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Value of Things: Blind Testing Houston Texans RBs

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By: VBallRetired

Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

We do the beloved player A, B, C, D, E test.

Free agency is a lot like the kind of parties we used to go to in college. There is a ton of alcohol available. Some of it is high end, but most of it is dirt cheap. There is certainly a lot of fun to be had, but you can find yourself in a ton of pain in the morning. Free agency works the same way. The winners in March are rarely ever the winners in early February the next year.

There are a ton of names available on the running back market. The Houston Texans are in position to sign at least one of those guys and could possibly add two free agent running backs if they are on the cheaper variety. One of those guys is Devin Singletary. Saquon Barkley seems to be the talk of the league and he’s liked everyone on IG down to the equipment managers in Houston, so is Barkley to Houston inevitable? More importantly, should it be?

In order to do this, we will remove the player’s names and look at as many relevant numbers as we can. We will look at what percentage of games they play, what they do rushing the football, receiving the football, total usage rates, and then we will distill those numbers into a per 15 game season. We will look at Singletary, Barkley, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, and Austin Ekeler. However, we will jumble up those names so we don’t necessarily know who is who.

Career totals

Player A: 119/130 games, 2,030 carries, 9,502 yards, 90 TD, 155 catches, 1,458 yards, 3 TD
Player B: 103/114 games, 990 carries, 4,355 yards, 39 TD, 440 catches, 3,854 yards, 30 TD
Player C: 73/82 games, 1,305 carries, 5,545 yards, 46 TD, 197 catches, 1,448 yards, 0 TD
Player D: 74/98 games, 1,201 carries, 5,211 yards, 35 TD, 288 catches, 2,100 yards, 12 TD
Player E: 78/82 games, 888 carries, 4,049 yards, 20 TD, 175 catches, 1,164 yards, 4 TD

The best ability is availability, but it should be noted that Christian McCaffrey had only played in 77.3 percent of his games coming into this season before he led the league in rushing and touchdowns. The rest of them were 89 percent or better except for Player D. So, that is an immediate strike against Player D, but let’s take a look at total touches and yards per touch, and total touchdowns.

Total Touches

Player A: 2,185 touches, 10,960 yards, 5.02 YPT, 93 TD
Player B: 1,430 touches, 8,209 yards, 5.74 YPT, 69 TD
Player C: 1,502 touches, 6,993 yards, 4.66 YPT, 46 TD
Player D: 1,489 touches, 7,311 yards, 4.91 YPT, 47 TD
Player E: 1,063 touches, 5,213 yards, 4.90 YPT, 24 TD

There are any number of things to consider here. Obviously, the first is usage rates. Player A has more tread on those tires than anyone else, so picking him up would be a bigger gamble. Players B, C, and D all have similar number of touches even if they have varying levels of success on those touches. Players A and B look like potential Hall of Famers, but we want to know who will be good moving forward.

As we have seen with McCaffrey, a lot of this is dependent on the way a back is used and how they get their touches. Players A and C are not good receivers out of the backfield, so they are more traditional backs. Players B and D can be used more creatively and therefore can be a more comprehensive part of a Shanahan-like system.

Per Game Rates

Player A: 17.1 rushing attempts, 79.8 YPG, 0.75 TD, 1.3 catches, 12.3 YPG, 0.03 TD
Player B: 9.6 rushing attempts, 42.3 YPG, 0.38 TD, 4.3 catches, 37.,4 YPG, 0.29 TD
Player C: 17.9 rushing attempts, 76.0 YPG, 0.63 TD, 2.7 catches, 19.8 YPG, 0,00 TD
Player D: 16.2 rushing attempts, 70.4 YPG, 0.47 TD, 3.9 catches, 28.4 YPG, 0.16 TD
Player E: 11.4 rushing attempts, 51.9 YPG, 0.26 TD, 2.2 catches, 14.9 YPG, 0.05 TD

There is any number of ways to look at this. Usage is nothing more than opportunity. However, if we assume that there are a certain number of touches a player can have before they begin to lose effectiveness then we might be encouraged by what we see from Player E. There is just less mileage on those tires than the other four guys. The same is true with Player B as well. Players C and D have the most and they are nearly identical in the number of touches.

Are all touches created equal? It would seem that players would get less wear and tear as receivers when they are hit by lighter linebackers and defensive backs as opposed to defensive linemen. Of course, that would require further study. The last step is to recreate a per 15 game season where we assume the back missed a couple of games with bumps and bruises, but is otherwise healthy.

Per 15 Numbers

Player A: 255 carries, 1,199 yards, 11 TD, 20 catches, 184 yards, 0 TD
Player B: 144 carries, 634 yards, 6 TD, 64 catches, 561 yards, 3 TD
Player C: 268 carries, 1,139 yards, 9 TD, 40 catches, 298 yards, 0 TD
Player D: 243 carries, 1,056 yards, 7 TD, 58 catches, 426 yards, 2 TD
Player E: 204 carries, 779 yards, 4 TD, 34 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD

For the most part, Players A through D end up getting pretty close to the same place in terms of total touches, yards, and touchdowns but they take pretty divergent paths to get there. Players A and C are old-fashioned pound the line guys where B and D offer some diversity. It usually comes down to price.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

Eventually, we have to reveal answers to these things. I think most people know that Derrick Henry is Player A and Devin Singletary is Player E. It is those three players in between that are interesting. Player B is Austin Ekeler, Player C is Josh Jacobs, and Player D is Saquon Barkley.

I try not to dismiss anyone out of hand, but I find it hard to justify giving Barkley top-of-the-market money. If you could guarantee you would get the 15 games then it makes a ton of sense, but let’s say you could get him for 12 million per season. Could you sign someone like Ekeler and Singletary for 12 million combined? Would you rather have those two guys for roughly the same rate as one Barkley?

Furthermore, we have to ask ourselves precisely what we want. Henry and Jacobs have been more durable in general than Barkley and superior running the football. Clearly, they are not receiving threats or at least have not been to this point. Are the Texans more interested in someone that can carry the ball 15 to 20 times and gain consistent yards or are they more interested in a versatile threat that might not be as consistently productive or healthy?

As we stand hare we have no idea how each player will position themselves in the market. It is almost never a question of whether one is better than the other. It is a question of HOW MUCH better they are. Even if you just brought back Singletary and drafted another running back then what could you spend that relative savings on? What happens if you get one or two more depth pieces at another position? Is that worth the difference between a Barkley and a Singletary?

Originally posted on Battle Red Blog – All Posts