We at Acme Packing Company put a lot of stock in Football Outsiders’ numbers. The folks at FO take a fully results-based look at the NFL, looking simply at final numbers in creative ways rather than attempting to grade players and plays subjectively.
That’s why, when we see something jump off the page in one of FO’s statistical measures, we feel it’s worth pointing out. And boy, did I find one today.
In looking through FO’s stats for NFL running backs in 2017, I noticed something interesting: Aaron Jones, the Packers’ rookie runner, finished the season with the third-highest DVOA rating of any running back with more than 20 carries on the season and the second-highest DVOA of anyone with more than 30 rushing attempts. Jones posted a +31.1% rating on 81 rushes, finished behind only fellow rookie Alvin Kamara of the Saints (+44.2%) and the Jaguars’ Corey Grant (who recorded a +53.8% but on exactly 30 carries).
As a reminder, DVOA measures a player’s effectiveness on a per-play basis, compared to DYAR, which is a measure of total production. However, Jones also finished 11th in the NFL in DYAR, despite having fewer than half the carries of most of the top ten backs. In fact, nine of the top ten runners had at least 180 carries; only Kamara (again) had fewer, running the ball just 120 times on the season.
The Packers’ offensive line was surely responsible for a significant portion of Jones’ success; the line finished the year fifth in FO’s Adjusted Line Yards stat, which attempts to account for the line’s contribution in the running game. However, the difference between Jones’ numbers and fellow Packer Jamaal Williams’ (+7.5% DVOA, 109 DYAR on 153 carries) illustrates just how explosive Jones was in 2017.
Moving forward in 2018, this writer hopes that the Packers will give Jones more carries rather than leaning on Williams as a workhorse running back. On a per-play basis, he proved to be the more effective runner as a rookie, and indeed he was one of the best in the entire NFL.