Best and worst of YAC backs in NFL

Yards after contact is an important statistic for NFL running backs, but last year presented a turning of the tide for some of the biggest names at the position.

Might the Seattle Seahawks be better off with Thomas Rawls as their lead running back after the retirement of Marshawn Lynch?

As long as Rawls returns to form after suffering a fractured ankle and ligament damage, the stats from last year indicate that, as Rawls was the better mode over Beast Mode before his December injury. Rawls led the NFL with 5.65 yards per carry and proved to be a beast to bring down. He also led the NFL with 2.68 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

The stats service chronicled the top running backs in the league last year when it comes to yards after initial contact, and Rawls was best.

Here are the top ones (after Rawls) and bottom five among qualifiers:

2. Carlos Hyde. While the San Francisco 49ers back was second in yards after contact at 2.3, he was nowhere near the top 20 in average per carry. That’s because the 49ers struggled to give him room to run and he averaged only 1.78 yards before contact – 45th, according to Stats and Information.

3. Mark Ingram. Like Rawls, Ingram suffered an injury in December that derailed the rest of his season. But before that shoulder injury, Ingram averaged 2.27 yards after contact. He finished 13th in the NFL with a 4.63 yards-per-carry average for the New Orleans Saints.

4. C.J. Anderson. Although Anderson was slightly below Ingram in YAC at 2.22, Anderson finished just above Ingram in yards per carry at 4.74. That was good for 11th place in 2015 and he’ll have another chance to move into the top 10 again after re-signing with the Broncos.

5. David Johnson. Although he is in a crowded backfield with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, as a rookie David Johnson proved to be the most effective. He averaged 2.22 yards after contact and 4.65 yards per carry (12th) to go along with eight touchdowns (tied for seventh). The future is definitely bright for the Arizona Cardinals star in the making.

YUCKY YAC (5 WORST)

1. Jeremy Langford. The Bears felt confident enough in Langford’s abilities that they allowed Matt Forte to leave, but Langford averaged just 3.63 yards per carry and only 1.13 yards after contact.

2. Matt Jones. Not only did Jones have issues securing the ball in 2015 – he fumbled five times – he also had only 1.44 yards after contact and a 3.4 yards-per-carry average.

3. Alfred Morris. The Dallas Cowboys signed Morris in free agency this year, but it wasn’t because of his YAC from last year, when he averaged only 1.45 yards after contact. He became a workhorse with the Washington Redskins for three years, but last year struggled to gain much after first contact.

4. Jeremy Hill. Like Morris, Hill experienced some very productive seasons before last year. But in 2015 he averaged only 1.46 yards after contact, fourth-worst among qualifiers. He remains with the Cincinnati Bengals, but that number will have to improve he wants to remain in a time-share backfield with Giovanni Bernard.

5. LeSean McCoy. As ESPN pointed out, McCoy has been one of the best backs at avoiding early contact, and that helped him average 4.41 yards per carry with the Buffalo Bills in 2015. But once he was touched, he didn’t gain much yardage – his 1.47 YAC was fifth-worst.

Another thing that makes the list of best and worst backs for yards after contact in 2015 is that none of the top five or bottom five were among the top 10 rushers in the NFL. Perhaps that’s an indication that blocking is every bit as important as the running back’s ability to break a tackle.


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