Goal Line Running Back Production May 11, 2013  |  Chet


I’m always interested in how well running backs execute when they are near the goal line because execution means touchdowns and touchdowns means sweet, sweet, juicy fantasy points. Of course there are many reasons why a certain play doesn’t work and they often aren’t due directly to the running backs ability, but production often trumps circumstances in a coaches desire to score as many touchdowns as possible in those precious 64 quarters of play. So I thought I’d take a look at running backs with five or more carries inside the opponent’s five yard line over the last two seasons. Five is way too small a sample size, but going higher than that left out some interesting players.

 

Interestingly enough, Mikel Leshoure saw plenty of pass defense when he ran the ball last season and was one of the worst at producing against light fronts, but in his limited goal line work he has been productive. Reggie Bush was only 1 of 4 last season, but 3 of 6 in 2011. Pretty small data set, but not horrible production.

Ryan Mathews has been as disappointing as a player can be, but his one slightly bright spot are his four touchdowns on five carries inside the five. And yes, that sample size is quite small and all came in the 2011 season. Last year he had a total of ZERO carries inside the five, while Jackie Battle had nine. The good news is, Battle is gone and Mathews should be the goal line back.

As you can see, last year Andre Brown and Alfred Morris were extremely reliable around the goal line. We known that Morris has the early down and goal line work in Washington D.C., but in New York the starter is going to be David Wilson now that Ahmad Bradshaw has been banished. But these numbers make it pretty clear that Brown will see goal line work. That’s even more obvious when you see that Wilson had 3 carries inside the five for one yard and no touchdowns last season.

Unfortunately the third most effective goal line back over the last two seasons, Beanie Wells, is hurting and his career could be over.

The Patriots backfield is always one of interest due to their high octane offense and commitment to the run. This season there will be a split in touches between Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but deciphering the split is tough. Ridley should be the early down and goal line back, but we see that Belichick was willing to mix things up in 2012 inside the five, with Ridley getting 20 carries for eight TDs, Brandon Bolden with seven for one TD, Danny Woodhead with six for two TDs and Shane Vereen with five for three TDs. Vereen is now the clear backup/change of pace back with Woodhead gone and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his touches close to the goal line go up.

When we look at the Bills running backs, C.J. Spiller stands out as the dominate fantasy player, but if Fred Jackson can stay healthy and has some of his same burst, he should still get goal line looks. Of course Spiller is so dynamic this shouldn’t be overly concerning. Spiller can score from anywhere on the field and often does.

One of the least productive backs of late has been Willis McGahee and with his recent injury history, the talk of him being cut seems very possible. Montee Ball should get his shot.

On the other hand, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been productive and will stay on as the goal line back while Giovani Bernard gets his legs under him. Bernard is the superior player, but Law Firm has been stable around the goal line.

Matt Forte has 10 touchdowns on 56 career carries inside the five for his career, while Michael Bush has 21 touchdowns in 47 attempts. And as you can see, that split hasn’t changed much over the last two seasons. The only wrinkle this season is Forte may see more passing targets closer to the goal line than in the past. And with his history, his fantasy owners better hope that’s the case under Trestman.

I’ll let you take a look-see at the rest and see what you think.

3 Responses

  1. alex says:

    Good stuff man –do you possibly have data on pct of plays inside the 5 given to each player? And further, pct of running plays inside the 5 given to each player? Thanks a lot

  2. Jem Hilton (@Tag0Mag0) says:

    I think the conclusion to draw here is that the Lions actually run the ball well inside the five. There’s one HUGE reason for that. In addition, most of the top GL backs seem to come from systems that are effective pass-first offenses. There is certainly some individual talent/effort that helps here, but the threat of a receiving TD must play a very significant role in the success of a GL running attack. I’d be curious to know what the defensive sets were for each of these TDs.

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