After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
13 Apr 2011
by Bill Connelly
The NFL Draft is right around the corner, which means it's probably time to revisit last year's POE and Draftability column. Today, we'll look at the Adjusted POE and Highlight Yardage rankings for 2010. Later this week, we'll look at the draftability portion of the equation.
First, here's a quick refresher.
POE stands for "Points Over Expected." The idea for POE is simple: It compares a runner's production (in terms of EqPts) to the production that would have been expected of an average back given the same carries against the same opponents. A runner with, say, a plus-6.0 Adj. POE produced the equivalent of a touchdown more value than the average FBS running back would have with the same carries.
POE = EqPts - Expected EqPts.
Last year, we added an adjustment to account for the quality of a runner's offensive line (based on the team's Adj. Line Yards ratings). So below, you will see a raw POE figure and the more comprehensive Adj. POE figure. Backs are ranked by Adj. POE.
For the second consecutive year, mid-major backs dominated the Adj. POE rankings. Last year's Top 5 consisted of North Texas' Lance Dunbar, Northern Illinois' Chad Spann, Memphis' Curtis Steele, Boise State's Doug Martin and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers. This year, there was an improvement, at least -- two major conference backs cracked the Top 5.
|Top 40 Collegiate Running Backs According to Adj. POE, 2010|
|Ronnie Hillman||San Diego State||Freshman||+15.4||39||+26.9||2||11|
|Brandon Bolden||Ole Miss||Junior||+21.6||17||+24.5||6||54|
|Thomas Merriweather||Miami (Ohio)||Senior||+7.8||117||+20.8||10||62|
|Daniel Thomas||Kansas State||Senior||+22.0||13||+19.5||11||8|
|Tevin Drake||Western Michigan||Freshman||+14.7||40||+18.3||12||222|
|Chad Spann||Northern Illinois||Senior||+25.6||11||+18.1||13||15|
|Cyrus Gray||Texas A&M||Junior||+20.6||18||+17.8||14||36|
|Phillip Tanner||Middle Tennessee||Senior||+9.4||88||+16.1||19||57|
|Latavius Murray||Central Florida||Junior||+15.9||35||+15.3||21||126|
|Robbie Rouse||Fresno State||Sophomore||+5.6||161||+15.3||22||37|
|Vick Ballard||Mississippi State||Junior||+21.7||16||+15.0||24||53|
|Edwin Baker||Michigan State||Sophomore||+16.9||29||+14.1||27||26|
|Josh Harris||Wake Forest||Freshman||+12.6||59||+13.6||29||103|
|Orwin Smith||Georgia Tech||Sophomore||+16.6||31||+13.1||31||170|
|T.Y. Hilton||Florida International||Junior||+13.6||51||+13.0||33||315|
|William Powell||Kansas State||Senior||+13.4||53||+12.9||34||350|
|Doug Martin||Boise State||Junior||+17.2||27||+12.3||36||20|
|Jerrel Jernigan (WR)||Troy||Senior||+10.3||81||+11.9||39||269|
|Le'Veon Bell||Michigan State||Freshman||+12.1||66||+11.6||42||139|
|Kerwynn Williams||Utah State||Sophomore||+9.2||90||+11.6||44||199|
|Marcus Lattimore||South Carolina||Freshman||+21.8||15||+11.4||46||28|
|Jordan Lynch||Northern Illinois||Freshman||+12.9||56||+11.3||47||251|
|Roy Helu, Jr.||Nebraska||Senior||+16.2||34||+11.2||48||21|
|Chris Thompson||Florida State||Sophomore||+17.3||26||+11.0||49||82|
|Jeremy Avery||Boise State||Senior||+13.5||52||+10.9||50||177|
|Kendrick Hardy||Southern Miss||Freshman||+8.7||101||+10.5||52||67|
Judging by Adj. POE, Alex Green (who you potentially had not heard of before this column) registered the best overall rushing season of anybody in the last six seasons. His output more than doubled that of the second-place finisher, San Diego State's stud freshman, Ronnie Hillman.
Top Five Seasons According to Adj. POE (2005-10)
1. Alex Green, Hawaii, 2010 (55.0)
2. Jahvid Best, California, 2008 (51.3)
3. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, 2008 (48.6)
4. Yonus Davis, San Jose State, 2008 (45.8)
5. Pat White, West Virginia, 2006 (41.2)
One thing becomes very clear in looking at Adj. POE through the years: There is significant variability from year to year. Just because you were great in terms of Adj. POE one season, you are not guaranteed the same the next year, and vice versa. Last year's champ Lance Dunbar, for instance, went from plus-34.9 in 2009 to plus-6.6 in 2010. West Virginia's Noel Devine went from plus-0.8 in 2008, to plus-20.0 in 2009 ... to an incredible minus-11.7 in 2010. How this ties to the other topic at hand -- draftability -- is unclear.
Other Backs of Note
As we'll see below, Mikel Leshoure generated quite a bit from a Highlight Yards perspective, and he was one of my favorite backs of 2010, but credit for a lot of his raw POE of plus-12.3 was assigned to his offensive line. Post-adjustment, his Adj. POE was right at the national average. Vai Taua was the recipient of even stronger offensive line support, rating a touchdown lower than average post-adjustment.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, meanwhile, saw his Adj. POE numbers fall just like his overall rushing yardage. In 2009, he gained 1,452 yards and posted an Adj. POE of 18.2. In 2010, those numbers fell to 875 yards and 8.3 Adj. POE.
Now let's move to quarterbacks.
|Top 20 Collegiate Quarterbacks According to Adj. POE, 2010|
|Russell Wilson||N.C. State||Junior||+19.3||21||+14.2||25|
|Ryan Aplin||Arkansas State||Sophomore||+10.3||82||+12.1||37|
|Collin Klein||Kansas State||Sophomore||+12.2||63||+11.4||45|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State||Junior||+18.5||23||+10.6||51|
|Alex Carder||Western Michigan||Sophomore||+6.3||142||+10.4||54|
|Chandler Harnish||Northern Illinois||Junior||+13.2||56||+9.4||64|
|Tim Jefferson, Jr.||Air Force||Junior||+16.6||32||+9.4||67|
|Tyrod Taylor||Virginia Tech||Senior||+14.2||45||+8.9||72|
|* Declared early for the NFL draft.|
How bad was Wyoming's offensive line in 2010? Bad enough to convince the numbers that quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and running back Alvester Alexander could have been better than Cameron Newton and Andre Ellington, respectively, given actual blocking.
Carta-Samuels aside, the rest of the list takes shape about how you'd have expected. The numbers think Newton got significant help from a fantastic offensive line, but having Kaepernick, Martinez, Newton, and Wilson in the top five seems about right.
Now, a moment of silence for Navy's Ricky Dobbs, a sentimental Heisman candidate for 2010 who just couldn't quite rekindle the 2009 magic. He rushed for 1,033 yards, but it took him some inefficient carries to do it. His final Adj. POE for 2010: minus-18.4. His backup, Kriss Proctor, produced an Adj. POE 28.4 points higher in 232 fewer carries.
Now let's expand on another topic we unveiled in last year's POE column: 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-plus 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.
Basically, Highlight Yards are the yards credited to the running back and not the blocking. Again, we rank them below in terms of their full-season accumulation instead of their per-carry average.
|Top 20 Rushers According to 2010 Highlight Yards|
|Name||School||Rushes||Yards||Hlt. Yds.||Hlt. Yds./
|4||Lance Dunbar||North Texas||274||1,561||755.2||2.76||48|
|5||Ronnie Hillman||San Diego State||262||1,532||695.1||2.65||58|
|Name||School||Rushes||Yards||Hlt. Yds.||Hlt. Yds./
|12||Daniel Thomas||Kansas State||297||1,583||611.2||2.06||130|
|13||Roy Helu, Jr.||Nebraska||188||1,245||600.4||3.19||22|
|14||Bobby Rainey||Western Kentucky||340||1,648||599.4||1.76||181|
|16||Chad Spann||Northern Illinois||258||1,388||593.2||2.30||97|
LaMichael James clearly takes the title of most accomplished major conference running back for 2010. His per-carry average was not quite in the top echelon, but his combination of durability and explosiveness were very impressive. And North Texas' Dunbar still showed upper-level quality as well.
For more full POE and Highlight Yardage rankings, stay tuned to my side blog, Football Study Hall, later today. By the way, thanks to the work of Marty Couvillan at cfbstats.com, we now have a boatload of pass targeting data through which to sort. Once the legwork is done on that, we should have a POE figure for receivers (and a pass-catching portion for running backs) as well. Good news.
20 comments, Last at 18 Aug 2011, 1:52pm by vincemullins