Perhaps more than any other third-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft class, former Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham faces some high expectations in year one.
Parham was the 90th player off the board and the Las Vegas Raiders’ first selection of the three-day extravaganza, and now he’s expected to help turnaround one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season.
As a whole, Las Vegas earned a 55.2 run-blocking grade from PFF which ranked 29th out of the league’s 32 teams. Unsurprisingly, they also had the fifth-fewest rushing yards (1,617) and the sixth-lowest yards per carry (3.9), due in large part to the team’s struggles upfront.
In steps Parham, who projects to be a solution to that problem, but one significant question arises with the rookie’s arrival, how productive was Memphis when pounding the rock behind him?
To answer this question, I used Pro Football Focus’ rushing direction breakdown for each year that Parham was on the field for the Tigers — 2018 to 2021 — and used the numbers for the two gaps on each side of him. For example, in 2018 and 2019, he played exclusively at left guard so I used PFF’s numbers for runs that went to either the left A- or B-gaps.
In full disclosure, PFF doesn’t split these numbers up by player — just by direction — and Parham didn’t play on every single snap, so I had to adjust to account for this in the calculations.
I’ll spare you the boring details but essentially, I took the difference between how many run-blocking snaps Parham participated in and Memphis’ total rushing attempts for each year, while simultaneously calculating how frequently they would run to each gap. That allowed me to get an estimate of how many rushing attempts the Raiders’ rookie wasn’t involved in for each gap, and I could then subtract those plays from the total yards to each gap using the average yards per rush to said gap.
For touchdowns and first downs, I used the ratio of carries to each and used a probability method to determine how many he was on the field for. The difference here wasn’t as significant as the yards were, as it typically resulted in one to two — and sometimes zero — fewer than the team total for each direction. That’s partially because Parham didn’t miss much playing time over the last four years, making the adjustments relatively slight.
So, the numbers below are technically estimates, but they can add some context and at least give us a ballpark idea of how successful Memphis was running behind Parham.
We’ll kick things off with Parham’s redshirt freshman season where he participated in 536 run plays, all of which came at left guard, while Memphis ran the ball 591 times.
They had 72 rushing attempts to the left A-gap which accounted for 12.2 percent of their rushes, so our subject likely missed about 6.7 or seven plays to this area.
Running to this spot proved fruitful for the Tigers, racking up 499 yards (their fourth-most out of the 16 directions) for 6.9 yards per carry (seventh-most), seven touchdowns (third-most) and 24 first downs (tied for third-most). Accounting for the plays he missed, Parham was likely responsible for 453 yards, six scores and 22 firsts to this area. That also means about 43.1 percent of the time they ran behind him to the left A-gap, they either put points on the board or moved the chains.
Moving on to the left B-gap, Memphis ran the ball here 55 times to account for 9.3 percent of their attempts, meaning Parham didn’t participate in about 5.1 or five rushes.
The team saw similar success running to this area with 434 yards (fifth-most) for 7.9 yards per attempt (fifth-most), three touchdowns (tied for sixth-most) and 16 first downs (sixth-most). Using the offensive lineman’s playing time adjustment, he likely accounted for 394 yards, three touchdowns and 14 first downs. Those figures mean the Tigers scored or got a first down on about 34.0 percent of rushes behind Parham to the left B-gap.
In total, the redshirt freshman was responsible for 846 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and 36 first downs where 39.1 percent of rushes to his gaps either gave the team points or a fresh set of downs.
Parham also exclusively lined up at right guard the following season too, however, the stats do get a bit murkier here as he missed 118 run plays, by far the most of his college career. We can still get a ballpark number from this year, but this is definitely where the biggest room for variance in the data lies.
Memphis ran the ball to the left A-gap 62 times in 2019, which accounted for about 11.9 percent of their total runs and means Parham likely missed about 14 attempts.
The team did enjoy a good amount of success running here with 384 yards (third-most), 6.2 yards per carry (second-most), two touchdowns (tied for seventh-most) and 16 first downs (fourth-most). Factoring out the plays he missed, Parham likely accounted for 297 yards, two scores and 13 chain-moving runs. That comes out to 31.3 percent of runs resulting in a touchdown or first down.
To the left B-gap, the Tigers had 42 rushing attempts or about eight percent of their total runs, so the Raiders’ third-round pick likely wasn’t included in about 9.5 or 10 runs to the area.
While the production wasn’t terrible, this was one of the least-productive areas we’ll look at as Memphis only managed 243 yards (sixth) at 5.8 per clip (sixth), with three scores (tied for fourth) and 11 firsts (tied for sixth). As for Parham’s contributions, he was likely responsible for 188 yards, two touchdowns and nine first downs, which comes out to a 34.4 percent rate of scores and chain-moving plays.
In total, he accounted for 485 yards, four touchdowns and 22 first downs and the team scored or moved the chains 32.5 percent of the time when running behind the sophomore.
After two years of manning the left guard spot, Parham switched to right tackle for the COVID-riddled season, and he only missed 31 of the team’s 378 rushing attempts.
Memphis ran the ball 52 times or 13.8 percent of the time to the right B-gap in 2020, meaning we’re looking at about 4.3 or four attempts that our subject didn’t participate in.
This is where they found the most success out of any of the years or gaps mentioned in this study. The Tigers racked up 386 yards (first), 7.1 yards per carry (first), one touchdown (tied for second) and 13 first downs (second behind QB scrambles). Using our adjustment formula, that makes Parham responsible for 355 yards, one touchdown and 12 first downs on runs to the right B-gap. Somewhat surprisingly, that only comes out to 27.1 percent of runs that resulted in points or a new set of downs, though.
The right C-gap was a bit of a different story, however.
Memphis had 31 attempts in that direction which was 8.2 percent of their total runs, so Parham likely missed about 2.5 or three carries. Such attempts only yielded 114 yards (ninth) for 3.7 per touch (10th), one score (tied for second) and eight firsts (eighth), making the tackle responsible for 105 yards, one touchdown and seven chain-moving runs. That comes out to a 28.6 percent ratio of touchdowns and first downs to attempts.
In total, the junior was responsible for 460 yards, two touchdowns, 19 firsts and a 27.6 percent frequency for the latter two figures.
We’ve finally reached Parham’s final college season where he moved back to guard but on the right side and was off the field for 48 of the team’s 384 rushing attempts.
That year, the Tigers ran to the right A-gap 48 times, accounting for 12.5 percent of their total attempts, meaning Parham likely missed about six rushes to the area.
They ended up 198 yards (fourth) at 4.1 yards per rush (tied for eighth) two touchdowns (tied for third) and 13 first downs (third). Adjusting for the plays he missed, that makes the Raiders’ rookie responsible for 173 yards, two scores and 11 firsts, with a touchdown and first down to carry ratio of 31 percent.
Those aren’t eye-popping numbers by any means, but the team did have a lot more success when running to the right B-gap. Memphis had 33 carries to that spot which accounted for 8.6 percent of their total run plays and means Parham likely missed about 4.1 or four attempts.
The Tigers managed 200 yards (third), 6.1 per attempt (4th behind left reverses and end arounds which had one long attempt each and scrambles), two scores (tied for third) and 10 chain movers (tied for sixth). Using the adjustment formula one more time, that makes Parham responsible for 175 yards, both touchdowns and nine firsts. That also means the Tigers put points on the board or got a new set of downs on 37.9 percent of runs to the right B-gap when rushing behind the big man.
In total, Parham led the way for 348 yards, four touchdowns and 20 first downs, for a 33.8 percent ratio of carries to scores and firsts.
To summarize, and finally give you what you came here for, Memphis ended up rushing for 2,140 yards, 6.2 yards per attempt, 19 touchdowns and 97 first downs. That means they scored or got a first 33.9 percent of the time they ran behind the Raiders’ new rookie. Those are some encouraging numbers for a team that struggled to move the ball on the ground a year ago.