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Quick Reads Decade in Review: RB Totals

Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Welcome back to Quick Reads' Decade in Review. Today we're going to look at the best running back totals of the 2010s to show who helped (or hurt) their teams the most. We're also going to separate rushing from receiving info to see who was most effective moving the ball on the ground, through the air, or both.

Prior pieces in this series:


Decade Totals

Best Total DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Run Yds Avg TD C% Y/C Fum Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Total
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
LeSean McCoy 144 2,292 10,434 4.55 69 78.2% 7.54 23 1289 548 0 1,837 12.8
Marshawn Lynch 108 1,803 7,812 4.33 68 74.3% 7.99 20 1292 160 -15 1,437 13.3
Le'Veon Bell 77 1,474 6,125 4.16 38 79.6% 8.26 9 798 603 -2 1,399 18.2
Danny Woodhead 91 502 2,174 4.33 15 77.5% 8.94 3 524 857 0 1,381 15.2
Darren Sproles 121 533 2,665 5.00 17 72.8% 8.50 5 510 848 0 1,358 11.2
Jamaal Charles 88 1,150 6,086 5.29 37 70.4% 8.33 24 1084 241 0 1,325 15.1
Mark Ingram 121 1,523 7,025 4.61 60 80.6% 7.26 16 1082 210 0 1,291 10.7
Matt Forte 114 1,782 7,629 4.28 42 75.3% 8.58 16 698 583 -5 1,275 11.2
Ezekiel Elliott 56 1,169 5,405 4.62 40 77.8% 8.57 15 1017 239 0 1,256 22.4
Arian Foster 74 1,422 6,270 4.41 51 71.4% 9.12 16 791 399 18 1,207 16.3
DeMarco Murray 99 1,604 7,174 4.47 49 81.6% 7.05 20 939 230 19 1,187 12.0
Christian McCaffrey 48 623 2,920 4.69 24 79.9% 8.33 6 456 696 17 1,168 24.3
Todd Gurley 73 1,265 5,404 4.27 58 72.4% 9.59 14 796 371 0 1,168 16.0
Alvin Kamara 45 485 2,408 4.96 27 80.5% 8.51 5 574 558 13 1,145 25.4
Adrian Peterson 118 2,121 9,732 4.59 71 74.1% 7.46 29 959 91 0 1,051 8.9
Pierre Thomas 69 505 2,139 4.24 12 85.6% 7.85 2 391 514 0 905 13.1
Frank Gore 153 2,380 9,786 4.11 47 67.8% 8.46 24 755 132 0 886 5.8
Ryan Mathews 86 1,184 5,261 4.44 37 79.2% 7.66 21 632 225 0 857 10.0
James White 78 274 1,119 4.08 8 73.6% 8.78 0 52 729 23 804 10.3
Derrick Henry 62 804 3,833 4.77 38 77.0% 10.14 7 659 118 18 795 12.8

LeSean McCoy was quietly the most productive running back of the past decade. He led all players in the 2010s with 10,434 rushing yards and 13,923 yards from scrimmage. Among running backs, he was second behind Adrian Peterson in rushing touchdowns, second behind Darren Sproles in receptions, and third behind Sproles and Matt Forte in receiving yards. He's not a household name, however, because he was very quiet in the postseason. He only played in five playoff games, and that includes Kansas City's win against Houston last year when he was on the field for exactly one snap. He also had three playoff games with Philadelphia and one with Buffalo, losing all four while averaging 55.5 rushing yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry, and 26.0 receiving yards per game.

By rushing DYAR alone, the most valuable running back of the 2010s was Marshawn Lynch. You'll also recall that Russell Wilson was the most valuable quarterback in rushing DYAR in the last decade. Yes, Pete Carroll's Seahawks could run the ball. Though he never led the league in rushing DYAR, Lynch was dominant in the four-year stretch from 2011 to 2014, when he finished second in DYAR three times and fifth once. He also made the top ten in 2017 with the Raiders. He was "only" third in the decade with 68 rushing touchdowns, but his rate of one touchdown every 26.5 carries was better than either of the players ahead of him in scoring totals, McCoy (33.2) or Peterson (29.9).

Nine running backs made the top 20 in both rushing and receiving DYAR. Only McCoy and Le'Veon Bell made the top 10 in both categories; only Bell surpassed 600 DYAR in both. Though he was not as productive on the ground as either McCoy or Lynch, Bell was much better than either of them as a receiver, with less than half as many fumbles. He finishes third in combined DYAR despite playing only 77 games (he was drafted in 2013, missed 19 games due to injuries, and sat out 2018 in a contract dispute). He stomps McCoy and Lynch in DYAR per game, but he's not the best in that category. A trio of youngsters -- Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott -- lead the way there.

And right about now, a lot of you are seeing Danny Woodhead's name in fourth place, and your heads are exploding. I mean, Danny Woodhead? The third-down back who bounced from the Jets to the Patriots to the Chargers to the Ravens? The guy who finished 79th among running backs in rushing yards but somehow made the top 20 in rushing DYAR? The guy who finished 41st in yards from scrimmage, yet finished fourth in combined DYAR? What's going on here? Well, what's going on is that in a very small sample size, Woodhead was the most consistent runner of the last decade. He only qualified for our rushing leaderboards one time, in 2013, when he led the NFL with a 60% rushing success rate. In his career, 54% of his carries have met Football Outsiders' standards of success (45% of yards to go on first down, 60% on second down, 100% on third down). That rate would have ranked eighth or better in every year of the 2010s. If we use a simpler definition of success, 57% of his carries this decade gained at least 4 yards and/or a first down. That's the highest rate among the 92 running backs this decade with at least 400 carries. With that definition, he had 288 successful rushes and only 214 failures. That difference of +74 was fourth-best this decade behind Jamaal Charles (+106), Mark Ingram (+79), and Elliott (+79). Part of this, naturally, is a reflection of Woodhead's role in the Chargers' (etc.) offense. He typically came in on passing downs, and rarely was given a handoff and forced to plow into a crowded box to satisfy some Neanderthalian need to establish anything. His high success rate can be attributed to his own talent, but also to his coaches' schemes and his quarterbacks' ability to audible to runs in good situations. Woodhead also led all running backs with 864 receiving DYAR in the last 10 years. We'll dig into the specifics behind that later.

In fifth place we have Darren Sproles, but keep in mind this does not include the first five years of his career. It doesn't include special teams data either, which means Sproles gets no extra credit for his five punt return touchdowns in the past decade.

Worst Total DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Run Yds Avg TD C% Y/C Fum Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Total
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
Denard Robinson 55 263 1,058 4.02 5 70.1% 6.60 8 -126 -48 -15 -189 -3.4
Tashard Choice 56 216 758 3.51 5 64.3% 5.71 4 -45 -143 0 -188 -3.4
Thomas Jones 32 398 1,374 3.45 6 70.4% 8.68 3 -194 24 0 -170 -5.3
Andre Williams 41 332 1,090 3.28 8 45.2% 7.21 1 -106 -63 0 -169 -4.1
Bernard Pierce 52 359 1,345 3.75 5 68.1% 5.34 1 -117 -49 0 -166 -3.2
Knile Davis 57 250 805 3.22 11 68.0% 7.97 6 -140 -20 0 -160 -2.8
Chester Taylor 28 132 344 2.61 4 68.0% 6.76 0 -114 -35 0 -149 -5.3
Peyton Barber 63 551 1,987 3.61 15 73.1% 6.12 4 -133 -13 0 -146 -2.3
Kalen Ballage 24 110 326 2.96 4 65.7% 5.17 1 -59 -82 0 -141 -5.9
Deji Karim 33 110 341 3.10 0 64.3% 7.17 1 -69 -28 0 -97 -2.9
Montario Hardesty 23 153 537 3.51 1 61.5% 8.63 3 -118 24 0 -95 -4.1
Kahlil Bell 23 108 413 3.82 0 84.0% 6.95 4 -62 -28 0 -90 -3.9
Elijah McGuire 24 180 591 3.28 4 63.2% 10.28 3 -146 56 0 -90 -3.8
Ryan Williams 5 58 164 2.83 0 70.0% 6.29 2 -85 0 0 -85 -17.0
Jonathan Dwyer 38 246 1,022 4.15 3 72.5% 6.34 2 -91 11 0 -80 -2.1
Chris Rainey 18 26 102 3.92 2 60.9% 4.29 3 26 -106 0 -80 -4.4
Erik Lorig 66 3 4 1.33 0 72.2% 5.64 1 -25 -49 0 -74 -1.1
Devontae Booker 61 289 1,103 3.82 6 73.4% 8.30 7 -70 -4 0 -74 -1.2
Laurence Maroney 4 36 74 2.06 0 57.1% 12.50 1 -87 14 0 -74 -18.4
Jerious Norwood 11 26 69 2.65 0 25.0% 9.00 0 -6 -9 -58 -73 -6.6

Denard Robinson was an option quarterback at Michigan, finishing his Wolverines career with more runs (723) than completions (427). When the Jaguars drafted him in the fifth round in 2013, it was unclear whether he would be playing at running back or wide receiver in Jacksonville. For his part, Robinson preferred to be listed as an "offensive weapon," or "OW," in the program. Well, OW indeed. Robinson eventually settled in as a running back, and the least valuable running back of the decade at that. He only lasted four years in the NFL, finishing with less than 1,400 yards from scrimmage, and with more fumbles (eight) than touchdowns (five).

However, Robinson just barely qualifies for the last-place spot because of his -15 DYAR for a pair of pass attempts, both incomplete. If you ignore botched gadget plays and look only at the rushing and receiving numbers that we usually use to measure running backs, your new last-place finisher is Tashard Choice. Choice began his career as a productive part of a committee backfield in Dallas. Playing behind Marion Barber and Felix Jones, he failed to qualify for our running back leaderboards in either 2008 or 2009, but he topped 5.0 yards per carry both seasons, with a combined total of 309 rushing and receiving DYAR. Those years, of course, fall outside the timeframe of this study. Things turned south in Choice's third season, and he had trouble hanging on to a job after that. In a five-week span during the 2011 season, he played for Dallas, Washington, and Buffalo, ending his career with three games with the Colts in 2013.

Beyond Robinson and Choice you have … um … who are these guys? DYAR is supposed to be a counting stat, so theoretically players with significant playing time should produce the most extreme results. When we looked at the worst quarterbacks of the decade in total DYAR, we found most of them were starters for at least a year or two, sometimes much longer. Few of these running backs, however, played much in the NFL at all. Only Peyton Barber had enough runs to qualify for the decade's rushing DVOA table, while only Devontae Booker had enough targets to qualify as a receiver. Some names here (such as Choice, Thomas Jones, or Chester Taylor) were successful players from the prior decade in the twilight of their career. Kalen Ballage is still, for the time being, an active member of the Dolphins roster. The rest were total flashes in the pan; they hit the field, showed they could neither run nor catch, and got yanked. There are no Mark Sanchezes or Matt Cassels here, hanging around for years just below replacement level. While quarterbacks are typically given a longer leash to work out their growing pains, bad running backs don't usually get the chance to be bad running backs for very long.

No running back made the bottom 10 in both rushing DYAR and receiving DYAR. Andre Williams (who led the Giants in rushing yards as a rookie in 2014 before finishing his brief career with the Chargers) came closest, finishing 10th from the bottom in rushing DYAR and 11th from the bottom in receiving DYAR. He's the only player to finish below -60 DYAR in both categories.

Lynch was the decade's best runner, but he wasn't much of a receiver, with only 160 receiving DYAR. That gap of 1,131 DYAR was by far the most of any running back, followed by Ingram (1,082, 210, +874) and Peterson (959, 91, +888) and. The biggest gap the other way goes to James White (52, 729, -677), followed by Joique Bell (65, 534, -469) and Austin Ekeler (110, 535, -425).


Rushing

Best Rushing DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Runs Yds TD 1D Fum Avg 1D% Fum% Rush
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
Marshawn Lynch 108 1,803 7,812 68 409 14 4.33 22.7% 0.8% 1,292 12.0
LeSean McCoy 144 2,292 10,434 69 525 19 4.55 22.9% 0.8% 1,289 8.9
Jamaal Charles 88 1,150 6,086 37 301 21 5.29 26.2% 1.8% 1,084 12.3
Mark Ingram 121 1,523 7,025 60 365 11 4.61 24.0% 0.7% 1,082 8.9
Ezekiel Elliott 56 1,169 5,405 40 305 15 4.62 26.1% 1.3% 1,017 18.2
Adrian Peterson 118 2,121 9,732 71 460 23 4.59 21.7% 1.1% 959 8.1
DeMarco Murray 99 1,604 7,174 49 383 16 4.47 23.9% 1.0% 939 9.5
Le'Veon Bell 77 1,474 6,125 38 332 6 4.16 22.5% 0.4% 798 10.4
Todd Gurley 73 1,265 5,404 58 287 13 4.27 22.7% 1.0% 796 10.9
Arian Foster 74 1,422 6,270 51 327 15 4.41 23.0% 1.1% 791 10.7
Frank Gore 153 2,380 9,786 47 474 23 4.11 19.9% 1.0% 755 4.9
Matt Forte 114 1,782 7,629 42 363 10 4.28 20.4% 0.6% 698 6.1
Derrick Henry 62 804 3,833 38 194 6 4.77 24.1% 0.7% 659 10.6
Ryan Mathews 86 1,184 5,261 37 259 20 4.44 21.9% 1.7% 632 7.4
Alvin Kamara 45 485 2,408 27 131 4 4.96 27.0% 0.8% 574 12.7
Danny Woodhead 91 502 2,174 15 120 2 4.33 23.9% 0.4% 524 5.8
Darren Sproles 121 533 2,665 17 134 4 5.00 25.1% 0.8% 510 4.2
Aaron Jones 40 450 2,260 28 120 3 5.02 26.7% 0.7% 496 12.4
Jordan Howard 57 897 3,895 30 220 4 4.34 24.5% 0.4% 464 8.1
Christian McCaffrey 48 623 2,920 24 136 4 4.69 21.8% 0.6% 456 9.5

While we have already discussed the credentials of Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy, we should not overlook Jamaal Charles, the best home-run threat the NFL has seen in the last five decades. You have to go all the way back to Jim Brown in the 1960s to find another runner who averaged at least 5.0 yards on at least 1,000 carries in a given decade. Charles' 5.29-yard average is by far the best in this table, and that doesn't even include the 5.75-yard average he had on 257 carries in 2008 and 2009. Charles' peak in the NFL was short, but it was high. Including 2009, he only qualified for our running back leaderboards five times -- but in four of those seasons he was in the top three in rushing DYAR, and he was first in 2010.

Mark Ingram's career was the opposite of Charles' -- he wasn't as dominant, but he had much more longevity. Last year, he was third among running backs with 249 rushing DYAR in his age-30 season. Before that, though, he had never ranked higher than eighth. However, he has made the top 20 seven times, including each of the last six seasons.

And then we get to Ezekiel Elliott, whose numbers here may actually be most impressive because he was only drafted in 2016 and has only played about 3½ seasons. Game-for-game, he was by far the most effective runner of the 2010s. Elliott's 18.2 DYAR per game is miles ahead of anyone else in this table. Alvin Kamara is second at 12.7 -- closer to 16th-place Ryan Mathews than he is to Elliott.

Worst Rushing DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Runs Yds TD 1D Fum Avg 1D% Fum% Rush
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
Trent Richardson 46 614 2,032 17 93 7 3.31 15.1% 1.1% -218 -4.7
Thomas Jones 32 398 1,374 6 58 3 3.45 14.6% 0.8% -194 -6.0
Elijah McGuire 24 180 591 4 29 3 3.28 16.1% 1.7% -146 -6.1
Knile Davis 57 250 805 11 41 4 3.22 16.4% 1.6% -140 -2.5
Peyton Barber 63 551 1,987 15 101 4 3.61 18.3% 0.7% -133 -2.1
Denard Robinson 55 263 1,058 5 42 8 4.02 16.0% 3.0% -126 -2.3
Montario Hardesty 23 153 537 1 18 3 3.51 11.8% 2.0% -118 -5.1
Bernard Pierce 52 359 1,345 5 68 1 3.75 18.9% 0.3% -117 -2.2
Chester Taylor 28 132 344 4 20 0 2.61 15.2% 0.0% -114 -4.1
Andre Williams 41 332 1,090 8 50 1 3.28 15.1% 0.3% -106 -2.6
Alfred Blue 72 673 2,407 8 123 3 3.58 18.3% 0.4% -99 -1.4
Jonathan Dwyer 38 246 1,022 3 50 2 4.15 20.3% 0.8% -91 -2.4
Laurence Maroney 4 36 74 0 1 1 2.06 2.8% 2.8% -87 -21.8
Ryan Williams 5 58 164 0 8 2 2.83 13.8% 3.4% -85 -16.9
Phillip Tanner 41 56 148 2 11 1 2.64 19.6% 1.8% -84 -2.0
Cedric Benson 36 665 2,426 14 120 13 3.65 18.0% 2.0% -82 -2.3
Daniel Thomas 52 409 1,480 10 65 6 3.62 15.9% 1.5% -80 -1.5
Charles Sims 47 245 958 2 43 4 3.91 17.6% 1.6% -77 -1.6
Samaje Perine 28 188 651 1 26 2 3.46 13.8% 1.1% -77 -2.7
Mike Bell 16 47 99 0 6 1 2.11 12.8% 2.1% -71 -4.4

If you were surprised (disappointed?) not to see Trent Richardson in the worst combined DYAR table, well, don't worry, we didn't forget about him. Though he was surprisingly effective as a receiver (157 DYAR, including top-20 finishes in 2012 and 2014), he had the worst rushing DYAR of any running back in the past decade. It wasn't all terrible for Richardson; he did run for 100 yards in a game three times. But he averaged less than 40 yards in his other 43 games, including just 3.1 yards per carry. This for a player taken third overall by Cleveland in 2012, and then traded to Indianapolis for what turned out to be the 26th overall pick in 2014. Rarely has so much been invested by so many teams for a runner who produced so little.

Again, though, we see that most of these players were able to put up decade-worst numbers in only limited playing time. Four of them had fewer than 100 carries (special notice to Laurence Maroney and Ryan Williams, who registered as two of the worst runners of the decade in only nine games between them), while only five qualified for our DVOA leaderboard.

Speaking of which…

Best Rushing DVOA, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Runs Yds TD 1D Fum Avg 1D% Fum% Rush
DVOA
Alvin Kamara 45 485 2,408 27 131 2 4.96 27.0% 0.4% 19.5%
Aaron Jones 40 450 2,260 28 120 3 5.02 26.7% 0.7% 17.0%
Danny Woodhead 91 502 2,174 15 120 3 4.33 23.9% 0.6% 16.7%
Darren Sproles 121 533 2,665 17 134 6 5.00 25.1% 1.1% 15.2%
Jamaal Charles 88 1,150 6,086 37 301 23 5.29 26.2% 2.0% 14.4%
Ezekiel Elliott 56 1,169 5,405 40 305 11 4.62 26.1% 0.9% 11.7%
Derrick Henry 62 804 3,833 38 194 4 4.77 24.1% 0.5% 11.1%
Kareem Hunt 35 496 2,330 17 120 1 4.70 24.2% 0.2% 10.5%
Pierre Thomas 69 505 2,139 12 114 1 4.24 22.6% 0.2% 9.9%
Christian McCaffrey 48 623 2,920 24 133 3 4.69 21.3% 0.5% 9.1%
Phillip Lindsay 31 416 2,048 16 90 0 4.92 21.6% 0.0% 9.0%
Marshawn Lynch 108 1,803 7,812 68 409 15 4.33 22.7% 0.8% 8.8%
Dion Lewis 86 538 2,310 11 117 3 4.29 21.7% 0.6% 8.3%
Kenyan Drake 62 456 2,175 17 107 7 4.77 23.5% 1.5% 8.0%
Mark Ingram 121 1,523 7,025 60 365 11 4.61 24.0% 0.7% 7.7%
Todd Gurley 73 1,265 5,404 58 287 13 4.27 22.7% 1.0% 6.1%
Marlon Mack 40 535 2,357 20 141 2 4.41 26.4% 0.4% 5.3%
DeMarco Murray 99 1,604 7,174 49 383 17 4.47 23.9% 1.1% 5.3%
LeSean McCoy 144 2,292 10,434 69 525 22 4.55 22.9% 1.0% 4.9%
Le'Veon Bell 77 1,474 6,125 38 332 6 4.16 22.5% 0.4% 4.7%
(Minimum 400 rushes; 92 running backs qualified)

Our minimum here is 400 carries -- theoretically enough to qualify for our leaderboards four times, though of course some players got there much faster than that. That left us with 92 qualifying runners, and carry-for-carry, none of them was more effective than New Orleans' Alvin Kamara. Among the top 20 running backs in rushing efficiency, Kamara had the highest first down rate and the lowest fumble rate, while averaging nearly 5.0 yards per rush. It's easy to understand why he's at the top of our list.

Kamara is followed by Green Bay's Aaron Jones, whose average carry gained even more than Kamara's, and who brought additional goal-line punch -- his rate of one touchdown every 16.1 rushes is best of any runner here. Both of these runners were drafted in 2017, Kamara in the third round, Jones in the fifth. Don't draft running backs early, is what we're getting at here.

Kamara and Jones are followed by Woodhead and Sproles, a pair of passing-game specialists who shined in the limited opportunities they had to carry the ball. Then we get to Charles, and if you're wondering why the best home-run threat the NFL has seen in the last five decades isn't higher, it's because he suffered from the occasional case of butterfingers, with the most fumbles and worst fumble rate of any runner in this table. On that note, let's applaud Denver's Phillip Lindsay, who has already amassed nearly 2,500 yards from scrimmage without a single fumble in his young NFL career.

Worst Rushing DVOA, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Runs Yds TD 1D Fum Avg 1D% Fum% Rush
DVOA
Trent Richardson 46 614 2,032 17 93 8 3.31 15.1% 1.3% -17.2%
Peyton Barber 63 551 1,987 15 101 4 3.61 18.3% 0.7% -14.3%
Daniel Thomas 52 409 1,480 10 65 7 3.62 15.9% 1.7% -12.4%
Alfred Blue 72 673 2,407 8 123 5 3.58 18.3% 0.7% -12.1%
T.J. Yeldon 57 482 1,935 6 79 7 4.01 16.4% 1.5% -11.6%
Cedric Benson 36 665 2,426 14 120 13 3.65 18.0% 2.0% -10.1%
Ronnie Hillman 56 494 1,976 12 104 7 4.00 21.1% 1.4% -8.8%
Doug Martin 84 1322 5,356 30 257 14 4.05 19.4% 1.1% -8.6%
Terrance West 43 465 1,816 11 92 7 3.91 19.8% 1.5% -7.8%
Darren McFadden 78 1085 4,565 23 201 12 4.21 18.5% 1.1% -7.5%
Chris Johnson 99 1554 6,417 32 272 14 4.13 17.5% 0.9% -7.2%
Chris Ivory 108 1227 5,237 29 266 20 4.27 21.7% 1.6% -6.9%
Reggie Bush 82 798 3,550 19 151 18 4.45 18.9% 2.3% -6.6%
Jacquizz Rodgers 110 545 2,067 9 117 3 3.79 21.5% 0.6% -6.6%
Tevin Coleman 70 665 2,884 24 129 5 4.34 19.4% 0.8% -6.2%
Beanie Wells 35 449 1,678 17 77 7 3.74 17.1% 1.6% -6.1%
Joique Bell 75 564 2,241 22 123 13 3.97 21.8% 2.3% -5.9%
Michael Turner 48 857 3,511 33 178 8 4.10 20.8% 0.9% -5.7%
James Starks 76 618 2,506 9 132 9 4.06 21.4% 1.5% -5.6%
Jonathan Stewart 102 1300 5,366 31 277 20 4.13 21.3% 1.5% -5.6%
(Minimum 400 rushes; 92 running backs qualified)

Many of these players were allowed to rack up high numbers of carries because they had big seasons early in their careers. Doug Martin was ninth in DYAR and 14th in DVOA as a rookie in 2012; he played a half-dozen more seasons, but never had a positive DYAR again. Darren McFadden's best DVOA was his 11.6% mark in 2011; he qualified four more times, but never had a positive DYAR again. Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards in 2009 (which, it should be pointed out, is not included in his numbers here); he qualified for our tables in six seasons after that, but only had a positive DVOA once. Chris Ivory had a DVOA of 10.0% or higher in each of his first three seasons, then had negative rates six years in a row. Jonathan Stewart's career peaked with a second-place DVOA of 23.4% in 2011; only once in seven seasons after that did he achieve a positive DVOA on 100 or more rushes.

Frank Gore finished the decade with a DVOA of -0.7%; his 2,380 carries are the most for any runner with a negative DVOA (or a positive one, for that matter). Doug Martin finished with -2 DYAR on 1,322 carries, the most carries of anyone who finished below replacement level.


Receiving

Best Receiving DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Tgt Rec Yds TD 1D Fum C% 1D% Avg Fum/C Rec
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
Danny Woodhead 91 377 292 2,611 17 132 1 77.5% 35.0% 8.94 0.3% 857 9.4
Darren Sproles 121 640 466 3,960 23 184 1 72.8% 28.8% 8.50 0.2% 848 7.0
James White 78 435 320 2,809 24 140 0 73.6% 32.2% 8.78 0.0% 729 9.3
Christian McCaffrey 48 379 303 2,523 15 136 2 79.9% 35.9% 8.33 0.7% 696 14.5
Le'Veon Bell 77 475 378 3,121 8 144 3 79.6% 30.3% 8.26 0.8% 603 7.8
Matt Forte 114 576 434 3,724 17 151 6 75.3% 26.2% 8.58 1.4% 583 5.1
Alvin Kamara 45 302 243 2,068 10 97 1 80.5% 32.1% 8.51 0.4% 558 12.4
LeSean McCoy 144 592 463 3,489 16 169 4 78.2% 28.5% 7.54 0.9% 548 3.8
Duke Johnson 80 365 279 2,580 11 123 5 76.4% 33.7% 9.25 1.8% 540 6.7
Austin Ekeler 46 196 158 1,676 14 72 4 80.6% 36.7% 10.61 2.5% 535 11.6
Joique Bell 75 218 162 1,638 1 76 0 74.3% 34.9% 10.11 0.0% 534 7.1
Pierre Thomas 69 291 249 1,955 6 92 1 85.6% 31.6% 7.85 0.4% 514 7.5
David Johnson 62 309 208 2,219 15 105 4 67.3% 34.0% 10.67 1.9% 486 7.8
Marcel Reece 94 307 208 2,068 12 86 2 67.8% 28.0% 9.94 1.0% 452 4.8
Knowshon Moreno 47 164 130 1,196 7 59 0 79.3% 36.0% 9.20 0.0% 405 8.6
Arian Foster 74 346 247 2,253 14 99 1 71.4% 28.6% 9.12 0.4% 399 5.4
Theo Riddick 84 369 285 2,238 14 103 0 77.2% 27.9% 7.85 0.0% 381 4.5
Giovani Bernard 99 398 295 2,512 8 103 4 74.1% 25.9% 8.52 1.4% 374 3.8
Todd Gurley 73 301 218 2,090 12 91 1 72.4% 30.2% 9.59 0.5% 371 5.1
Kareem Hunt 35 142 116 1,118 11 50 0 81.7% 35.2% 9.64 0.0% 370 10.6

As mentioned, Danny Woodhead had the best receiving DYAR of any NFL running back in the last decade. He narrowly surpasses Darren Sproles, who had far more targets, but converted a lower share of those targets into catches and first downs, while also averaging fewer yards per catch. James White finishes third on the strength of his 24 receiving touchdowns, most of any running back listed here. We should also point out that in nearly 600 combined rushes and receptions, White has yet to fumble the ball even one time. (You will find one fumble in White's official statistics, but that came on a failed lateral on the last play of New England's loss to Miami in Week 17 last year.) Christian McCaffrey finishes the decade fourth in receiving DYAR, but first in receiving DYAR per game. He's followed in that category by Kamara, Ekeler, and Kareem Hunt, each of whom debuted in the NFL in 2017. It's good to be a young running back.

Worst Receiving DYAR, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Tgt Rec Yds TD 1D Fum C% 1D% Avg Fum/C Rec
DYAR
DYAR/
Game
Justin Forsett 92 233 169 1,001 0 41 1 72.5% 17.6% 5.92 0.6% -170 -1.8
Tashard Choice 56 70 45 257 0 9 1 64.3% 12.9% 5.71 2.2% -143 -2.6
Ben Tate 51 91 67 347 0 11 1 73.6% 12.1% 5.18 1.5% -133 -2.6
Carlos Hyde 80 184 129 709 3 35 1 70.1% 19.0% 5.50 0.8% -130 -1.6
Chris Rainey 18 23 14 60 0 1 3 60.9% 4.3% 4.29 21.4% -106 -5.9
Stevan Ridley 74 45 30 162 0 5 2 66.7% 11.1% 5.40 6.7% -95 -1.3
Willis McGahee 52 81 60 347 2 15 1 74.1% 18.5% 5.78 1.7% -89 -1.7
LeGarrette Blount 132 89 64 454 2 22 4 71.9% 24.7% 7.09 6.3% -86 -0.6
Kalen Ballage 24 35 23 119 0 6 0 65.7% 17.1% 5.17 0.0% -82 -3.4
Marcus Murphy 28 22 14 36 0 3 0 63.6% 13.6% 2.57 0.0% -77 -2.7
Andre Williams 41 42 19 137 0 6 0 45.2% 14.3% 7.21 0.0% -63 -1.5
Phillip Lindsay 31 95 70 437 1 21 0 73.7% 22.1% 6.24 0.0% -60 -1.9
Kenjon Barner 68 43 28 152 0 6 0 65.1% 14.0% 5.43 0.0% -60 -0.9
Ronnie Hillman 56 110 74 524 1 23 1 67.3% 20.9% 7.08 1.4% -58 -1.0
Jordan Todman 75 67 40 314 2 12 0 59.7% 17.9% 7.85 0.0% -57 -0.8
Vonta Leach 64 86 55 350 1 16 0 64.0% 18.6% 6.36 0.0% -57 -0.9
Daryl Richardson 27 54 38 284 0 10 1 70.4% 18.5% 7.47 2.6% -56 -2.1
Christine Michael 38 37 26 135 1 5 1 70.3% 13.5% 5.19 3.8% -54 -1.4
Tyler Clutts 72 14 11 57 0 2 2 78.6% 14.3% 5.18 18.2% -53 -0.7
Andre Brown 22 46 32 189 0 5 0 69.6% 10.9% 5.91 0.0% -51 -2.3

Again we see that many of the players with the worst DYAR got there in tiny sample sizes. An exception to that rule, however, is Justin Forsett, who finished the 2010s with the worst receiving DYAR of any running back. Going back to 2009, the Colts, Seahawks, Texans, Jaguars, Ravens, Broncos, and Lions all tried to turn Forsett into a quality receiving back. None succeeded. In six qualifying seasons, Forsett never made the top 30 in receiving DYAR; in three of those seasons he finished outside the top 50.

Forsett, Carlos Hyde, and Ronnie Hillman are the only players here with enough targets to qualify for the DVOA leaderboards. Because the sample sizes are so small, some players show up here simply because of a couple of fumbles. One of those guys is named "Clutts." Because of course he is.

Best Receiving DVOA, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Tgt Rec Yds TD 1D Fum C% 1D% Avg Fum/C Rec
DVOA
Austin Ekeler 46 196 158 1,676 14 72 4 80.6% 36.7% 10.61 2.5% 34.4%
Knowshon Moreno 47 164 130 1,196 7 59 0 79.3% 36.0% 9.20 0.0% 31.0%
Kareem Hunt 35 142 116 1,118 11 50 0 81.7% 35.2% 9.64 0.0% 30.9%
Joique Bell 75 218 162 1,638 1 76 0 74.3% 34.9% 10.11 0.0% 30.2%
Danny Woodhead 91 377 292 2,611 17 132 1 77.5% 35.0% 8.94 0.3% 27.0%
Felix Jones 60 146 115 996 3 36 2 78.8% 24.7% 8.66 1.7% 21.5%
Bruce Miller 77 103 76 734 3 36 1 73.8% 35.0% 9.66 1.3% 20.2%
Tevin Coleman 70 164 113 1,190 12 53 1 68.9% 32.3% 10.53 0.9% 19.6%
Benny Cunningham 86 147 114 1,001 3 50 2 77.6% 34.0% 8.78 1.8% 19.6%
Alvin Kamara 45 302 243 2,068 10 97 1 80.5% 32.1% 8.51 0.4% 19.3%
Christian McCaffrey 48 379 303 2,523 15 136 2 79.9% 35.9% 8.33 0.7% 18.5%
Pierre Thomas 69 291 249 1,955 6 92 1 85.6% 31.6% 7.85 0.4% 17.4%
James White 78 435 320 2,809 24 140 0 73.6% 32.2% 8.78 0.0% 16.3%
James Conner 37 110 89 748 4 34 1 80.9% 30.9% 8.40 1.1% 16.0%
Jamaal Williams 46 120 91 725 7 39 0 75.8% 32.5% 7.97 0.0% 15.6%
David Johnson 62 309 208 2,219 15 105 4 67.3% 34.0% 10.67 1.9% 14.2%
DeAngelo Williams 84 174 129 1,245 5 48 2 74.1% 27.6% 9.65 1.6% 14.1%
Ahmad Bradshaw 61 202 159 1,232 11 65 1 78.7% 32.2% 7.75 0.6% 14.1%
Jason Snelling 59 152 130 901 8 39 2 85.5% 25.7% 6.93 1.5% 13.9%
Toby Gerhart 82 132 100 809 3 35 2 75.8% 26.5% 8.09 2.0% 13.4%
(Minimum 100 targets, 106 players qualified)

Again, we set our minimum here as the fewest plays needed to qualify for our seasonal tables four different times. In this case, that means at least 100 targets, which left us with 106 qualified players.

From Darren Sproles to Ryan Mathews to Danny Woodhead to Austin Ekeler, today's piece covered many of Philip Rivers' receiving options out of the backfield during his time in California. Target for target, the most efficient of those receivers has been Ekeler. In three NFL seasons, Ekeler has ranked 12th, fourth, and third in receiving DVOA. He has been consistent, with the best first-down rate in this table, and he has been explosive, with the second-best yards per catch. We'll see what happens to Ekeler now that Rivers is in Indianapolis and Justin Herbert is in L.A.

Worst Receiving DVOA, Running Backs, 2010-2019
Name G Tgt Rec Yds TD 1D Fum C% 1D% Avg Fum/C Rec
DVOA
Justin Forsett 92 233 169 1,001 0 41 1 72.5% 17.6% 5.92 0.6% -27.0%
Carlos Hyde 80 184 129 709 3 35 1 70.1% 19.0% 5.50 0.8% -26.2%
Ronnie Hillman 56 110 74 524 1 23 1 67.3% 20.9% 7.08 1.4% -23.4%
Jordan Howard 57 122 82 637 2 26 1 67.2% 21.3% 7.77 1.2% -21.0%
Shonn Greene 71 106 72 534 0 21 2 67.9% 19.8% 7.42 2.8% -17.5%
Matt Asiata 74 132 101 722 1 22 0 76.5% 16.7% 7.15 0.0% -15.6%
Bilal Powell 109 309 211 1,600 5 83 3 68.3% 26.9% 7.58 1.4% -15.4%
Charcandrick West 52 106 77 589 6 26 1 72.6% 24.5% 7.65 1.3% -15.2%
Devontae Booker 61 143 105 872 1 31 4 73.4% 21.7% 8.30 3.8% -14.8%
Jerick McKinnon 58 191 142 984 5 53 0 74.3% 27.7% 6.93 0.0% -14.1%
Latavius Murray 93 205 162 1,118 1 43 1 79.0% 21.0% 6.90 0.6% -13.7%
Aaron Jones 40 121 84 702 4 32 1 69.4% 26.4% 8.36 1.2% -13.4%
Chris Johnson 99 291 214 1,492 6 54 3 73.5% 18.6% 6.97 1.4% -13.3%
Doug Martin 84 216 148 1,207 2 48 1 68.5% 22.2% 8.16 0.7% -13.2%
Rashad Jennings 78 232 175 1,368 2 49 3 75.4% 21.1% 7.82 1.7% -12.7%
Javorius Allen 64 171 130 823 6 44 1 76.0% 25.7% 6.33 0.8% -12.5%
Dexter McCluster 89 351 236 1,993 7 105 2 67.2% 29.9% 8.44 0.8% -12.2%
Ty Montgomery 58 163 120 982 3 44 1 73.6% 27.0% 8.18 0.8% -11.2%
C.J. Anderson 71 154 108 900 5 35 1 70.1% 22.7% 8.33 0.9% -11.2%
Shaun Draughn 57 104 80 597 2 15 1 76.9% 14.4% 7.46 1.3% -10.5%
(Minimum 100 targets, 106 players qualified)

Justin Forsett had the worst receiving DYAR of the decade, and he had the worst DVOA too. He's followed by Carlos Hyde, who has averaged a woeful 5.5 yards per catch in his career. With a catch rate of barely 70%, that's an average of only 3.8 yards per throw! Hyde has played for four teams over seven seasons and been targeted by 11 different passers. He recently signed with Seattle, so we'll see if Russell Wilson is able to succeed with Hyde where all those other quarterbacks have failed.

The two most surprising names in this list are Ty Montgomery and Dexter McCluster. Mongtomery started his NFL career as a wide receiver with Green Bay and though he's a full-time running back these days, he continues to wear No. 88 with the Jets. McCluster has usually been listed as a "RB/WR" on official rosters, and he has gained nearly twice as many yards receiving as he has rushing in his career. You might think those backgrounds would make Montgomery and McCluster effective receivers out of the backfield, but you would be wrong -- both have been less effective than the average running back as pass targets.

DeMarco Murray managed a -2.8% DVOA on 376 targets, most by anyone with a negative receiving DVOA. Bilal Powell had -21 DYAR on 310 targets, most for any running back with negative receiving DYAR.


Passing

Antonio Andrews led all running backs with 39 passing DYAR. He completed his one pass attempt with the Tennessee Titans in 2015, hitting Marcus Mariota for a 41-yard touchdown. Jerious Norwood was last with -58 passing DYAR, and we really should talk for a moment about how Norwood's torn ACL ruined his career. Norwood averaged better than 5 yards per carry for several years as Atlanta's change-of-pace back, but he tore his ACL two games into 2010 and was only able to last nine games with the Rams the following season. His numbers for this decade: 26 carries for 69 yards, a 2.7-yard average; one catch in four targets for a 9-yard gain; and one pass attempt, which was intercepted by San Francisco's Tarell Brown. That was enough to land Norwood on our worst combined DYAR list earlier in this article.

Jaylen Samuels led all running backs with five pass attempts, all with Pittsburgh last season, because if you were down to Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback, you'd ask your third-string running back to throw a bunch of passes too. Samuels completed four of those passes for 35 yards, though the fifth was intercepted. He finished with -44 passing DYAR.


Notable Seasons

We're not going to go in-depth on the best and worst seasons of the decade because A) we just wrote about that for ESPN+ in December, and B) all that information is freely available elsewhere on the site for anyone who wants to compile it. But a few bullet points:

  • Christian McCaffrey's 2019 season was the best of the decade in both receiving DYAR (386) and total DYAR (642). Adrian Peterson's 458 rushing DYAR in 2012 was the best of the decade in that category.
  • The worst marks of the decade were Ray Rice's -169 rushing DYAR and Ben Tate's -125 receiving DYAR, both in 2013, and Darren McFadden's -235 combined DYAR in 2012.
  • Only two running backs topped 450 combined DYAR more than once. LeSean McCoy did it in 2013 and 2016; Todd Gurley did it in 2017 and 2018.
  • Nobody had positive combined DYAR in every year of the decade. Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, and Darren Sproles each missed it by one year.
  • Among seasons with at least 100 carries, Mark Ingram had a positive rushing DYAR eight times, while Doug Martin had negative DYAR five times, both the most in the league.
  • Two players topped 200 receiving DYAR twice: Darren Sproles did it in 2011 and 2012, and Danny Woodhead did it in 2013 and 2015. Yes, three of those seasons were in San Diego. (Sproles was in Philadelphia in 2012).
  • Among seasons with at least 25 targets, Matt Forte had a positive DYAR eight times, while Justin Forsett had negative DYAR four times, both the most in the league.

Comments

9 comments, Last at 21 Jun 2020, 1:06pm

1 Ahem...

"Rarely has so much been invested by so many teams for a runner who produced so little."

There's a Mr. Churchill on the line who wishes to speak to you...

2 Both of these runners were…

Both of these runners were drafted in 2017, Kamara in the third round, Jones in the fifth. Don't draft running backs early, is what we're getting at here.

It's interesting what sort of back that does and does not get you.

It appears to be a solid place to find 3rd-down or change of pace guys. Guys who in pre-history would have been wingbacks. Jones isn't quite this, but see below.

It's telling, though, that essentially all of them are paired with a HOF QB -- who both makes their job vastly easier in terms play identification and block scheme (and down+distance), but whose own offensive threat means these guys are only ever defended as a #2, or lower, option. These guys also aren't tossing up moonballs OOB that kill their receiving DVOA.

The guys who could be feature backs, or who could prosper without elite QB play (McCaffrey, Forte, McCoy, Elliott, Lynch, to a lesser extent Bell) are all first or second round guys. It's still expensive to find a feature back in the draft.

3 I don't know if LeSean McCoy…

I don't know if LeSean McCoy is thought of as a Hall of famer, but he certainly deserves to be one. Something no one has been paying attention to is just how hard it is to be a running back in today's NFL. today's rushers just don't produce what they did in the past and I don't think it's because today's rushers are inferior to rushers in the past. 

 

Hall of Fame voters are certainly discount stat totals in the passing game, I hope they're also accounting for the increased difficulty for running the ball in today's game.

4 There are a few players in…

There are a few players in the NFL that will never get the hype they truly deserve.

 

I suspect a lot of people think Justin Smith is a fringe Hall of famer at best, but anybody who followed that 49ers team would realize Justin Smith was by far and away the best player on their team ( and that team had future Hall of famer Patrick Willis and playing like a Hall of famer Alden Smith). 

I think Daren Sproles is another player who will be similarly underappreciated.

He may not make the Hall of Fame and he probably doesn't deserve to, but in his prime Darren sproles was the second scariest back I ever saw on a team(after Marshall Faulk) . He was just good enough as a rusher and so dangerous as a pass-catcher that his presence totally altered how a defense had to play the Saints. 

 

Incidentally Marshall faulk was as good a receiver as Darren sproles but was also Hall of Fame rusher. there are a few players who are more than just Hall of famers but transcend their position, Marshall  faulk was one of them. 

5 Daren Sproles

his presence totally altered how a defense had to play the Saints. 

And every place else he played going back to college.  Sproles amazed me on at least 3-4 plays in every game I watched him play.

9 Sproles

In reply to by Sixknots

Even in 2019, I remember a game in September where he stiff-armed a defender to the ground, and the announcers (I think) were like, "there's that old-man strength!"

Obviously, he was told countless times that he was too small, but he made it work.

6 In terms of receiving backs in Denver

The weird career shadow of Knowshon Moreno hangs over the Broncos as he ranks in the top 2nd in receiving DVOA and made the 15th in receiving DYAR while five of the backs the Broncos have tried to replace him with (Forsett, Anderson, Hillman, Lindsay and Booker) all rank among the worst receiving backs.