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21 Apr 2010

Varsity Numbers: POE and Draftability

by Bill Connelly

Chances are, most college football fans had their "it's time" moment in the last couple of weeks. Maybe it was when Gordon Hayward's half-court heave rimmed out in the NCAA basketball title game. Maybe it was when Phil Mickelson's putt rolled in on the 18th at the Masters. Maybe it was when they spent a couple of hours in (hopefully) the sun watching their team's spring game.

No matter when it happened, however, the switch has been flipped for the hardcore among us, and it is officially college football season once again. Yes, there are still more than four months before the first game of the 2010 season, but ... no matter. Football season has begun!

Remember POE?

To celebrate football's return, and to discuss some players who will be drafted this weekend, we're going to revisit a concept we discussed last summer. Back in July, we discussed a measure for properly evaluating running backs' output from a given season. It was called POE (Points Over Expected).

Meet POE (Points Over Expected), the collegiate stepchild of DYAR. Whereas a rusher's PPP+ (Adjusted EqPts Per Play) would compare his EqPts output to what would be expected, and is therefore great for measuring an offense's overall effectiveness, POE is cumulative. It is a comparison of a rusher's total EqPts to the Expected EqPt total, subtracting the latter from the former.

POE = EqPts - Expected EqPts.

Sheer durability and longevity are important characteristics in a rusher, so simply looking at PPP+ doesn't tell the whole story. A runner can come in as a change-of-pace back for 5-6 carries per game and put up a drastically high PPP+, but that doesn't mean he would put up those high rates over the course of a game or season. A runner posts a high POE by showing both a successful PPP+ level and the ability to carry the ball many times. Some (Florida's Jeffrey Demps, North Carolina's Greg Little) proved they could post high PPP+ numbers, while Michigan State's Javon Ringer (30 carries per game) proved he could be a workhorse, but the names at the top of the POE list did both.

Since that column, we have further explored the rushing measurements possible with play-by-play data, and there is now a potentially more useful version of POE called Adjusted POE. The adjustment is based on the Adjusted Line Yards rating of a runner's offensive line. If a good portion of your POE success is attributable to your offensive line, then your overall Adjusted POE will not be nearly as high.

2009 Adjusted POE

On my Twitter account (follow @billconnelly1), I posted the top five Adjusted POE lists for every year, 2005-09. There are some pretty big-time names on those lists -- Jahvid Best (No. 1 in 2008), Reggie Bush (No. 1 in 2005), Jamaal Charles (No. 5 in 2007), Ian Johnson (No. 4 in 2006), Felix Jones (No. 4 in 2007), LeSean McCoy (No. 5 in 2008), JacQuizz Rodgers (No. 5 in 2009), Kevin Smith (No. 1 in 2007), LenDale White (No. 5 in 2005), DeAngelo Williams (No. 4 in 2005).

However, the top of the 2009 list is surprisingly low on well-known, major-conference runners. Apparently it was the season for the mid-major running back. Seven of the top 10 came from mid-major conferences, and I am willing to bet that even few hardcore fans have heard of the top four names on the list (yes, there is a Boise State player on the list, but not even the one you would expect). Has the "running back by committee" style that has taken over quite a few NFL teams (and done irreparable damage to quite a few Fantasy teams) bled into the collegiate level? Was this a one-year aberration? We will see in 2010.

Top 20 Collegiate Running Backs According to Adj. POE, 2009
Player School Year POE Overall
Rk
Adj.
POE
Overall
Rk
Rush.
Yds. Rk
Lance Dunbar North Texas Sophomore 39.6 2 34.9 1 13
Chad Spann Northern Illinois Junior 28.2 12 30.6 2 47
Curtis Steele Memphis Senior 30.0 11 29.6 3 24
Doug Martin Boise State Sophomore 22.5 18 27.3 4 81
Jacquizz Rodgers Oregon State Sophomore 26.5 13 26.9 5 12
Ryan Mathews Fresno State Junior** 30.2 9 26.8 6 2
Ryan Williams Virginia Tech RS Freshman 42.3 1 25.2 8 5
Bernard Pierce Temple Freshman 18.7 27 24.2 9 17
Donald Buckram UTEP Junior 25.4 15 23.0 10 6
Jonathan Dwyer Georgia Tech Junior** 34.7 5 21.3 12 19
Dexter McCluster Mississippi Senior 22.1 19 20.6 13 31
Player School Year POE Overall
Rk
Adj.
POE
Overall
Rk
Rush.
Yds. Rk
LaMichael James Oregon RS Freshman 33.2 7 20.1 14 8
Noel Devine West Virginia Junior 25.6 14 20.0 17 10
Mark Ingram Alabama Sophomore 35.0 4 19.2 18 4
C.J. Spiller Clemson Senior 21.9 20 18.9 19 40
Jahvid Best California Junior** 19.6 25 18.3 20 67
Dion Lewis Pittsburgh Freshman 32.3 8 16.9 21 3
Shawn Southward Troy Freshman 14.7 39 15.8 22 139
Randall Cobb (WR) Kentucky Sophomore 20.8 23 15.3 24 134
DeMaundray Woolridge Idaho Senior 17.9 30 14.8 25 55
** Declared early for NFL Draft.

There was not as much star power at the top of this year's list as there was last year, when Jahvid Best, LeSean McCoy, and Knowshon Moreno all ranked among the toppermost of the poppermost. But that's the way the list of national rushing leaders sometimes falls. Sometimes, Darren Sproles or Ricky Williams leads the country in rushing, sometimes Chance Kretschmer or LeShon Johnson does.

Comparing POE to Adj. POE, it is pretty clear which runners appeared to benefit most from a good offensive line. Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams was first overall in raw POE, but he falls to eighth overall after the adjustment. Jonathan Dwyer falls from fifth to 12th, Mark Ingram from fourth to 18th, and Toby Gerhart from third all the way to 37th.

Other notable falls between POE and Adj. POE: Pitt's Dion Lewis (eighth to 21st), Wisconsin's John Clay (28th to 110th), Florida's Tim Tebow (31st to 134th), Connecticut's Jordan Todman (38th to 99th) and Andre Dixon (45th to 122nd), Houston's Charles Sims (41st to 91st), and Florida State's Jermaine Thomas (43rd to 121st).

Who benefited the most from the Line Yards adjustment? Kent State's Jacquise Terry had the biggest rise, from 359th all the way to 26th. Also: Boston College's Montel Harris (342nd to 81st), Boise State's Jeremy Avery (115th to 40th), Rice's Charles Ross (100th to 36th), Iowa's Adam Robinson (105th to 54th), and, notably, the Oklahoma combo of Chris Brown (304th to 126th) and DeMarco Murray (183rd to 72nd). The Oklahoma offensive line was a known weakness for the Sooners all season, but the inclusion of rushers from Boise State and Iowa is kind of interesting.

There were a few players (some referenced above) who ranked high on the list of overall rushing leaders, but who did not see the top of the Adj. POE list. They include Toby Gerhart (yardage rank: first, Adj. POE rank: 37th), John Clay (yardage rank: ninth, Adj. POE rank: 110th), Montel Harris (yardage rank: 11th, Adj. POE rank: 81st) and Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon (yardage rank: 14th, Adj. POE rank: 111th).

To be sure, the Adj. POE formula favors explosive backs over the "grind it out over 25-35 carries per game" style, so it should not be surprising to see that Gerhart, Clay, and Harris all suffered. There is a skill to being able to carry the ball that much, punish your opponent and wear them down. At the same time, if you are not a breakaway threat, then your margin for error shrinks considerably. Wearing out defenses down the stretch with your power running is only effective if you are able to stay close or ahead, and big plays are the best way to get close or ahead.

Top 5 Rushing Quarterbacks According to Adj. POE, 2009
Player School Year EqPts PPP+ POE Overall
Rk
Adj.
POE
Overall
Rk
Dwight Dasher Middle Tennessee Junior 79.1 123.9 15.3 37 26.7 7
Colin Kaepernick Nevada Junior 79.4 177.0 34.5 6 21.9 11
B.J. Daniels South Florida RS Freshman 66.4 158.7 24.6 16 20.1 15
Joe Webb UAB Senior 92.9 148.0 30.2 10 20.1 16
Jeremiah Masoli Oregon Junior 54.8 173.6 23.2 17 15.8 23

Because of the element of surprise (and the removal of sacks from rushing measures -- it is a bit of a travesty that sacks are counted against rushing at the collegiate level), even mediocre rushing quarterbacks tend to have pretty strong PPP+ averages. For instance, Florida State's Christian Ponder PPP+ (107.9) was higher than that of Oklahoma's Chris Brown (107.7) and Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon (107.5). But to make the Adj. POE Top 25, you still have to carry the ball quite a bit. As you can see, five quarterbacks were able to turn the threat of their legs into stronger weapons than others.

For the 12 of us who watched December's New Orleans Bowl, it's not even remotely surprising that Middle Tennessee's Dwight Dasher not only led the way for rushing quarterbacks last year, but landed just 0.2 EqPts away from the overall Adj. POE Top 5. Middle Tennessee had a very enjoyable offense last year -- the appropriately named Dasher was all over the field, and the threat of his feet opened up a nice, deep passing game. Receivers Garrett Andrews and Chris McClover combined for 70 receptions, 1,071 yards (15.3 per catch) and nine touchdowns. Dasher returns for 2010 and will be a threat to make this list again.

Be on the lookout for B.J. Daniels in 2010 as well. He did not start for a large portion of the season, and he still made the Adj. POE Top 15. He clearly needs to continue working on his passing -- his peripheral numbers (139.5 passer rating, 8.7 yards per pass, 14:9 TD:INT ratio) were solid, but USF's overall passing ratings were still only average. He could be a fun player to watch, and he's only entering his sophomore season.

Highlight Yards

A few months ago, FO introduced the idea of "Second Level Yards" and "Open Field Yards" for NFL running backs. These were the remaining yards that were left after each break in the baselines for Adjusted Line Yards. I've done the same thing here for college backs, with two differences. First, we're adding together both "Second Level" Yards (5-10 past the line) and "Open Field" Yards (11+ past the line). Second, we're counting only half the Second Level Yards, just as the line gets half credit for these yards. We'll call this stat "Highlight Yards," because these longer runs are the ones that show up on the highlight shows. A three-yard run gets zero Highlight Yards. A 70-yard run gets 63 Highlight Yards. The more Highlight Yards, the more explosive the runner was, and the less his overall yardage and POE totals were due to the offensive line blocking for him.

Instead of looking at all runners here, we're going to lead into the next topic by looking only at prospects for this weekend's NFL Draft.

Top 2010 NFL Draft Prospects According to Hlt. Yards per Carry
Player School Rushes Hlt Yds Hlt Yds/Car
Jahvid Best California 141 478.1 3.39
Ryan Mathews Fresno State 276 893.4 3.24
Dexter McCluster Mississippi 181 543.6 3.00
Jonathan Dwyer Georgia Tech 212 602.0 2.84
C.J. Spiller Clemson 196 536.6 2.74
Joe McKnight USC 164 448.0 2.73
Anthony Dixon Mississippi State 257 563.3 2.19
Brandon Minor Michigan 96 204.2 2.13
Toby Gerhart Stanford 343 688.9 2.01
Stafon Johnson USC 32 59.0 1.84

Highlight Yards are clearly a measure of explosiveness above all, and thus will undervalue runners like Gerhart just as Adj. POE does. The stat also clearly points out how Gerhart might be a perfect fit in one offense and an absolutely wretched one in others. For those offenses out there still interested in power running and conservative playcalling (and in possession of a pretty decent offensive line), Gerhart could be a fantastic get. It doesn't appear that he will take much more than the offensive line gives him, but he will take every inch of it without complaint, and he can clearly take a beating. If a team is looking for Mike Alstott or Jerome Bettis, he could be a success. But if a team wants a playmaker, it most likely has crossed his name off the list.

Putting It All Together

Along with Adj. POE and Highlight Yards, Football Outsiders also has the wonderful and by now well-established Speed Score concept. With all three of these tools at our disposal, can we come up with an even better way to predict NFL success (or lack thereof) for running backs?

To address this question, of course, we have to first define success and its opposite. Since the data below deals with players who have anywhere between one and four years of experience, we will tentatively define "successful" as averaging 100.0 DYAR per season in the pros. Eighteen players drafted in the last four years have averaged that, which is about 20 percent of the rushers sampled in the four years of draft classes. That is a pretty good, semi-elite sample. Meanwhile, 39 players (42 percent of the sample) either averaged fewer than 10.0 DYAR per season or never got carries at all. We will use that as the definition of "not successful."

Here are the pre-draft Highlight Yards, Adj. POE and Speed Score averages for players in both categories:

  • Successful: 2.64 Hlt Yds/carry, +12.7 Adj. POE, 108.5 Speed Score
  • Not Successful: 1.89 Hlt Yds/carry, +3.6 Adj. POE, 99.9 Speed Score

So, to analyze a sample of almost 100 rushers, we are going to set up a series of arbitrary points.

  • +1 point: more than 2.64 Hlt Yds/carry, +12.7 Adj. POE or more, 108.5 speed score or higher
  • -1 point: less than 1.89 Hlt Yds/carry, +3.6 Adj. POE or fewer, 99.9 speed score or lower
  • 0 points: everything else

Using this broad system, a player can end up with somewhere between 3 and -3 points. Broken into the four tiers below, you can see defined distance from one tier to another.

Of all 92 players analyzed, only three ended up with +3 in these categories, and all three have been relative successes. And as you see below, breaking backs into categories (+3, +1/+2, -1/0, and -2/-3) creates a very strong set of tiers. Those in the "+3" group averaged +204.0 DYAR per season (albeit in a three-man sample size), while those in the "+1" or "+2" tier averaged 87.6. Further down, those in the "-1" or "0" tier averaged 40.4, while those at the bottom "-2" or "-3" averaged 20.2.

Points N Average
(DYAR/
Season)
Strong Successes
(>125 DYAR/Season)
Notable Non-Successes
(<10 DYAR/Season)
+3 3 204.0 Chris Johnson (East Carolina, 2008)
Jamaal Charles (Texas, 2008)
Jerious Norwood (Mississippi St., 2006)
None
+1 or +2 18 87.6 Maurice Jones-Drew (UCLA, 2006)
DeAngelo Williams (Memphis, 2006)
Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, 2007)
Jonathan Stewart (Oregon, 2008)
Reggie Bush (USC, 2006)
Garrett Wolfe (N. Illinois, 2007)
0 or -1 36 40.4 Joseph Addai (LSU, 2006)
Pierre Thomas (Illinois, 2007)
Ray Rice (Rutgers, 2008)
Chris Wells (Ohio State, 2009)
Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech, 2008)
Chris Henry (Arizona, 2007)
Antonio Pittman (Ohio State, 2007)
Brian Calhoun (Wisconsin, 2006)
Michael Robinson (Penn State, 2006)
Mike Goodson (Texas A&M, 2009)
Glen Coffee (Alabama, 2009)
-2 or -3 34 20.2 None (Steve Slaton is the closest at 124.2) Tony Hunt (Penn State, 2007)
Dwayne Wright (Fresno State, 2007)
Gartrell Johnson (Colorado State, 2009)
Kenny Irons (Auburn, 2007)

It should be noted that teams don't slip up often in terms of drafting somebody in the "-2 or -3" category. Of the 34 names on the list, only five were picked before the fourth round (Irons, Brandon Jackson, Lorenzo Booker, Hunt, Slaton). However, only Slaton and Arian Foster (109.9), and Leon Washington (99.7) have averaged even as much as 50.0 DYAR/season. It is very hard to succeed when you are in the "-2 or -3" range with this points system.

So how do the current draft prospects grade out? Below are the 20 running backs most likely to be drafted this weekend, along with their FO measurables and "points."

2010 Draft Prospects and FO Measurables
(ordered by common pre-draft rankings)
Player School Year 2009
H-Yds/Car
2009
Adj POE
Speed
Score
"Points"
C.J. Spiller Clemson Senior 2.74 +18.9 107.5 +2
Ryan Mathews Fresno State Senior 3.24 +26.8 111.2 +3
Jahvid Best California Junior* 3.39 +18.3 111.2 +3
Jonathan Dwyer Georgia Tech Junior* 2.84 +21.3 103.2 +2
Dexter McCluster Mississippi Senior 3.00 +20.6 75.0 +1
Montario Hardesty Tennessee Senior 1.52 +2.4 105.8 -2
Joe McKnight USC Junior* 2.73 +2.9 99.2 -1
Toby Gerhart Stanford Junior* 2.01 +12.2 109.7 +1
Ben Tate Auburn Senior 1.82 -3.5 114.2 -1
Charles Scott LSU Senior 1.33 +1.1 100.1 -2
Player School Year 2009
H-Yds/Car
2009
AdjPOE
Speed
Score
"Points"
Anthony Dixon Mississippi State Senior 2.19 +5.2 99.7 -1
LeGarrette Blount Oregon Senior 3.77* +32.6* 105.8 +2
Javarris James Miami Senior 1.81 +4.7 100.7 -1
Chris Brown Oklahoma Senior 1.30 +3.9 95.5 -2
Keiland Williams LSU Senior 1.73 +3.5 N/A -2
Stafon Johnson USC Senior 1.58* +1.5* 90.8 -3
Andre Dixon Connecticut Senior 1.30 +4.2 88.5 -2
Brandon Minor Michigan Senior 2.13 +13.7 N/A +1
Shawnbrey McNeal SMU Senior 2.01 +2.8 89.7 -2
Keith Toston Oklahoma State Senior 1.83 +14.4 87.3 -1
* H-Yds/car and Adj. POE are from 2008, as neither Blount nor Johnson got many
carries this year (Blount got only 22 carries due to suspension, Johnson 32 carries
due to freak injury).

In the four years of data at hand, only three runners have managed a +3 score. There are two in just this class -- Mathews and Best. Though we should be conservative in drawing conclusions with such a small sample size, the experiences of Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and Jerious Norwood suggest these two backs are (injuries aside) as close to sure things as there are in the draft. Meanwhile, two more backs had a score of +2 from their 2009 data. Blount also scored +2, but that was using the 2008 data he put together before his Boise falcon punch in 2009. His sample size was too small in 2009 to draw any conclusions, so we will see what impact the year off has on his production. Character issues will prevent him from being drafted too high, but he might have good value in later rounds.

Also providing potentially good value: Gerhart (with the aforementioned correct team) and potentially Brandon Minor.

Of the top backs on the list, teams probably want to avoid Montario Hardesty and potentially Joe McKnight and Ben Tate. Tate is a Speed Score darling, but he does very poorly in our other two "FO measureables."

Random Golf Clap

What a great move this is by Ndamukong Suh. My Heisman pick (somehow my ballot never came in the mail), who matured significantly on the field his senior season, showed how mature he is off the field by donating $2.6 million to his alma mater -- $2 million to the athletic department and $600,000 to the College of Engineering (intended to help out-of-state students, perhaps from his high school, Portland (OR) Grant, in attending Nebraska). He has made an impact on the Huskers' program in many different ways, and he deserves some serious kudos for it.

Random Mini-Rant

Call this a preemptive rant. As most teams' spring games come and go, we are entering the portion of the offseason where we overreact to the smallest of sample sizes, bumping our opinions of certain schools significantly up or down because a quarterback succeeded against his team's second-team defense, or because a team's previously shaky defense looked great against a second-team offense. My father attended his first spring game this weekend in Columbia, and afterward he asked what I actually took away from it. My response: "Very, very little." Spring games are a wonderful opportunity to soak in nice weather and pretend that it's football season for a couple of hours on a spring afternoon, but basing conclusions on its results are an almost entirely pointless affair. But we do it anyway.

Random Reasons to Love College Football

Does any sport stay in the offseason news better than college football? The season ends, and we engage in 6-8 weeks of recruiting obsession. A couple of weeks after that, spring football starts, and we commence overreacting to news and performances from practices. Now it's draft week. Plus, in a move more unique to this particular offseason, we have once again engaged in full-speed conference expansion talk. This will last for a quite a while, just in time for everybody's preseason Top 25s to roll in. And just like that, it's time for two-a-days, and Labor Day weekend before you know it.

Random Playlist

Spring has sprung, etc. Unfortunately, there aren't 10 songs on my iPod dealing with horrific pollen allergies, so we'll go for a different spring feature.

"Apple Suckling Tree," by Bob Dylan & The Band
"Cypress Tree," by Black Crowes
"The Dreaming Tree," by Dave Matthews Band
"Family Tree," by TV On the Radio
"The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree," by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
"Hanging Tree," by Counting Crows
"In My Tree," by Pearl Jam
"Lime Tree," by Bright Eyes
"Treefingers," by Radiohead
"Up in the Treehouse," by Cody ChesnuTT

And of course, every song from the semi-overrated (yeah, I said it) The Joshua Tree as well.

Closing Thoughts

The Big Ten expansion talk has made for a lot of conversation, hasn't it? We've got the same analysts making the same predictions they were making three months ago (Stewart Mandel still loves himself some Nebraska), but with the Big Ten dropping hints of an accelerated timetable for making decisions and offers this week, the discussion exploded. Of course, this may have been one giant tease, but that's fine. We'll just have the same conversation in another couple of months when it comes up again. It makes for a mighty fast offseason, doesn't it?

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 21 Apr 2010

44 comments, Last at 23 Aug 2010, 11:47pm by nightowl

Comments

1
by Bobman :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 5:49pm

This was great! Sorry, nothing more in-depth at the moment. Need time to digest it.

2
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 7:00pm

Best article ive read in a while. Great job bill.

3
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 7:38pm

Don't know if anyone believes in karma, but I hope the very best for Suh. Very cool thing to do.

17
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:32am

Even though he injured my team's quarterback (Blaine Gabbert), I still really like him despite myself. The donation was great, his complete demolition of that tackling dummy on the ESPN Sports Science piece was even better, and I'd have given him my Heisman vote in a millisecond if I had one.

4
by Otis Taylor89 :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 8:19pm

I don't think I would call Jerious Norwood a strong success, even with the injuries, but I would say that the data certainly points to Best, Matthews and Spiller having very good careers - if they stay healthy.

18
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:35am

To take my own objectivity out of the equation, I went with a strictly numerical definition of strong success (>125 DYAR). Obviously Norwood hasn't been amazing, but he's still been a pretty strong success considering he was a third rounder and has averaged 144.1 DYAR per year over four seasons.

5
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 8:21pm

Don't all of the <10dyar guys have bad speed scores?

Also when is everyone going to realize that its ok to have a bad speed score or you are 5'9 or shorter?

6
by tuluse :: Wed, 04/21/2010 - 10:11pm

Also when is everyone going to realize that its ok to have a bad speed score or you are 5'9 or shorter?

When we see some proof instead of an anonymous internet poster asking us why we don't realize it.

7
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 12:27am

Ill tone it down a little bit. I think hes saying, isnt there a coorelation between height and speedscore? Someone shorter is obviously gonna have less height room and will weigh on average less than a taller person. I don't know why he chose 5'9'' but i guess to each their own. I think it would be interesting to try and apply height somehow when factoring in speedscore because (to my knowledge) the only low speed score candidates that have panned out are all short backs. Is there a coorelation?

8
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 2:44am

Tuluse,

Sorry dude I don't have the time to write a peer reviewed study stating the obvious.

9
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 2:51am

Sorry, I have to laugh at the absurdity of the height argument in speed score. Because there is no linear correlation that means that height tells us nothing? There has to be some reason why the exceptions to the speed score metric have all been very short(by athlete standards). I don't know what that reason is but I know that accumulated college stats mean alot more when a back is 5'9 or shorter.

10
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 4:01am

I was defending you and somewhat agree that height is also a factor. I just dont think that 5'9 is the ultimate height that matters for it. Brandon jacobs has the highest speed score to date and its no coincidence that he is also the tallest runningback recorded. A lot of the short runningbacks have lower speed scores (emmitt smith, westbrook, slaton) and end up outperforming their speedscore. Well maybe not slaton but the other two sure have. Ray rice i believe fits into that category as well but has a much higher speed score than the other players listed. I would like to see an average speedscore for every height. The average speedscore for 6'4 runningbacks is 122 (i think). The average for 6'3 runningbacks is (?). and so on and so forth. I believe it will be a complete trickle down effect. In theory i agree with your height analysis, just not that 5'9 is the cutoff.

adding height to the speedscore somehow could very well have a higher coorelation to nfl success than the current formula.

"I don't know what that reason is but I know that accumulated college stats mean alot more when a back is 5'9 or shorter."

^you have any examples to back that statement up? are there also any players taller than 5'9 with bad speed scores that ended up being good pros?

11
by bubqr :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 4:22am

If it's that obvious, you're sure you don't have enough time to quickly prove your arrogantly stated point ?

Loved, loved the article. This one, like the SackSEER one, is what brought me to FO in the first place, and makes me want to come back...

22
by Brendan Scolari :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 12:38pm

Agreed, these type of articles represent FO at it's finest. Great job Bill.

12
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 5:18am

Big Johnson,
5'9 is the cutoff because that was the tallest height I saw for outperformance. There is no math behind my statement only observation. I looked at all the speed scores and noticed that the really short guys could be good without a good speed score but not the tall guys.

bubqr,
What's so arrogant about that? I was trying to be funny. I guess that doesn't work when I'm not funny. I don't take this stuff seriously, most of us are on here as sort of a hobby. Why's everyone always getting so riled up.

13
by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 8:29am

How did Brian Westbrook rate on the scale?

16
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:29am

Are you asking about Speed Score, or just this overall "points" system? I only have the play-by-play related stats going back to 2005, so he was long before that. Plus, he played at Villanova, which means even if I had data for the first half of the decade, I still wouldn't have anything on him.

For what it's worth, however, it appears that, at 5'8, 200 pounds, he ran a 4.57 40. That gives him a sub-92 speed score. He really had nothing going for him whatsoever from a statistical/physical standpoint ... he was just a really good running back. The Eagles picking him in the third round was a huge risk, but it paid off, to say the very least.

14
by dryheat :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:21am

Hah. My iPod's playing The Trees by Rush as I type.

15
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:26am

Nice. Yeah ... my iPod is, I believe, Rush-free ... for better or worse ...

21
by The Blow Leprechaun (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 10:30am

Worse.

Also, no First of May by Jonathon Coulton? (warning: explicit lyrics)

25
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 04/23/2010 - 9:30am

Definitely for worse. Best three-man band of all time! Especially the early albums, before 1980.

42
by Opie (not verified) :: Mon, 05/03/2010 - 11:59pm

I like Rush a lot, but that there is an awful lot of hyperbole. I mean, the list of good 3 person bands is pretty outstanding. I think you'd have a hard time quantifying "best" in any event. But I'd put The Police up against Rush any day of the week, and I'm saving Cream as my change of pace back...

19
by okayplayer (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 9:59am

Is the end of your introduction an homage to "A Christmas Story?"

20
by Mike J (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 10:10am

I love Best, he reminds me some of Tony Dorsett.

How about
"Thorn Tree in the Garden" by Derek & the Dominos??

23
by Ed (not verified) :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 1:05pm

Bill Connelly: Why didn't you include Deji Karim, James Starks, and Lonyae Miller? All three of these have above average speed scores (over 100) and Karim/Starks had productive college careers even though Starks was injured for 2009. I'm curious to know what their Hlt Yds/Car and Adj POE numbers were.

24
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 04/22/2010 - 5:56pm

I don't have FCS data, so there's nothing I can really report on Karim. Here are the other two:

Starks (using 2008 data): 1.89 H-Yds/Carry, +11.6 Adj. POE, 106.3 Speed Score, 0 "Points"

Miller: 1.92 H-Yds/Carry, +0.5 Adj. POE (-1!), 105.0 Speed Score, -1 "Points"

26
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 04/23/2010 - 9:31am

This makes me feel a lot better about giving up #28 and #40 for Mathews. Tim Dobbins isn't chopped liver, either. But in AJ we trust, no?

27
by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 04/23/2010 - 12:10pm

The whole "points" idea certainly got some pressure put on it last night, with both +3 guys going in the first round and Mathews going much higher than anybody expected.

28
by jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 04/26/2010 - 8:44am

How does Scott do on the above if you use his 2008 numbers?

29
by Bill Connelly :: Mon, 04/26/2010 - 9:47am

Scott from 2008: 2.24 H-Yds/Carry, +29.3 Adj. POE (+1), still 100.1 speed score. So he'd have been a +1 instead of a -2. In 45 carries in 2007, he actually averaged 3.72 H-Yds and would have been a +2. He just got steadily worse each season. This does bring up a question about career numbers versus final season numbers. I tinkered with both, and it turned out that final season numbers were much stronger predictors. Obviously there are cases involving injuries or external factors that create a situation where your numbers regress, but more often than not, who you are in your final season is who you'll be.

32
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 4:39am

Did you try weighting the seasons?

Like final season at 100%, 2nd to last at 75%, etc.

33
by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 9:08am

I didn't leave myself enough time to dive into the best way to weight the seasons, though that's definitely something I'll take into account in the next go-round.

30
by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 04/26/2010 - 11:56am

Mr. Connelly,

I was wondering if you had tried using all-purpose yards as an indicator of future running back success. I was wikipediaing(not a word) hall of fame runners and all of them seem to have had some sort of remarkable all-purpose yard record/recognition.

This bodes well for Spiller.

31
by Big Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 3:50am

is there any way you can something like this with WRs? that would be killer!

34
by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 9:11am

I have receiver data too, and I think it's useful, but it isn't nearly as useful as it can be without targets data (a.k.a. how many passes were intended for them but not completed). I don't currently have that, but I'm trying to figure out the least time-consuming way to put it together. Without targets data, you're basically comparing the points someone generated on their receptions with the points the defense gave up either on a per-pass basis (meaning the PPP+ numbers would be ridiculously inflated, since 40% of passes fall incomplete) or on a per-completion basis (which gives an inaccurate view of the quality of a pass defense--if you give up quite a few yards per completion, but you're only allowing a completion 45% of the time, it's going to skew things), and I don't really like either of those options.

Short version of the last paragraph: it's in the works, but it might be a little while.

37
by Big Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 7:42pm

so WR targets aren't tracked in the NCAA? that's...annoying. i guess i assumed such a thing would be.

well i'll tell you what. i'm doing my pee dance waiting for your WR analysis.

38
by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 8:43pm

The reporting of "Incomplete for _____" appears to be growing more consistent in its usage than it was a few years ago, but because it did not appear consistent at all at first (for some teams, the play-by-play would just say "Incomplete" every time, with no extra information), I did not ever attempt to collect it. Will have to figure out something.

39
by Big Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 9:36pm

not to belabor the point, but is there any reason that targets aren't tracked as an official, or semi-official, stat that you know of?

40
by Bill Connelly :: Wed, 04/28/2010 - 11:33am

I think the major issue at play is simply that there are 120 FBS teams and another 100+ FCS teams, they all have different "official scorer" types entering info into Automated Scorebook, and they all do things slightly differently. Maryland and Notre Dame only use last names instead "last, first" ... Texas strangely records about 3x more QB hurries than anybody else ... et cetera. It's hard to get too much standardized info, and I assume that's the main reason they don't "officially" track targets.

35
by Exy (not verified) :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 9:54am

How did Shonn Greene grade out with the "points" system?

36
by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 04/27/2010 - 10:28am

2.33 H-Yds/carry, +6.8 Adj. POE, 91.5 Speed Score (-1). A "-1" overall. I liked how he ran with the Jets last year, though, so maybe he's a bit of an exception.

41
by pazz (not verified) :: Mon, 05/03/2010 - 1:48pm

what were mendenhall's #?

43
by nibiyabi :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 4:55pm

Brandon Minor's Speed Score would almost certainly be below 100, putting him at a 0.

44
by nightowl (not verified) :: Mon, 08/23/2010 - 11:47pm

Hey Bill,

I am trying to compare Spiller to McFadden and Reggie Bush. What were their numbers in the "points" system?