Patriots Host Multiple Running Backs, Statistical Reasoning
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the New England Patriots hosted running backs Ryan Grant and Tim Hightower, and the Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young reported that the Patriots also hosted running back Joseph Addai.
It comes as no surprise that the Patriots want a new running back. They recently lost free agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals, and they seem uninterested in free agent running back Kevin Faulk.
In total, those two running backs were accountable for about 43 percent of the rushing yards (not including Tom Brady), and about 50 percent of the rushing attempts (not including Tom Brady) last year for the Patriots. That is roughly half the Patriots rushing game gone. That’s not good because the Patriots were 20th in rushing yards last year, but if you subtract Green-Ellis’ and Faulk’s rushing totals from the Patriots total rushing yards, then the Patriots would’ve been in dead last for rushing yards by over 450 yards.
So it’s clear that the Patriots need a new running back. It seems as though they collected who they thought were the three best available running backs, to see if they are worth more than the running backs the Patriots might be able to draft come Thursday.
Without thinking of “fit” with the team, lets look purely at numbers and decide who is the better running back of the three. (When I say scrimmage yards I am only calculating rushing and receiving yards.)
Addai averages 983.5 scrimmage yards a year (six seasons), Hightower averages 733.25 scrimmage yards a year (four seasons), and Grant averages 948.4 scrimmage yards a year (five seasons). By these calculations, Addai is the winner by less than 30 yards.
However, Addai has played 78 games, Hightower has played 53 games, and Grant has played 63 games. For having played 15 more games (almost a full season) than Grant, shouldn’t Addai be dominating? This raises some questions. Needless to say, I had to calculate a new stat. I was thinking I would find some evidence showing Grant is statistically better, but I was surprised with what I found.
I used all the games they played in, and divided their total scrimmage yards by those numbers. Addai averages 75.65 scrimmage yards a game over his career, Hightower averages 55.33, and Grant averages 75.27. If I wouldn’t put in decimals, Addai and Grant would have identical average career scrimmage yards a game…wow!
Right now, I am taking out Hightower. He has already been shown up in two categories, and if I were the Patriots (judging by my numbers) I’d cross Hightower’s name out. Now lets try to find another number that can lead us to an obvious winner.
I didn’t want to calculate anything to do with touchdowns, because that has way too many variables. Also, I found it unnecessary to do averages a carry/reception, cause we already know their average game totals are nearly identical. So, I decided to calculate who should be doing better based just on their division rivals’ rushing defense since the year the running backs came into the league.
Let’s start with Addai. Addai has played with the Colts all six years of his career. His division rivals are the Texans, the Titans, and the Jaguars. The average of the Texans, Titans, and Jaguars rush defense rank in six seasons, is 14.67.
Now to Grant. Grant has been with the Packers for the last five years. His divisional opponents, who he faces twice a year, are the Lions, da Bears, and the Vikings. (I am calculating the defenses rankings in the last five years, not counting in 2010, because Grant only played one game due to injury). So, over a four-year period, the Lions, Bears, and Vikings averaged out to have the 14.58th ranked rush defense.
The differential between Grant and Addai’s divisional rush defense rank average, is about 0.09. Almost identical once again. So, what do I do now? I’ve calculated almost every relevant data point, and still no differential big enough to claim a winner.
The age is nearly identical as well. Addai is 28 and Grant is 29. They are almost identical in height as well, Grant being taller by two inches (6-1). Then, they are almost identical in weight, Grant weighing just eight pounds more (222). Also, according to nflcombineresults.com, Grant ran a 4.43 40, and Joseph Addai ran a 4.4 40. The only big difference is that Addai has had 171 more rushing attempts than Grant throughout both players’ career.
I checked so many statistical categories, all with me making the calculations, and no big gaps were shown. I triple checked each of the numbers I calculated, and concluded all numbers were accurate. I haven’t done this comparing thing with other players, but I can guess these two players are one of the, if not the, most identical players in the NFL. At least numbers wise.
I failed in my attempt to make the Patriots’ decision easier, but I wish them the best of luck. Who knows, they may decide to not get any of these players, and just take a running back in the draft. And hey, Danny Woodhead still seems like a good option to me.