From the FanPosts. Rebuttal post to Tomahawk 29's Trent Richardson post. -Joel
Tomahawk29 wrote a fanpost explaining the reasons why we should draft Richardson. As you might have guessed, I don't agree. Not only that, but if Pioli does draft Richardson in the first, I will have lost all the respect I had for him as a capable GM. There is simply no reason to draft a running back in the first round unless you are guaranteed the next Jim Brown or Barry Sanders.
Our disagreement on this issue revolves around a common misunderstanding of how the football world works. Simply put, anyone who wants to draft Richardson in the first must assume that we will be a very run heavy team, and run heavy teams are doomed to fail in today's NFL.
A lot of people think Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL today. The people who argue for Trent Richardson point to the fact that he looks like Adrian Peterson to show how great of an addition he would be to the Chiefs. And it's mostly true. Peterson is #11 among running backs in Advanced NFL Stats' expected points added per play metric. Every time the Vikings run the ball with Peterson, they can expect to gain .07 points out of it. That's pretty good.
Well, it's good for a running back. For a quarterback, he would not be good at all. Kyle Orton had .04 EPA/P on the season and the Broncos chose to bench him in favor of a guy who was third string just a couple weeks earlier. Dan Orlovsky, the guy who is most famous for running out the back of his own endzone, had .08 EPA/P, beating Peterson. That's right, if the Colts had Adrian Peterson, they would be better off letting Orlovsky pass it than they would be letting Peterson run it.
This guy is more useful than "the best running back in the NFL".
That's just an outlier, right? You can't seriously be saying that the Ravens gain more by letting Joe Flacco (which my spell checker is telling me to change to "flaccid") pass than they would by letting Ray Rice run? Sorry, but that is also the case. The Ravens got .11 EPA/P out of
Flaccid Flacco, but only .06 out of Rice.
These stats for running backs are somewhat inflated, because they count both rushes and receptions, and so running backs who get more receptions get a boost in stats. Jamaal Charles (who is really the best running back in the NFL) had .17 EPA/P in 2010, which has only been matched in the last three years by backs that had receptions as at least 25% of their touches, and even then getting above .15 is unusual (Charles had less than 20% of his touches as receptions).
The biggest problem for us is that our QB play has not been very good. Peterson does beat the QBs currently on our roster, Cassel (.01EPA/P) and Palko (-.14EPA/P), so maybe a good running back might help. There are a couple problems with this line of thought.
First of all, Orton may have a bad season overall, but he was excellent when he played for us. Advanced NFL Stats does split the stats to see how he performed with us versus the Broncos, so I'll have to use net yards per attempt (which is like yards per attempt, but counts sacks). And in that category, there was a clear improvement from his days with the Broncos to us. In the three games he played with us, he had 7.9 NY/A, which is outstanding. The only QBs who could beat that last year were Rodgers (8.2) and Brady (7.9). Not even Brees could do as well over the season (7.8) as Orton did with us.
Even though that's a small sample size, and he probably couldn't consistently put up those numbers if he played for us an entire season, it is still enough to convince me that he could outperform Orlovsky, who is more effective than Peterson, the player Richardson may turn out to be if he's as good as we think. In other words, we would be better off signing Orton and giving him an increased load rather than drafting Richardson and turning ourselves into a run-first team.
Secondly, and some what related, is that we should not be building a run first team. Both Super Bowl teams this year were below average running teams by both yards and yards per attempt, with the Giants ranking last in both. The year before that, the Packers were below average in both categories, while the Steelers were only above average in total rushing yards. The year before that the Saints were one of the best running teams, but were even better at passing. The Colts, who could have gone undefeated, were near the bottom in both categories.
Simply put, a strong running game by itself will get you nowhere. You need to concentrate on building the best passing game possible, using the run just to keep the defense honest. The Packers ran the ball 395 times this year, and the Giants ran it 411, so we should aim for around 400 rushing attempts if we want to be a pass-first team. Charles got 230 in 2010, which would leave about 170 for Richardson if he got all the rest of the carries. And would it really be worth a first round pick for Richardson to be getting those 170 carries rather than a combination of Battle and Mccluster? McCluster had around .05 EPA/P last year and 90 carries, while Battle was at -.09 EPA/P, so if McCluster got 90 runs and Battle got 80, we would have a net of about -1 points. If Richardson does as well as Peterson (.07EPA/P) and takes those same carries, we would have a net of about 12 points. So our first round pick would gain us 13 points over the course of a season, or less than one point per game.
But what if we end up keeping Cassel with his .01 EPA/P and had a team like 2010? So instead of passing it about 550 times and running it about 450 times, we pass it about 450 times and run it about 550 times, giving those extra running attempts to Richardson? Even in that scenario, our first round pick is only worth 6 additional points over the season.
So adding Richardson, even assuming that he is as good as Peterson immediately, doesn't really do much to improve our team. Assuming that Orton would have a .1EPA/P playing with us over a season (which is pretty conservative considering the stats above), we would gain about 43 additional points over the season by simply replacing Cassel with Orton. T.J. Yates was at .1EPA/P, so if we could find a QB even half as good as him in the first round, it would be a much better investment than if we had spent the pick on Richardson.
So this is nothing against Richardson, it's just that the running back position isn't that important. You can plug pretty much anyone back there and not get hurt much. And even gaining Adrian Peterson just isn't worth a first round pick. We are far better off reaching for a position of higher value than taking Richardson, even if he is as good as Peterson.