Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Dec 2005

Running Debate

With Oakland and the Jets set to square off, it's time to debate Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan again. "Martin was coming off a career year - he won the NFL rushing title - and there was no way to predict his production would decline this dramatically," says Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News.

Martin current stats, projected to 16 games:
980 rushing yards, 157 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Martin projection from PFP 2005:
1067 rushing yards, 174 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns

I guess he's right, nobody could predict his production would decline this dramatically. Just ALMOST this dramatically. (The strange part about this is that Cimini, um, "borrowed liberally" from my Jets chapter in his preseason Jets preview, so we know he saw this projection.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Dec 2005

32 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2005, 9:18pm by Travis


by Richard (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 7:54pm

Does anybody have their PFP handy? What was the projection for Derrick Blaylock?

by Bruce (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 9:17pm

Page 282 -- 581 yds., 4.4 avg. 6 TD, 26 receptions for 217 yds, 1 TD receiving.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 9:32pm

Did he just randomly suggest Kerry Collins will play for the Jets next year, or is there some basis to it?

by BC Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 9:49pm

re: #3

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Collins ends up in New York. His signing would be consistent with the recent trend of the Jets nabbing players with recognizable names or blowout combine buzz. I'm actually taking babysteps toward writing my own piece on why the media-driven nature of Jets management will stand in the way of a serious super bowl run.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 9:51pm

How many yards does Kevin Jones need to keep pace with the PFP projection?

by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 10:22pm

In fairness to Martin, there was no suggestion that the offensive line would go from being one of the best in the league to a disaster zone in the space of one season, nor that the team would lose any viable threat of completing passes down the field. I'm sympathetic to the notion that Martin was due for a drop-off, but having watched every snap this season, it's hard for me to really say that Martin has dropped off much. Certainly no other runner has been effective behind the line, either Blaylock or Houston. He doesn't look shot the way older backs tend to look shot (think Eddie George); he just looks undone by his offensive line.

Re 4:

Collins is fine with me. He has an NFL-caliber arm and has shown in both Carolina and New York that if you put a good team around him, he can produce. According to DVOA, he was the 5th best quarterback in football in 2002, and even though the Raiders are struggling this year, his DPAR is 39.3, 12th in the league, better than Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger, Steve McNair, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and needless to say, light years better than what we're getting out of the quarterback position. The most important difference between him and someone like Patrick Ramsey is that Collins would only cost money, while Ramsey would cost money and draft picks. If there is a quarterback available who can bring even average play to the position, and who can be signed for a short term deal while Pennington rehabilitates and/or the team drafts a young guy to groom, I can't see how that would be anything but a positive move.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/07/2005 - 11:33pm

I guess I was just surprised at the way the writer said, "Let's throw Kerry Collins' name into the Jets' QB rumor mill."

I don't think Kerry Collins would necessarily be bad, but I don't see him as the kind of guy who would readily step aside for the younger quarterback, whether Pennington or whomever.

by John (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 7:56am

I figure the Jets are going to try and make a big splash and trade up for Leinart, maybe picking him first or second.
I know it looks like the Texans will go number one, but if they take Reggie Bush it will not only be stupendously stupid, but unfortunate for Bush who may see a HOF career dissolve thanks to a horrendous O line.

by the fumble (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 10:03am

I don't think the Jets will have to trade up to take Leinart.

by MCS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 10:03am

Looks like someone took Kevin Jones in his Fantasy League and is still angry about it.

I was gonna take Jones, but then I remembered. . .he plays for the Lions. I took Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson instead.

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 12:22pm

dryheat, if you happen to see a guy in black walking around your house in the middle of the night, don't worry. It's not the Jewish Santa Claus, it's your friendly Football Outsiders creator Aaron Schatz. He just wants to give you some facetime with a copy of PFP 2005. As in beat you with the book constantly into you forget every making the Kevin Jones crack :D

/I keed, I keed

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 12:43pm

Hey...if someone's going to boast how on-target they were in one instance, it seems fair to mention a case where maybe not so much.

I have no vendetta. I didn't draft KJ in any league this year.

by admin :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 12:49pm

Actually, dryheat, the issue here is the opposite.

All year long we've been attacked and criticized for the Kevin Jones projection. It's been mentioned over and over again in e-mails and comments.

I've received one e-mail -- ONE -- thanking us for steering someone away from Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis.

Do you really think you are the first person to bring up Kevin Jones around here? Should we not write a book next year out of fear that we might get a projection wrong again?

If you have no vendetta, then please show us all the discussions of Kevin Jones where you posted a comment saying, "Hey, if you are going to criticize them for getting one wrong, you should point out the ones they got right."

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 1:01pm

And just to show that it can be done, this Ravens fan has remarked several times on these boards that Aaron and the group got Jamal Lewis exactly right (as much as it hurts).

Where we might differ is that I am of the opinion that given a full recovery period from the microfracture surgery, and a normal offseason rehab, there is a good possibility that Jamal will have a "rebound" season next year. But one can be a fan and still admit it when someone gets it right.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 1:28pm

All year long we’ve been attacked and criticized for the Kevin Jones projection. It’s been mentioned over and over again in e-mails and comments.

So what you're telling me is that you've been treated like a kicker....only being called out on the misses.

Hey, I don't mean to offend. I don't read every column on this site, just the ones I find particularly interesting. I don't read mailbags or fantasy analysis, so I have no idea if I'm the 1st (highly improbable) or 10,001st person to mention it.

Should we not write a book next year out of fear that we might get a projection wrong again?
That seems silly. Plus I'm not qualified to give advice on running a business.

If you have no vendetta, then please show us all the discussions of Kevin Jones where you posted a comment saying, “Hey, if you are going to criticize them for getting one wrong, you should point out the ones they got right.�

Those comments don't exist, because I haven't read any of the relevant discussions, or even known of their existence. So you'll just have to take my word for it for now. If you'd like to provide me the links to those discussions, I'll gladly add such postings.

So what you're telling me is that you've been treated like a kicker....only being called out on the misses.

Hey, I don't mean to offend. I don't read every column on this site, I don't read fantasy mailbags

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 1:34pm

I think Martin and Jones are having worse years than projected for somewhat the reason. Their QBs suck more than projected. Running the ball is more effective when combined with a credible passing game, or while in the lead e.g. Da Bears.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 1:41pm

Dear Football Outsiders Readers:

In addition to Curtis Martin, Aaron was almost on the nose with his yardage predictions for Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber, Reuben Droughns and Clinton Portis, assuming they continue at their current pace.

Furthermore, he was reasonably close with LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James.

His hits far outweigh his misses, and I recommend that those of you who play fantasy football give his predictions considerable weight when planning your draft strategy.

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 2:00pm

I'm sure this is a question for a longer article, but how have other companies'/books' fantasy projections compared to PFP's? Who did each see as breakout players? Who did each see as players likely to decline? Etc.

by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 2:10pm

Sean makes a good point. FO didn't really get Martin right. Or rather they got the quoted stats right but for the wrong reason. As Bruce (#2) kindly posted, they projected Martin's backup to get almost 600 yards and 4.4 yds a carry. That's 132 carries for Blaylock, or 44% more carries than Lamont Jordan got last year. In other words, the FO projection assumes the Jets running game would continue to be reasonably effective overall but Martin's production would decline principally because age and overwork would lead to injuries that limited both his carries and (marginally) his effectiveness. The actual situation is a putrid OL and toothless passing game, resulting in a rushing attack that stinks no matter who is running the ball. Martin, while playing through an injury (which he does every year), is still getting most of the carries (actually a significantly higher percentage of the team's carries than last year). He actually has more long runs than last year. So I would say that this year's Martin running behind last year's line (or even something reasonably approaching last year's line) with a replacement level QB would probably be looking at 1200-1300 yards. A decline, but not as steep as the decline projected by FO. That's about what I expected.

I'd still rather have Jordan than Martin (I don't think Martin was that great last year despite his numbers), but that wasn't a realistic option given Marin's contract, his 2004 stats and the amount the Raiders were willing to pay Jordan.

by admin :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 2:39pm

Re: 18, I actually am planning to write an article after the season, going through the projections to figure out where we went wrong and right. We definitely did much better with older players declining than with younger players improving. I'm not sure about other projections, but I do have a magazine that lists Deuce McAllister third behind LT and Alexander. (And, oddly enough, this same magazine has Kevin Jones fifth, just as high as PFP 2005.)

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 2:57pm

Re 8: The Jets will almost certainly not be drafting Matt Leinart, trade-up or no trade-up. The Jets new offense under Mike Heimerdinger requires a quarterback with a strong arm who can make a lot of vertical throws, and Leinart's skill set doesn't really fit the bill (neither does Chad Pennington's). In fact, what the Jets are hoping to do is trade down with some team that wants Leinart, allowing them to recoup some extra picks, and then to draft a less polished prospect with a stronger arm later in the draft.

Re 19: I don't disagree that the team would be better off in the long run had they retained Jordan, and they tried, but it just wasn't a realistic possibility. Still, Jordan would be faring no better behind this line with this group of quarterbacks. And neither would Reggie Bush, quite frankly. The offensive line needs to be fixed immediately, otherwise you are going to be looking at another disaster next year.

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 3:13pm

I did some quick searching for other fantasy football projections for 2005. The top 40 RBs for three of them follows:

Yahoo, ranked by average draft position (strongly informed by Yahoo projections):

1-10: Tomlinson, Alexander, Holmes, James, McGahee, Dillon, Lewis, McAllister, D. Davis, Barber

11-20: Green, Portis, J. Jones, R. Johnson, K. Jones,Martin, Jackson, Westbrook
, Bell, C. Brown

21-30: Parker, Foster, C. Williams, Staley, Anders, Dunn, Bennett, Taylor, Arrington, R. Brown

31-40: S. Davis, Barlow, Benson, Bettis, R. Williams, L. Johnson, T. Jones, Droughns
, Faulk, Henry

ESPN, ranked by average live draft position:

1-10: Tomlinson, Alexander, Holmes, James, McAllister, McGahee, Lewis, K. Jones, Portis, Green

11-20: D. Davis, Dillon, Barber, R. Johnson, J. Jones, Jordan, Westbrook, Martin, Taylor, Jackson

21-30: Bell, T. Jones, C. Brown, Henry, Dunn, Barlow, Staley, Onterrio Smith (!), Foster, Droughns

31-40: C. Williams, Duckett, Arrington, Suggs, R. Brown, Bettis, Benson, Bennett, L. Johnson, Pittman

CBS Sportsline, one expert's player rankings:

1-10: Tomlinson, Alexander, Holmes, James, D. Davis, McGahee, Lewis, Dillon, McAllister, Green

11-20: Portis, J. Jones, K. Jones, R. Johnson, Barber, Jordan, Martin, Westbrook, Jackson, Anderson

21-30: Williams, Arrington, Taylor, Dunn, L. Johnson, Bennett, C. Brown, R. Brown, T. Jones, Henry

31-40: Foster, Barlow, Benson, Bell, S. Davis, Suggs, R. Williams, Bettis, Droughns, Duckett

by Giving Him the Business (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 3:22pm

As Led and Sean have correctly pointed out, you can't lay all the blame on CuMar. The offense has scored one touchdown in the last five weeks. Inept doesn't even begin to cover it. The point about management decisions being influenced by the media and public outcry is also valid. I can imagine no circumstances that would allow another weak-armed QB (Leinart) to line up under center for the Jets. All the criticism heaped upon Pennington makes Kerry Collins a much more likely target in the offseason. Regardless of how Martin finishes out this year, and how Pennington's rehab progresses, we will see the Jets draft a RB and QB within the first 3 round of the draft. By the way, if that QB happens to be A Mr. Young, I'm removing myself from the season ticket waitlist.

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 3:49pm

Re 23: Actually, I think there is going to be a lot of public pressure to take Leinart, especially if the Jets don't end up with the #1 overall pick and lose out on Reggie Bush (who there would also be a lot of pressure to take). But the fact of the matter is that the Jets have major cap issues, and that they just gave Chad Pennington a big new deal last offseason. If they were to draft Leinart, it would mean cutting players wholesale and fielding a San Francisco-like team for at least two years. If I was absolutely sold on Leinart like I was on Carson Palmer, I would say go ahead and do it. But Leinart does have some question marks in his game, too many to risk the kind of wholesale roster overhaul that picking him would entail. Collins will be a short-term option, but he'll come at a manageable salary, and he'll give the team an extra year to see where Pennington stands after rehab.

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 4:07pm

Re: The Texans

If they get first overall pick, I think they'll trade down. Reggie Bush is a waste on that team and I don't personally think he'd be that much of an improvement over Dominick Davis for what the Texans currently have. Meanwhile, and unlike last year, there will be people who WANT to trade up to get Reggie Bush.

If a team is getting the first pick of the draft, it means they're more then one player away. It's my opinion they should trade down to mid-1st round if they can, pick up an O-linemen there, and just start stock-piling linemen and pick a QB in the second round.

Personally, I think Cleveland might make a run for Bush.

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 4:12pm

Even though also as someone said it showed CuMar as doing poorly because of injuries and still actually running somewhat effectively, There realistically is no way to predict that your 1st String and 2nd string QBs get knocked out in the same game, the third string you pick up gets knocked out, and you're juggling "meh" QBs for the rest of the year.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 4:56pm

resulting in a rushing attack that stinks no matter who is running the ball.

Wait, who, besides Martin, has rushed at all this year for the Jets?

The only one I see who rushed more than 5 times a game is Cedric Houston, who is rushing for - wait for it - 4.4 yards per carry on the season.

I don't see how you can place the blame necessarily on the offensive line. The total number of carries by Jets running backs not named "Curtis Martin" is less than 40.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 5:19pm

AFA the #1 pick, it's funny because by the time the combine rolls around, people will probably be lauding somebody else for the top pick that isn't talked about in December. Maybe DeAngelo Williams. Possibly Laurence Maroney. I think the safest pick for the Texans or Jets would be Matthias Kiwanuka, but it's been a while since a non QB, RB, WR was the #1 pick.....off the top of my head I'm thinking Orlando Pace, but there's probably somebody more recent....ah! Courtney Brown.

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 5:20pm

Pat- the line has been equally bad in run blocking and pass protection. If you don't believe me, go check out their adjusted sack rate, which is every bit as bad as their adjusted line yards. As for Cedric Houston's effectiveness, a high proportion of his very few carries were in garbage time while opposing defenses were playing soft and giving up the run. I suspect that his DVOA would reflect that and not be particularly good. In Blaylock's admittedly very few carries, he was getting about two yards a pop.

Re 25: Sure, teams that are drafting at the top of the round have more than one hole to fix, but very often they also need to add cornerstone players. Bad teams need depth, but they also need Peyton Mannings, Carson Palmers, Ladanian Tomlinsons and Edgerrin James' as well. You don't want to make the mistake of looking short term, because the purpose of a draft isn't to patch holes- it's to be sure you have the best possible players five years from now.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 5:29pm

No, I completely understand that they're bad in pass protection, but given that Martin has rushed over six times more than all other running backs combined, the adjusted line yards could easily be skewed by Martin being really bad.

The Houston example was just an interesting coincidence. :)

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 6:09pm

Wow! Is Cedric Houston Chester Taylor in another language?

Start that man immediately, whether he shows up for practice or not!

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2005 - 9:18pm

Don't get too excited about Cedric Houston. The bulk of his yardage (7 carries for 36 yards) came with the Jets down 30-3 against the Panthers.