Archive for the ‘Best RBs Analyses’ Category

A Playoff Argument for Terrell Davis being a Hall of Famer

November 17, 2009

Denver Broncos runningback Terrell Davis(30) slips the tackle attempt by Cincinnati Bengals safety Greg Meyers as he breaks into the secondary to pickup a first down during the second quarter of their game at Denver's Mile High Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 21, 1997. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Over the past couple of years, I have analyzed some of the top running backs in NFL history, both on Checking the Numbers (here) and at Behind the Steel Curtain (here and here). In each of these analyses, I have shown that, on a per game basis, Terrell Davis was one of the top RBs in NFL history. In some analyses he showed up as a top 3 player, but in all he was at least top 10. The knock on him has been that he did not play long enough for serious consideration, although for a 4 year stretch, he was every bit as good at Emmitt Smith and very close to Barry Sanders. So, as I did recently for Hines Ward, I am going to look at how Terrell Davis’s playoff numbers compare with other greats in NFL history.


Another Comparison of RBs’ Best 4 Years

September 4, 2009

Last week, I posted this article comparing some of the top RBs in NFL history, this time looking at their career peaks in terms of a 4 year stretch. As quick review, I defined their top 4 year stretches as the period of 4 consecutive years where the player gained the most total yards from scrimmage in his career. In my last post, many commenters (both here at Checking the Numbers and at BTSC) suggested improvements both in analysis technique and in players to review, so I decided to go back and complete a followup analysis. Based on the feedback that I received, I added several players that were suggested, and I also made a couple changes to my ranking system. (more…)

Top RBs in NFL History – Their Best 4 Years

August 27, 2009
Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk

Jim Brown

About a year and a half ago, I was inspired to perform an analysis on the top running backs in NFL history. I did 2 posts on the topic at Behind the Steel Curtain, first on the top 10 backs in overall rushing yards, then a followup including the RBs that were top 10 in yards/game and yards/attempt. In these analyses, I had included the entire careers of each player considered, which may have unfairly favored players who retired at or near their primes. So, I had been considering for a while whether it might be of interest to complete the same type of analysis for all of the players, but in this case, I would only consider the best 4 year period in that player’s career. So, essentially, I am reviewing the career peaks of the best running backs in NFL history.

LT (AP Photo/Matt York)

LT (AP Photo/Matt York)

Why 4 years? In some ways, it’s an arbitrary

Terrell Davis

Terrell Davis

 choice. But, it is about the average length of most running backs’ careers. I believe the average is below 3.5 years now, but that’s still more than 3, on average. It’s also the number of years that Terrell Davis was productive. Because of that, I was just curious to see how he stacked up against other RBs peak 4 year period.

Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith

In this post, I am reviewing the same 20 players as in the last RB analysis. They are listed in the table below, in addition to the following information:

  • the years analyzed
  • number of games played and started for those years
  • total yards from scrimmage during those years
  • total touchdowns and fumbles from those years

The way that I determined which four year period to analyze for each player was by determining for which period that player had the most total yards from scrimmage.

Players Years G GS YScm TotTD Fmb
Emmitt Smith 1992-1995 61 60 7921 76 16
Walter Payton 1 1977-1980 62 62 7746 50 28
Walter Payton 2 1983-1986 64 64 7829 41 22
Barry Sanders 1994-1997 64 64 8122 45 10
Curtis Martin 1998-2001 63 63 6920 35 11
Jerome Bettis 1996-1999 62 58 5804 30 17
Eric Dickerson 1983-1986 62 62 7842 57 49
Tony Dorsett 1978-1981 61 60 6604 33 39
Jim Brown 1962-1965 56 56 7302 63 28
Marshall Faulk 1998-2001 60 59 8992 69 8
Marcus Allen 1983-1986 61 57 7056 50 32
Franco Harris 1976-1979 59 59 5206 45 33
Marion Motley 1947-1950 51 36 3840 28 5
Bo Jackson 1987-1990 38 23 3134 18 11
Spec Sanders 1946-1948 40 30 3172 36 1
Terrell Davis 1995-1998 61 61 7594 61 16
LaDainian Tomlinson 2003-2006 63 63 8301 86 13
Clinton Portis 2002-2005 60 56 7059 49 16
Edgerrin James 2003-2006 60 60 6801 40 16
Jamal Lewis 2000-2004 60 57 6822 34 24
Ricky Williams 2000-2003 58 58 7104 43 28

There are a couple of Items of Note to address before moving forward. First, I included two 4 year periods for Walter Payton because he was the only player to have two distinct peak periods, for which the total yards from scrimmage were within about 80 yards of each other. By distinct periods I mean that there was no overlap in the years for those two periods. Secondly, Spec Sanders’s and Jamal Lewis’s periods are adjusted for special circumstances. Sanders’s analysis is only for 3 years, because he played halfback from 1946 to 1948, did not play in 1949, and returned in 1950 as a safety. So, I thought it made more sense to only include his numbers from the first three years. Lewis’s analysis covers the period from 2000 to 2004, which is 5 years. But, since he was out the entirety of the 2001 season with a knee injury, I decided that this period would be accurate for this analysis.

As with the previous analyses, I ranked each player according yards per game and per touch in both rushing and receiving as well as TDs and fumbles per game. After ranking them in each category, I calculated the average of each player’s rankings in all categories and sorted the running backs from highest average among all categories to lowest. In the following tables, I have included the raw statistics (gathered from for the players.