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Fast running backs and rookie years

Stephen Dunn

Perhaps the biggest topic in the New York Giants stratosphere is the playing time of rookie running back David Wilson. I started wondering what kind of numbers have recent rookie running backs put up in their first season. I started this post without looking at the data first, so you're coming along for the ride as well as we discover the numbers.

I'm focusing on high round draft picks, specifically first round players, because those are the players you would expect to make an immediate contribution. And while I'm using the official combine results as some sort of measure, some of my decisions may be arbitrary. Any 1st round picks will be included (as long as they run fast), almost all 2nd round picks will too, and maybe third round picks depending on room. I'm looking for about 25 players (because I don't have all day and I imagine this will be time consuming). I'm also looking at players who run forty yard dashes in 4.50 seconds or much faster.

I don't think the year is relevant so I didn't include it but I'm not going back any earlier than 2001 and will focus on 2006 through today, so it's recent history

Player/Team Weight 40 Time Round Attempts Yards Y.P.C. TD
Chris Johnson /Titans 197 4.24 1 251 1228 4.9 9
C.J. Spiller /Bills 196 4.27 1 74 283 3.8 0
Darren McFadden /Raiders 211 4.33 1 113 499 4.4 4
Jahvid Best /Lions 199 4.34 1 171 332 3.2 4
Ben Tate /Texans 220 4.34 2nd INJURED INJ INJ INJ
Rashar Mendenhall /Steelers* 225 4.41 1st 19 58 3.1 0
DeMarco Murray /Cowboys 213 4.37 3rd 164 897 5.5 2
Ryan Matthews /Chargers 218 4.37 1st 158 678 4.3 7
Michael Bennet ('01) /Vikings 207 4.38 1st 172 682 4.0 2
Maurice Jones Drew /Jaguars 207 4.39 2nd 166 944 5.7 13
Adrian Peterson /Vikings 217 4.40 1st 238 1341 5.6 12
Joseph Addai /Colts
214 4.40 1st 226 1081 4.8 7
Deuce Mcallister /Saints**
222 4.41 1st 16 91 5.7 1
Cadallic Williams /Buccaneers 217 4.43 1st 290 1178 4.1 6
Felilx Jones /Cowboys*** 207 4.44 1st 30 266 8.9 3
Donald Brown /Colts 210 4.46 1st 78 281 3.6 3
Jonathan Stewart /Panthers 235 4.46 1st 184 386 4.5 10
Marshawn Lynch /Seahawks 215 4.46 1st 280 1115 4.0 7****
David Wilson /Giants 206 4.41** 1st 18 89 4.9 1

*Mendenhall was injured most of his rookie year as well (I believe) or did not dress. Though he did play in 4 games so he was averaging less than carries per game in those contest.

**Deuce Mcallister appeared in all 16 games and had 4 starts.

***Felix Jones played 6 games in his rookie season

****That number refers to both touchdowns and rookie year arrests (estimated)

Other names to note that I did not have room for in the chart, all players were drafted after the first round. The reason they were not included is because they did not have the blazing forty yard dash times the other non-first round rookies in the chart had, but all were under 4.50, unless otherwise noted.

Jamaal Charles was drafted in the third round which is why he was not included above (and yes DeMarco Murary was included but he's a division rival), but he ran a 4.38.

Jamaal Charles (3rd)-67 carries for 357 yards (5.3 yards per attempt) and no touchdowns

Kevin Smith (2nd)-236 carries 936 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) and 8 touchdown

Matt Forte (2nd)-316 carries, 1238 yards (3.9 yards per attempt) 8 touchdowns. Forte had 63 receptions as well

Ray Rice (2nd)-107 carries, 454 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) 0 touchdowns

LaMichael James (2nd)---has not played at all and I mean at all.

LeSean McCoy if you're wondering ran a 4.50 forty yard dash and I think is more quick than fast, but his rookie numbers are 155 carries for 637 yards (4.1 yards per attempt), 4 touchdowns. McCoy had 40 receptions.

Conclusions to Draw

Of the 25 players I looked at only 6 rookies had 1,000 yard seasons, while 8 have had less than 100 carries (Mendenhall not included).

Adrian Peterson is Unreal. Seriously.

There are 8 players in the chart who weighed 210 pounds are less.

Chris Johnson had 1228 yards rushing, the other 7 combined ran for 2556, which is almost exactly half.

Other than Chris Johnson no one who ran under a 4.40 yard dash had 500 yards in their rookie seasons.

And lastly, Give Wilson the Football!

I kid, well not really. I think Andre Brown needs to get the football more, but I think the Giants are going to go the C.J. Spiller route of development with David Wilson and hopefully that'll pay off in the long run, even if it's frustrating now. The Bills didn't let Spiller on the field much during his rookie year (to the dismay of fans) except for some pass routes and kick returns, but now Spiller might be one of the best running backs in the NFL, he is clearly one of the most dynamic and makes a major impact every game. Some players take longer to develop, it's a process and we'll see how many carries Wilson gets during the last six games of the season. Some rookie running backs have had good success, others have not, but all but Deuce Mcallister will clearly end their rookie seasons with more carries than Wilson will get unless something drastic happens.

I think what this chart does show a little bit is that it's a myth that rookie running backs come into football and make huge impacts.

And lastly, at least we're not 49ers fans whose 1st and 2nd round picks that play running back and wide receiver like the Giants rookies have combined for Zero carries, for zero yards, and zero catches, for zero touchdowns.