If the Vikings end up feeling forced to trade Peterson because of his apparent discontentment with the organization, all bets are off. But the top two running backs in the draft should both be available for the Vikings at No. 11 if that’s an option they want to consider if Peterson is traded before they are on the clock on April 30.
Even if they don’t trade Peterson, an eventual replacement for him is a possibilities in the ensuing rounds.
In an in-depth stats comparison of the top five running backs in the draft, Scout.com’s Dave-Te’ Thomas breaks down how they ranked in numerous rushing categories and the importance of the top five to their college offenses.
The numerous statistics show why Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are at the top of a deep draft for the position, and who is next – taking into account the power and outside running game, negative plays and more.
Gordon is ranked at the top of Scout.com’s rankings at the position, but if not for a knee injury to Gurley he would rank at the top. The stats prove why Gurley, if healthy, is the best bet among running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Gurley dominates the rankings in numerous categories, from the power running game to the outside running game and nearly everything in between.
Among the top five running backs in the draft – Gordon, Gurley, Jay Ajayi, Jeremy Langford and Ameer Abdullah – the Georgia running back ranked first in percentage of touchdowns 10 yards or longer, first in percentage of touchdowns 20 yards or longer, total offensive yardage in games he played (42.37 percent), first in total points scored by his offense (55.7 percent), and second in percentage of his team’s touchdowns (53.33). Gurley also ranked first in the outside running game, including every statistic contained within that category, and did well in the power running game, too.
Gordon represented well, too, ranking second in most of the categories that Gurley won. Whether it was in the categories mentioned above or figuring in the receiving game, too, Gordon also ranked second to Gurley.
Compiling all the running-game statistics, Langford ranked third, with Ajayi fourth and Abdullah fifth. Figuring in the receiving statistics, Ajayi overtook Langford for third, but the order of the other three remained the same.
Here are the in-depth statistics compiled by Thomas:
TOP RUNNING BACKS COMPARISON CHARTSThe charts below compare the performances of the five top-rated running backs eligible for the 2015 draft, using their 2014 season statistics for this project. Each of the players listed below are considered to be early-round draft selections. I examine each athlete’s performance in detailed categories, based on game averages or percentage of plays.
|RUNNING BACK TALE OF THE TAPE|
|JAY AJAYI||Boise State||Junior||5:11.6||221||4.57|
|JEREMY LANGFORD||Michigan State||Senior||5:11.5||208||4.42|
|2014 SEASON RUSHING STATISTICS|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESIn the NFL, teams expect their ball carriers to average at least four yards per attempt (AVG). In college football, that level is increased to five yards per rush, as a lot of teams use the spread offense, giving those runners an extra step to build their acceleration. Gurley and Gordon operate more in a pro-style offensive scheme, making their average per carry figures even more impressive, while Ajayi’s numbers came from getting most of his opportunities between the tackles, rather than on sweeps and end-around runs.
To find out the table-setters, look at the TD/DSS numbers. Ajayi ran for 28 touchdowns (TD), but managed to set up just two other touchdown drives and one field goal (SDS) from his big plays as a ball carrier. On the other side of the coin, Langford scored 13 times but had big runs that led to 20 more Michigan State touchdown drives, and on four possessions that led to field goals. Moving the chains is a critical factor for tailbacks. Usually, I look for those runners to record first downs on at least 30% of their carries. Both Gurley (38.21%) and Langford (36.96%) were very good at getting the chains moved, but Ajayi brought in the lowest figure (24.78%), followed by Abdullah (29.92%). Gordon pulled in a number of 31.49%.
Big runs always excite the fan base and Gordon more than quenched Badger fans’ thirst, converting 16.62% of his runs into gains of at least 10 yards (10+), but the best numbers recorded there were by Gurley, reaching 10 yards on 21.11% of his runs. Ajayi was the least successful at 9.8%, leading to his lowest number within the group with a 3.17% mark for gains of 20 yards or longer. The 20-plus yard champ was Gordon, as 9.62% of his carries reached that level.
Power runners are those usually getting the call inside the red zone, and 21.74% of Langford’s carries came in this area, with Gurley making 15.45% of his chances within 20 yards of the goal line. Gordon was the least successful (9.91%), the only one of the five with less than 10 percent of his attempts in that area. Ajayi (23) and Langford (24) had the most carries for positive yardage on goal-line snaps.
|POWER RUNNING GAME COMPARISONS|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESPower runners are the workhorse types, usually dragging multiple defenders before they are brought down. One way of judging those big producers is by tallying up the times the player was tackled by multiple defenders before being stopped on non-touchdown carries (ATT/MT). Even though he is not as big as the other runners, Langford was the best producer here, as 35.43% of those carries required that he would need to be gang-tackled. The worst was Gordon – known for his speed, but not really one that can bounce back after the initial hit. In that category, I expect the ball carrier to record at least 20%.
Converting those carries (1st/3rd/4th), I look for at least a 30% rate, with Gurley and Langford recording the best numbers. For a 205-pound player, Langford proved to be highly productive working inside the red zone, where he produced 15 of 18 of his touchdown runs. Ajayi also had a good nose for the end zone in the short area, scoring 24-of-28 times near the goal line.
|OUTSIDE RUNNING GAME COMPARISONS|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESBreaking for the big gains is another important area for a tailback. Gurley and Gordon were the most successful in converting their carries into big gains, as the Badger reached the end zone 12 of 29 times on carries of 20 yards or longer. Ajayi was the worst, managing just 14.29% of his touchdowns from long distances. Ajayi was also the worst in being involved on scoring drives, as just 8.93% of his attempts were on drives that led to either field goals or touchdowns for the Broncos.
|NEGATIVE RUNNING PLAY COMPARISONS|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESNo ball carrier will be successful on every rushing attempt, but you’d like to have one with minimal chances for failure. I want a player who will gain positive yards on at least 90% of their rushing attempts (TFL/NG), and, based on the numbers above, Gurley (9.76%) and Langford (9.78) met that goal. Gordon is either a game-breaker or a heart-breaker. He was caught behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 45 carries and stopped at the line of scrimmage 21 other times. Ajayi was not much better, with 30 attempts for negative yardage and 27 more that yielded no results.
Gurley was a model for ball security last year. In fact, he’s been that way his entire career, turning the ball over just twice via fumbles through 510 carries in college. Both Gordon and Ajayi have had a history of fumble issues. In addition to both recording seven last season, the duo share another thing in common – 12 turnovers via fumbles for each of their careers.
|OFFENSIVE IMPORTANCE COMPARISON CHART-PART ONE|
|OFFENSIVE IMPORTANCE COMPARISON CHART-PART TWO|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESOf course, a running back needs to contribute in other areas. The more ways that athlete can provide yardage, the better chance the team has for scoring. While most college tailbacks are relegated to just first-unit carries, others add to their resumes as efficient receivers or on special teams as a returner. You want your featured back to be responsible for at least 35% of the offense generated (APY). You also would like to see them involved in 45% of the team’s scoring drives (PTD/TTD). Gordon and Gurley went well beyond the threshold for this area, but Abdullah was often replaced when the field shortened, thus for his low PRF/TPT numbers.
|RECEIVING STATISTICAL COMPARISON CHART|
READING BETWEEN THE LINESNot all great running backs are great receivers. Few come out of college with the pass catching pedigree of a Steven Jackson, Arian Foster or Matt Forte. That is where Ajayi sees his stock greatly elevated, as he has proven to be a great safety-valve receiver for dump-offs and on controlled routes. It looks like Big Ten runners are just a mere afterthought in the passing game (Gordon and Langford), with Adbullah at least showing enough skills to possibly play in the slot, if needed.
|THE FINAL REPORT CARD GRADES (RUSHING ONLY)|
|AJAYI, Jay||Boise State||14||12||03||08||12||06||055||4|
|LANGFORD, Jeremy||Michigan State||13||18||09||10||09||07||066||3|
|THE FINAL REPORT CARD GRADES (RECEIVING INCLUDED)|
|AJAYI, Jay||Boise State||14||12||03||08||12||06||18||073||3|
|LANGFORD, Jeremy||Michigan State||13||18||09||10||09||07||05||071||4|
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