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Best & Worst Running Backs at Creating Yards (2024 Fantasy Football)

Best & Worst Running Backs at Creating Yards (2024 Fantasy Football)

As advanced metrics become more innovative, the more difficult they are to track. Yards created being a prime example. But just because it is a difficult metric to track doesn’t mean we should stick to less significant stats. Yards after contact, for example, the closest living relative to yards created, is a common default in this area of analysis. The issue with yards after contact is that it can minimize the impact of smaller, more agile backs. Truck-sticking defenders all the way down the field is impressive, but isn’t the juke move to go untouched just as significant?

There are several ways a running back can gain “extra” yardage, so it’s only logical that we use several different metrics to measure a running back’s ability to create extra yards. There are different versions of yards created being tracked, and for this article, I’ll use SumerSports, which defines their metric as, “adjusting yards per carry based on situation and defensive pre-snap look.” Additionally, I will also utilize PFF’s elusiveness rating, which considers missed tackles forced and yards after contact per attempt. With all of this, we will zoom in on yards after contact to paint a full picture.

Let’s dive in.

Best and Worst RBs at Creating Yards in 2023 (Fantasy Football)

Top 10 RBs at Creating Yards

Top 10 RBs in Yards Created per SumerSports
Name Yards Created
De’Von Achane 3.52
Jaleel McLaughlin 0.98
Jaylen Warren 0.87
Kyren Williams 0.78
James Conner 0.75
Jahmyr Gibbs 0.72
Christian McCaffrey 0.65
Aaron Jones 0.54
Raheem Mostert 0.47
Emari Demercado 0.38
Top 10 RBs in Elusiveness Rating per PFF
Name Elusiveness Rating
De’Von Achane 153.5
Keaton Mitchell 152.2
Jaylen Warren 131.9
Jaleel McLaughlin 113.8
Tyjae Spears 109.8
James Conner 109.3
Raheem Mostert 94.4
Breece Hall 88.6
Kenneth Walker III 88
Antonio Gibson 86.9
Top RBs in Yards After Contact per Attempt
Name Attempts Yards YAC YAC per Attempt
Keaton Mitchell 47 396 267 5.68
De’Von Achane 102 804 522 5.12
James Conner 209 1039 817 3.91
Chris Rodriguez Jr. 51 247 186 3.65
Jaylen Warren 149 785 543 3.64
Emari Demercado 58 284 205 3.53
Antonio Gibson 65 265 228 3.51
Breece Hall 222 993 761 3.43
Christian McCaffrey 272 1459 929 3.42
Pierre Strong Jr. 63 291 215 3.41
Raheem Mostert 209 1012 710 3.4
Jaleel McLaughlin 76 410 257 3.38
Kyren Williams 228 1144 761 3.34
Derrick Henry 280 1167 930 3.32

There’s a lot to take in, but lucky for you, that’s why I’m here. There are a handful of names that are consistent throughout each table, partially due to my extension of the yards after contact list, but obviously that is a good sign for those players.

It should be noted that Keaton Mitchell did not meet the minimum number of attempts to crack SumerSports’ yards created list, but I’ve included him in the other metrics for obvious reasons. If we apply the same restriction to yards per carry per attempt, De’Von Achane would be atop each list. It’s no surprise to see Achane as the cover boy for creating extra yardage after his extraordinary rookie season, but per SumerSports, he is creating 3.5 times more yards than the runner up. His 7.8 yards per carry are the most of any running back with at least 100 attempts since 1934. Although his size is a concern for staying healthy, Achane averaged 5.12 yards after contact per attempt in his 188-pound frame. Although most of those yards didn’t come while bulldozing defenders, it speaks to his ability to stay upright after initial contact. In other words, arm tackles aren’t enough to bring him down. Achane finished as the overall RB4 in half-PPR points per game, despite leaving a couple contests early. It seems like wishful thinking to imagine him playing a full season, but he would be an RB1 if he can do so.

Keaton Mitchell fell short of the carry minimum to crack the yards created list, but he’s in lockstep with Achane in the other metrics. His 5.68 yards after contact per attempt is an absurd number, even on just 47 attempts. His elusiveness rating of 152.2 trails Achane by 1.3 points, but leads the next-closest player by 20.3 points. Perhaps most impressive is his 14.9% breakway run rate. If he had enough carries to qualify, that would have led the league over Achane’s 12.6% breakaway rate. But despite being a human highlight reel and an advanced stat machine, the odds are against Mitchell becoming anything more than a part-time player. Like Achane, his slim build is a lot to overcome, particularly if he continues to struggle with injuries. He carried the ball in just six games this season and didn’t crack double-digit attempts in any of them. As an undrafted free agent, the likelihood of him sticking are even smaller. Regardless, if he maintains this type of efficiency in a part-time role, he can still be a major fantasy factor.

Continuing along the lines of undersized and undrafted, Jaleel McLaughlin made a quick impression as a rookie, finishing second in yards created at 0.98 and fourth in elusiveness with a rating of 113.8. His yards after contact per attempt of 3.38 was good enough for twelfth-best. McLaughlin was a more consistent member of the Broncos’ offense than we saw from Achane and Mitchell with their teams, but he didn’t pop as often. Still, his 5.4 yards per carry suggest that he will have a role moving forward. I’d expect him to continue as a complimentary option to Javonte Williams next season, with weekly upside as an RB3.

Despite his reputation as a tough and physical runner, James Conner showed up at sixth in elusiveness rating at 109.3. He also landed at fifth in yards created with 0.75 and third in yards after contact per attempt with 3.91. Nobody is going to mistake Conner for an explosive runner like Achane, but his nimble feet and crafty running style are underrated. He had the eight-best juke rate and seventh-best breakaway run rate this season. Seriously.

Jaylen Warren quickly became everybody’s favorite backup running back, and with good reason. He’s not only the best running back on his team, but he finished third in yards created per attempt at 0.87, third in elusiveness rating at 131.9, and fifth in yards after contact per attempt with 3.64. He might be on the shorter side, but Warren weighs 215 pounds is closer to Austin Ekeler than Keaton Mitchell. Warren led the league in juke rate and came in third in breakaway run rate, while excelling as a receiver. He and Najee Harris each have one year left on their current contracts, and it would not be a surprise if Warren surpasses Harris this season and ends up with a new contract in Pittsburgh in 2025.

Raheem Mostert wasn’t the most elusive fish in the Miami sea, but he still came in seventh in PFFs elusiveness rating and ninth in yards created. His 3.4 yards after contact were eleventh-best among running backs. The Pro Bowl player had a career year and was undoubtedly one of the best backs at creating yards, thanks in large part to his health and Mike McDaniel’s prolific rushing offense. Mostert played 15 games this season, marking just the third time he played in 15 or more games. He finished with more than double his career touchdown total, with 18, and cracked 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his age 31 season. It’s a lot to hope that he can duplicate that next season, but any ball carrier in this system should have success provided they stay healthy.

Somehow, Christian McCaffrey fell short of a top 10 elusiveness rating, but he was seventh in yards created and ninth in yards after contact per attempt. He did so on a massive workload of 278 carries, but we already know the deal with CMC.

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Bottom 10 RBs at Creating Yards

Bottom 10 RBs in Yards Created per SumerSports
Name Yards Created
Miles Sanders -0.83
Javonte Williams -0.98
Rachaad White -0.99
Clyde Edwards-Helaire -1
Elijah Mitchell -1.01
Dameon Pierce -1.03
Ezekiel Elliott -1.04
Jamaal Williams -1.16
Dalvin Cook -1.19
Cam Akers -1.35
Bottom 10 RBs in Elusiveness Rating per PFF
Name Elusiveness Rating
Gus Edwards 32.3
Josh Jacobs 32.2
Chase Edmonds 32.1
Matt Breida 30.6
Joshua Kelley 27.3
Jamaal Williams 23.6
Jeff Wilson Jr. 21.3
Latavius Murray 21
Darrell Henderson 11.4
Kareem Hunt 10.1
Bottom RBs in Yards After Contact per Attempt
Name Attempts Yards YAC YAC per Attempt
Josh Jacobs 233 805 547 2.35
Cam Akers 60 167 141 2.35
Tank Bigsby 50 132 117 2.34
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 70 223 161 2.3
Dameon Pierce 145 416 329 2.27
Jamaal Williams 106 306 239 2.25
Latavius Murray 79 300 177 2.24
Dalvin Cook 67 214 148 2.21
Matt Breida 55 151 121 2.2
Kareem Hunt 135 411 293 2.17

Following a career year in he 2022 season and a training camp holdout, Josh Jacobs may as well have sat this season out. His 2.35 yards after contact per attempt were tied for ninth-worst among running backs with 50 or more carries, and his elusiveness rating was also ninth-worst. His 13 games played were the fewest since his rookie season, and his 805 rushing yards and six touchdowns were both career lows, as was his 3.5 yards per carry. It’s not ideal going into free agency, but he can certainly bounce back in the right situation.

Cam Akers generated the worst yards created total, with -1.35 yards, and tied with Jacobs for the ninth-worst yards after contact per attempt, with 2.35. Akers also suffered his second torn Achilles and his career is likely in jeopardy.

Also on the list of running backs on the decline, Clyde Edwards-Helaire had the seventh-lowest yards created total and seventh-worst yards after contact per attempt. CEH will be a free agent after this season and soon our memories of him as a first round pick will fade away forever.

Admittedly, I was bullish on Dameon Pierce this season and had faith in the Texans’ offensive line to improve. It turned out that the offensive line isn’t to blame here. Pierce registered the fifth-worst yards created per attempt, with -1.03, and the sixth-worst yards after contact per attempt with 2.27. The second year back out of Florida played in 14 games, which was one more than he played in his rookie season, but he only started seven of them after being overtaken by Devin Singletary. Last season, Pierce accumulated 939 rushing yards and over 1,000 all-purpose yards. This season, those numbers tumbled to 416 and 101, respectively, and his yards per carry total slipped from 4.3 to 2.9 yards. As a fourth-round pick, the Texans have very little invested in Pierce. Singletary will be a free agent, but the Texans will likely look to bring him back and/or upgrade the room as a whole.

Jamaal Williams became a touchdown machine in Detroit, punching the ball across the goal line 17 times in 2022. In New Orleans, he only found the endzone once and it took a classic Jameis Winston moment in the season’s finale to get there. He ran for just 306 yards in 13 games and finished with the third-lowest yards created per attempt with -1.16. He also had the fifth-lowest elusiveness rating at 23.6, and the fifth-worst yards after contact per attempt with 2.25. Williams dipped from the RB8 in half-PPR scoring in 2022 to the RB61 in 2023, and it’s unlikely he ever sniffs RB1 status again.

Latavius Murray has kept air in the tires for quite some time, but they may now be deflating for the final time. Murray struggled enough that the Bills took a shot on Leonard Fournette late in the season, and Murray finished with the third-worst elusiveness rating at 21 and the fourth-fewest yards after contact per attempt with 2.24. In all fairness to Murray, he’s a physical, upright runner who has never been known for elusiveness and many of carries came in short yardage situations, making it tough to create extra yardage. Those are the reasons we don’t see him at the bottom of the yards created metric, but his effectiveness looks to be dwindling, nonetheless.

Another aging veteran past his prime, Dalvin Cook finished second from the bottom in yards created and third-worst in yards after contact, with -1.19 and 2.21 respectively. His career is trending in the Melvin Gordon direction.

Kareem Hunt’s last stint with the Cleveland Browns was quite effective while playing alongside Nick Chubb. However, this go-round, when he was signed to help replace an injured Chubb, Hunt was arguably the least efficient running back in the league, despite falling into the endzone nine times. Of course, doing so doesn’t always allow for many yards after contact, but Hunt also finished last in that category with 2.17 yards per attempt and last in elusiveness rating with 10.1. He is nearing the age of 29, and it’s difficult to see Hunt being a factor next season and beyond.

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