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Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

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Where do you rank Jahvid Best in pre-season standard fantasy rankings?

1st-3rd rounds
2
12%
4th-6th rounds
12
71%
7th-9th rounds
3
18%
10th-12th rounds or later
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 17

Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby kliquid » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:52 pm

Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best
By Nick Caron

It’s no surprise that Detroit Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best is getting some high praise from experts around the league. After an excellent college career at Cal where he averaged over 7.0 yards per carry while also making an impact in the passing game and the return game, Best was considered one of the top backs in the 2010 draft class. His elusive running style and speed have him getting compared to some of the league’s top backs, including 2009’s highest scoring player, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.

But is it too soon to be making those comparisons? After all, Chris Johnson’s success can largely be contributed to the fact that he is perhaps the fastest player in the entire NFL. Best, while quick, is not speedy on the level of Chris Johnson. And as Johnson showed in 2010, the difference between a 5-yard run and a 50-yard run can often be as little as one step that you gain on a defender.

Then there are the injury concerns. We’re talking about a guy who is coming off of a major concussion that ended his 2009 season early; which actually followed a lesser-discussed minor concussion that he sustained in the team’s previous game. Despite the injury and college eligibility remaining, Best decided to follow in the footsteps of many of the game’s top running backs by foregoing his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Though he is now fully recovered from the concussions, they remain a question mark on his future as a player in the NFL. Best isn’t the first player to enter the Pro’s with a history of concussion problems, but the level of concussion he sustained has to be a major concern for both the Lions, as well as fantasy owners.

Even more concerning than the concussions, however, is the situation that Best is going to in Detroit. Though most experts agree that the Lions have made the right decisions with their draft picks over the past few seasons, they would also likely agree that the team is still far from being a contender for any kind of championship – or even a playoff berth. Being a winning team, in itself, is pointless from a fantasy standpoint – but it does often have an effect on the team’s running game.

In 2010, the top-10 teams in rushing attempts were:
1. New York Jets (9-7)
2. Carolina Panthers (8-8 )
3. Miami Dolphins (7-9)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
5. Tennessee Titans (8-8 )
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11)
7. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
8. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
9. Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
10. New England Patriots (10-6)

In 2009, the bottom ten teams in rushing attempts were:
32. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
31. Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
30. San Francisco 49ers (8-8 )
29. Chicago Bears (7-9)
28. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
27. Washington Redskins (4-12)
26. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)
24. Detroit Lions (2-14)
23. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

Of the teams that finished in the bottom-10, four of the teams (Arizona, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Indianapolis) finished among the league’s best passing attacks; with over 4,000 yards passing; which obviously contributed to their lack of running. But for most of these teams, the lack of rushing attempts was directly related to the fact that they were down multiple scores in the second half of many of their games.

When teams get down multiple scores in the NFL, their tendency is going to be to pass more often, to try to get down the field more quickly and increase the number of possessions they have before time expires.

Detroit has been in the bottom-10 in the league in rushing attempts for nine straight seasons. Though they flirted with breaking that streak in 2009, that number is a bit skewed. With Matt Stafford missing six games, the Lions relied significantly more heavily on their running attack with quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton behind center.

With Stafford at quarterback, the Lions passed a league-high 37.7 times per game. By comparison, the Lions passed just 19.6 times per game with Culpepper; and just 17.0 times per game with Stanton at quarterback.

Given Detroit’s struggles as an organization and assuming that Matt Stafford remains healthy in 2010, the Lions are very likely to remain in the bottom ten in the league in rushing attempts.

The Lions drafted Kevin Smith in the third round of the 2008 draft and transitioned him to their starting running back over the following two seasons. Though Smith’s statistical output never jumped off the page, few would argue that he has been one of the very few bright spots in the team’s offense during his time in Detroit. Smith has been a producer both in the running game as well as the passing game, and has developed into one of the best pass-protectors in the league at his position.

The question remains – exactly how much better is Jahvid Best than Kevin Smith? He’s faster, sure, but is he good enough to take the same carries that Kevin Smith took; and turn them into a significantly better statistical output? The offensive line hasn’t gotten better, the quarterback situation remains the same, but the Lions actually went out and acquired new passing targets, Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler, in the off-season.

There’s no doubt that Jahvid Best is a great physical talent, but there is a good chance that he will still be largely sharing carries with Kevin Smith in 2010, on a team that is pass-heavy with a poor offensive line. Simply put, this may be a classic case of a good player entering a bad situation.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby bungle613 » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:01 pm

Very good piece KL. Your's? If so, you should consider signing up for the writing department and get these kind of articles published.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby kliquid » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:11 pm

bungle613 wrote:Very good piece KL. Your's? If so, you should consider signing up for the writing department and get these kind of articles published.


Thanks :).

I do write on a couple sites, but I might consider writing here. We'll see.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby Free Bagel » Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:27 pm

kliquid wrote:Detroit has been in the bottom-10 in the league in rushing attempts for nine straight seasons. Though they flirted with breaking that streak in 2009, that number is a bit skewed. With Matt Stafford missing six games, the Lions relied significantly more heavily on their running attack with quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton behind center.

With Stafford at quarterback, the Lions passed a league-high 37.7 times per game. By comparison, the Lions passed just 19.6 times per game with Culpepper; and just 17.0 times per game with Stanton at quarterback.


These numbers are not correct.

You're just looking at pass attempts and dividing it by games played, not accounting for the fact that most of these times these guys were just playing small segments of these games. For instance in week 16 Culpepper threw 12 passes and Stanton threw 21 passes. You're counting this as 33/2 = 16.5 total passes in the game, when they actually threw 33/1 = 33 passes in the game.

In games where Stanton played the whole game he averaged around 35 pass attempts per game. In games where he played partially they averaged slightly higher than that. Culpepper never played a whole game (or anything close to one), but in every game he played in (including the ones in which he split time with Stanton), they threw 30+ times.

In fact, the lowest number of pass attempts Detroit had in any game last year was 29, so obviously it's impossible for them to have averaged 19.6 or 17.0 pass attempts in any subset of games ;)
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby kliquid » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:47 pm

Free Bagel wrote:
kliquid wrote:Detroit has been in the bottom-10 in the league in rushing attempts for nine straight seasons. Though they flirted with breaking that streak in 2009, that number is a bit skewed. With Matt Stafford missing six games, the Lions relied significantly more heavily on their running attack with quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton behind center.

With Stafford at quarterback, the Lions passed a league-high 37.7 times per game. By comparison, the Lions passed just 19.6 times per game with Culpepper; and just 17.0 times per game with Stanton at quarterback.


These numbers are not correct.

You're just looking at pass attempts and dividing it by games played, not accounting for the fact that most of these times these guys were just playing small segments of these games. For instance in week 16 Culpepper threw 12 passes and Stanton threw 21 passes. You're counting this as 33/2 = 16.5 total passes in the game, when they actually threw 33/1 = 33 passes in the game.

In games where Stanton played the whole game he averaged around 35 pass attempts per game. In games where he played partially they averaged slightly higher than that. Culpepper never played a whole game (or anything close to one), but in every game he played in (including the ones in which he split time with Stanton), they threw 30+ times.

In fact, the lowest number of pass attempts Detroit had in any game last year was 29, so obviously it's impossible for them to have averaged 19.6 or 17.0 pass attempts in any subset of games ;)


You're right, the numbers I calculated were incorrect. Thanks for informing me.

... But Daunte did play a few full games, in weeks 5, 14, 15, and 17.

Week one: 37 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s) - 37

Week two: 30 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s) - 30

Week three: 36 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s) - 36

Week four: 47 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s) - 36
Daunte Culpepper - 11

Week five: 37 Pass Attempts
Daunte Culpepper (s) - 37

Week six: 25 Pass Attempts
Drew Stanton (s) - 11
Daunte Culpepper - 14

Week eight: 33 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 33

Week nine: 42 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 42

Week ten: 51 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 51

Week eleven: 43 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 43

Week twelve: 43 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 43

Week thirteen: 29 Pass Attempts
Matt Stafford (s): 26
Daunte Culpepper: 3

Week fourteen: 34 Pass Attempts
Daunte Culpepper (s): 34

Week fifteen: 34 Pass Attempts
Daunte Culpepper (s): 34

Week sixteeen: 31 Pass Attempts
Daunte Culpepper (s): 12
Drew Stanton: 19

Week seventeen: 34 Pass Attempts
Daunte Culpepper (s): 34





So, in reality, the numbers are....


With Stafford starting:
39.1 Attempts Per Game

With Daunte Culpepper starting:
34 Attepts Per Game

With Drew Stanton starting:
25 Attempts Per Game



So yeah, not the numbers that I had originally, but still enough that I think it's worth noting. I also believe Detroit ran more often because Stafford was playing through injury through a lot of the season.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby abbadavis » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:06 am

It was a the fabulous game by Detroit that they are running behind by 10 and they win 9 in a row and make it balance. So it is great to see the game played by the Detroit really nice.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby moochman » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:53 am

Solid piece, kliquid. ;-D
What skews the rushing stats for the Lions is that fact that they didn't have an O-line that can blow open holes for a slow, hittable, fall-guy, Kevin Smith; a terrible D, a woeful blocking recieving corps, and a rookie QB who didn't connect on enough passes. In Best's favor are that Stafford has a year under his belt, and will do what few QBs have done in Detroit of late: play for the same head coach and OC. Also working in his favor is his burst and elusiveness. Best will run through holes that Smith clogged, and once through he may make the first player miss, something simply not done by Smith. I see Best as a boom or bust back, who if booms will get the bulk of the carries and be a canidate for ROY. Orrrrr, he could find the competition in the league too tough and either get his bell rung too often or go to the island for misfit college RBs, never to be heard from again.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby kliquid » Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:56 pm

moochman wrote:Solid piece, kliquid. ;-D
What skews the rushing stats for the Lions is that fact that they didn't have an O-line that can blow open holes for a slow, hittable, fall-guy, Kevin Smith; a terrible D, a woeful blocking recieving corps, and a rookie QB who didn't connect on enough passes. In Best's favor are that Stafford has a year under his belt, and will do what few QBs have done in Detroit of late: play for the same head coach and OC. Also working in his favor is his burst and elusiveness. Best will run through holes that Smith clogged, and once through he may make the first player miss, something simply not done by Smith. I see Best as a boom or bust back, who if booms will get the bulk of the carries and be a canidate for ROY. Orrrrr, he could find the competition in the league too tough and either get his bell rung too often or go to the island for misfit college RBs, never to be heard from again.


You know, you're definitely right that Jahvid Best is going to have more opportunity to create the long runs than Kevin Smith did. Smith doesn't have the speed that Best does. However, I also feel like there might be a lot of cases when Best is going to go down at first contact, whereas Smith might be able to rumble forward for a couple additional yards in the same situation.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby moochman » Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:11 am

kliquid wrote:
moochman wrote:Solid piece, kliquid. ;-D
What skews the rushing stats for the Lions is that fact that they didn't have an O-line that can blow open holes for a slow, hittable, fall-guy, Kevin Smith; a terrible D, a woeful blocking recieving corps, and a rookie QB who didn't connect on enough passes. In Best's favor are that Stafford has a year under his belt, and will do what few QBs have done in Detroit of late: play for the same head coach and OC. Also working in his favor is his burst and elusiveness. Best will run through holes that Smith clogged, and once through he may make the first player miss, something simply not done by Smith. I see Best as a boom or bust back, who if booms will get the bulk of the carries and be a canidate for ROY. Orrrrr, he could find the competition in the league too tough and either get his bell rung too often or go to the island for misfit college RBs, never to be heard from again.


You know, you're definitely right that Jahvid Best is going to have more opportunity to create the long runs than Kevin Smith did. Smith doesn't have the speed that Best does. However, I also feel like there might be a lot of cases when Best is going to go down at first contact, whereas Smith might be able to rumble forward for a couple additional yards in the same situation.


K Smith didn't break tackles last year at all, don't see how recovering from an injury is going to make him more likely to break a tackle. At least Best will have fresh legs working for him.
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Re: Analyzing the Detroit Running Game and Jahvid Best

Postby kliquid » Sun Jun 13, 2010 4:45 am

moochman wrote:K Smith didn't break tackles last year at all, don't see how recovering from an injury is going to make him more likely to break a tackle. At least Best will have fresh legs working for him.


I'm not trying to say Smith is going to be good now, following the injury.

I'm saying that he WAS pretty good, given the situation... And I don't feel like Jahvid Best is going to be significantly better, statistically, than Smith was.
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