Higher Education: The Best and Worst Third-Down Backs
I’m starting a new series over at Yahoo in which I use FO stats to try and make some salient points about specific performance value, and I wanted to begin with some of the indicators of “clutchiness.” The first two posts detail the best and worst third-down backs in 2010 (minimum 15 third-down carries) based on DVOA and Success Rate. There are a few surprises on both lists; certainly the top guy on the best list would evade a few guessers. The article about the 10 best backs is linked in the title; the article on the 10 worst can be found here.
After finding LeSean McCoy so high in the ‘10 best’ piece, I wondered how Michael Vick and other quarterbacks fared as third-down rushers, and asked Aaron for a list of DVOA and Success Rate for all 2010 quarterbacks with at least 10 carries. Of course, running on third down is usually a different challenge for a quarterback; unless it’s a short-yardage sneak, the likelihood is that such plays are based on breakdowns in passing plays and performed against defenders looking to close in after defending potential pass plays as opposed to pinning their ears back against a prospective run play.
So, of course, it would make perfect sense that the most effective third-down rushing quarterback, based on DVOA, would be … Jay Cutler?
Kind a shocker considering Matt Forte’s status as the worst third-down running back, but of course Cutler was doing his thing behind that same horrid line and had to make some breakaway plays. And he was very effective in doing so. On his 12 third-down runs (11 of which were listed in our game-charting as “scrambles” and not intentional runs), Cutler converted eight, including instances of third-and-9, third-and-15, and third-and-16.
Here are the best five rushing quarterbacks on third down (minimum 10 carries), followed by the five worst.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – 72.0% DVOA, 12 carries, 121 yards, 75 % Success Rate
Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos – 55.9% DVOA, 10 carries, 104 yards, 40% Success Rate
Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins – 44.9% DVOA, 10 carries, 90 yards, 70% Success Rate
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles – 34.5% DVOA, 29 carries, 249 yards, 52% Success Rate
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 33.3% DVOA, 27 carries, 178 yards, 78% Success Rate
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills – minus-53.6% DVOA, 14 carries, 69 yards, 29% Success Rate
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – minus-37.7% DVOA, 12 carries, 40 yards, 50% Success Rate
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals – minus-36.8% DVOA, 11 carries, 32 yards, 64% Success Rate
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – minus-19.1% DVOA, 17 carries, 115 yards, 41% Success Rate
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – minus-3.9% DVOA, 11 carries, 37 yards, 64% Success Rate