Playing with Numbers: Why yards per carry isn't always accurate


Predicting which running backs are apt to receive more or less work as the season progresses is obviously an inexact science. Playing time and therefore production are affected by both injuries and production. It's impossible to predict injuries, but production stats might give us some additional insight as to what players are apt to see playing-time changes going forward.

Most people view yards per carry as a suitable statistic for gauging production. I don't. A runner can have the following string of rushes: 1, 2, 1, 0, -2, 18, 3, -1, 10. His YPC would be a respectable 4.0. From a weekly fantasy perspective, if you started him, you don't care how he got those yards, because you get credit for them as a total. However, those small runs, especially when he lost yardage, are likely to lead to the player's coaching staff evaluating the touch attempts that player will see in the future. Which is why, when I am evaluating the prospects for a change in a player's role, I look at stuff percentage.