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Going Deep

Yards Per Carry Plus/Minus

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: May 5, 2020, 3:08 pm ET

I think all Rotoworld readers understand the limitations of using yards per carry as a way to rank running backs. The old school metric doesn’t account for a lot of things, including defenders in the box, which is highly correlated to rushing success. Defenders in the box data isn’t publicly available on a per-play basis to my knowledge, but I do know that down-and-distances and whether a quarterback is under center or in shotgun does hold some correlation into how many defenders in the box there will be on a given play. So that’s why I created a YPC Plus/Minus metric that accounts for 1) yards to go for a first down, and 2) shotgun/under center splits.

YPCtogo

 

The chart shows that shotgun runs (red line) go for more yards on average compared to under center runs (blue line), and the difference is heightened in short-yardage situations where shotgun runs are approximately one-yard better on average. But what this chart really shows is how much “yards to go for a first down” plays into yards per carry. Short-yardage backs get crushed in the traditional yards per carry metric, while pass-catching backs who get a few handoffs on random 1st-and-10 plays get too much credit. My YPC Plus/Minus model adjusts for these things, so we can actually see which players are exceeding expectations for the situations they’re playing in. Let’s see last year’s results:

 

2019 YPC Plus/Minus Leaders

Translation: “Lamar Jackson averaged 2.6 more yards per carry than the average player in his situation after adjusting for yards to go and shotgun/under center snaps.” Note: I removed QB scrambles and QB kneels from calculations, so it’s just designed runs. Minimum 50 carries to qualify. 

Rank

Player

Team

YPC +/-

Carries

1

Lamar Jackson

BAL

+2.6

120

2

Jordan Wilkins

IND

+1.9

51

3

Kyler Murray

ARI

+1.9

56

4

Raheem Mostert

SF

+1.5

137

5

Rashaad Penny

SEA

+1.5

65

6

Tony Pollard

DAL

+1.1

86

7

Derrick Henry

TEN

+1.0

303

8

Matt Breida

SF

+1.0

123

9

Gus Edwards

BAL

+0.9

133

10

Devin Singletary

BUF

+0.9

149

11

Josh Jacobs

OAK

+0.8

240

12

Nick Chubb

CLE

+0.8

298

13

Kenyan Drake

ARI

+0.7

122

14

Alexander Mattison

MIN

+0.6

99

15

Christian McCaffrey

CAR

+0.6

285

16

Rex Burkhead

NE

+0.6

65

17

Dalvin Cook

MIN

+0.6

250

18

Chase Edmonds

ARI

+0.6

59

19

Alvin Kamara

NO

+0.5

171

20

Latavius Murray

NO

+0.5

146

21

Aaron Jones

GB

+0.5

236

22

Mark Ingram

BAL

+0.5

202

23

Ezekiel Elliott

DAL

+0.4

300

24

Duke Johnson

HOU

+0.4

83

25

Phillip Lindsay

DEN

+0.4

222

26

Saquon Barkley

NYG

+0.4

217

27

Leonard Fournette

JAX

+0.3

265

28

LeSean McCoy

KC

+0.3

101

29

Adrian Peterson

WAS

+0.2

210

30

Marlon Mack

IND

+0.2

246

31

Chris Carson

SEA

+0.2

274

32

Jordan Howard

PHI

+0.2

119

33

Miles Sanders

PHI

+0.2

179

34

Ronald Jones

TB

+0.1

172

35

Josh Allen

BUF

+0.1

52

36

Ty Johnson

DET

+0.1

63

37

Bo Scarbrough

DET

+0.0

89

38

Jamaal Williams

GB

+0.0

105

39

Brian Hill

ATL

+0.0

78

40

Austin Ekeler

LAC

+0.0

132

41

Carlos Hyde

HOU

-0.1

245

42

Damien Williams

KC

-0.1

152

43

Tevin Coleman

SF

-0.1

136

44

Todd Gurley

LA

-0.1

223

45

Joe Mixon

CIN

-0.1

278

46

Benny Snell

PIT

-0.2

107

47

Boston Scott

PHI

-0.2

59

48

Sony Michel

NE

-0.3

247

49

Frank Gore

BUF

-0.3

164

50

James White

NE

-0.3

67

51

Dion Lewis

TEN

-0.3

54

52

Malcolm Brown

LA

-0.3

68

53

Melvin Gordon

LAC

-0.3

162

54

Mark Walton

MIA

-0.4

53

55

Royce Freeman

DEN

-0.4

131

56

Nyheim Hines

IND

-0.4

52

57

Kerryon Johnson

DET

-0.4

113

58

James Conner

PIT

-0.5

116

59

DeAndre Washington

OAK

-0.5

106

60

Bilal Powell

NYJ

-0.5

58

61

Devonta Freeman

ATL

-0.5

184

62

David Montgomery

CHI

-0.6

242

63

Peyton Barber

TB

-0.8

153

64

David Johnson

ARI

-0.9

93

65

Justice Hill

BAL

-0.9

58

66

Le’Veon Bell

NYJ

-1.0

245

67

Giovani Bernard

CIN

-1.0

53

68

Tarik Cohen

CHI

-1.2

64

69

Patrick Laird

MIA

-1.5

61

70

Jaylen Samuels

PIT

-1.8

66

71

Kalen Ballage

MIA

-2.4

73

 

What Lamar Jackson did as a runner -- not even as a scrambler but as a pure designed runner -- was unbelievable. He averaged a full yard better on average than elite rushers like Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Kyler Murray, Josh Jacobs, and on and on. Not only that, but Lamar’s presence also boasted the efficiency of his running backs (Gus Edwards +0.9 and Mark Ingram +0.5) with defensive ends’ feet stuck in quicksand while they try to read quarterback keepers. As long as Lamar is healthy, the running backs around him will be near the top of efficiency leaderboards. 

 

Another thing to look at is how players did compared to their teammates because that also removes some of the noise with coaching and offensive line play. Here are some notable performers:

 

2019 YPC Plus/Minus Leaders - Shotgun Carries Only

Minimum 50 shotgun carries to qualify. 

Rank

Player

Team

Shotgun YPC +/-

Shotgun Carries

1

Lamar Jackson

BAL

2.7

115

2

Kyler Murray

ARI

1.8

51

3

Gus Edwards

BAL

1.1

126

4

Nick Chubb

CLE

1.0

124

5

Kenyan Drake

ARI

1.0

99

6

Aaron Jones

GB

0.9

73

7

Saquon Barkley

NYG

0.8

102

8

Mark Ingram

BAL

0.6

191

9

Duke Johnson

HOU

0.5

53

10

Phillip Lindsay

DEN

0.4

63

11

Miles Sanders

PHI

0.4

108

12

Joe Mixon

CIN

0.0

136

13

Austin Ekeler

LAC

-0.1

66

14

Carlos Hyde

HOU

-0.1

163

15

Marlon Mack

IND

-0.1

111

16

Ezekiel Elliott

DAL

-0.1

99

17

LeSean McCoy

KC

-0.3

64

18

Devin Singletary

BUF

-0.4

66

19

Chris Carson

SEA

-0.5

161

20

Melvin Gordon

LAC

-0.5

58

21

Derrick Henry

TEN

-0.6

64

22

David Montgomery

CHI

-0.6

123

23

Damien Williams

KC

-0.7

84

24

Leonard Fournette

JAX

-0.7

62

25

James Conner

PIT

-0.7

79

26

Christian McCaffrey

CAR

-1.0

130

27

Justice Hill

BAL

-1.0

57

28

David Johnson

ARI

-1.0

76

29

Tarik Cohen

CHI

-1.0

52

30

Le’Veon Bell

NYJ

-1.2

100

 

 

2019 YPC Plus/Minus Leaders - Under Center Carries Only

Minimum 50 under center carries to qualify. 

Rank

Player

Team

Under Center YPC +/-

Carries

1

Raheem Mostert

SF

1.9

103

2

Christian McCaffrey

CAR

1.9

155

3

Devin Singletary

BUF

1.8

83

4

Tony Pollard

DAL

1.7

57

5

Derrick Henry

TEN

1.5

239

6

Matt Breida

SF

1.4

104

7

Josh Jacobs

OAK

1.1

199

8

Chris Carson

SEA

1.1

113

9

Dalvin Cook

MIN

0.7

228

10

Ezekiel Elliott

DAL

0.7

201

11

Damien Williams

KC

0.7

68

12

Brian Hill

ATL

0.7

58

13

Leonard Fournette

JAX

0.6

203

14

Nick Chubb

CLE

0.6

174

15

Jordan Howard

PHI

0.6

70

16

Adrian Peterson

WAS

0.6

168

17

Marlon Mack

IND

0.5

135

18

Alvin Kamara

NO

0.5

129

19

Phillip Lindsay

DEN

0.4

159

20

Latavius Murray

NO

0.4

134

21

Alexander Mattison

MIN

0.3

93

22

Aaron Jones

GB

0.3

163

23

Ronald Jones

TB

0.2

146

24

Saquon Barkley

NYG

0.0

115

25

Austin Ekeler

LAC

0.0

66

26

Carlos Hyde

HOU

0.0

82

27

Todd Gurley

LA

0.0

208

28

Benny Snell

PIT

0.0

76

29

Frank Gore

BUF

-0.1

139

30

Miles Sanders

PHI

-0.1

71

31

Sony Michel

NE

-0.1

218

32

Kerryon Johnson

DET

-0.3

91

33

Melvin Gordon

LAC

-0.3

104

34

Joe Mixon

CIN

-0.3

142

35

Jamaal Williams

GB

-0.3

60

36

DeAndre Washington

OAK

-0.3

82

37

Royce Freeman

DEN

-0.4

91

38

Bo Scarbrough

DET

-0.5

52

39

Devonta Freeman

ATL

-0.5

144

40

Malcolm Brown

LA

-0.6

64

41

David Montgomery

CHI

-0.6

119

42

Peyton Barber

TB

-0.8

141

43

Le’Veon Bell

NYJ

-0.9

145

44

Tevin Coleman

SF

-1.0

103

 

 

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