Commentary

MNF Preview: Dynamic, young RBs

Finding comparable players to Shonn Greene, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles

Updated: September 11, 2010, 6:27 PM ET
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders
Jamaal Charles/Shonn Green/Ray RiceIcon SMI/US PresswireMonday Night Football features three solid, young running backs.

There are a lot of ways to look at Week 1's "Monday Night Football" doubleheader, but one element that links all four teams is an exciting young running back. The first game matches Shonn Greene against Ray Rice, while the second game pits Jamaal Charles against rookie Ryan Mathews.

How do these young backs compare with other backs of the past 30 years? To find that out, we decided to play with a fun toy called similarity scores. Similarity scores were introduced by Bill James to compare baseball players to other baseball players from the past, and the idea has spread to other sports. We have a version we use for the NFL (which you can read more about here). This isn't a perfect measurement by any means -- because similarity scores compare standard statistics like yards and touchdowns, they are subject to all kinds of biases from strength of schedule to the quality of each player's offensive line. Nevertheless, they're fun to play with and they tell you a little bit about whether a player is good, bad, or just unique.

Of course we can't do similarity scores for a player who has never taken the field in the NFL, so Ryan Mathews will have to wait, but here's a look at Monday night's three other young running back stars.