It can be quite interesting trawling through the history (well the last 5 years at least) of the NFL draft seeing who went when and how many players are still playing for the team that drafted them. Not very many coincidentally, alas I am going of on a tangent as there has been some purpose behind this latest bit of research and that was to simply look at how rookie HBs starting four games or more have done in their first year in the NFL.
I have taken it back to the 2008 draft and have included any and all RBs (hoping I haven’t missed anyone) who have been recorded starters for their team. Although as ever there are minor discrepancies players like Beanie Wells whilst not officially starting a single game for Arizona I’ve noted down as starting 4 due to his amount of carries and overall yardage.
Why am I looking at this sample set? I wanted to see how our very own Bryce Brown faired in comparison to the other 19 RBs that have started four or more games in their rookie year since the 2008 draft.
Naturally we have got players like Brown who have started just four games, through to those who have started all 16 for their franchise such as Alfred Morris so I’ll compare the various stats taking into account the number of games played.
Right off the bat one number sticks out somewhat with Brown, his fumbles of which he fumbled four times. Please note this includes all fumbles, recovered or un-recovered as a fumble is a fumble in my eyes and a mistake by the RB who sometimes gets lucky with a team mate landing on the loose ball or a lucky bounce back into his path. Browns four fumbles can only really be matched by Beanie Wells who also fumbled four times in four games started.
Before we get to rushing stats I did also take the time to record receiving stats. Another interesting read as you get a general idea of who was running behind more pass-happy QB’s. Brown received 13 passes in 2012, compare that to LeSean McCoy’s four starts in 2009 where he received 40 passes. McNabb utilised LeSean very well in his rookie season when he was on the field. Alfred Morris on the other hand started 16 games and recorded just 11 receptions, though when you’ve got RGIII he’s more than likely to run when the team is looking at a screen or lateral.
Rushing wise Brown was definitely one of the more productive rookie RBs. He was second out of twenty when it came to the percentage of 100+ yard games started. Roy Helu was top, managing 3 one hundred plus yard games out of five started. Brown comes in with two of his four games featuring over one hundred yards on the ground. We can’t get to excited with that stat as he only managed six yards the following game and next he ran for just 34 yards, pretty diabolical considering his monumental start. His only reprieve being that those two games were against a stout Tampa Run D ranked 1st in the league and Cincy weren’t far behind in 12th.
Again Brown did well when it came to yards per attempt, registering a 4.9yd average (this is an average based on every attempt made) which puts him in joint second out of twenty in this instance. Top of the list was the NFC East’s DeMarco Murray who managed a 5.5yd per carry average after being the starting back in seven of Dallas’ games in 2011. The other RB tied with Bryce Brown is Chris Johnson who had that monumental rookie year rushing for 1,228 yards on a 4.9yd per carry average, so Brown’s in good company. Naturally I’ve got to compare it to LeSean to, who managed a respectable 4.1 yards per carry back in ’09.
The comparison doesn’t stop there as Brown continues to dominate the rookie runners this time in terms of TD’s scored per game. Browns 1TD per game on the ground puts him joint 5th, ironically LeSean is the back that he’s tied at fifth with. Mark Ingram, Beanie Wells, Jonathan Stewart and Tim Hightower on average put up more points on the board when they were handed the ball. As you can see TD’s per game has no influence on a player’s career with Jonathan Stewart the only RB that’s in anyway threatening anymore from that group of players.
I wanted to illustrate the effectiveness of Brown in another way, so I looked at just that, his effectiveness as a rookie running back. Using the defensive rush statistics from 2008 to 2012 I compared it to the total yards gained on the ground in each of the Running Backs rookie years (only including games started). It makes for a chart that Brown will be no doubt proud of.
Before we get to the chart it must be noted that every total is a minus percentage. This is for a variety of reasons most notably having to compete for carries with another back and QB runs being the main culprit. Even veteran starters struggle to top an opposing teams defensive rush yards each and every game hence the minus figures. That being said as you’ll no doubt guess the lower the minus figure, the better the player (statistically speaking).
So I’ve highlighted the two Eagles RBs within my sample period (I have left three players out of the chart) and it’s quite a difference. Whilst McCoy is one of the best backs to come to Philadelphia his rookie year wasn’t amazing. He did well through the air, but on the ground his effectiveness came in at -58% when using the four games he started in. Bryce Brown started four games too, yet he comes out with a Bronze medal and his effectiveness comes in at just -16%.
The other RBs make for a speculative read also. Darren McFadden had the worst effectiveness rating, -62% though he did have JaMarcus as a signal caller and every defense was pretty aware that when playing Oakland they would invariably try to run it. Roy Helu is the best rookie in terms of effectiveness, what’s even more amazing is that Washington also have the second most effective rookie in Alfred Morris who will no doubt be the starter in 2013. Helu was beaten out by Morris and turf toe didn’t help his cause either but there’s no denying he had a great rookie year.
Ultimately the chart says Brown was a very effective rookie and in many ways he was, but for many other reasons he wasn’t. He had two monster games, against Carolina which in comparison to their average rush D of 110 yards per game Brown outran that total by 62% and against Dallas he overcame their 125 yards by 35%. I realise that Tampa had the best run D last year, their 83 yards a game is testament to that, even so it still worries me that Brown operated with -92% efficiency and then against Cincy -68%. Those are two horrendous figures propped up by his initial two games.
Stats are not everything, they do not define a player, they do not mean someone will be or won’t be good it’s just another insight into a rookie who was and still is talked about a great deal. Statistically speaking he had a great first year for Philly and on the field watching him he did have some moments that will never be forgotten. He still needs to sort out his fumbles and churn out some more respectable numbers against better Run D’s. All being said Brown I personally think deserves that number 2 spot (training camp dependent naturally) from his four starts last season. I would like to see how he does being used as a receiver a little more, but as a plain old back despite his two poor showings he has the makings of a great Philly RB.
Charts and stats may not be everything, but come on who doesn’t like seeing an Eagles player in the top 3 of one.