By Pasha Hashemzadeh
This article discusses yards-per-carry (YPC) data from the 2015 season and its significance in future production from the running back position. Quarterbacks have been excluded.
While YPC can be an indicator of future success, it is not necessarily the staple stat that molds an RB’s resume. A couple outlier Hall of Famers with mediocre YPC are Emmitt Smith and Eddie George. Both were nearly perennial Pro Bowlers and a couple of the best backs of their time.
Statistics, including YPC, are only a small part of what an RB is all about in real life, as blocking and pass-catching factor in. Though for fantasy purposes, YPC can be a good indicator of how the player will run the upcoming season.
There are many situations in which the third down ball carrier has a higher YPC than the workhorse RB. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily better, but rather they are fresher and meant for that role. You also don’t want to be judging an RB’s YPC when they have had very limited carries.
A main component of YPC is that it judges the explosiveness of an RB. It can be used to compare the explosiveness between backs of similar caliber.
There are many RBs that are built for short yardage situations such as goal line backs. These ball carriers will typically yield a low YPC and can be viewed as outliers to this discussion.
Football is a game of inches, so every positive one matters. I like to mainly use the eye test in gaging an RB’s future success, but YPC is something to keep in the back of your mind and is definitely an indictor of sorts in the big picture as to how a player will succeed in the near future.
There are many surprise names at the top and bottom of this chart. The pair that stood out far beyond the rest was Thomas Rawls of Seattle and Karlos Williams of Buffalo. They both averaged 5.6 YPC, leading all running backs in that statistic. Rawls is currently rehabbing an ankle injury while Williams is out of shape and suspended for the first four games. So while their YPC are nice indicators of their individual talent and success, they are both names to steer clear from at the moment given their respective situations.
Some top names are at the top of the chart in Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and David Johnson, who averaged 4.9, 4.8, and 4.6 YPC, respectively. All three are surefire first rounders come draft time, despite Bell’s recently announced 4-game suspension for missing drug tests. Gurley is arguably the most gifted back in the league, and will look to build on his successful rookie campaign in an offense that figures to be run-heavy. With Both CJ2K and Andre Ellington going down last year, David Johnson proved his worth and is arguably in the best fantasy situation for an RB as Arizona is looking to contend for a Super Bowl this year and DJ is great in both the running and passing game.
The only pair of teammates in the top ten were Bucs – Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Doug Martin bounced back in 2015 in a major way. He averaged 4.9 YPC en route to a Pro Bowl season and will be the featured back in the 2016 TB offense. Charles Sims isn’t too shabby himself, also having averaged 4.9 YPC last year while playing a reserve role. His passing game role and success on the ground despite limited action gives him a nice flex floor in PPR leagues. I see Sims being utilized more this year, and at his current ADP – outside the 10th round – I’m going for him over Dougie, whose late second/early third round price is a bit too steep for me.
Mark Ingram, Carlos Hyde, and Lamar Miller all made the list, and are the breakout candidates in this article. The Saints look to feature the run a bit more this year, and Ingram was great in 2015 before he went down. He is certainly worth the late second/early third tag with only Tim Hightower and C.J. Spiller as his competition. The latter two will merely spell Ingram at times. Carlos Hyde will finally be in an offense that will feature his talents and he knows it, as he’s boasted about Chip Kelly’s presence in SF since he arrived. I like Hyde as a third round gamble this year, as he had flashes of brilliance last year before getting hurt that made me think he could be the real deal given the right situation. SF figures to be run-heavy with a major deficiency at quarterback as they have Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Lamar Miller will finally be a feature in an offense, something Miami never let him be. Houston might have hit the lottery with this one, as no one ever doubted Miller’s ability, more so the play-calling by Miami. Lamar’s current ADP in the early second is worth the gamble in my opinion, as he will be playing with a competent QB in Brock Osweiler while being the workhorse in a run-heavy Bill O’Brien offense. Houston’s strong o-line will only benefit him and his YPC could easily rise as he replaces Arian Foster in Houston’s offense.
Despite their successful fantasy years, Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray both averaged a mere 4.0 YPC. Had they not been fed the rock so often, they would have posted pedestrian numbers for the season. Both backs have players in the rearview mirror and should be steered clear of come draft time. Tevin Coleman, who made this list at 4.5 YPC – higher than Freeman – is well-liked by the Atlanta coaches and will fight for and likely receive more carries this year. Latavius Murray was a big breakout candidate going into the 2015 season, and despite making the Pro Bowl and posting decent overall numbers, he certainly left a lot of yards on the field. He is not great in the passing game, and the Raiders just drafted all-purpose talent DeAndre Washington, who will challenge Murray for carries this year. I’m going to be targeting both Coleman and Washington late in drafts.