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Rookie Report: Week 6 Starts & Sits

Original article from drinkfive.com can be found here.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’re more than a third of the way through the fantasy regular season, and by now you should have a pretty good idea of how your team stacks up. You should know your strengths and weaknesses, and what positions you need more production out of. Unfortunately, thanks to some byes and a plethora of injuries around the league you might be limited in your options to fix those positions in week 6. Jonathan Taylor, James Conner, and Damien Harris have all been ruled out at running back. Other players who remain questionable or out include Rashod Bateman, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Pitts, Chris Olave, Julio Jones, Tee Higgins, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Keenan Allen. It's a little messy out there in week 6, and that means you may have to turn to a rookie to fill in somewhere, and I’m here to guide you through that. Always take into account the context of your league and your roster before applying what’s written below, but there are plenty of rookies to get into for week 6.
A couple of housekeeping notes for the players listed below – All players listed under the same header at the same position are listed in the order that I would play them this week, and all references to fantasy points and points allowed rankings are based on half-PPR scoring unless otherwise noted. Any data on route participation, air yards, and other usage rates are per Dwain McFarland’s Utilization Report on Pro Football Focus.
Let’s jump into week 6…
Rookies You Already Know You Should Start:
RB Breece Hall, NYJ (Wk. 6: @GB): Don’t let the two goal-line scores by Michael Carter fool you. Breece Hall is dominating this backfield. Hall has 35 carries in the last two weeks compared to just 19 for Carter, and he’s bested Carter in route participation by more than 20% in each game as well. He looks like he’s going to push for 20 touches weekly going forward, and the Packers rank a lowly 30th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and allow the 17th-most RB points per game. This is not a matchup to fear. Hall is a rock-solid RB2 with an upside for more in Green Bay.
Borderline Rookies I’d Lean Toward Starting:
RB Kenneth Walker III, SEA (Wk. 6: vs. Ari.): If you had the foresight to stash Kenneth Walker on your fantasy rosters this season, Rashaad Penny’s broken tibia may have unlocked a potential league-winner on your fantasy squad. You don’t want to celebrate an injury, but Walker should assume the early-down role that Penny was playing and his usage hints that there could be even more upside for KW3. Rashaad Penny was used in passing routes often, but he was rarely targeted. He had a 42% route participation rate on the season but was targeted on just 7% of his routes run. Walker has been targeted on 23% of his routes run for the season, the highest rate of any Seattle running back. If that continues as his playing time increases, Walker could end up being a top-12 RB the rest of the way. I’d expect DeeJay Dallas to continue handling the passing-down work for now, but it’s not guaranteed. Arizona boasts a slightly above-average run defense (12th in run defense DVOA, 12th-fewest RB points per game allowed), but rushing volume should make Walker a top-20 RB option in this one.
WR Drake London, ATL (Wk. 6: vs. SF): I got comfortable enough to call London an auto-start the last two weeks, and he responded with back-to-back duds of 3.7 and 7.5 PPR points in those two games. Head Coach Arthur Smith loves to destroy the dreams of fantasy players, but I’m going back to the well here and saying I like London in week 6. The 49ers will be without Emmanuel Moseley and Jimmy Ward for the foreseeable future, and they also may have Kyle Pitts to contend with. That should open things up enough for London to get back on track in what looks like a tough matchup on paper. London is a top-24 WR option for me this week.
WR Romeo Doubs, GB (Wk. 6: vs. NYJ): Doubs continues to operate as the Packers’ WR2. Over the last 3 weeks, he’s averaged about a 90% route participation rate and 7 targets per game since emerging as a starter. The targets last week found their way to Randall Cobb rather than Romeo, but I’d expect there to be a better balance this week. The Packers have an implied total of 27 points this week and Doubs should be back in the 6-8 target range against a defense that ranks 23rd in pass defense DVOA. He should be a reasonable WR3 player this week.
WR Chris Olave, NO (Wk. 6: vs. Cin.): Olave is listed as questionable for this game, and I would’ve bet against Olave being able to clear the concussion protocol in time for this game after seeing the way the light went out of his eyes when his head hit the turf last weekend, but he was listed as a full participant in practice on Friday. If he can get cleared and play this weekend, he has obvious upside in an offense that will still be without Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, but the Bengals are a tough matchup. Cincy has allowed the 4th-fewest WR points per game and has allowed only two receivers to reach a dozen points (half-PPR) all season. If he plays, view Olave as a volume-based WR3.
WR Alec Pierce, IND (Wk. 6: vs. Jax.): The Colts seemed to find something last week with Pierce. The rookie out-targeted Michael Pittman for the first time, and Matt Ryan looked for him in clutch situations, targeting Pierce 3 times on third down and twice on 2nd down with more than 10 yards to go. His route participation rate climbed to a season-high 74% in that game, and he now has 3 straight games where he’s been targeted on at least a quarter of his routes run. Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines have both already been ruled out for this one, and last week with both players out Matt Ryan had his second-highest pass attempt total of the season despite a very neutral game script. The Jaguars have been tough to throw on, allowing the 12th-fewest WR points per game and ranking 9th in pass defense DVOA, but the absence of the running backs is enough for me to push Pierce up to a fringe WR3/4 for this week. I like his chances at 70+ receiving yards on Sunday.
Borderline Rookies I’d Lean Toward Sitting:
QB Kenny Pickett, PIT (Wk. 6: vs. TB): Pickett’s situation for week 6 isn’t much different than it was for week 5. He faces an elite pass defense in a game where he should be playing from behind and throwing a bunch. The Bucs rank 1st in pass defense DVOA. Pickett did throw for over 300 yards last week on over 50 attempts and finished as the QB19 despite not throwing a touchdown, but his prospects aren’t much better for this one. I’d view him as a volume-based QB2 but would slide him down the rankings a bit in leagues with stiffer penalties for turnovers or sacks taken, and I’d look at other options if I were considering Pickett in a 1-QB league.
QB Bailey Zappe, NE (Wk. 6: @Cle.): Zappe was extremely efficient in his first pro start, carving up the Detroit Lions in an easy win. He completed more than 80% of his passes, and his only turnover came on a dropped pass that turned into a pick. That efficiency didn’t lead to much fantasy production. The rookie was the QB25 for the week. It looks like Mac Jones may be able to return this week, but if he doesn’t and it’s Zappe again, I’d expect similar results – a low-volume, efficient passing effort that won’t help you a ton for fantasy. The Browns haven’t allowed any of the last 3 QBs they’ve faced to top 15 fantasy points, a list that includes Justin Herbert last week.
RB Tyler Allgeier, ATL (Wk. 6: vs. SF): Allgeier operated as the clear RB1-A in this backfield last week with Cordarrelle Patterson on IR, but he wasn’t a great fantasy play against a stout Bucs defense. He was limited to just 45 yards on 13 carries and didn’t see a single target. He gets another tough defensive matchup this week. The 49ers rank 1st in run defense DVOA and have allowed the 3rd-fewest running back points per game. His role also could look slightly different this week with the potential return of Damien Williams from IR. I’d look for options with more upside this week.
RB Jaylen Warren. PIT (Wk. 6: vs. TB): Warren has been getting buzz as a hot waiver name this week, but I wouldn’t plug him into lineups against the Bucs. Najee Harris’ Lisfranc injury from the preseason seems to still be lingering. He hasn’t looked like himself in recent weeks. It would probably behoove the Steelers to give Harris a game or two off to get right, but the more likely outcome is that they’ll just reduce his weekly workload and give more of it to Warren. Warren has shown more burst and looked better than Harris in the last couple games, but a split workload doesn’t make him a good option this week against a Tampa defense that allows the 2nd-fewest RB points per game.
WR Garrett Wilson, NYJ (Wk. 6: @GB): Don’t be afraid to play Wilson this week if you must, but the change to Zach Wilson at QB has been a problem for the rookie. The Jets aren’t throwing as much with Zach back under center, so Wilson is seeing fewer targets, but what’s even more troubling is that he’s seeing shorter targets. Wilson earned 11 targets per game in Joe Flacco’s three starts with an aDOT of 9.8 yards. In two games with Zach Wilson, Garrett has earned 10 total targets with an aDOT of 6.5 yards. There’s reason for optimism against the Packers. The Jets should be forced to throw a little more as a 7-point underdog, and Green Bay has been more vulnerable to slot receivers than guys on the perimeter. They’ve allowed the 4th-fewest fantasy points per game to receivers lined up out wide and the 12th-most to receivers lined up in the slot per Sports Info Solutions. Wilson is the Jets’ primary slot receiver. There’s upside here, but I’d view Garrett as more of a WR4 than a WR3 this week.
WR George Pickens, PIT (Wk. 6: vs. TB): I talked last week about how the switch to Kenny Pickett at QB in Pittsburgh could be a boost for Pickens, and it was nice to see that come to fruition as Pickens went for 6-83 on 8 targets in Buffalo, but I’m not sure I’d go back to the well this week. Game script should be negative, and the Steelers should be throwing often, but the Bucs present a much stiffer test at CB than the Bills did. Buffalo has been making do with inexperienced corners by playing a lot of zone defense and defending as a team. The Bucs have proven studs Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean starting at corner. They’ve allowed fewer than 8 points per game to receivers lined up on the perimeter per Sports Info Solutions, and Pickens has been lined up in the slot on less than 8% of his snaps this year. Volume can still get Pickens to a useful day against the Bucs, but it could be tougher sledding this week than it was against the Bills and Jets for the rookie.
WR Khalil Shakir, BUF (Wk. 6: @KC): Shakir was impressive in his first extended action of the season, racking up 3-75-1 on 5 targets, but Isaiah McKenzie has cleared the concussion protocol and should assume a full-time slot role this week. McKenzie was splitting the role with Jamison Crowder prior to the injury, but Crowder suffered a broken ankle and will be out indefinitely. There’s a chance Shakir takes some of that slot workload, but I wouldn’t count on him getting enough opportunity to be useful this week.
TE Daniel Bellinger, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): Bellinger’s playing time has been steadily rising each week, and he scored his second touchdown of the season in London last weekend, but he still hasn’t topped 4 touches in a game this year and the return of Wan’Dale Robinson could make it harder for Bellinger to earn targets. The Ravens haven’t been great against tight ends, allowing the 15th-most points per game to the position, but the biggest reason for that is they’ve allowed 3 tight end touchdowns. They’re giving up less than 40 yards per game to the position. You’re likely to be disappointed in Bellinger’s game unless he scores a touchdown, and the Giants’ implied total is below 20 points in this one.
TE Cade Otton, TB (Wk. 6: @Pit.): Cam Brate’s injury opened the door for Otton to play a full-time role in week 6, and he earned 7 targets en route to a top-12 PPR finish for the week. Cam Bratehas been practicing in full this week, so Otton will return to his backup role this weekend. You can’t start him in this one.
Rookies You Already Know You Should Sit:
RB Isiah Pacheco, KC (Wk. 6: vs. Buf.): Pacheco’s trend of not playing much unless the Chiefs win comfortably continued in week 5. Pacheco now has 11+ carries in both games that Kansas City won by double-digits, and 6 total touches in the other 3 games combined. This game is very unlikely to be a blowout win, so I’d lean against considering Pacheco.
RB James Cook, BUF (Wk. 6: @KC): As expected, Cook got a couple of opportunities late in a blowout last weekend. He managed to post a 24-yard touchdown run in the 2nd half in his best fantasy day of the season so far. To date, more than 70% of Cook’s touches have come in the two games the Bills won by 34+ points. His role will likely grow as the season goes on, but Devin Singletary typically dominates the backfield work in competitive games, and this week’s tilt with the Chiefs should be very competitive. I wouldn’t expect more than a few touches for Cook.
RBs Tyrion Davis-Price & Jordan Mason, SF (Wk. 6: @Atl.): Mason has been a non-factor in this offense even with the injuries to Elijah Mitchell and Davis-Price, but Davis-Price in expected to return this week in a good matchup against a Falcons’ defense that ranks 27th in run defense DVOA. Unfortunately for TDP, Jeff Wilson Jr. has been great in his absence and there may not be much of a role to return to. Davis-Price nearly split the workload evenly with Wilson in week 2, but I’d expect much closer to an 80-20 split here.
WR Skyy Moore, KC (Wk. 6: vs. Buf.): It’s coming for Moore, but we’re not there yet. The snaps have increased in each of the last two weeks for the rookie while Mecole Hardman’s playing time heads in the other direction. It’s only a matter of time before he’s operating as Kansas City’s WR3. For now, continue to monitor his role with him on your bench. The Bills rank 6th in pass defense DVOA and allow the 5th-fewest WR points per game.
WR Tyquan Thornton, NE (Wk. 6: @Cle.): Thornton made his debut in week 5 and played a bigger role in his first game back than I anticipated. He had a higher route participation rate than Nelson Agholor or DeVante Parker, but that was because of a blowout win and a hamstring injury to Agholor that sidelined the veteran after just 7 snaps. I’d expect Thornton to operate as the WR4 this week even if Agholor is out. His best hope at fantasy production would be hauling in a deep ball, but the Pats lack a QB who throws the deep ball well.
WR Christian Watson, GB (Wk. 6: vs. NYJ): Watson is yet to exceed a 30% route participation rate or 3 touches in any game this season. He did exit in the 3rd quarter of the London game with a hamstring injury, but he had just 1 target and 1 carry by that point of the game. He’s questionable for week 6, and not playing enough to be in your lineups if he’s able to suit up. Update: Watson has been ruled out for week 6.
WR David Bell, CLE (Wk. 6: vs. NE): Bell has totaled just 6 targets in the first 5 games. He remains someone you can’t start until at least the return of Deshaun Watson.
WR Jalen Tolbert, DAL (Wk. 6: @Phi.): Tolbert has now been inactive for 4 of the Cowboys first 5 games, and there’s no reason to think he won’t make it 5 of 6 this week.
TE Trey McBride, ARI (Wk. 6: @Sea.): It pains me to say that you have to sit McBride in the best possible tight-end matchup. He just isn’t playing enough to be anything more than a touchdown dart throw despite the rosy matchup. The Seahawks have allowed season-high fantasy days to 7 different tight ends in their 5 games – Andrew Beck, Albert Okwuegbunam, Ross Dwelley, Kyle Pitts, TJ Hockenson, Taysom Hill, and Adam Trautman. If giving up over 35 points to TJ Hockenson wasn’t bad enough in week 4, the Seahawks let a tight end throw a TD pass to another tight end in week 5 (Taysom Hill to Trautman). Any tight end who suits up against Seattle is bound to have their best day of the season, but for McBride that could mean 6 PPR points. It’ll be a bonus if he’s on the field for even 30% of the offensive snaps this week.
TE Isaiah Likely, BAL (Wk. 6: @NYG): The absence of Rashod Bateman last week didn’t result in a boost in usage or production for Likely. In fact, Likely played his lowest snap share and saw his lowest route participation rate of the season last Sunday. You can’t count on him for anything more than a couple of targets in this game if that.
TE Jelani Woods, IND (Wk. 6: vs. Jax.): Woods has been in the 25-30% route participation range in each of the last 3 weeks. He scored 2 touchdowns in week 3, but he’s seen just 2 targets total in the two weeks since. He’s a TD dart throw at best, and the Jaguars haven’t allowed a tight end score yet this season.
TEs Peyton Hendershot & Jake Ferguson, DAL (Wk. 6: @Phi.): Dalton Schultz left after just 10 snaps last week when he aggravated his sprained PCL, but it sounds like he’s expected to play in week 7. Hendershot and Ferguson split the snaps pretty evenly after Schultz’s exit, but neither recorded a single target. Even if Schultz is out this week, neither of these guys would be worth a dart throw against a defense ranking 3rd in pass defense DVOA.
Rookies on Byes in week 6: RB Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB Zamir White, LV, WRs Kyle Philips and Treylon Burks, TEN, TE Chig Okonkwo, TEN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes & Cheap DFS Options:
QB Skylar Thompson, MIA (Wk. 6: vs. Min.): Thompson was less than inspiring in his NFL debut last weekend, posting just 166 passing yards and two turnovers, but the Dolphins coaching staff saw enough to name him the starter for this weekend without waiting on the statuses of Teddy Bridgewater and TuaTagovailoa, and I like his chances for a bounce back. Thompson will get first-team reps all week in practice, he has explosive weapons, and the Vikings are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards allowed and passer rating against, and rank 26th in pass defense DVOA. Minnesota has only given up 4 passing touchdowns in the first 5 weeks, but they’ve been vulnerable against the pass. I also like Thompson’s chances to add 20-30 yards with his legs. The Vikings have given up more than 45 rushing yards to both mobile QBs they’ve faced this year (Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields), and Thompson wasn’t afraid to use his legs in college (over 370 yards rushing in 2018 and 2019). Skylar is obviously a risky play this week, but I like his chances to wind up as a mid-range QB2 or better in a matchup that is better than you might think.
RB Rachaad White, TB (Wk. 6: @Pit.): White has seen his role behind Leonard Fournette grow in recent weeks. He’s played nearly 40% of the snaps in each of the last two games and had at least 8 opportunities in each (carries + targets combined), and he could see even more this week in a game that has the potential to get out of hand. The Tampa offense has looked more like itself in recent weeks with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans back on the field, and the Steelers will be missing their top 3 cornerbacks and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in this game. The Steelers won’t have any answers for Tom Brady and that passing game, and that could lead to some garbage time opportunities for White against a middling run defense. There’s a low floor here, but also some nice upside for DFS tournaments.
RB Keontay Ingram, ARI (Wk. 6: @Sea.): James Conner and Darrel Williams have both been ruled out for week 6, leaving just Eno Benjamin and Ingram to handle the backfield work. Ingram has been inactive in each of the first 5 weeks of the season, so it’s hard to say how big of a role he’s going to play behind Benjamin, but Eno isn’t going to handle 100% of the workload. The Seahawks rank 24th in run defense DVOA and allow the 5th most RB points per game, so any opportunities against that unit are worth taking note of. Ingram costs the bare minimum on DraftKings - $3,000 in multiple-game contests, and $200 in Showdown contests – and he has a legitimate chance at 8-10 touches against one of the worst running back defenses in the league.
RBs Kevin Harris & Pierre Strong, NE (Wk. 6: @Cle.): Early reports after the weekend are that Damien Harris could miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury suffered on Sunday. Rhamondre Stevenson will step into the clear lead back role while Harris is out, but he isn’t going to play 100% of the snaps. One of these two rookies is going to play a role alongside Stevenson while Damien is out. Both may be worth a stash in the deepest of leagues, but I would prioritize Strong since he’s the back that has been on the active roster for the first 5 weeks. Keep an eye on Damien Harris’ status moving forward, he was listed as a limited participant in practice on Tuesday, but reports were that he only warmed up. He’s already been ruled out for week 6. The Browns have allowed multiple backs to reach 10+ fantasy points in each of the last 2 games, so if you get a sense of which back will serve as the #2 behind Rhamondre, there could be value in showdown DFS contests.
RB Kyren Williams, LAR (Wk 6: vs Car.): I mention Kyren here because of the news that Cam Akers is now away from the Rams for personal reasons. Sean McVay referenced “some things we’re working through” when talking about the situation. We obviously don’t have all the information, but if I had to guess, this won’t be just a one-week absence. Kyren is likely to remain on IR through the Rams’ bye next week, but it’s very possible he returns for week 8, and he’s worth a look in really deep leagues. Adam Schefter reported before the season opener that Williams was ticketed for a meaningful role in the Rams’ offense, and if Akers’ absence continues, Williams could step into the RB2 role behind Darrell Henderson when he comes back. I wouldn’t make Kyren a priority stash. He’s a sub-par athlete (9th-percentile speed score and 20th-percentile burst score per Player Profiler), Malcolm Brown is still around to take some touches as well, and the Rams are unlikely to use Williams in the role he’s best suited for. Williams is a receiving back – he caught 77 passes in his last two seasons at Notre Dame - but the Rams don’t throw to the running backs on passing downs. Just two of Matt Stafford’s 52 passing attempts on 3rd or 4th down this year have targeted a running back. The Rams seem to like him, and there’s a clear opportunity for playing time when he comes back, so he’s worth a look as a stash if you’re desperate but temper your expectations.
WR Wan’Dale Robinson, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): Wan’Dale looks to be on track to play for the first time since week 1, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Giants. New York has been operating with a replacement crew of receivers that rivals the Bears for worst in the league. Their WR1 has been Richie James. Robinson should step in as a valuable safety valve in the slot for Daniel Jones, and the Giants take on a Ravens team this week that has allowed the 2nd-most points per game to receivers lined up in the slot per Sports Info Solutions. It’s hard to bank on Wan’Dale playing a full complement of snaps in his first game back after missing a month, but I like his chances at 6+ targets in this game. He’s a real option as a WR4 in deeper PPR leagues if you’re searching for WR help.
TE Greg Dulcich, DEN (Wk. 6: @LAC): Dulcich seems likely to return from IR and make his debut this week, and that may put him in position to be the first tight end to ever play with a perm. Ok, I don’t know if any previous tight ends have had one, but if you don’t know what Dulcich looks like I urge you to google him and feast your eyes on what Andrew Cooper of Fantasy Alarm (@CoopAFiasco on twitter) referred to as “James Franco cosplaying as Weird Al.” Dulcich could step into a big role in his first game against a middling Charger defense. LA allows the 18th-most TE points per game and the Broncos have been operating with Eric Saubert as their clear lead tight end. Dulcich should overtake him immediately, and the schedule gets more favorable in a few weeks. 5 of the first 6 teams the Broncos face after their week 9 bye have allowed more TE points per game than the Chargers. I’d view Dulcich as a volatile TE2 option this week, but there is upside in the coming weeks to be a top-12 tight end.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you pick up a W in week 5. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@Shawn_Foss) if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything written above. Make sure to keep a close eye on the injury report throughout the week and do a final pre-game check to make sure you don’t start any inactive players. As always: Good luck, trust your gut and have fun. It’s just a game.
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[OC] I Studied Over 11,000 Seasons And Used Math To Rank The Best Running Backs of All Time

Sometimes in life, a man will do a bunch of excessive and dumb sophomore-level statistical analysis in order to come to conclusions that the wider public is going to get extremely mad about. It is the duty of this man to share his excessive, unsophisticated findings on Reddit, suffer the scorn and indignation of the world, and leave the sub an ever so slightly more haphazardly educated place.
That man is me. I'm a martyr, and I'm a hero, and I'm ready to piss everyone off.
Because today, I'm going to try to use a bunch of numbers to talk to you about the best running backs in NFL history.
Here is the spreadsheet that I'm going to be referencing in this post.
Some of you wonderful football-starved degenerates might recognize me from my similarly insane and overwrought posts that purport to have found the best offensive line in NFL history as well as the most badass team in NFL history using my large and CPU-jamming database of statistics from every single season by every professional football team dating back to 1932. But did you know that I have an even larger and more ridiculous database for every single player season in NFL history?
NO? Is this a joke???? Why not? I wrote about it in my newsletter. Seriously fess up guys, are none of you subscribed to my newsletter? Damn. That stings. Oh my god... that actually hurts to hear.
But we trudge on, for the work is already done. And I have once again done a bunch of Z-Score calculations for every season for every running back in NFL history (kinda). What is Z-Score? Most of you guys do not care about my methodology, but for a truly quick rundown...
Z-Score is a way to compare across eras. For an example, because the average rushing TD total of a back from 2002-2006 is much higher than one from 1955-1959, a running back with 15 rushing TDs in 1957 is going to get a much higher Z-Score for rushing TDs than a running back with 15 touchdowns from 2004. A Z-Score of "0" is totally average, a Z-Score of "1" is pretty good, a Z-Score of "2" is one of the best in a given year if not the decade, and a Z-Score of "3" is a historically significant outlier. Anything higher than that is ridiculous.
There are a vast, VAST array of ways in which a player's performance can be judged (and you can read about my struggles in trying to come to fair conclusions in the Methodology section). And please, please do keep in mind that this is just one metric you can use and my posting this shouldn't be seen as me having "cracked the code" or anything like that.
But let's begin with the most obvious one...

Best Running Backs By Career "Best" Score

Rank Player Career "Best" Total Career "Best" Average Career Receiving Total Career Receiving Average Career Rushing Total Career Rushing Average
1 Jim Brown 19.652 2.1835 3.9954 .4439 22.7890 2.5321
2 Walter Payton 18.505 1.4235 7.4242 .5711 18.8248 1.4481
3 Barry Sanders 18.074 1.8074 3.9118 .3912 19.4394 1.9439
4 Emmitt Smith 17.598 1.1732 1.8790 .1253 18.9226 1.2615
5 Adrian Peterson 13.808 .9863 3.0345 .2167 15.2168 1.0869
6 Marshall Faulk 13.492 1.1244 18.5146 1.5429 10.3399 .8617
7 LaDainian Tomlinson 13.448 1.2225 10.9136 .9921 12.8265 1.1660
8 Eric Dickerson 13.103 1.3103 1.4206 .1421 14.5297 1.4530
9 Tony Dorsett 12.424 1.0353 4.9192 .4099 12.2393 1.0199
10 OJ Simpson 12.414 1.1285 5.0131 .4557 13.5183 1.2289
So my "Best" Score is a combination of an individual season's total scrimmage yards, total touchdowns, yards per carry, fumbles and yards per touch (for a more in-depth breakdown, check out Methodology). For this particular ranking, all seasons that a player may have that gives them a negative Z-Score overall have had their "Best" scores normalized to zero in order to prevent players who stuck around for a little too long being too negatively impacted by this (once again, check out Methodology if this troubles you). This ranking is nothing more than a sum of all of their seasons by this score.
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. Jim Brown, former fullback for the Cleveland Browns, is going through a bit of a Christopher Columbus moment in the wake of the Deshaun Watson scandal and renewed interest in his history of abuse and scandal, so I'll admit that it makes me a little queasy to be singing his praises too much. But whether we like it or not, he is a massive part of NFL history and I am doing this series in the interest of exploring NFL history with you all. It's going to be hard not to talk about him.
In terms of per game/per season play, the man is perhaps the single most dominant and productive player ever (at any position) by this index. He is going to top nearly every list that I subject you folks to. It is not close, you do not have to squint, he leads the pack and it isn't close. If you ask me who the best running back of all time is, Jim Brown is my answer. There are arguments as to why his era and his supporting cast and scheme are going to benefit him here, but in many ways I think he ushered in a new era of rushing with a "lead back" that simply didn't exist back then. I can understand other opinions, but this is mine. Even outside of the stats, he is probably the single most impactful running back of all time.
Despite playing 17 less games than anyone else in the top 10, he comfortably leads second-place Walter Payton (62 less games) in career "Best" total. He leads by three entire points over second place Barry Sanders in Rushing Total despite playing 35 less games. Averages in these two regards are even more decisive. Truly, truly extreme outliers.
He is one of two players (the other being O.J. Simpson) to average 125 rushing yards per game in a full season (2,000 yards over a 16 game season) multiple times. His history-leading CAREER average for scrimmage yards is 125 yards per game, something that has only happened 70 times (All-Pro RB's like Earl Campbell, Curtis Martin, Clinton Portis, Shaun Alexander, Marshawn Lynch, and others never reached this benchmark).
At the time of his retirement, Brown was the NFL's career rushing leader by 3,715 yards over second-place Jim Taylor despite playing 15 less games. He led second-place Taylor in career rushing touchdowns by 23. Also at the time of his retirement, Brown held 7 of the top 10 rushing seasons in NFL history (including the top three, and the third place season [1958] was accomplished in only 12 games). He recently was unseated by Jamaal Charles in terms of career YPC in an era where league average YPC was much lower. For his career, he averaged out at the 98th percentile in "Best" score among all of the seasons for all of the backs on this list. There is no way around it. He was good at football.
With that out of the way, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith are the logical next three guys on the list. Walter Payton's 1977 season is this index's third-highest ranked season and Emmitt Smith's 1995 season is the sixth-highest ranked season, among many other relatively high-ranking seasons. They also both played for quite some time as starting-level contributors, which allowed them to accumulate quite a total. Barry is a bit of a different case and probably the closest thing to Jim Brown in terms of consistency at an extremely high level of play, and though his highest ranked season (1997) is "just" 22nd in this index, his ability to routinely put out dominant seasons gives him the second highest career percentile average with his average season coming out at the 95th percentile of all seasons. Payton, for his part, still achieved a very solid 88th average percentile despite playing 190 games which is pretty remarkable, good for fourth best among backs who have played at least 60 games.
It might be a bit of a surprise to see Adrian Peterson ranked higher than Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson given his general lack of receiving prowess, but of course it's important to note that this is a "total" score. Peterson played quite well as a rusher up until the age of 35, which is a pretty remarkable feat. By contrast, Faulk had stretches in Indianapolis of being a pretty inefficient (but not unproductive!) player and also clearly was tapped out by his career's end, and while LT played at a decently high level for a good while he takes a bit of a hit from playing in an era that saw running backs achieve the most remarkable highs in NFL history.
Eric Dickerson and Tony Dorsett had different roads to their rankings. Dickerson was an immensely productive player in his peak and famously holds the still-standing NFL record for single-season rushing yards. But it is perhaps less known that he remained a pretty remarkably productive player when he was traded to the Colts in 1987. Dorsett, for his part, never reached any sort of insane peak (his best season ranked at a relatively modest 165th) but you can't deny the man was prolific. He rushed for 1,000 yards eight separate times (and would have in 1982 if not for the strike), this is tied with Adrian Peterson and others for the sixth most all-time. Curtis Martin and Frank Gore rushed for 1,000 yards more times but neither ever achieved any substantial highs and were worse receivers.
If you thought Jim Brown was controversial, let's talk about O.J. Simpson. O.J. is interesting, because he absolutely did not have a long and prolific career. He amassed over 1,100 scrimmage yards just five times, but oh boy, were those five seasons good. His 1975 season ranks as the second-best season of all-time and his 1973 season (in which he famously rushed for over 2,000 yards in a 14 game season) is the seventh-highest ranked season. His "prime" ranking reflects this as we will get into later.
But for those of you who missed out on your favorite RB making it, I decided to do this...

The Best Running Back For Every NFL Team by Career "Best" Score

Team Player "Best" Total Rank "Best" Average Rank Team Career "Best" Total Team Career "Best" Average Team Career Receiving Total Team Career Receiving Average Team Career Rushing Total Team Career Rushing Average
Bears Walter Payton 2 13 18.5049 1.4235 7.4242 .5711 18.8248 1.4481
Lions Barry Sanders 3 4 18.0741 1.8074 3.9118 .3912 19.4394 1.9439
Vikings Adrian Peterson 6 8 12.8459 1.6057 2.2047 .2756 13.9128 1.7391
Packers Jim Taylor 16 61 9.0695 1.0077 1.1447 .1272 11.9529 1.3281
Cowboys Emmitt Smith 4 18 17.5037 1.3464 1.8790 .1445 18.7840 1.4449
Redskins/Commanders Larry Brown 46 79 6.4888 .9270 8.5442 1.2206 5.2894 .7556
Eagles Steve Van Buren 19 42 8.7429 1.0929 .3602 .0450 11.1163 1.3895
Giants Tiki Barber 14 84 9.1077 .9108 10.9866 1.0987 7.7155 .7716
Falcons William Andrews 44 38 6.6419 1.1070 6.4458 1.0743 5.5768 .9295
Saints Alvin Kamara 56 10 5.9961 1.4990 8.3217 2.0804 4.4126 1.1032
Panthers Christian McCaffrey 91 77 4.6715 .9343 8.0633 1.6127 3.2123 .6425
Buccaneers James Wilder 150 279 3.3982 .3776 5.0273 .5586 2.7640 .3071
Rams Eric Dickerson 21 2 8.4605 2.1151 .6923 .1731 9.2410 2.3103
Seahawks Shaun Alexander 22 54 8.2656 1.0332 2.6415 .3302 8.5910 1.0739
Cardinals Ottis Anderson 34 53 7.3404 1.0486 3.0190 .4313 7.0034 1.0005
49ers Joe Perry 12 66 11.7345 .9779 .6866 .0572 15.0932 1.2578
Steelers Franco Harris 11 64 11.8270 .9856 .9245 .0770 13.1196 1.0933
Browns Jim Brown 1 1 19.6517 2.1835 3.9954 .4439 22.7890 2.5321
Ravens Ray Rice 73 91 5.2434 .8739 6.5325 1.0888 4.4435 .7406
Bengals James Brooks 27 62 8.0301 1.0038 8.3943 1.0493 6.8406 .8551
Patriots Sam Cunningham 108 197 4.2735 .5342 2.4365 .3046 4.0873 .5109
Titans/Jets Curtis Martin 66 134 5.5436 .6930 2.1023 .2628 5.8205 .7276
Dolphins Larry Csonka 58 124 5.7607 .7201 .0000 .0000 8.5862 1.0733
Bills OJ Simpson 7 15 12.4140 1.3793 4.8574 .5397 13.5183 1.5020
Colts Lenny Moore 9 43 12.0169 1.0924 17.9822 1.6347 7.3027 .6639
Oilers/Titans Earl Campbell 15 9 9.0967 1.5161 .0154 .0026 11.1381 1.8563
Texans Arian Foster 40 65 6.8957 .9851 5.3685 .7669 6.2251 .8893
Jaguars Fred Taylor 31 118 7.4816 .7482 3.4778 .3478 8.1159 .8116
Chiefs Jamaal Charles 17 22 8.9893 1.2842 6.3723 .9103 8.1752 1.1679
Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson 5 12 12.9998 1.4444 9.2922 1.0325 12.4613 1.3846
Broncos Terrell Davis 29 41 7.6525 1.0932 1.4640 .2091 8.0802 1.1543
Raiders Marcus Allen 20 108 8.5832 .7803 8.5732 .7794 7.0172 .6379
I'll let you folks argue over this at your own leisure, but I'll explain the weird ones. I should note, this only includes stats for a player's tenure on a given team. It's also calculated by a separate "team" career ranking, so the rankings aren't the same as the general career rankings.
Let's start with my team, Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have a reputation for having good running backs, but really it's more like a series of good running back seasons. Priest Holmes certainly has an argument here for his insane four year run from 2001-2004, but Jamaal trumps him (and, in fact, ranks extremely high overall). The reason for this would be Jamaal's ridiculously high year-by-year YPC figures (which some may argue is overrepresented in my "Best" score). But Jamaal, I would argue, was much more than that and his 2013 season in which he scored 19 TD's in 15 games is the 30th-ranked season in the overall database. Priest suffers from the same thing LT does of playing through a period of extremely prolific RB seasons.
Larry Brown for Washington is probably a controversial pick over John Riggins (or even Clinton Portis). Riggins played very well into his twilight years but never was exceptionally dominant outside of his rushing TD figures and his playoff performances (which do not factor into this ranking as it exists right now). Portis split his prime between Washington and Denver. Brown, for his part, was a consistently good dual-threat back for his first five seasons and was the NFL MVP in 1972.
James Wilder (Go Tigers) for the Buccaneers is the lowest-ranked team-leading back on this list, ranked 150th in terms of total and just 279th in average. Wilder was a pretty good back on some very bad teams, which gave him an opportunity to get an utterly insane workload that helps prop up his total. His utterly hilarious 492 touches in 1984 remains the NFL record by a wide margin. For some perspective, he had 35 more touches than the second-place guy (Larry Johnson in 2006), which is the same as the difference between the second-place guy and the 21st-place guy (Deuce McAllister in 2003). So... lmao.
Ray Rice is likely going to be quite a controversial selection for the Ravens over Jamal Lewis. And I definitely get this, Jamal had a great start to his career including a remarkable 2003 season in which he rushed for 2,000 yards. But what's not always talked about with Jamal is the injury history and the general unremarkable "filler" seasons of his career in which he wasn't particularly good outside of a volume stat or two. His second best season was his 2007 season with the Browns in their famous "10-6 but no playoffs" campaign. So basically with the Ravens he's listed as having one great season (in which he still didn't score a lot of TDs), two decent seasons, and then a few meh seasons. This in in contrast to Ray Rice who was one of the best-ranking running backs in the league season after season before he was ousted for his domestic abuse scandal right at the tail end of his prime.

Best Individual Seasons By "Best" Score

Rank Player Year Team "Best" Score Total Receiving Score Total Rushing Score
1 Beattie Feathers 1934 CHI 3.9328 1.5702 4.1267
2 OJ Simpson 1975 BUF 3.8591 2.7221 3.7461
3 Walter Payton 1977 CHI 3.1183 .6612 3.3592
4 Jim Brown 1965 CLE 3.0639 .7497 3.4409
5 Jim Brown 1963 CLE 3.0517 .3870 3.5989
6 Emmitt Smith 1995 DAL 3.0329 .2193 3.1512
7 OJ Simpson 1973 BUF 2.9957 -.4298 3.8052
8 LaDainian Tomlinson 2006 SDG 2.9734 1.7602 3.0132
9 Spec Sanders 1947 NYY 2.9596 -.5611 3.9845
10 Leroy Kelly 1968 CLE 2.9031 1.0979 3.0894
11 Jim Brown 1958 CLE 2.8577 -.2829 3.7097
12 Chet Mutryn 1948 BUF 2.7689 3.0147 1.9641
13 Jonathan Taylor 2021 IND 2.7673 .7346 2.9646
14 Lenny Moore 1958 BAL 2.7545 3.4233 1.8142
15 Chuck Foreman 1975 MIN 2.6866 3.8961 1.6399
16 Eric Dickerson 1984 RAM 2.6801 -.6167 3.0725
17 Chris Johnson 2009 TEN 2.6261 1.4581 2.6549
18 Emmitt Smith 1992 DAL 2.6155 .2578 2.8157
19 Terrell Davis 1998 DEN 2.6154 .3347 2.9720
20 Steve Van Buren 1945 PHI 2.6056 .2962 2.7657
21 Eric Dickerson 1983 RAM 2.6047 .6923 2.6073
22 Barry Sanders 1997 DET 2.6041 .8985 2.7346
23 Marshall Faulk 2000 STL 2.5912 3.2415 2.2297
24 Adrian Peterson 2012 MIN 2.5747 -.0503 2.9372
25 Shaun Alexander 2005 SEA 2.5459 -.5579 2.9044
26 Dutch Clark 1934 DET 2.5401 .1243 2.8873
27 Andy Farkas 1939 WAS 2.5192 3.7564 1.3472
28 Christian McCaffrey 2019 CAR 2.5126 2.8698 2.0450
29 Gale Sayers 1965 CHI 2.4857 1.9033 2.2125
30 Jamaal Charles 2013 KAN 2.4769 2.8860 1.8256
Beattie Feathers and his 1934 season have a place in NFL history for being the first season that anyone ever rushed for over 1,000 yards, a feat that wasn't accomplished again for another 13 years. He also rushed for an absurd 8.4 yards per carry which gave him an absurd Z-Score of 4.778 over his peers (aka, an immensely ridiculous historical outlier). Then, in typical early-NFL fashion, he proceeded to suck ass for the rest of his NFL career just like every other back in the 30's. Why did this happen? I don't know. Do not ask me. I cannot tell you.
OJ Simpson has the two of the four best seasons of the Super Bowl era. His 1973 season is his most famous one, in which he ran for a still-standing record of 143.1 yards per game and six yards per carry. But his 1975 season is actually superior because he scored more touchdowns and blossomed as a receiver. He accomplished a (still-standing!) NFL record for 160.2 scrimmage yards per game and scored 1.6 touchdowns per game (fifth most ever behind two seasons by Priest Holmes, and one each from Ladainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander).
Spec Sanders in 1947 for the All-American Football Conference's New York Yankees accomplished a similarly ridiculous outlier to Feathers when he broke out for 1,432 yards and 18 touchdowns, both of which were Z-Scores of over 5.000, so even more insane. I should note that his attempts per game Z-Score is also nearly 4.000, which is ludicrously high, so even though his 6.2 YPC figure was very high this was mostly the result of extremely, uncommonly high usage. It should also be noted that the AAFC was a much different league than the NFL, and offensive totals for both teams and players were generally higher.
Lenny Moore's 1958 season, the 14th-highest ranked, is an interesting one. Moore was kind of tough for me because he was one of the only NFL players in history outside of maybe Bobby Mitchell who could play both RB and WR (they frequently called them flankers or split ends back then) at an extremely high All-Pro level and routinely did so and as a result I went back and forth between classifying him as an RB or WR. His 78.2 receiving yards per game (at 18.8 yards per reception!) is the highest ever for a running back, but he also managed to run for 50 yards per game and averaged a ridiculous 7.3 yards per carry. He averaged 11.6 yards per touch that season, single-handedly broke my index, and made me rethink how much to factor in yards per touch into the "Best" score formula. He is, without a doubt, one of the most electrifying players in NFL history. Imagine if you took Jamaal Charles as a rusher and Tyreek Hill as a receiver and made them into one player, and you have Lenny Moore.
Chris Johnson broke the NFL record for scrimmage yards in a season in his 2009 campaign, which should explain his 17th ranking.
But plenty of people don't consider career totals to be the best measuring stick, and find it quite distasteful for players to stick around for too long in order to prop them up. So what about career averages?

Best Running Backs By Average "Best" Score (min. 60 games)

Rank Player Career "Best" Average Career "Best" Total Career Receiving Total Career Receiving Average Career Rushing Total Career Rushing Average
1 Jim Brown 2.1835 19.652 3.9954 .4439 22.7890 2.5321
2 Barry Sanders 1.8074 18.074 3.9118 .3912 19.4394 1.9439
3 Gale Sayers 1.6394 8.197 2.9358 .5872 9.0934 1.8187
4 Alvin Kamara 1.4990 5.996 8.3217 2.0804 4.4126 1.1032
5 Walter Payton 1.4235 18.505 7.4242 .5711 18.8248 1.4481
6 Leroy Kelly 1.3195 10.556 4.6020 .5752 11.5058 1.4382
7 Ezekiel Elliott 1.3142 7.885 3.8529 .6422 7.4320 1.2387
8 Eric Dickerson 1.3103 13.103 1.4206 .1421 14.5297 1.4530
9 Billy Sims 1.2705 6.352 4.2953 .8591 5.9932 1.1986
10 Chuck Foreman 1.2673 8.871 11.2577 1.6082 6.1641 .8806
Hopefully no one is too troubled by the 60 games played exclusion. Unless you guys wanted Jonathan Taylor to be the second-ranked player on this list?
So there's Jim Brown sitting on his own at the top, like Aaron Donald in the top right corner of one of those Pass Rush Win Rate/Double Team Rate charts that Ben Baldwin tweets out.
Gale Sayers ranks quite high, because he famously did not play for very long. His two final nonsense seasons are normalized to zero, giving him five seasons of remarkably good scores (he has two seasons in the top 100, in fact). Sayers retired with a career YPC average of 5.0 yards per carry, which is pretty remarkable, and he scored 20 touchdowns in his rookie season which was nearly unheard of at that time.
Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott might seem like they got pretty high marks on this list, but it's of course important to remember that these guys are in the relative primes of their careers and have yet to debase themselves by suffering through several seasons as backup-level has-beens which would drag down their score (and they have also, crucially, been very good players). I have tried to account for this in my later tables, so stay tuned for that.
Billy Sims is a guy who has kind of been overshadowed by Barry in Lions history, but I think deserves credit for being a great player (though he, too, retired early which benefits this ranking). His 118.9 career yards from scrimmage per game ranks second all-time behind only Jim Brown, and he was an All-Pro in each of his first two seasons. He played just five seasons. He suffered a catastrophic knee injury in 1984 that effectively ended his career but I think it's entirely possible that had that not happened, we view Billy as one of the best running backs ever.
Chuck Foreman is probably the biggest "nobody" on this list. But this isn't really because of any nonsense (though he retired relatively early, after just eight seasons). To be honest, my index just seems to think that Chuck Foreman was extremely fucking good.
For those not in the know, Chuck Foreman was a running back for the Vikings in the 70's who is perhaps best known for being one of NFL history's first great dual-threat backs. A relatively big guy at 6'2 and 210 pounds, Foreman could run inside as a fullback but also holds three of the top 10 receiving seasons for a back in the 70's, and his average for receiving score is the third most all time. I'd say he's one of the most underrated players in NFL history, and in a five year stretch at the start of his career he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, the third-highest vote getter for MVP, the fourth-highest vote getter for MVP, a second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in consecutive years.
But most people like to look at players by their best seasons, which is why I've made...

Best Running Backs By Career Prime Average (min. 60 games)

Rank Player Prime "Best" Average Prime Receiving Average Prime Rushing Average Prime Total Average
1 Jim Brown 2.7405 .5896 3.1107 2.7619
2 OJ Simpson 2.5677 .6771 2.8575 2.5619
3 Emmitt Smith 2.4429 .3397 2.5789 2.5109
4 Barry Sanders 2.3820 .7691 2.4882 2.3217
5 Eric Dickerson 2.3596 .1082 2.5345 2.2214
6 Walter Payton 2.2992 .5483 2.4565 2.2505
7 Leroy Kelly 2.1517 .7146 2.3860 2.2359
8 Marshall Faulk 2.1250 2.7107 1.7059 2.3802
9 LaDainian Tomlinson 2.1092 1.6681 2.0331 2.3516
10 Thurman Thomas 2.0956 1.9756 1.6492 2.1561
"Prime" averages are merely an average of a player's four-highest ranking seasons in the overall database.
We see a lot of the same folks as we saw in the Career "Best" Total table, to the surprise of no one. Jim Brown once again dominates the field, Simpson is understandably second given the immensely high rank of his top seasons as I've already discussed, Sanders, Smith, Payton, Faulk, Dickerson and Tomlinson all make appearances (though you'll note that Emmitt has actually gained two spots, good for him). So let's focus on two guys.
Leroy Kelly, Jim Brown's successor in Cleveland, is perhaps underrated for his inability to get out from under his predecessor's shadow. Some would also say that Kelly's immediate success in the aftermath of Brown is indicative of why Brown is overrated by this index. He is a Hall of Famer for good reason, especially in rushing categories he picked up quite well from where Brown left off even if he was a significant downgrade. In the three-year stretch following Brown's retirement, Kelly led the NFL in rushing twice and led the NFL in rushing touchdowns each season.
Thurman Thomas has a soft spot in my heart, and I'm glad to see him get some love here. In my view, Thomas should be considered one of the best dual-threat backs of all time and he is tied for fourth all-time for seasons with over 1,800 yards from scrimmage behind three other guys on this list, and is one of only 16 players to have multiple seasons with over 2,000 scrimmage yards. I feel his legacy is often dulled by the notorious failings of that era of Bills teams in the Super Bowl and I would have loved to have seen him win one just to cement his place in NFL history as an all-time great.
There's always a middle ground, and I'm sure I'll hear that. So I've created a specific metric that tries to only compare players by the seasons in which they were entrenched starters to sus out the crappy years on second teams or years as a backup and whatever the fuck.

Best Running Backs By Starter "Best" Average (min. 60 games as starter)

Rank Player Total Games "Best" Starter Total "Best" Starter Average Rushing Starter Total Rushing Starter Average Receiving Starter Total Receiving Starter Average
1 Jim Brown 118 19.6517 2.1835 22.7890 2.5321 2.6806 .2978
2 Terrell Davis 61 7.6525 1.9131 8.0802 2.0201 1.4640 .3660
3 Earl Campbell 76 9.0967 1.8193 11.1381 2.2276 -3.7148 -.7430
4 Barry Sanders 153 18.0741 1.8074 19.4394 1.9439 2.9908 .2991
5 Jamaal Charles 77 8.7502 1.7500 7.8485 1.5697 5.9366 1.1873
6 Priest Holmes 62 6.6091 1.6523 6.6200 1.6550 4.5143 1.1286
7 William Andrews 63 6.1914 1.5479 5.3302 1.3326 5.1247 1.2812
8 Walter Payton 181 18.4957 1.5413 18.7596 1.5633 6.7688 .5641
9 OJ Simpson 107 12.1101 1.5138 12.9222 1.6153 4.0549 .5069
10 Leroy Kelly 96 10.5561 1.5080 11.5058 1.6437 4.5707 .6530
This metric removes every season with under 10 games and under 12.5 touches per game (equivalent to 213 touches over 17 games in the year 2021, which seemed to be the divide for a "starter" last year). 10 games is generally the lowest number of games for a full season dating back to 1932. I used averages because the top ten totals are identical to the career rankings we've already talked about and I want to talk about some new people. God damn it.
Jim Brown dominates again.
Terrell Davis shouldn't be a shocker, because he is sort of a unique case. Davis played just four seasons of real consequence, and those four seasons were immensely dominant (and would be even more dominant if I included playoff totals, which he was truly incredible in regards to). And I'm glad to give a shoutout to all of the Broncos-heads out there.
Earl Campbell has gotta (GOTTA) make an appearance somewhere, and he understandably does in many of the rushing totals and averages rankings that exist within the broader database. Earl is one of the best pure rushers in NFL history even though his volume stats aren't always eye-popping. Going outside of my database, I also have an unpopular YouTube channel in which I've made career highlights for players and after pouring through dozens of hours of footage for this Earl Campbell video I made, Earl is perhaps the best pure rusher I have ever seen.
Priest Holmes is also a guy we should expect to show up at some point, in terms of raw stats his per game stretch from 2001-2004 is the best of any running back ever, like truly shocking. From 2001-2004, his per game averages would equate to 2,265 scrimmage yards, 22.5 total touchdowns and 4.75 yards per carry over a 16 game season. That is as good as a running back has ever played and probably will ever play. But, he also didn't have many seasons of "starter" quality and had a lot of injury-riddled and backup seasons so he isn't well-represented overall.
William Andrews was the Falcons' candidate for "best running back" and I'm sure that was sort of interesting to certain people. Andrews is another guy in the Chuck Foreman vein who was a bit ahead of the curve in regards to being involved in the passing game while also being an All-Pro level runner. He rushed for a well-above average 4.6 career YPC and accomplished the 2,000 yards from scrimmage total twice, much like my boy Thurman Thomas. Famed 49ers safety Ronnie Lott once said that the hardest hits he'd ever received in his NFL career were during his games against Andrews and the Falcons. And that guy lost a finger, sort of!
Here's a few other rankings you guys might like, with minimal commentary.

Best Running Backs By Career Rushing Score Total

Rank Player Career Rushing Total
1 Jim Brown 22.7890
2 Barry Sanders 19.4394
3 Emmitt Smith 18.9226
4 Walter Payton 18.8248
5 Joe Perry 15.2664
6 Adrian Peterson 15.2168
7 Eric Dickerson 14.5297
8 OJ Simpson 13.5183
9 Franco Harris 13.1196
10 LaDainian Tomlinson 12.8265

Best Running Backs By Career Rushing Score Average (min. 60 games)

Rank Player Career Rushing Average
1 Jim Brown 2.5321
2 Barry Sanders 1.9439
3 Gale Sayers 1.8187
4 Dan Towler 1.5969
5 Eric Dickerson 1.4530
6 Walter Payton 1.4481
7 Leroy Kelly 1.4382
8 Earl Campbell 1.3923
9 Derrick Henry 1.3915
10 Steve Van Buren 1.3895

Best Running Backs By Career Receiving Score Total

Rank Player Career Receiving Total
1 Marshall Faulk 18.5146
2 Lenny Moore 17.9822
3 Larry Centers 16.3766
4 Darren Sproles 14.4240
5 Brian Westbrook 14.0900
6 Keith Byars 12.5608
7 Ronnie Harmon 12.2825
8 Joe Morrison 12.2230
9 Matt Forte 11.5011
10 Chuck Foreman 11.2577

Best Running Backs By Career Receiving Score Average (min. 60 games)

Rank Player Career Receiving Average
1 Austin Ekeler 1.7334
2 Lenny Moore 1.6347
3 Chuck Foreman 1.6082
4 Darren Sproles 1.6027
5 Clem Daniels 1.5980
6 Brian Westbrook 1.5656
7 Marshall Faulk 1.5429
8 Joe Morrison 1.5279
9 James White 1.5044
10 Larry Centers 1.4888

"But Where Is (This Guy)?"

This is a little segment I've made to answer some inevitable questions I'll get about various players who don't show up anywhere in this post.
Player Career "Best" Total Rank Career "Best" Total Career "Best" Average Total Prime "Best" "Best" Starter Average
LeSean McCoy 18 9.7871 .8897 1.7646 1.0075
Frank Gore 20 9.4703 .5919 1.2726 .6804
John Riggins 28 8.7850 .6275 1.3602 .7165
Roger Craig 31 8.2312 .7483 1.5216 .9409
Edgerrin James 34 8.0800 .8080 1.6169 1.0087
Matt Forte 41 7.5588 .7559 1.2159 .8399
Clinton Portis 49 7.1235 .7915 1.4196 1.1873
Chris Johnson 50 7.0562 .7840 1.4232 1.0080
Corey Dillon 51 6.9288 .6929 1.0572 .7699
Jerome Bettis 67 6.1331 .4718 1.1670 .4734
Steven Jackson 68 6.1178 .5562 .9919 .5705
Eddie George 74 5.7607 .6401 1.1109 .7043
Ricky Williams 76 5.6969 .5179 1.2085 .8034
Jamal Lewis 81 5.5494 .6166 1.2247 .6746
Michael Turner 91 5.1662 .6458 1.0785 .9416
Larry Johnson 104 4.8266 .8044 1.2067 .8012

Biggest surprise of the database?

Gonna have to give it up to former Rams and 49ers running back Wendell Tyler.
Who is this? Even I, a truly greedy NFL history loadpig, barely knew who this guy was prior to this little project. He made only a single Pro Bowl in 1984, and he's benefited by having early injuries that resulted in three seasons under 50 touches (that matters for this, read the methodology to find out why) but this index fucking loves him. Here's a breakdown of a few big scores:
Player Career "Best" Total Rank Career "Best" Total Career "Best" Average Total Prime "Best" "Best" Starter Average Average Career Percentile Average Career Percentile Rank
Wendell Tyler 36 7.7673 1.1096 1.4781 1.3329 .876 4
So he ranks pretty weirdly high in career "Best" total, above players like Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Corey Dillon, Priest Holmes and Marshawn Lynch and his average season ranked in the 88th percentile, behind only Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. He has a career yards per carry average of 4.7, which for that era is very high for a lead back.
Just a cool thing I wanted to share.
So that's the good stuff. Here's the methodology.


So the overall method for how I calculated these scores is the same as the one for my team scores, which I detail in the methodology of this post.
A big consideration for this post...
  • Every season in this particular database has a minimum of 50 touches. This was not my original intention, and in another spreadsheet I have the 11,000 players for every individual season, but Google Sheets literally would not let me load them in without crashing the webpage. I tried for a long time, I swear. But I don't think it should be a huge deal, in fact I think it's a little better in some respects because there are a lot of unrecorded seasons for guys in the 30's and 40's and as a result, seasons from that era would have been even more overrepresented than they already are. This is also a big reason why I chose to normalize all negative Z-Scores to zero.
So here are the formulas. All stats shown in these formulas are for their Z-Scores in those stats, not their raw stats.
  • "Best" score: ((Y/A.29)+(ScrimmageYds.35)+(TotalTDs.27)+(Y/T.03)+(-Fumbles+.06)). I'll admit that I struggled a bit to come up with the best thing here. People generally seem to value yards the most, which is why reaching things like 2,000 yard benchmarks are so highly thought of. This is also kind of my reasoning for Y/A ranking higher than TDs (which I expect will be controversial). A player like Barry Sanders is generally much more highly thought of than someone like Marcus Allen, John Riggins or Jerome Bettis who performed much better as touchdown monsters because a lot of touchdown scoring is schematic and situational, whereas Y/A is more indicative of a player's down-by-down effectiveness. Overall I think people would have taken issue with fumbles weighing too heavily overall in this formula (especially considering that the numbers for fumbles lost get pretty hard to find as we get further back in time). Yards/Touch has a pretty meager impact because in my testing to come to this final formula, having this weigh in too heavily would give scat back types and hybrid players from the early NFL a massive advantage.
  • Rushing Score: ((Yards.36)+(TDs.29)+(Y/A*.35)). Pretty similar to the "Best" Score, just for rushing stats only.
  • Receiving Score: ((Receptions.20)+(RecYards.35)+(Y/R.20)+(RecTD.25)). This is a tough one because if you go back to the 30's and 40's, a lot of the work that was done in the passing game was done by "backs" and even into the 50's and 60's it wasn't uncommon to see running backs play a decent amount of flanker or end if they had the skills, and I didn't want this score to be too heavily dominated by guys from those eras and wanted Y/R to have a somewhat muted impact. Nowadays, a running back garnering a bunch of receptions is seen as a pretty good indicator of their skill as a pass receiver because it demonstrates a team's willingness to use them in the passing game. Overall, what I really didn't want was for a guy who was used like a WR and caught a few go balls to get a huge advantage over someone who was used more consistently as a traditional scat back.
So Career Totals are not exceptionally problematic in my opinion, I think they serve their purpose quite well. Career averages have their issues because they can drag down players who were injured in the midseason, which is why I decided it was necessary to include Prime and Starter Totals/Averages.
Thanks guys, this was long. Oh my god, this was long. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the index and any ways that you think that it could be improved. If there's something specific you'd like for me to look for or try to calculate, it's almost certainly not going to be too hard to put together and I could make an updated version of some of these tables with your suggested parameters within a few minutes. Don't hesitate to ask!
I obviously don't expect this to end any long-standing debates, there are a million things to consider outside of anything purely statistical. But the best case scenario for this index is that it serves to remove some of the "you can't compare across eras" fog that surrounds these conversations.
More is on the way. I've got a bunch more stuff and don't even know if I can or will post them by the time training camp begins and the dead period officially ends, but I'm looking forward to exploring more of NFL history with you all.
Pro-Football-Reference, you guys are gods among men.
Don't forget to like, comment and subscribe. I'm kidding. But wouldn't it be funny if I actually said that?
submitted by gyman122 to nfl [link] [comments]

(OC) I Used Math To Rank All 2,053 Teams In NFL History By How Badass They Are

First off, I'd like to begin by saying that I'm fine. Things are fine in my personal life. I spend appropriate amounts of time with friends and family, love to travel, enjoy meaningful employment and am an engaged citizen.
Now, that said, over the last few years I have been compiling and organizing a database of every individual season by a team that is currently available on ProFootballReference. I have then used this database to calculate Z-Scores for each individual stat for each individual team. Which is fine, Warren Buffett plays the ukulele, Aaron Rodgers makes his own soap and Sylvia Plath liked to bake. Everybody has their hobbies.
Here's the spreadsheet I'll be referencing in this post, which includes the complete ranking of all 2,053 individual team seasons, if you're interested.
What is Z-Score? Who cares. Most of you are probably barely skimming over this or skipping to the findings.
If you do care, head down to the Methodology section at the bottom of this post and you can tell me about all the ways in which this has been an extremely flawed undertaking.
For our purposes all you need to know is that, using Z-Score, I have devised a way to compare across different eras of the sport by comparing the raw numbers of a given stat (adjusted to per game averages to account for the differences in games played per season) to a given team's peers within their own era. So, for example, a team from 1973 rushing for 2000 yards as a team will have a lower score in "total rushing yards" than a team from 2015 rushing for 2000 yards because the average rushing totals from 1971-1975 are higher than 2013-2017, and it will take a higher mark from the 1973 team to overcome that handicap. And vice versa, if we are talking about passing yards or something like that.
A higher Z-score is better (except for in the case of Protection Score, because allowing sacks is not badass). a score of "0" is totally average. A score of "1" is very good. A score of "2" means they were one of the best performers in a given stat over a five year range if not the decade. A score of "3" means they are a historically significant outlier, and anything higher than that is utter ridiculousness.
I'm probably gonna be doing a lot of fun stuff with this database over the next few months, but I figured what more fun way to introduce you all to this index than something that seeks to objectively rank the most badass, smashmouth, hard-nosed, and physically terrifying teams in NFL history? To begin, we have to ask ourselves...
What does "badass" mean?
I have used some combination of these statistics in various measures to come up with my Badass Score!TM formula (which you can peep in Methodology). I realize some of you may have different opinions about what constitutes "badass", but this is my list, not yours.

The Top 10 Most Badass Teams of All Time

Team Badass Score! Rushing Att Rushing Total Rushing Defense Total Defense Turnovers Forced Protection Score Pass Rush
1. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.8088 2.5801 2.5416 1.8571 1.8212 1.5558 -.2320 .6921
2. 1985 Chicago Bears 1.7769 1.9359 1.9644 1.5001 2.1531 2.1072 .1804 1.6678
3. 1986 Chicago Bears 1.7471 2.0086 1.5644 1.7512 2.4323 1.4060 -1.1450 1.6134
4. 1973 Los Angeles Rams 1.6787 2.9212 1.4354 1.6269 1.7140 .5144 -1.1323 1.8546
5. 1984 Chicago Bears 1.6653 2.9891 1.6984 1.2396 1.9351 -.4892 -.2286 2.8014
6. 1949 Philadelphia Eagles 1.6478 2.7979 1.1051 1.3981 2.1978 .3935 -1.4197 1.9981
7. 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.5792 2.7232 1.7435 1.6233 1.7852 -.2375 -.3693 1.9534
8. 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.5749 2.2948 .9430 .1364 1.9667 1.8451 -1.2058 2.4650
9. 2019 Baltimore Ravens 1.5618 3.5770 2.9060 .4837 1.2390 .6330 -.5888 -.0475
10. 2003 Baltimore Ravens 1.5403 2.0442 1.6645 1.4504 1.6376 1.8970 .8440 1.2575
Some of this should come as no surprise. The Steel Curtain Steelers are widely considered to be one of the best dynasties of all-time, most well-known for their overwhelming defenses and the rushing contributions of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers led the league in total rushing defense, fewest rushing touchdowns allowed and fewest yards per attempt allowed by massive margins. Additionally, as of 1976, this was the third most rushing yards a team had ever totaled to go along with a ridiculous 2.36 rushing touchdowns per game. Though this wasn't the best season in the history of the Steel Curtain, it was definitely their most badass.
In a three-year span from 1984-1986, the Chicago Bears were so insanely badass that they made the top five three times (and I should note, several other Bears teams from that era were not far off). I think most people would have anticipated the 1985 Bears on this list, but this truly does illustrate the way in which Ditka and Ryan took smashmouth football to it's logical extremes with immense rushing totals, historically anachronistic reliance on the ground game, and the utterly bonkers defensive numbers that these Chicago teams have come to be famous for.
The 1973 Los Angeles Rams might be less familiar to you all than the others on this list, but I can vouch for their badassery. They were one of the most comprehensively good teams to never win a playoff game, for starters. They ran the ball an average of over 47 times per game for an average of nearly 209 yards per game, the sixth most of the Super Bowl era. They also led the league in most rushing defense categories and had the third most sacks, and though this holds less weight, they allowed QB John Hadl to be sacked just 17 times.
The 1949 Philadelphia Eagles get a bump by virtue of being the single most run-heavy team in the recorded history of the NFL, rushing for a (still standing!) NFL record 53 times per game. Better stated, that constitutes over 70% of all of their offensive plays. They also had an elite rushing defense and averaged 3.75 sacks per game defensively en route to an NFL Championship. Running back Steve Van Buren set an NFL record that season with 1,146 yards (on an NFL record 263 attempts) that wouldn't be broken until Jim Brown utterly shattered it in 1958, rushing for 1,527 yards on six fewer attempts (which, I'll say, is pretty badass).
The 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers are our first 21st century team, and one of the more superficially badass teams on the list with their big OL, classical Steelers defensive grit, running QB in Kordell Stewart and a bruising 260-pound RB in Jerome Bettis. They have the fourth highest rushing attempts total of the last twenty years. They get dragged down a bit by their general lack of turnovers created.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusion in the top ten is the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars, because we don't really associate them with either rushing offense or defense which this list has henceforth been centered around (they, in fact had a relatively average if not below average rushing defense for the era while their top two rushers averaged under 4 YPC on the season). They benefit from the "Sacksonville" bump, they had the second highest sack totals and sack rate of the era behind the 2017 Steelers (who sucked at running the ball) as well as a very high rushing attempts Z-Score. They also were such a substantial outlier as a passing defense that they made significant gains in the "total defense" category.
And finally, it wouldn't be a list about badass teams without including the Baltimore Ravens. Most of you are probably baffled about the exclusion of the 2000 Ravens in favor of these two teams (the 2000 team ranks 28th). I'll admit this gave me some degree of pause about the validity of the formula, but all in all I've made my peace with it. The 2000 Ravens had a below average pass rush, weren't great at protecting the QB, and weren't particularly dominant as a rushing offense. The 2019 Ravens, by contrast, weren't quite as dominant in many defensive stats as you'd expect from a Ravens team but were so intergalactically, astronomically off the charts in their rushing figures for the era that they supersede all that. The 2003 Ravens, notable for being the year that Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 rushing yards, were more aesthetically traditional and balanced on the badassery front.
Those of you who aren't Steelers, Ravens or Bears fans might be somewhat disappointed by the exclusion of one of your team's most badass seasons, which is why I have taken the liberty of also compiling...

Every NFL Franchise's Most Badass Team

Team Badass Score! Rushing Att Rushing Total Rushing Defense Total Defense Turnovers Forced Protection Score Pass Rush
NFC North
1985 Chicago Bears (2nd) 1.7769 1.9359 1.9644 1.5001 2.1531 2.1072 .1804 1.6678
1962 Green Bay Packers (14th) 1.4544 1.6559 2.3024 1.0758 2.1270 1.1846 .3117 .7515
1969 Minnesota Vikings (45th) 1.1758 1.0371 .1961 1.7341 2.4797 .9477 .1834 1.5274
1962 Detroit Lions (51st) 1.1479 1.1370 .0291 1.4793 2.0171 .7991 -.3544 2.1055
NFC East
1971 Dallas Cowboys (27th) 1.3182 .9152 1.5896 1.5267 1.0252 2.4735 -.0109 .9419
1983 Washington Redskins (19th) 1.4048 2.1188 1.6810 1.3654 -.3130 2.8984 -1.5517 .4258
1949 Philadelphia Eagles (6th) 1.6478 2.7979 1.1051 1.3981 2.1978 .3935 -1.4197 1.9981
1985 New York Giants (46th) 1.1714 1.4497 1.2211 1.3345 1.7204 -.0802 .5992 1.9530
NFC South
1987 New Orleans Saints (44th) 1.1782 2.0609 .7022 .7909 .8641 2.0542 -.5763 .7538
1977 Atlanta Falcons (140th) .8736 1.3595 -1.1356 1.0625 2.0763 1.9032 .9753 1.1073
2015 Carolina Panthers (25th) 1.3319 2.1081 1.1764 .7715 1.0339 2.7216 -.2536 .4419
2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (123rd) .9166 .9477 .7578 .1419 .9817 1.6618 .2462 1.4955
NFC West
1973 Los Angeles Rams (4th) 1.6787 2.9212 1.4354 1.6269 1.7140 .5144 -1.1323 1.8546
2014 Seattle Seahawks (22nd) 1.3476 1.9702 2.3429 1.6013 2.2606 .0254 .8574 .2250
1997 San Francisco 49ers (24th) 1.3345 1.5580 .3860 1.3723 1.9924 1.7465 .8133 1.9739
1960 St. Louis Cardinals (20th) 1.4003 2.1735 1.2669 1.1681 1.1818 1.2297 -.4220 1.6093
AFC North
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers (1st) 1.8088 2.5801 2.5416 1.8571 1.8212 1.5558 -.2320 .6921
2019 Baltimore Ravens (9th) 1.5618 3.5770 2.9060 .4837 1.2390 .6330 -.5888 -.0475
2013 Cincinnati Bengals (265th) .7009 .9856 -.3655 .9695 1.3690 1.0452 -.9255 .4076
1954 Cleveland Browns (183rd) .8024 1.0870 .5788 1.9463 1.7782 .2851 .0898 -.5286
AFC East
2009 New York Jets (15th) 1.4470 3.3105 1.7302 .6979 2.3470 .7515 .0155 -.2150
1976 New England Patriots (26th) 1.3205 1.4883 2.3987 .2697 .4343 2.1265 -1.2181 .9540
1972 Miami Dolphins (11th) 1.5249 2.4715 2.4910 .6153 1.3267 1.8078 -.6007 .2729
1992 Buffalo Bills (50th) 1.1484 1.9484 1.5257 1.2578 .7933 .5785 -.6844 .6649
AFC South
2011 Houston Texans (62nd) 1.1150 2.1482 1.1658 .7827 1.4832 .1669 -.1334 1.0192
2000 Tennessee Titans (30th) 1.2984 2.0808 .2119 1.1376 2.4181 .0455 -.8378 2.2281
2017 Jacksonville Jaguars (8th) 1.5749 2.2948 .9430 .1364 1.9667 1.8451 -1.2058 2.4650
1958 Baltimore Colts (60th) 1.1190 .8568 1.5488 .6029 .8986 2.4836 -.9947 .3890
AFC West
1998 Denver Broncos (83rd) 1.0336 1.5215 2.1999 1.1084 .3222 .0338 -1.1892 .5366
1969 Kansas City Chiefs (16th) 1.4367 1.6945 1.3058 1.3817 1.6105 1.6736 -.4980 1.3245
2006 San Diego Chargers (31st) 1.2980 1.3985 2.4761 .1716 .7007 .0729 -.4876 2.9413
1967 Oakland Raiders (34th) 1.2721 .6409 .9183 1.3211 1.5464 1.2602 .2132 2.8212​
I won't spend too much time on this and will let you folks look into this at your own leisure. But there's a few interesting ones.
The 2013 Cincinnati Bengals might seem like an interesting "most badass" team, as I'm sure there are plenty of fans here who remember that team and don't remember them as being particularly badass. This is backed up by their relatively meager .7009 Badass Score!TM and 265th rank, which is basically just in the "pretty badass" range. Their defense was generally quite good and allowed just six total rushing touchdowns, and they ran the ball a lot (but poorly). The 1988 Bengals are just down the line at rank 274th, that was the second Super Bowl run of their franchise's history which saw the likes of Ickey Woods and James Brooks dominate the rushing scene (for my money, one of the most underrated running games of all-time).
The 1977 "Grits Blitz" Atlanta Falcons, famous for achieving a still-standing Super Bowl era record for points allowed per game (just 9.2!), are another low-ranking badass team. This is largely because of how one-sided their badassery manifested, they were a dominant defense in almost all respects while being an utterly putrid offense, despite high rushing attempts.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins, famous for being the only team in the Super Bowl era to have a comprehensively undefeated season, just barely missed out on the top ten by coming in at #11. I feel like the badassery of this team is oftentimes understated in discussions about the season, but this team really was truly badass. Led by a beefed up Marlboro model in fullback Larry Csonka, the Dolphins put together one of the best running games of all time and forced an average of nearly 3.3 turnovers per game.
Now, let's get into something that will really rile people up...

Which NFL FRANCHISE Is The Most Badass?

Rank Team Franchise Average
1 Ravens .4793
2 Steelers .3392
3 Bears .2592
4 Cowboys .2459
5 Panthers .1510
6 49ers .1367
7 Chiefs .1224
8 Vikings .1185
9 Rams .0810
10 Patriots .0783
11 Giants .0655
12 Bills .0532
13 Broncos .0505
14 Packers .0294
15 Eagles .0162
16 Seahawks -.0120
17 Titans/Oilers -.0179
18 Raiders -.0279
19 Commanders/Football Team/Redskins -.0428
20 Chargers -.0560
21 Dolphins -.0642
22 Browns -.0808
23 Saints -.1106
24 Jaguars -.1195
25 Jets/Titans -.1317
26 Bengals -.1331
27 Colts -.1507
28 Lions -.1567
29 Texans -.1997
30 Buccaneers -.2171
31 Cardinals -.2267
32 Falcons -.3473
To the dismay of AFC North fans and to the surprise of absolutely no one else, the Ravens are unequivocally NFL history's most badass franchise, followed in turn by the Steelers, Bears and Cowboys before a substantial drop off to the #5 Panthers.
This is not surprising because A) The Ravens as a franchise have historically defined themselves by their throwback, smashmouth approach to the game of football that has in many ways remained consistent since they moved to Baltimore and rebranded in 1996 and B) because... well, their franchise history only goes back to 1996 (the Panthers also benefit from this). It's much easier to achieve outlier status in rankings such as these when the sample size is much smaller.
I should note something that anyone who is actually reading this whole thing (what's your deal, by the way?) has probably already identified, which is that it's much easier to be badass when your team is good. The Ravens and even the Panthers have been successful franchises in their short lives and when you aren't constantly dealing with totally floundering quarterbacks and a general lack of talent you can commit more fully to a singular vision of what you want your team to look and play like. Alternatively, we can also say that in this sport of large men crashing into each other violently, it's no surprise that being extremely badass correlates well with success.
This makes it all the more impressive and interesting that the Steelers and Cowboys, but particularly the Bears, have been able to maintain this common thread of hard-nosed excellence through the ups and downs their franchises have experienced in their long histories. The Steelers and Cowboys have been pretty consistently good for the last 50 years or so, and that helps, but the Bears coming in at third despite being one of the founding teams of the NFL and not enjoying that same level of success consistently is a real achievement in badassery.
EDIT: Little late but I actually ran the numbers for the Steelers from 1996-present and, sorry Ravens fans, the Steelers have a Z-Score of .5076 which means they actually have the lead since the "start" of the Ravens franchise.
And just for shits and giggles because I'm sure someone out there is curious...

The Top 10 LEAST Badass Teams of All Time

Team Badass Score! Rushing Att Rushing Total Rushing Defense Total Defense Turnovers Forced Protection Score Pass Rush
1. 1980 New Orleans Saints -1.9271 -2.9003 -1.1670 -2.6361 -2.2819 -2.2334 .3470 -.9353
2. 1999 Cleveland Browns -1.7911 -2.5863 -1.1081 -2.5518 -1.4126 -1.4183 1.7673 -1.7630
3. 1987 Atlanta Falcons -1.7200 -2.1845 -1.2280 -2.3395 -1.9394 -1.0418 .4562 -2.1311
4. 1972 New England Patriots -1.6173 -1.4115 -.2718 -2.5556 -2.7992 -1.5086 .8806 -1.9757
5. 2008 Detroit Lions -1.5773 -1.7216 -.9853 -2.8053 -2.7676 -1.2193 1.5205 -.2232
6. 1981 Baltimore Colts -1.5217 -1.1995 -.2619 -1.9002 -3.2232 -1.2110 -.1611 -2.4715
7. 2000 Arizona Cardinals -1.4943 -1.9747 -1.2283 -2.3212 -1.2772 -1.4238 -.4089 -1.4105
8. 1992 Atlanta Falcons -1.4640 -2.2886 -1.1781 -2.0432 -1.9017 -1.3309 .0928 -.4345
9. 2020 Houston Texans -1.4322 -1.5880 -.7427 -2.2154 -1.7651 -2.2529 1.0908 -.3984
10. 1993 Indianapolis Colts -1.4269 -1.5437 -1.3615 -2.0424 -1.2348 -1.6139 -.7689 -1.5765
This obviously could read just as much like a who's who of generally shitty NFL teams as much as ones about the least badass.
The Colts and the Falcons, my index's least badass NFL franchise, have the unfortunate distinctions of being the only franchises to have two teams in the bottom ten. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts (1,663rd) are also the lowest-ranked team to win a Super Bowl or league championship.
The 1980 New Orleans Saints are the only one I'll devote too much time to. This was right smack dab in the ugliest part of the team's history and they finished with a record of 1-15 with their sole player of significance being quarterback Archie Manning. The Saints passed the ball nearly 59% of the time which was pretty unusual in those days, and they actually finished with a respectable .5401 total passing Z-Score (which we'll get into in the coming weeks). But their rushing attempts and rushing totals were terrible, and they were notable for their awful defense which gave up the second most rushing yards of any team in the 16-game era (to go along with giving up more TDs and more Y/A than the 1978 Buffalo Bills, who were first in yards).
Outside of them, I think we're all pretty familiar with how generally godawful the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 1999 Cleveland Browns were at basically everything. And though the 2020 Houston Texans had some more success as a team because of the efforts of a certain controversial quarterback, I'm sure it doesn't take too much recollection to remember that they were a pretty pitiful defense as a whole.
And now to the boring stuff.


I'll begin with some important considerations and concessions.
  • This database is compiled purely from regular season statistics. Sorry folks, playoff statistics organized neatly for compilation are just hard to come by and to be honest I'm not even sure how I'd weight them.
  • I did not differentiate between teams in the NFL, AFL and AAFC so they were all calculated together. In previous iterations of this database I did, but when I recently figured out a Google Sheets formula I liked to calculate everything from all six of my spreadsheets within a matter of a couple hours, I decided I was not that interested in adding a few more hours finding and separating these teams to calculate their Z-Scores that way. It is also my belief that outside of the first few years of the AFL the two major leagues were not massively different in their league averages. So the only real big thing is that the AAFC has some historically anachronistic offensive totals and that should be taken into account.
  • Because of the method that I used to calculate this, the two seasons on the most recent end of the time spectrum (2020 and 2021) were not calculated within a five-year range like all of the other teams but were instead calculated by a three-year range (2021 from 2019-2021) and a four-year range (2020 from 2018-2021).
  • No consideration was given to removing outliers from a given data set. I might be sort of decent at this type of spreadsheet wizardry but that seemed like too much work to figure out.
  • There have, of course, been more than 2,053 individual team seasons in NFL history, but the ProFootballReference database only goes back to 1932 and the most recent year in which most of the necessary stats were available for every team was 1937. Any statistic that is not available for a team in this particular database (for instance, the 1941 Bears did not record sacks and sacks allowed) was replaced with a Z-Score of "0", totally average. Also, who here is really going to care about teams prior to the 40's?
I started this entire project by going year by year on ProFootballReference and copy-pasting the tables that they have made that compile the figures for rushing offense, passing offense, rushing defense, passing defense, total offense and total defense into separate spreadsheets until I had compiled every team and every available statistic I could. I then took all of the relevant stats, averaged them, and normalized them so that they would all be adjusted for a 17 game season (what we're currently working with). I have also done this for players.
I settled on Z-Score (which is a measurement that takes a given value subtracted by the average of a given data set with the sum then divided by the standard deviation of that given data set) because I believed it would be the best and easiest way to compare across eras, taking all of the guesswork out of the equation by converting a team's performance in a given stat within their era to a raw figure that can then be easily compared to a figure from another era.
I used Google Sheets' ArrayFormula, AVERAGE, STDEV, IF, and ISBETWEEN functions to calculate a rolling Z-Score for each individual statistic within a five-year range. What I mean by this is that the formula will take the information in a given adjacent cell that I want to calculate a Z-Score for, find the year that corresponds with that cell, and calculate only the cells in the column that constitute teams from two years prior to that given cell, the year that the cell is a part of, and the two years succeeding the year of that given cell.
In past iterations I did this calculation in fixed five year ranges, For example, I'd calculate the average and standard deviation of a stat from 1955-1959 (and then 1960-1964, 1965-1969 and so on) and it wouldn't matter if the team statistic I'm calculating is from 1955 or 1959 because they're all being calculated within the same fixed range. Now, with my current method, a statistic from 1955 is only being compared to that statistic from 1953-1957, a statistic from 1959 is only being compared to that statistic from 1957-1961, etc. I think this makes for a more fair comparison and a more accurate representation of reality.
I breezed through that for all of the important stats, and made two scores of my own in Protection Score ([Sacks Allowed Z-Score+Sack% Z-Score]/2) and Rush Score ([Sacks Z-Score+Sack Rate Z-Score]/2).Then I took the ones that most constitute "badassery" (which were pulled from a Reddit post I made a while ago asking people what they believe makes a team "badass"), made sure the seasons were all aligned across the different spreadsheets, and pasted them into the spreadsheet that I linked at the top of this post. Then I did a simple calculation with all of them to find a given team's Badass Score!TM, which is as follows:
Badass Score!^TM=((RushingAttemptsZ-Score*1.3)+(Rushing Z-Score*1.3)+(RushingDefenseZ-Score)+(([TotalYardsA Z-Score+TotalPointsA Z-Score+YPA Z-Score]/3)+(TurnoversForcedZ-Score)+(-ProtectionScore/3)+(RushScore*1.2))/7 
Then it was as simple as sorting the whole spreadsheet by Column B from Z to A. The truth is since I already had the vast majority of the teams copy-pasted into spreadsheets and their totals adjusted to per game averages from several years ago, this project didn't take me more than a few hours.
If I had to do it over again I'd probably add a 1.2 or 1.3 multiplier to rushing defense, that feels like it was underrepresented.
Until next time!
Thanks to anyone who reads any bit of this. I realize this may seem pointless and excessive but this is a goofy hobby I periodically choose to do over rewatching Community again or whatever and, believe it or not, I get a real kick out of it.
I "started" this back in 2018 and have never shared it with anyone, and I fully understand that by making a shitpost this high effort I am opening myself up to a certain level of ridicule, but I'm truly interested in whatever you guys have to say. This is just a tiny part of the things this database has to offer and I hope to share it with you all even more as I use it to explore NFL history's excellence, intrigue and catastrophic failure.
Join me next time, when we break up the doldrums of the months prior to training camp by delving into another episode of "Dead Period Hijinks". Passing offense, maybe? Let me know what you want.
Thanks to the beautiful football nerds at ProFootballReference, perhaps the only people on this planet who are bigger geeks about this stuff than I am.
Like, comment and subscribe. Haha. Just joking.
EDIT: Really appreciating the love guys. This post was a long-time coming and it feels awesome that I was able to share this with you all and people appreciate it.
Just a heads up, I just created a few different sheets within that spreadsheet that organizes all of the teams by decade. So if you're interested, make sure to check that out. :)
submitted by gyman122 to nfl [link] [comments]

Pittsburgh Steelers AP All-Pro history

Long week ahead due to Thursday Night Football, so I figured I'd throw something together to help break up the monotony of constant "START KENNY" or "FIRE CANADA" posts. Here's a quick list and breakdown of every player in Steelers history to be named All-Pro by the Associated Press.
All-Pro lists can be found on Pro Football Reference. Additionally, for the sake of simplicity, HB and FB selections will be combined into just a single RB position.
First Team (42 players, 97 selections)
Second Team (54 players, 75 selections)
Bold indicates league MVP
Italics indicates received MVP votes
*Denotes Hall of Famer
~Bill Dudley was named MVP by the NFL but not the Associated Press, who didn't issue an MVP award at the time.
^Phil-Pitt Steagles selections
^^T.J. Watt was named All-Pro as both an edge rusher (1st team) and off ball linebacker (2nd team). Both selections were included to reflect this.
In total, 70 different Steelers have been selected for 171 All-Pro nods by the Associated Press.
Most First Team Selections (Six)
Most Second Team Selections (Four)
Most Combined Selections Per Position
Positional Breakdown
This exercise basically confirms what most of us knew in that the Steelers are ridiculously successful at finding centers and linebackers, edge rushers especially. The only positions without any all-pro nods are tight end, punter, long snapper, and kick returner.
Bonus Round
The Associated Press didn't start issuing All-Pro teams until 1940. Prior to that, the most significant All-Pro team was the one voted on by the United Press International (UPI). If we include those selections from pre-1940, then there's a few more players we can add to the list.
Just a few lesser known names from the obscure "Pittsburgh Pirates" era of football.
And that was a brief history of the Steelers Associated Press selections. Was there a point to this? Not really, I got bored and just thought it'd be cool to take a look at this. There's way more publications out there that have their own All-Pro teams, so if I ever get bored again I might just compile it all into a single mega-list.
Thanks for reading.
submitted by Vladus99 to steelers [link] [comments]

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