Pro Football Focus has a new stat they've created that they've called Elusiveness. It's always been tough to measure how much of a running back's success is due to his offensive line and how much to his own innate abilities. Football Outsiders uses DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) which is a way of measuring how good a running back is compared to his replacement. DYAR explained. They also use DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), and EY (Effective Yards). All of these stats attempt to measure how effective a running back is.
Here is how Football Outsiders explains Effective Yards:
Effective Yards, listed in red, translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate. Effective Yards are not the best way to measure total value because they are more dependent on usage than DYAR.
What I want to do is compare Pro Football's new stat with Football Outsiders rankings and then compare that with the NFL's more normal stat-keeping to see how much difference there is between the three. Join me after the jump for some fun stat-crunching.
Elusiveness (as defined by PFF) is combined of three important statistics. The first is the number of yards after initial contact, the second is the ratio of missed tackles (whether after the catch or after the run). Here are some rankings and then the formula.
Top 10, percentage of yards after contact
Bottom five, percentage of yards after contact
Rather interesting to see Thomas Jones' name at the bottom of the list--gives a whole new level of insight into why the Jets let him go.
Top 10, missed tackles/reception ratio
There are some interesting names there--it's surprising to me to see Beanie Wells so high on the list. One thing I can glean from this is that some of these running backs had poor offensive lines which is why the may have struggled in 2009.
The formula devised by PFF is this: (MTrush+MTrec)/(Rec+Att)*(YCo/Att*100)
Here are the rankings. We have one 49er making the list and not in a good way.
Top 10, Elusive Rating
|Adrian L. Peterson||MIN||315||1,394||915||2.9||50||43||10||48.60|
Bottom 10, Elusive Rating
I'm actually not surprised by this at all. We knew Coffee wasn't very good, and despite the well-documented woes of the offensive line Coffee barely did half as well as Gore.
Gore's Elusive rating is 20.17 which would put him in the bottom half of the league, and I agree with that. Gore isn't the most elusive back--what he has is a quick burst out of the line of scrimmage, but he doesn't make people miss often.
Football Outsiders ranks the top 15 running backs thusly:
1. Chris Johnson
2. Ryan Grant
3. Ray Rice
4. Jamaal Charles
5. Pierre Thomas
6. Steven Jackson
7. Jonathan Stewart
8. Ricky Williams
9. DeAngelo Williams
10. Marion Barber
11. Maurice Jones-Drew
12. Adrian Peterson
13. Joseph Addai
14. Cedric Benson
15. Ronnie Brown
20. Frank Gore
They also put Gore in the bottom half of starting RBs.
Based on total rushing yards here are the rankings from NFL.com
1. Chris Johnson
2. Steven Jackson
3. Thomas Jones
4. Maurice Jones-Drew
5. Adrian Peterson
6. Ray Rice
7. Ryan Grant
8. Cedric Benson
9. Jonathan Stewart
10. Ricky Williams
11. Jamaal Charles
11. Frank Gore
So, once that's all said and done where does that leave us? I think that the traditional rankings based purely on yards and TDs can be misleading (see Jones, Thomas for a good example), but they're not necessarily that far off the mark. They tend to not give a complete picture though.
I also find it interesting that though PFF and Football Outsiders take different approaches to it they tend to arrive at pretty close to the same destination.
Update: Sam Monson of PFF (the original author of the piece), has kindly replied to a few questions I had about his methodology. One of the things he did to provide a ratio when there were zero missed tackles is to add one to everybody's missed tackle ratio. The formula for the MT/Rec. Rating is:
[(MT+1)/Receptions]*100. Thus Beanie Wells 12 receptions and 5 missed tackles looks like this: