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2011 Running Back Stats: Adj. POE And Highlight Yards

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Today at Football Outsiders, the annual "Adj. POE And Draftability" column went up. The column will focus mostly on the relationship between my two primary advanced runner stats -- Adj. POE and Highlight Yards -- and the NFL Draft. But I also wanted to take the time to dump all of 2011's running backs data on you.

First, here's a quick refresher.

POE stands for "Points Over Expected." The idea for POE is simple: It compares a runner's production (in terms of EqPts) to the production that would have been expected of an average back given the same carries against the same opponents. A runner with, say, a plus-6.0 Adj. POE produced the equivalent of a touchdown more value than the average FBS running back would have with the same carries.

POE = EqPts - Expected EqPts.

Last year, we added an adjustment to account for the quality of a runner's offensive line (based on the team's Adj. Line Yards ratings). So below, you will see a raw POE figure and the more comprehensive Adj. POE figure. Backs are ranked by Adj. POE.

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Now let's expand on another topic we unveiled in last year's POE column: Highlight Yards.

A few months ago, FO introduced the idea of "Second Level Yards" and "Open Field Yards" for NFL running backs. These were the remaining yards that were left after each break in the baselines for Adjusted Line Yards. I've done the same thing here for college backs, with two differences. First, we're adding together both "Second Level" Yards (5-10 past the line) and "Open Field" Yards (11-plus past the line). Second, we're counting only half the Second Level Yards, just as the line gets half credit for these yards. We'll call this stat "Highlight Yards," because these longer runs are the ones that show up on the highlight shows. A three-yard run gets zero Highlight Yards. A 70-yard run gets 63 Highlight Yards. The more Highlight Yards, the more explosive the runner was, and the less his overall yardage and POE totals were due to the offensive line blocking for him.

Basically, Highlight Yards are the yards credited to the running back and not the blocking. Again, we rank them below in terms of their full-season accumulation instead of their per-carry average.

After a 2010 season that saw a strangely high amount of mid-major backs placing high on the list (it probably wasn't a coincidence that last year's draft class was also pretty poor), 2011 normalized a bit. Sure, you had Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish pulling a Top Five ranking, but eight of the top 10 runners last year were from a major conference; the two that weren't: Harnish and Temple running back Bernard Pierce, who is considered a solid draft prospect. (Plus, hey, Temple isn't actually a mid-major anymore!) It's a prettier list to look at, in other words.

Top Ten Runners According to Adj. POE, 2011
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (+57.2)
2. Trent Richardson, Alabama (+42.6)
3. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (+35.5)
4. Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois (+35.4)
5. LaMichael James, Oregon (+34.4)
6. Bernard Pierce, Temple (+33.0)
7. Terrance Ganaway, Baylor (+30.4)
8. Collin Klein, Kansas State (+29.9)
9. Denard Robinson, Michigan (+28.6)
10. Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech (+26.2)

A couple of notes:

  • Ball's plus-57.2 total is the highest recorded Adj. POE (2005-11).
  • Harnish's plus-35.4 is the third-highest Adj. POE for a quarterback in the last seven years, behind 2008 Colin Kaepernick (plus-48.6) and 2006 Pat White (plus-41.2).
  • I'm finding that runners typically have their best seasons before their last seasons in uniform. But that's another column for another time.
  • Orwin Smith really did have one of the strangest seasons imaginable. He recorded a plus-26.2 Adj. POE ... despite carrying the ball just 61 times all season.

And while we're at it...

Top 10 Runners According to Highlight Yards Per Carry (min. 75 carries)
1. Ja'Terian Douglas, Tulsa (4.25)
2. Michael Smith, Utah State (4.03)
3. Henry Josey, Missouri (4.01)
4. Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois (3.92)
5. Charles SIms, Houston (3.91)
6. Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State (3.81)
7. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (3.72)
8. LaMichael James, Oregon (3.69)
9. Asher Clark, Air Force (3.41)
10. Joe Banyard, UTEP (3.41)

2011 Adj. POE And Highlight Yardage

As always, feel free to download the file, play with it, and post whatever you find interesting here, either in comments or in a FanShot.