Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Aug 2008

Fifth Anniversary Special: Worst RB Seasons, 95-07

by Aaron Schatz

In honor of our fifth anniversary, we're running a series of articles looking at the best and worst players in the history of our advanced stats, DVOA and DYAR. If you are unfamiliar with our advanced stats -- perhaps you are a new reader visiting our website for the first time after picking up a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2008 -- you can read all about them here. The series so far:

Before we get going, a quick note: I discovered a handful of errors in the rushing totals from 1997. I've gone back to the past articles and retroactively made any necessary changes, and I'll be changing the 1997 numbers on the site soon. It's only a handful of plays, not a big deal.

Let's look at the worst rushing DVOA seasons, minimum 100 carries.

Worst RB Seasons in Rushing DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 100 carries)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Runs Yards TD FUM Suc
Rate
1998 Lamar Smith NO -158 -39.7% 138 453 1 3 31%
2002 Jonathan Wells HOU -229 -38.1% 197 536 3 3 28%
1996 Tyrone Wheatley NYG -143 -38.1% 112 392 1 5 41%
1997 Darnell Autry CHI -119 -35.8% 112 319 1 2 34%
2005 Marcel Shipp ARI -169 -34.6% 157 459 0 4 41%
1999 Warrick Dunn TB -171 -32.4% 195 616 0 3 32%
2004 Anthony Thomas CHI -106 -30.5% 122 404 2 1 40%
2001 Lamar Smith MIA -276 -30.1% 313 968 6 4 39%
1997 Larry Centers ARI -88 -28.9% 101 276 1 1 34%
2000 Darnell Autry PHI -93 -28.6% 112 334 3 2 41%

If that guy was your main running back, wouldn't you consider trading your entire draft for Ricky Williams too? The Saints gave 50 carries to two other running backs, Ray Zellars (-45.7% DVOA in 56 carries) and Troy Davis (-38.1% DVOA in 55 carries). I would say, "maybe it was the offensive line's fault," except that the 1998 Saints had Willie Roaf at left tackle. Seriously. The line also included Chris Naeole and Kyle Turley. That's not a bad line.

From this list, we also learn that Darnell Autry was not exactly meant to be an NFL star, and that handing the ball to Larry Centers instead of throwing the ball to him is not good strategy.

Like we did with the best running back seasons, we'll also look at the worst DVOA ratings for backs with at least 240 carries, or 15 per game. These are guys who started the whole season and were still awful.

Worst RB Seasons in Rushing DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 250 carries)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Runs Yards TD FUM Suc
Rate
2001 Lamar Smith MIA -276 -30.1% 313 968 6 4 39%
2001 Eddie George TEN -234 -27.9% 315 961 5 8 34%
1999 Ricky Williams NO -169 -24.9% 253 890 2 6 43%
1996 Rodney Hampton NYG -173 -24.6% 254 827 1 3 41%
2005 Jamal Lewis BAL -161 -23.1% 270 903 3 6 41%
1995 Garrison Hearst ARI -169 -22.7% 282 1067 1 10 44%
2000 Jamal Anderson ATL -163 -22.2% 282 1029 6 6 42%
1999 Terry Allen NE -119 -19.6% 254 897 8 7 40%
1999 Curtis Enis CHI -117 -18.3% 286 909 3 3 43%
2002 William Green CLE -96 -18.0% 243 889 6 3 42%

Notice anything about the two seasons that top each list? Yes, both seasons came from Lamar Smith, but that's not all. Both seasons were so bad that the team in question felt the uncontrollable urge to acquire Ricky Williams. And hey... there's Ricky Williams, third on this list. In between them is Eddie George, the year he got clobbered by the Curse of 370.

Jamal Anderson (2000) and Jamal Lewis (2005) are partly on this list because of poor performance against an easy schedule, but their schedule adjustment isn't anywhere near as big as the one for Rodney Hampton of the 1996 Giants.. Washington was last in the league in DVOA for run defense, and no team in the NFC East was higher than 14th (Dallas). The Giants also played the teams ranked 28th (Minnesota) and 29th (Detroit).

On to success rate... Only six running backs during the DVOA Era had at least 100 carries and were successful less than one-third of the time. Here they are:

Worst RB Seasons in Success Rate, 1995-2007 (min. 100 carries)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Runs Yards TD FUM Suc
Rate
2005 Kevan Barlow SF -103 -23.9% 176 581 3 1 27%
2002 Jonathan Wells HOU -229 -38.1% 197 536 3 3 28%
1998 Lamar Smith NO -158 -39.7% 138 453 1 3 31%
1999 Warrick Dunn TB -171 -32.4% 195 616 0 3 32%
2002 James Allen HOU -64 -19.2% 155 519 0 1 33%
1999 Natrone Means SD -62 -22.9% 112 277 4 0 33%

Finally, here are the worst overall rushing seasons since 1995, based on rushing DYAR.

Worst RB Seasons in Rushing DYAR, 1995-2007
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Runs Yards TD FUM Suc
Rate
2001 Lamar Smith MIA -276 -30.1% 313 968 6 4 39%
2001 Eddie George TEN -234 -27.9% 315 961 5 8 34%
2002 Jonathan Wells HOU -229 -38.1% 197 536 3 3 28%
2001 Marvel Smith ATL -174 -25.6% 237 760 5 1 36%
1996 Rodney Hampton NYG -173 -24.6% 254 827 1 3 41%
1999 Warrick Dunn TB -171 -32.4% 195 616 0 3 32%
2005 Marcel Shipp ARI -169 -34.6% 157 459 0 4 41%
1999 Ricky Williams NO -169 -24.9% 253 890 2 6 43%
1995 Garrison Hearst ARI -169 -22.7% 282 1067 1 10 44%
2000 Jamal Anderson ATL -163 -22.2% 282 1029 6 6 42%
1998 Raymont Harris GB -132 -47.2% 79 228 1 3 38%

I had to add a special listing for Raymont Harris, who had the 15th worst DYAR ever in 1998 despite carrying the ball only 79 times. He had only two carries all year for more than six yards, and he only gained a first down once in 10 carries on third or fourth down.

Now, the worst running backs as receivers. Before we get into the numbers, it is fair to mention that the DYAR and DVOA stats for running backs as receivers are not as accurate as we would like when it comes to differentiating between a running back who is a poor receiver and a running back who is trapped in an offense that throws him a lot of dumpoff passes without giving him room to operate. Sometimes you'll see a team where all the backs have good receiving DVOA ratings, or poor receiving DVOA ratings, and you need to use your common sense to try to determine where the blame lies. (A good example would be the Bengals in recent years.)

Worst RB Seasons in Receiving DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 25 passes)
Year Player Team DVOA DYAR Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1998 Gary Brown NYG -71.9% -75 26 13 36 0 50%
1996 Adrian Murrell NYJ -56.5% -81 34 17 81 1 50%
1997 Adrian Murrell NYJ -56.3% -93 42 27 106 0 64%
2005 Rudi Johnson CIN -51.9% -62 30 23 90 0 77%
1997 Erric Pegram NYG -46.9% -50 29 21 90 0 72%
1996 Jerome Bettis PIT -46.3% -57 32 22 122 0 69%
1995 Leonard Russell STL -44.2% -43 31 16 89 0 52%
2004 Rudi Johnson CIN -44.2% -42 28 15 84 1 54%
2001 Richard Huntley CAR -43.3% -46 32 21 101 1 66%
2002 William Green CLE -42.8% -47 27 16 113 0 59%

Running backs with a low receiving DVOA are often just guys with an extra fumble or two and a small sample size, but not Gary Brown. Brown's 1998 season is pretty remarkable -- he averaged 1.4 yards per pass and had a grand total of one first down as a receiver, with no fumbles. Adrian Murrell's 1997 season is a good example about how this is not all necessarily the running back's fault. Eight of his 27 catches were for zero yardage or less, so on a few of those, Jets quarterbacks were throwing him the ball while he was behind the line of scrimmage and covered. Ever hear of throwing the ball away? Maybe part of the reason Murrell had such a low catch rate is that he kept dropping balls he knew were destined for lost yardage anyway.

Murrell goes one-two when it comes to the wost receiving DYAR seasons by a running back, and he has a third season that's also in the top ten:

Worst RB Seasons in Receiving DYAR, 1995-2007
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1997 Adrian Murrell NYJ -93 -56.3% 42 27 106 0 64%
1996 Adrian Murrell NYJ -81 -56.5% 34 17 81 1 50%
1995 Rodney Thomas HOU -79 -38.7% 58 39 204 2 67%
1998 Gary Brown NYG -75 -71.9% 26 13 36 0 50%
2005 Rudi Johnson CIN -62 -51.9% 30 23 90 0 77%
1995 Dave Meggett NE -61 -27.1% 84 52 334 1 62%
1996 Karim Abdul-Jabbar MIA -61 -38.3% 45 23 139 0 51%
1996 Clif Groce IND -60 -42.4% 32 13 106 0 41%
1999 Adrian Murrell ARI -59 -28.9% 71 49 336 0 69%
1996 Jerome Bettis PIT -57 -46.3% 32 22 122 0 69%

There's another one of those quirks because we currently use the same baselines for every season -- the list of the worst receiving DYAR for running backs is dominated by players from the 90's. Here's a similar list that starts in 2001:

Worst RB Seasons in Receiving DYAR, 2001-2007
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2005 Rudi Johnson CIN -62 -51.9% 30 23 90 0 77%
2002 Travis Fisher GB -52 -57.1% 22 18 70 0 82%
2002 Dee Brown CAR -50 -42.0% 33 17 86 1 52%
2002 Troy Hambrick DAL -50 -58.7% 24 21 99 0 88%
2001 Dominic Rhodes IND -49 -30.2% 55 34 224 0 62%
2007 Warrick Dunn ATL -48 -29.6% 59 37 238 0 63%
2002 William Green CLE -47 -42.8% 27 16 113 0 59%
2001 Richard Huntley CAR -46 -43.3% 32 21 101 1 66%
2001 LaDainian Tomlinson SD -46 -25.0% 74 59 367 0 80%
2006 Chris Brown TEN -45 -82.8% 9 2 4 0 22%

Chris Brown: -45 DYAR on just nine pass attempts. Not bad. Here's the list of the worst overall DYAR seasons for running backs:

Worst RB Seasons in Total DYAR, 1995-2007
Year Player Team Run
DYAR
Runs RuYd RuTD

Run
FUM

Rec
DYAR
Pass RcYd RcTD Catch
Rate
Tot
DYAR
2002 Jonathan Wells HOU -229 197 536 3 3 -1 12 48 0 75% -230
2001 Lamar Smith MIA -276 313 968 6 4 46 35 234 2 86% -229
1999 Ricky Williams NO -169 253 890 2 6 -37 40 172 0 70% -206
1999 Adrian Murrell ARI -146 193 553 0 2 -59 71 336 0 69% -205
1996 Rodney Hampton NYG -173 254 827 1 3 -15 22 82 0 68% -189
2001 Eddie George TEN -234 315 961 5 8 50 50 268 0 74% -184
1995 Rodney Thomas HOU -81 248 930 5 5 -79 58 204 2 67% -160
2005 Jamal Lewis BAL -161 270 903 3 6 3 44 191 1 73% -158
2007 Warrick Dunn ATL -108 227 721 4 2 -48 59 238 0 63% -156
2002 William Green CLE -96 243 889 6 3 -47 27 113 0 59% -143

Poor Jonathan Wells got stuck on an expansion team, so that's not a surprising choice as the worst season. What's Lamar Smith's excuse? This was Smith's second year as the starter in Miami, and he wasn't that bad in his first year, with 77 rushing DYAR and 84 receiving DYAR in 2000.

That Warrick Dunn season helps to explain why the KUBIAK projection for Dunn is so low this year. He was miserably bad in 2006. Remember: Jerious Norwood had the best DVOA of any running back with at least 100 carries, running behind the exact same offensive line. This isn't Dunn's only poor season -- you may have noticed him above because in 1999 he had one of the worst rushing DYAR seasons, but he also had 255 receiving DYAR that same year.

Given how many of the lists above are topped by either Lamar Smith or Adrian Murrell, the identities of the running backs with the worst career numbers are probably not too hard to discern.

Worst RB in Total Career DYAR, 1995-2007
Player Years Run
DYAR
  Player Years Rec
DYAR
  Player Years Tot
DYAR
Lamar Smith 8 -306   Adrian Murrell 7 -206   Adrian Murrell 7 -406
Darnell Autry 2 -212   Gary Brown 4 -121   William Green 4 -270
Adrian Murrell 7 -200   Donnell Bennett 5 -106   Troy Davis 3 -213
Leonard Russell 2 -192   William Green 4 -90   Ray Zellars 4 -175
William Green 4 -180   Tatum Bell 4 -83   Leonard Russell 2 -173
Troy Davis 3 -179   Troy Hambrick 4 -65   Lawrence Phillips 3 -161
Nick Goings 4 -178   Rudi Johnson 5 -65   Leeland McElroy 2 -144
Maurice Smith 1 -174   Erric Pegram 3 -64   Curtis Enis 3 -143
Jonathan Wells 3 -166   Clif Groce 1 -60   Jerald Moore 3 -131
LeShon Johnson 5 -164   Michael Wiley 3 -59   Darnell Autry 2 -127
(only includes seasons with >10 carries or >25 passes)

It's strange to see some guys on here with just one season, but sometimes you have one season so bad it actually makes the worst career totals list because most guys don't stick around for season after season of below-replacement performance (Well, except Lamar Smith and Adrian Murrell). Maurice Smith has one of the stranger careers in recent NFL history -- an undrafted free agent, he had 19 carries for the 2000 Falcons. In 2001, he replaced the injured Jamal Anderson and started 12 games. He had 237 carries but he was so bad that he never had another NFL carry after that. He had two games as a special-teamer in 2002 and that was the end of his NFL career.

As bad as Smith and Murrell were, they don't get to top the list of the worst running backs on a DYAR per season basis. That honor belongs to one of the great first-round busts of recent memory.

Worst RB in DYAR per Season, 1995-2007 (min. 4 seasons)
Player Years Run
DYAR
  Player Years Rec
DYAR
  Player Years Tot
DYAR
William Green 4 -45.0   Gary Brown 4 -30.1   William Green 4 -67.4
Nick Goings 4 -44.5   Adrian Murrell 7 -29.5   Adrian Murrell 7 -58.0
Lamar Smith 8 -38.2   William Green 4 -22.4   Ray Zellars 4 -43.7
LeShon Johnson 5 -32.8   Donnell Bennett 5 -21.2   Sherman Williams 4 -29.1
Ray Zellars 4 -31.1   Tatum Bell 4 -20.8   Karim Abdul-Jabbar 4 -21.9
Sherman Williams 4 -30.5   Troy Hambrick 4 -16.3   LeShon Johnson 5 -19.1
Adrian Murrell 7 -28.6   Rudi Johnson 5 -13.0   Troy Hambrick 4 -15.9
Lamar Gordon 4 -25.8   Karim Abdul-Jabbar 4 -13.0   Gary Brown 4 -14.9
Lamont Warren 6 -25.0   Ray Zellars 4 -12.6   Anthony Thomas 7 -14.1
Robert Holcombe 5 -17.8   Michael Turner 4 -10.0   Nick Goings 4 -13.6
(only includes seasons with >10 carries or >25 passes)

If only Football Outsiders had been around a couple years earlier, perhaps we could have saved the Browns from their terrible mistake. If you have Pro Football Prospectus 2008, you've read an article in the back of the book on Speed Scores, our new stat that combines 40-yard dash time with weight to predict the success of rookie running backs. Since 1999, only two running backs were chosen in the first round of the draft despite a Speed Score below 100: Trung Canidate (99.3) and William Green (98.7).

Next up: the best and worst wide receivers and tight ends.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Aug 2008

28 comments, Last at 07 Aug 2008, 11:15am by zlionsfan

Comments

1
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 4:50pm

You know, I'm actually looking forward to 1993 DVOA to see how Gary Brown's 1000 yard season (on fewer than 200 carries) fares.

On Ricky's 1999 season, we see what a #1 pick gets you: a 15% improvement in DVOA.

I'm surprised you didn't look at game charting for Brown's 9 pass targets in 2006. I think a few of them were Kerry Collins flailing in the face of the rush, but don't remember for sure.

2
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 4:53pm

Boy, Terry Allen played way, way, past his prime, which is a tribute to his determination, I guess.

3
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 8:30pm

Many crappy players here on this lists.
No Raiders anywhere. Thats becausue team knows how to run the ball.

4
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 9:35pm

Ah, 2005 and Kevan Barlow. Anybody else having flashbacks to a horrific fantasy draft choice?

5
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 9:46pm

re 4:
Yes, shut up

6
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 10:53pm

I would say, "maybe it was the offensive line’s fault," except that the 1998 Saints had Willie Roaf at left tackle. Seriously. The line also included Chris Naeole and Kyle Turley. That’s not a bad line.

Let me play devil's advocate here: Maybe the New Orleans line is not as good as we think, at least in run blocking? After all, the Saints did not produce a single postivie-DVOA RB until 2002, the year Ricky Williams left for Miami (and posted a 6.9% DVOA en route to 1800+ yards), when Deuce McAllister ran for a 2.1% DVOA.

From 1998 to 2001, the Saint's O-Line featured the trio of Turley, Roaf, and Naeole that you described. Coincidentally, Kyle Turley replaced Willie Roaf at LT in 2002, and Chris Naeole was replaced by a rookie. 36 year old Center Jerry Fontenot was one of two guys (with Kyle Turley) left over from 2001 to 2002, and the only guy playing the same position.

In 2003 the Saints replaced both tackles (including Turley) and McAllister posted a 1.4% DVOA.

Interestingly enough, in the entire Willie Roaf era in New Orleans produced ZERO positive DVOA RBs, and many years the top RB was in the double-digit negatives.

7
by LamontJ (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 11:30pm

3/Joe, I assume its because DYAR and DVOA take into account having to play for the Raiders. its not your fault if you suck playing for them.

8
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Tue, 08/05/2008 - 11:42pm

re7 look at lists. many of these guys played fr crap teams, so your argu,ment holds no water

9
by kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 12:55am

Re #8- So you're saying that that can't be the case, because plenty of RBs who have played for teams that were every bit as crappy as the Raiders made the list?

10
by MC2 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 1:56am

A little while back, on another thread, I mentioned how inept my fantasy team was in 2001. A large part of that ineptitude stemmed from my decision to use an early-round pick on - you guessed it - Lamar Smith.

As mentioned, he was actually pretty good the year before. Who could have seen that kind of train wreck coming?

11
by andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 1:56am

If the best running backs lists (recent article) had many raiders on it then the proposition that the raiders know how to run the ball might hold water.

But the only raider who showed up there was Charlie Garner, and only as a receiver, not a runner. So maybe they knew how to dump off passes well, at least for a time.

Dunno, maybe they ran well compared to their passing game... (hmm, interesting article idea, greatest disparity between rushing and passing dvoa/dyar)...

12
by D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 1:59am

If that guy was your main running back, wouldn’t you consider trading your entire draft for Ricky Williams too?

No running back in the modern NFL is worth an entire draft.

13
by parker (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 2:36am

Can you be a hall of fame candidate and still have one of the worst rushing seasons ever? Some people were suggesting Dunn is hof caliber a little while ago.

14
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 10:05am

Actually, looks like Dunn has two of them--1999 with the Bucs (Rushing DVOA, Success Rate, and DYAR) and 2007 with the Falcons (Total DYAR).

15
by bgrimm420 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 10:36am

Remember, in 1999 Shaun King (rookie) was QB for the Bucs so the D stacked the line and dared him to throw. In 2007 the Falcons, well .... Give Dunn his props. Bucs are going to the SuperBowl - you heard it here first.

16
by S (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 11:03am

Good ole' Darnell Autry. He became somewhat of a cult hero in the Chicago area after being arguably the best player on Northwestern's improbable 1994 Rose Bowl team. It wasn't unexpected, but I'll always be a little disappointed things didn't work our for him at the next level.

Also, re: the 1998 Saints line: Turley and Naeole were relatively young then. If my memmory serves me, that group didn't really hit their stride until haslett took over in 2000.

17
by pm (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 12:00pm

I'm embarrased that Lamar Smith actually once ran for over 200 yards in a playoff game vs. the Colts considering he is now one of the worst RB's of all time.

18
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 1:39pm

This is not the "all time" list- just the past 12 years. The list catches a lot of later seasons of players who (i assume) were production in the mid 90s (G. Brown, N. Means), so it's not really fair to say that they were bad players, just past their primes (however short some of those primes may have been).

My big takeaway from this, and something I suspected at the time watching Jets games- Adrian Murrell is the definition of a replacement-level back.

19
by andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 1:59pm

12 - that's a bold statement. Remember the discussion on Robo-Punter, that no punter could be worth a first rounder...

Could not some theoretical running back be so good that it would be well worth an entire draft (and for the sake of argument, lets say its a standard, middle-of-the-picking-order draft with one player each round (so we don't sell him short with one of those "no picks on the first day drafts).

If you look back, could it not be said that Jim Brown, say, or Emmit Smith was worth more than the entire draft by many NFL teams?

And that's not discounting the possibility of some ideal, "Robo" running back.

(for the moment let is assume that the ideal for each position is Robo-position, with of course the notable exception of robo-QB, who isn't worth a 7th rounder).

20
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 2:15pm

(for the moment let is assume that the ideal for each position is Robo-position, with of course the notable exception of robo-QB, who isn’t worth a 7th rounder).

I hope that's a reference to this guy.

21
by Whelk (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 2:57pm

Is DVOA calculated with fumbles lost, or all fumbles committed? I forgot. It seems like the list is populated with a bunch of guys who didn't score much and fumbled a bunch in that year, which seems akin to posting a .200 babip or something like that.

Also, just as we shouldn't give too much credit to RBs for their outstanding seasons on great offenses, I have a trouble really blaming all of these guys for their horrible performance.

That 1999 Bucs offense was wretched, as was those late 90s Saints offenses. I would bet that people who watched more of these teams in detail could vouch for the utter futility and predictability of the entire offensive system.

I'd be interested in seeing who has the biggest difference between DVOA in his best and worst seasons. Ricky Williams has a pretty big one, but I don't have time to make the comparisons right now.

Oh, and Les Steckel > Mike Shula

22
by D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 4:36pm

#19
Alright I'll qualify my statement. If there was a running back who was guaranteed to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball (except when the team was running out the clock) then yeah he would be worth an entire draft (actually he'd be worth more than that). In the real world however, no RB is worth an entire draft in the modern NFL.

23
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 6:02pm

#19: ROBO-PUNTER was whether a punter could ever be worth a first overall pick. Fairly big difference.

I'd also like to say that the idea that a running back couldn't be worth an entire draft is kinda crazy. Of course he could - if the team involved drafts low in the first round (very low), and has only the standard selection of picks, we wouldn't be talking about a whole lot of draft value.

And I don't even think it'd have to be "the world's greatest running back" either. It'd just have to be a guy that a team really, really knew was can't miss. Plus, the team would also have to be in the unique situation of having virtually no open spots on the roster. That's really the unlikely part of the story, since due to increasing salaries you're almost always going to have multiple open spots on a roster.

Still, though, the problem with trading your entire draft away is simple: if you need a position that bad, you probably won't be insane enough to risk it all on one guy, so you'll want more than one draft pick.

In other words, if you need a RB bad enough you'd be willing to trade your entire draft for him, you don't need 1 RB. You need a couple.

24
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 7:14pm

I would comfortably trade an entire draft for a rookie LaDainian Tomlinson, and not think twice about it, provided that I knew that he would become LaDainian Tomlinson, but didn't have such incredible foresight about other players.

Even if I can't see magically into the future, a good enough collegiate back could get me to pull the trigger. If he was averaging 9 yards per carry in the SEC with a mediocre supporting cast, and he ran a 4.28 and there were no injury/character concerns, why not? A single Hall of Famer and nothing else worthwhile is perfectly fine for a draft.

25
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 08/06/2008 - 7:44pm

OK, looking further into the question of whether LaDainian Tomlinson is worth an entire draft. We'll compare him to everyone's 2001 draft except for San Diego's. That's 30 other teams.

Better (5): Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New England
Worse (21): Chicago, Cleveland, Arizona, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York Jets, New York Giants, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Oakland, St Louis, Baltimore, San Francisco, Tampa, Washington
Debatable (4): Atlanta, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Seattle

Atlanta got Vick, Crumpler, Forney, and some mediocre starters in Garza and Stewart. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh both found one elite defensive tackle plus a little bit more. Seattle got Steve Hutchinson, Ken Lucas, and Floyd Womack. These drafts were good, but of the elite players taken by these teams, only Casey Hampton is still with his original team.

I don't know where the exact cutoff point, but go around and ask a bunch of football fans which they'd rather have - their own team's 2001 draft, or LaDainian Tomlinson. The vast majority will pick the latter.

26
by Cabbage (not verified) :: Thu, 08/07/2008 - 12:07am

Curtis Enis. Good golly did he suck.

27
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/07/2008 - 10:21am

I'd be curious to know who was throwing Murell those lousy passes in 1997. That was Parcells' first year, when he lost patience with O'Donnell and thus led to Glenn Foley/Ray Lucas/Leon Johnson fiascos at QB. But I wonder if dumb dropoffs were cause or effect there.

1996 was the second Kotite year, so no wonder things were a mess. And it's not surprising Adrian doesn't make the bottom list for 1995, after all, he did lead the team in receptions that year.

28
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/07/2008 - 11:15am

Temo, if you're trying to suggest that the Pat Swilling trade wasn't a complete disaster for Detroit, I like what you're saying. :)

I agree with Pat. In fact, I'd go so far as to say there are probably teams who should be trading away a running back for another team's entire draft. Of course, you'd probably have to do it paperclip-style: RB for a 1 and a 2; the 2 for a lower 2, a 3, and a 5; etc.

When I played FPS: Football Pro, I actually did things like swapping Barry for Emmitt and simming entire seasons to "test" how they'd have fit in each other's offenses. The problem is that you really can't do that, because you're really testing whether a player based on Barry's stats in Detroit would succeed behind players whose stats depended partially on Emmitt ... besides, which seems more plausible: Tomlinson running wild in Detroit, or Tomlinson looking like yet another RB bust in Detroit?