well with his opportunities in Green Bay.
Washington Redskins –
Robert Kelley: 4.17 YBCPA / 1.23 YACPA
Matt Jones: 4.6 YBCPA / 1.19 YACPA
Chris Thompson: 5.16 YBCPA / 1.78 YACPA
While the Redskins offensive line was solid, I wouldn’t have expected to see all three of their RBs averaging over four yards before contact. Matt Jones got benched late in the season and his yards after contact is likely why. Robert “Fat Rob” Kelley didn’t give the team much more in that area and it’s no surprise the team drafted another bruiser in Samaje Perine. Our 14teammocker believes Perine could be this year’s Jordan Howard but it might be tough for him to keep the dynamic Chirs Thompson off the field.