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Myles Gaskin, J.K. Dobbins among most well-rounded college running backs in 2018

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Meanwhile, Mississippi State has two of the most exciting mobile quarterbacks in the country.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington
Myles Gaskin
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s keep right on rolling with our as-late-as-humanly-possible look at last year’s player stats and what they might mean for 2018 and whatnot.

Last week, we took a look at receiver data. Now we move on to the ground game.

Once again, this is another post intended to explore the marginal efficiency and explosiveness data I discussed way back in January.

* Marginal Efficiency: the difference between a player’s success rate* (passing, rushing, or receiving) or success rate allowed (for an individual defender) and the expected success rate of each play based on down, distance, and yard line.

* Marginal Explosiveness: the difference between a player’s IsoPPP** (passing, rushing, or receiving) or IsoPPP allowed (for an individual defender) and the expected IsoPPP value of each play based on down, distance, and yard line.

For offensive players, the larger the positive value, the better. For defensive players, it’s the opposite — the more negative, the better.

* Success rate: a common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

** IsoPPP: the average equivalent point value of successful plays only.

For each play, there is a bar established for expected efficiency and explosiveness based on down, distance, and yard line. From there, we can compare team or individual success to an interesting baseline.

Once again, the idea is to explore efficiency and explosiveness, using my two primary tools (success rate and IsoPPP) and applying adjustments based on expectation. You can’t rip off a 70-yard run from your opponent’s 20, so setting a moving bar can help us get closer to the truth. So, too, can evaluating successes and non-successes based on whether it was third-and-1 or third-and-19.

You can download all of 2017’s rushing data here. That’s a link to a Google doc with all rushes and players broken out into categories — running back, fullback, quarterback, WR/TE, and other.

Let’s again start with the high-volume guys.

What can fancy math teach us about the guys who carried the ball the most last year? Here are the 83 RBs who got at least 150 carries.

RBs with 150+ carries in 2017

Player Offense Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Success Rate Marginal Eff. Marginal Expl.
Player Offense Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Success Rate Marginal Eff. Marginal Expl.
Phillip Lindsay Colorado SR 302 1472 14 42.4% -4.5% -0.15
Devin Singletary Florida Atlantic SO 301 1920 32 51.5% 5.7% 0.00
AJ Dillon Boston College FR 300 1589 14 44.0% -1.2% -0.06
Jonathan Taylor Wisconsin FR 299 1977 13 47.2% 2.9% -0.11
Rashaad Penny San Diego State SR 289 2248 23 44.6% 2.8% 0.31
D'Angelo Brewer Tulsa SR 288 1517 9 45.1% -0.4% -0.16
Justin Jackson Northwestern SR 287 1311 11 40.4% -4.3% -0.24
Kerryon Johnson Auburn JR 285 1391 18 47.0% 0.6% -0.19
Diocemy Saint Juste Hawaii SR 284 1511 7 45.4% 1.7% -0.27
Justice Hill Oklahoma State SO 268 1467 15 39.2% -3.4% -0.05
Bryce Love Stanford JR 263 2118 19 38.8% -3.0% 0.63
Benny Snell, Jr. Kentucky SO 262 1333 19 42.4% -2.7% -0.15
Ronald Jones II USC JR 261 1550 19 48.3% 3.0% -0.09
David Montgomery Iowa State SO 258 1146 11 37.6% -5.9% -0.24
Akrum Wadley Iowa SR 253 1114 10 36.4% -5.2% -0.24
Spencer Brown UAB FR 250 1329 10 43.2% -1.9% -0.18
Ito Smith Southern Miss SR 248 1413 13 45.6% 2.6% -0.10
Royce Freeman Oregon SR 244 1475 16 51.2% 6.2% -0.12
Terry Swanson Toledo SR 243 1363 14 42.4% -2.1% -0.10
Derrius Guice LSU JR 237 1251 11 48.5% 3.5% -0.26
Aeris Williams Mississippi State JR 236 1107 6 44.1% -1.4% -0.36
Jarvion Franklin Western Michigan SR 235 1228 11 45.1% -1.0% -0.06
Rodney Smith Minnesota JR 229 977 3 38.4% -5.2% -0.36
Dalyn Dawkins Colorado State SR 226 1399 8 46.5% 2.8% -0.12
Nick Chubb Georgia SR 223 1345 15 46.6% 2.9% -0.11
Myles Gaskin Washington JR 222 1380 21 49.1% 3.6% 0.05
Saquon Barkley Penn State JR 217 1271 18 46.1% 1.1% 0.08
Zack Moss Utah SO 216 1170 10 50.5% 5.0% -0.22
Jordan Ellis Virginia JR 215 836 6 38.1% -7.7% -0.39
Alexander Mattison Boise State SO 213 1086 12 43.7% -1.6% -0.13
Lexington Thomas UNLV JR 211 1336 17 46.0% -0.6% 0.21
Dontrell Hilliard Tulane SR 210 1091 12 40.0% -5.0% -0.02
Caleb Huntley Ball State FR 210 1003 3 42.4% -2.5% -0.40
Josh Adams Notre Dame JR 206 1430 9 44.2% -0.6% 0.19
LJ Scott Michigan State JR 201 898 8 38.3% -7.7% -0.26
Demario Richard Arizona State SR 198 1027 12 50.5% 3.2% -0.17
Emmanuel Reed Buffalo SO 198 825 9 38.9% -5.4% -0.33
Nyheim Hines NC State JR 197 1112 12 38.6% -5.5% 0.07
J.K. Dobbins Ohio State FR 194 1403 7 52.1% 6.0% 0.01
Cam Akers Florida State FR 194 1025 7 45.9% 1.0% -0.14
Aaron Duckworth Idaho SR 193 1025 4 39.4% -1.9% -0.25
Ralph Webb Vanderbilt SR 193 841 10 35.8% -9.0% -0.16
D'Ernest Johnson South Florida SR 193 796 7 37.8% -7.1% -0.27
Patrick Laird California JR 192 1127 8 48.4% 2.7% -0.13
A.J. Ouellette Ohio JR 192 1006 7 45.8% -0.8% -0.14
Justin Crawford West Virginia SR 190 1061 7 46.3% 2.3% -0.26
John Kelly Tennessee JR 189 778 9 35.5% -7.5% -0.24
Jeffery Wilson North Texas SR 188 1215 16 51.1% 3.8% 0.05
Rodney Anderson Oklahoma SO 188 1161 13 51.1% 8.2% -0.15
Ish Witter Missouri SR 188 1049 6 43.6% -0.6% -0.16
Larry Rose III New Mexico State SR 187 939 10 38.5% -5.8% -0.02
Jalin Moore Appalachian State JR 185 1049 12 40.0% -4.4% 0.07
Xavier Jones SMU SO 182 1075 9 44.5% 0.0% 0.01
Boston Scott Louisiana Tech SR 182 1026 8 52.8% 6.9% -0.20
Marquis Young Massachusetts JR 182 982 9 30.2% -9.5% 0.26
Alex Gardner Florida International SR 181 791 6 34.3% -8.2% -0.33
Jonathan Ward Central Michigan SO 179 1017 10 40.2% -3.2% 0.02
Keion Davis Marshall JR 179 812 6 35.2% -10.5% -0.06
Ian Eriksen Eastern Michigan JR 179 805 8 39.1% -5.4% -0.24
Darius Tice South Florida SR 178 943 11 50.0% 3.1% -0.07
Wesley Fields Georgia Southern JR 173 811 5 42.2% -2.6% -0.22
Trayveon Williams Texas A&M SO 173 798 8 30.1% -12.5% -0.07
Glenn Smith Georgia State SR 170 594 3 32.4% -10.4% -0.30
LaJuan Hunt Utah State SR 169 828 11 39.1% -5.4% -0.12
Jon Hilliman Boston College JR 167 638 5 37.7% -5.4% -0.38
Matt Colburn II Wake Forest JR 166 904 7 36.1% -6.5% 0.04
Ryan Nall Oregon State JR 165 810 8 44.9% -1.7% -0.19
Karan Higdon Michigan JR 164 994 11 39.6% -3.2% 0.02
Kelton Moore Nevada SO 164 855 4 44.5% 0.0% -0.16
Gus Edwards Rutgers SR 164 713 6 43.3% -0.1% -0.36
Derrick Gore UL-Monroe JR 164 585 6 38.4% -8.7% -0.34
Travis Homer Miami-FL SO 163 966 8 39.3% -4.1% 0.05
Tyler Nevens San Jose State FR 163 670 1 47.9% 2.2% -0.61
Shaun Wilson Duke SR 162 818 6 44.4% -0.3% -0.17
Tyler King Marshall FR 158 820 7 34.2% -6.9% -0.12
Patrick Taylor Jr. Memphis SO 157 866 13 38.2% -4.9% 0.11
Darnell Woolfolk Army JR 157 812 14 54.1% 6.1% -0.21
Kalen Ballage Arizona State SR 157 669 6 37.6% -6.9% -0.31
Sony Michel Georgia SR 156 1227 16 48.1% 6.5% 0.15
Ryquell Armstead Temple JR 156 604 5 34.0% -8.9% -0.26
Jordan Wilkins Ole Miss SR 155 1011 9 45.2% 2.5% -0.07
Jordan Chunn Troy SR 154 774 10 41.6% -1.8% -0.21
Jordan Mims Fresno State FR 151 627 6 45.7% 0.5% -0.42

First things first: it must be noted that, of these 83 players, only 28 produced a marginal efficiency above zero percent. As with what people have begun to firmly establish on the pro side — I highly recommend picking up a copy of the Football Outsiders Almanac 2018 and checking out the “establishing the run” essay by Ben Baldwin — running is a reasonably lower-ceilinged endeavor. It’s lower-risk, too, and some teams have certainly figured out how to run more than others, but for a majority of feature backs, handing them the ball was likely to put you behind schedule.

It was also far less likely to produce big plays — only 18 of these 83 produced a marginal explosiveness above plus-0.0 points per successful run.

That said, a few stood out. Here are the 22 players who rated in the 50th percentile (among the players in this sample) in both marginal efficiency and explosiveness. Players in bold are returning in 2018, and players with an asterisk were in the 80th percentile in both.

  • AJ Dillon, Boston College (1,589 yards, -1.2% mEff, -0.6 mExpl)
  • Alexander Mattison, Boise State (1,086 yards, -1.6% mEff, -0.13 mExpl)
  • Dalyn Dawkins, Colorado State (1,399 yards, +2.8% mEff, -0.12 mExpl)
  • Darius Tice, USF (943 yards, +3.1% mEff, -0.07 mExpl)
  • Devin Singletary, FAU (1,920 yards, +5.7% mEff, +0.00 mExpl)
  • Ito Smith, Southern Miss (1,413 yards, +2.3% mEff, -0.10 mExpl)
  • J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State (1,403 yards, +6.0% mEff, +0.01 mExpl)
  • Jarvion Franklin, WMU (1,228 yards, -1.0% mEff, -0.06 mExpl)
  • Jeffery Wilson, North Texas* (1,215 yards, +3.8% mEff, +0.05 mExpl)
  • Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (1,977 yards, +2.9% mEff, -0.11 mExpl)
  • Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss (1,011 yards, +2.5% mEff, -0.07 mExpl)
  • Josh Adams, Notre Dame (1,430 yards, -0.6% mEff, +0.19 mExpl)
  • Lexington Thomas, UNLV (1,336 yards, -0.6 mEff, +0.21 mExpl)
  • Myles Gaskin, Washington* (1,380 yards, +3.6% mEff, +0.05 mExpl)
  • Nick Chubb, Georgia (1,345 yards, +2.9% mEff, -0.11 mExpl)
  • Patrick Laird, California (1,127 yards, +2.7% mEff, -0.13 mExpl)
  • Rashaad Penny, SDSU* (2,248 yards, +2.8% mEff, +0.31 mExpl)
  • Ronald Jones II, USC (1,550 yards, +3.0% mEff, -0.09 mExpl)
  • Royce Freeman, Oregon (1,475 yards, +6.2% mEff, -0.12 mExpl)
  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State (1,271 yards, +1.1% mEff, +0.08 mExpl)
  • Sony Michel, Georgia* (1,227 yards, +6.5% mEff, +0.15 mExpl)
  • Xavier Jones, SMU (1,075 yards, +0.0% mEff, +0.01 mExpl)

Rodney Anderson of Oklahoma, by the way, nearly made the list, too. He had the best marginal efficiency by far and was in the 44th percentile for explosiveness. Similarly, Stanford’s Bryce Love had by far the best explosiveness (plus-0.63 mExpl, more than double Penny’s plus-0.31) and was in the 40th percentile for efficiency.

The most all-or-nothing feature runner of 2017: UMass’ Marquis Young — fifth percentile for mEff (minus-9.5 percent), 98th percentile for mExpl (plus-0.26).

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at South Carolina
Marquis Young
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

What about the best rushers from the QB position?

Here are the 66 quarterbacks who, not including sacks, rushed at least 60 times last year.

QBs with 60+ rushes in 2017

Player Offense Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Success Rate Marginal Eff. Marginal Expl. mEff pct mExpl pct 50th
Player Offense Class Rushes Yards Rush TD Success Rate Marginal Eff. Marginal Expl. mEff pct mExpl pct 50th
Zach Abey Navy JR 285 1473 19 51.9% 5.2% -0.22 48% 29% 0
Ahmad Bradshaw Army SR 242 1746 14 56.6% 10.9% 0.01 81% 72% 1
TaQuon Marshall Georgia Tech JR 229 1255 17 47.6% 2.8% -0.03 33% 65% 0
Arion Worthman Air Force JR 205 935 13 45.4% -0.6% -0.19 16% 35% 0
Lamar Jackson Louisville JR 203 1759 18 58.6% 14.3% 0.20 93% 93% 1
Shai Werts Georgia Southern FR 183 874 3 36.1% -4.5% -0.22 5% 31% 0
Quinton Flowers South Florida SR 179 1181 11 44.7% 3.9% -0.04 40% 63% 0
Kelly Bryant Clemson JR 166 854 11 48.8% 3.2% -0.20 36% 33% 0
Nick Fitzgerald Mississippi State JR 155 1025 14 55.5% 9.7% 0.02 76% 73% 1
J.T. Barrett Ohio State SR 146 908 12 59.6% 12.6% -0.17 88% 38% 0
Khalil Tate Arizona SO 140 1492 12 51.4% 7.7% 0.68 65% 100% 1
Tyler Huntley Utah SO 138 720 6 51.5% 6.1% -0.18 54% 37% 0
Daniel Jones Duke SO 134 715 7 53.0% 9.3% -0.22 74% 30% 0
Jalen Hurts Alabama SO 130 981 8 50.0% 9.7% 0.03 75% 74% 1
Jonathan Banks Tulane JR 128 729 7 47.7% 5.5% -0.15 50% 42% 0
John Wolford Wake Forest SR 126 769 10 45.2% 3.4% -0.04 37% 63% 0
Marcus Childers Northern Illinois FR 125 602 5 41.6% -0.9% -0.39 15% 9% 0
Armani Rogers UNLV FR 124 915 8 46.0% 4.5% 0.15 44% 89% 0
Nathan Rourke Ohio SO 121 1008 21 62.8% 21.4% 0.08 100% 82% 1
Caleb Evans UL-Monroe SO 120 695 13 45.8% 4.0% -0.09 41% 55% 0
Hasaan Klugh Charlotte JR 119 661 9 37.8% -2.1% 0.00 11% 70% 0
Eric Dungey Syracuse JR 117 749 9 47.0% 4.3% -0.01 43% 69% 0
Trace McSorley Penn State JR 117 629 11 50.4% 5.5% -0.21 50% 33% 0
Brandon Wimbush Notre Dame JR 116 923 14 54.3% 12.7% 0.08 88% 83% 1
Brian Lewerke Michigan State SO 109 665 5 55.1% 10.0% -0.13 77% 47% 0
Malik Rosier Miami-FL JR 104 602 5 51.9% 10.6% -0.27 80% 22% 0
Sam Ehlinger Texas FR 104 480 2 47.1% 2.5% -0.37 32% 11% 0
Justice Hansen Arkansas State JR 102 618 7 52.0% 9.1% -0.11 73% 51% 1
Josh Jackson Virginia Tech FR 102 466 6 48.0% 3.5% -0.28 38% 21% 0
A.J. Erdely UAB JR 99 506 13 55.6% 10.6% -0.13 80% 47% 0
Steven Montez Colorado SO 99 566 3 52.5% 7.6% -0.31 64% 17% 0
Manny Wilkins Arizona State JR 98 525 7 44.9% 1.8% -0.17 27% 39% 0
McKenzie Milton Central Florida SO 97 683 8 60.8% 18.7% -0.19 98% 35% 0
Dalton Sturm UTSA SR 97 671 2 49.5% 6.7% -0.07 58% 57% 1
Alex Delton Kansas State SO 97 533 8 51.6% 5.6% -0.04 51% 63% 1
J'Mar Smith Louisiana Tech SO 95 518 6 46.3% 6.7% -0.38 58% 10% 0
Damian Williams Texas State SR 89 321 5 39.3% -2.8% -0.26 9% 24% 0
Kenny Hill TCU SR 85 448 5 50.6% 6.8% -0.25 59% 26% 0
Peyton Ramsey Indiana FR 82 320 2 30.5% -10.7% -0.46 0% 5% 0
George Bollas Kent State JR 81 361 1 33.3% -6.7% -0.36 2% 12% 0
Montell Cozart Boise State SR 78 390 4 50.0% 7.0% -0.22 60% 30% 0
Stephen Johnson Kentucky SR 77 537 5 57.1% 12.8% -0.05 88% 62% 1
Jason Driskel Florida Atlantic JR 77 457 8 52.0% 8.7% 0.06 71% 80% 1
Hayden Moore Cincinnati JR 77 439 4 44.2% 3.7% -0.09 39% 54% 0
Steven Williams Old Dominion FR 76 343 3 34.2% -7.5% -0.27 2% 22% 0
Kato Nelson Akron FR 74 327 1 36.5% -0.2% -0.44 18% 6% 0
Kwadra Griggs Southern Miss JR 73 341 3 48.0% 6.8% -0.53 59% 2% 0
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma SR 72 491 5 55.6% 9.3% -0.01 74% 68% 1
Taylor Lamb Appalachian State SR 71 652 5 56.3% 17.3% 0.05 97% 78% 1
Chazz Surratt North Carolina FR 71 328 5 40.9% 0.2% -0.07 20% 59% 0
Josh Allen Wyoming JR 71 360 5 57.8% 10.6% -0.30 80% 19% 0
Kellen Mond Texas A&M FR 70 472 3 47.1% 5.4% 0.05 50% 79% 1
Keytaon Thompson Mississippi State FR 69 481 6 59.4% 14.1% 0.06 92% 80% 1
Mason Fine North Texas SO 69 309 1 43.5% 0.2% -0.39 20% 10% 0
Jarrett Stidham Auburn SO 68 366 4 42.7% 1.8% -0.24 28% 27% 0
Lamar Jordan New Mexico SR 67 433 2 41.8% -0.5% 0.03 17% 75% 0
Brandon Dawkins Arizona JR 64 504 8 56.3% 13.7% 0.09 91% 84% 1
David Pindell Connecticut JR 64 332 3 48.4% 5.0% -0.36 47% 12% 0
Shane Morris Central Michigan SR 64 275 3 39.1% -1.9% -0.44 12% 6% 0
D'Eriq King Houston SO 63 417 8 44.4% 4.1% 0.19 41% 93% 0
Bryant Shirreffs Connecticut SR 63 353 0 44.4% -3.9% -0.09 6% 55% 0
Chad President Tulsa SO 62 480 9 50.0% 7.5% 0.28 63% 97% 1
Dustin Crum Kent State FR 62 426 1 41.9% 4.1% -0.15 41% 43% 0
Demry Croft Minnesota SO 60 457 4 40.0% 1.0% 0.27 23% 97% 0
Jordan Davis UL-Lafayette JR 60 441 5 50.0% 8.1% 0.03 67% 75% 1
Kent Myers Utah State SR 60 424 5 43.3% 3.2% 0.06 35% 79% 0

Breaking: option quarterbacks run a lot. Lamar Jackson was the only QB with 200+ rushes who didn’t qualify as a triple-option guy.

Here are the best of the best, the 19 rushing QBs who ended up in at least the 50th percentile in both efficiency and explosiveness:

  • Ahmad Bradshaw, Army (1,746 yards, +10.9% mEff, +0.01 mExpl)
  • Alex Delton, Kansas State (533 yards, +5.6% mEff, -0.04 mExpl)
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (491 yards, +9.3% mEff, -0.01 mExpl)
  • Brandon Dawkins, Arizona/Indiana (504 yards, +13.7% mEff, +0.09 mExpl)*
  • Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame (923 yards, +12.7% mEff, +0.08 mExpl)*
  • Chad President, Tulsa (480 yards, +7.5% mEff, +0.28 mExpl)
  • Dalton Sturm, UTSA (671 yards, +6.7 mEff, -0.07 mExpl)
  • Jalen Hurts, Alabama (981 yards, +9.7% mEff, +0.03 mExpl)
  • Jason Driskel, FAU (457 yards, +8.7% mEff, +0.06 mExpl)
  • Jordan Davis, UL-Lafayette (441 yards, +8.1% mEff, +0.03 mExpl)
  • Justice Hansen, Arkansas State (618 yards, +9.1% mEff, -0.01 mExpl)
  • Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (472 yards, +5.4% mEff, +0.05 mExpl)
  • Keytaon Thompson, Mississippi State (481 yards, +14.1% mEff, +0.06 mExpl)*
  • Khalil Tate, Arizona (1,492 yards, +7.7% mEff, +0.68 mExpl)
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville (1,759 yards, +14.3% mEff, +0.20 mExpl)*
  • Nathan Rourke, Ohio (1,008 yards, +21.4% mEff, +0.08 mExpl)*
  • Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (1,025 yards, +9.7% mEff, +0.02 mExpl)
  • Stephen Johnson, Kentucky (537 yards, +12.8% mEff, -0.05 mExpl)
  • Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State (652 yards, +17.3% mEff, +0.05 mExpl)

First of all, it’s unfair that Mayfield was a good rusher and a great passer.

Second, though Mayfield and Jackson are gone, there are a lot of fun, impressive rushing quarterbacks coming back this year. And two of them attend Mississippi State.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi State
Nick Fitzgerald
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports