Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden at 2012 OTA's (photo by Levi Damien)
It may be somewhat common knowledge that Raiders running back Darren McFadden is one of the best receiving running backs in the league. But it may surprise you to know that over the past three seasons, he leads all NFL running backs in yards per route run. This according to a recent study by Pro Football Focus.
Here is some of what they had to say:
The oft-injured Darren McFadden tops the list of backs here, just barely edging out the Saints' prolific duo, which might come as a surprise. Also in the Top 10 are Arian Foster, Matt Forte and Rice, showing that they aren't just in for pass plays to make the defense think they might run, but because they are very effective as receivers. Also in the Top 10 is a reunion of the 2010 San Diego backfield, as Sproles was once a Charger, Ryan Mathews on his small sample finished fifth, and Mike Tolbert rounded out the top group.
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McFadden tops the list with 2.08 yards per route run. He ran 436 routes over the past three seasons for a total of 906 yards receiving. Keep in mind, this is not yards per reception. It's yards per route run so it factors in those routes which he wasn't thrown the ball.
McFadden's yprr average just edged out Darren Sproles who had 2.07 yards per route run. McFadden's former Raider teammate, Michael Bush was also among the best with a 1.54 yprr which was good for 11th on the list.
The ironic thing here is, they also have the list of the worst yards per route run and the guy the Raiders reportedly have pegged to replace Bush in the lineup, Cedric Benson tops that list. He has the worst yards per route run route run average at .61. Other notable running backs on the list of the worst include Michael Turner (.64), Denver starting running back Willis McGahee (.78), and recent Chargers acquisition, Ronnie Brown (.88).
These numbers are slightly subjective because they are dependent upon having a quarterback who is more likely to throw to a running back running a route. The Raiders had Jason Campbell behind center for a season and a half and he was well known for his penchant for check downs. That is a strong reason why both McFadden and Bush were on the list for best YPRR. Over 500 of McFadden's 906 receiving yards came in 2010 alone when Campbell was the starter.
And with the quarterback playing a large role in the running back's YPRR, there is the situation in which Cedric Benson-with the worst YPRR-had Carson Palmer throwing to him for two of those three seasons. Carson is more of a drop back passer than Jason Campbell and the Bengals tailored the offense around that.
But the Raiders are switching to the West Coast Offense which means the style of offense that had Benson running decoy routes will not happen in Oakland. All running backs will be relief valves on bootlegs, taking screen passes, and running the play action which will keep the Raiders' backs YPRR as high as it had been with Jason Campbell. Except with Palmer, there will more of a threat of a long pass.
What this study shows is the dependability of the running backs to get open, catch the ball, and make something happen with it once they secure it. When McFadden goes out for pass, he has the skills of a wide receiver while typically being covered by a linebacker. That is someone who you want to get the ball in that instance.
Most of the other running backs mentioned have far more total receiving yards. But if McFadden can stay healthy (big if), he can have those kinds of numbers as well.