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YPC is often overrated (annoyingly so sometimes) (1 Viewer)


One of the stats that I thing fantasy football folks like us often overuse is yards per carry. I generally think that we use it and value it a lot more than NFL folks do. I often see a low YPC used as proof here that a player shouldn't be getting carries or that he should be replaced, etc.

The fact is that judging the success of most running plays is not simply a matter of aggregating the total yards and dividing by number of runs. NFL teams view and track success using much different metrics. Understanding some of these metrics can give a better understanding of why certain RBs have NFL value and thus explain why it is smart to expect that they will continue to get carries,

I think an example would best prove my point and I will stick with the team I know best, the Bengals, and look at BJGE. I have seen many point to his 2012 YPC (3.9) as a reason why he "sucks" or should be completely replaced by Gio Bernard (who I absolutely love BTW). But analysts taking this simplistic approach are missing some important reasons why BJGE will continue to have an important role in the Bengals offense going forward.

Breaking BJGE's season down in terms of "success rate" vs. YPC provides a different view.

Last year, BJGE got 14 carries on 3rd down and 1. He converted 13 of those carries into 1st down. His "success rate" of over 90% in that scenario led the entire NFL. Those were 13 drives that kept going for the Bengals. I'm guessing some of those 13 drives ended up in AJ Green TDs that wouldn't have happened if BJGE didn't get the ball past the sticks. He likely averaged less than 3 yards per carry on those 14 runs, but that is mostly irrelevant from the perspective of Bengals coaches deciding which RB to go to if they face a future 3rd and 1.

Another example using BJGE that shows how misleading YPC can be. Small sample, but in 2013 he has averaged 1.5 YPC on 3rd and less than 6. On 3rd and more than 6, he has averaged 7.0 YPC. Obviously, the YPC of the same back can vary hugely based on what situations he is getting runs in.

A 3rd and long type RB (Sproles) should have a high YPC. That doesn't mean if you start giving him a bunch of carries in other situations, his YPC would remain high. A 3rd and short type RB by the nature of what he is being asked to do is going to have a lower YPC.

Anyway, ended up being longer than I intended, but it is a pet peeve of mine to see how so many fantasy football folks always clamor for the change of pace type RBs to get more carries and use YPC as the main center piece of their argument and think that in doing so they are smarter than NFL OCs when in reality most OCs are using much more advanced statistical analysis to judge RB productivity.

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To give a more concrete example of why I think a deeper look is important, I have seen some fantasy analysts talking about who will get "goal line" carries for the Bengals. But most of the analysts don't seem to make much distinction between goal to go from the 1 yard line vs. goal to go from the 3 or 4 yard line.

I absolutely think BJGE will continue to get the majority of carries when the team is within 1 or 2 yards of the goal line (and on similar 3rd and 4th and short situations). However, goal to go from the 3 or 4 (or further back, like 1st and goal from the 8) is a quite different situation and I think Gio will quickly gain the majority of opportunities in those situations.

The NFL is all about specific situations and "winning" the down in each situation. Different types of players give you a better chance to win the down depending in the situation.

I hate when many fantasy footballers ignore that and take a 1 size fits all approach (RB A sucks, RB B is awesome) and use YPC as the be all, end all of RB analysis.

I agree to some extent. It really depends on what you are comparing. If you are looking at guys like Ingram and Mathews who get the absolute hardest carries in the game, then you should expect their ypc to be less than someone like Woodhead or Sproles. But if you are comparing a 3 down back to another 3 down back, then the comparison makes a bit more sense, although it is still important to gauge things like offensive line and quarterback play.

To give an example, I know Murray just blew up last week, but before that he'd been putting up about 4 ypc this year and last. Since he's on the field for every single down on a high potency offense, I find his low ypc alarming, although I do acknowledge his offensive line is rather poor.

Bottom line, ypc is an important metric if you use it right. It should not be ignorantly thrown around, though. It always makes me shake my head when people compare Ingram to Thomas and Sproles and use ypc as the backbone of their argument. There's no helping people like that. Ingram may not be a world beater, but he's pretty solid against nickel defenses... problem is that he rarely plays against them, unlike Thomas and Sproles.


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