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Overrated or underrated: Running backs

On the first edition of “Underrated or Overrated?” on positions, I looked at quarterbacks and the narrative about their importance in reaching the Super Bowl. On the second edition I go to the opposite end of the perceived value perspective and ask whether or not running backs — the least valued players in the NFL today perhaps — are overrated or underrated.

This is in podcast form and you can listen to that on Pod-TST right here. Underneath the podcast is a very brief summary, followed by some names and numbers that will serve as guideposts for the podcast and hopefully nothing more.

Running backs: Underrated

Why: Is there an offensive or defensive position that is being given less value than running backs right now? If you don’t think running back is the least valuable position on either side of the ball, then you probably think the position and the players playing it are underrated.

These are some notes I made for myself for the podcast. Without context of the podcast, they may not make as much sense, so please consider listening ever so briefly before commenting on these notes:

Super Bowl rushing offenses by DVOA:

2019: Chiefs were 14th in rushing DVOA, 49ers were 12th

2018: Patriots were 9th, Rams were 1st

2017: Eagles were 15th, Patriots were 4th

2016: Patriots were 15th, Falcons were 6th

2015: Broncos were 20th, Panthers were 6th

2014: Patriots were 14th, Seahawks were 1st

2013: Seahawks were 7th, Broncos were 10th

2012: Ravens were 7th, 49ers were 3rd

2011: Giants were 19th, Patriots were 4th

2010: Packers were 10th, Steelers were 14th

Super Bowl running backs:

2019: Damien Williams/LeSean McCoy, Tevin Coleman/Raheem Mostert/Matt Brieda

2018: Sony Michel/James White, Todd Gurley/CJ Anderson

2017: LeGarrette Blount/Jay Ajayi, Dion Lewis/James White

2016: LeGarrette Blount/James White/Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman

2015: Ronnie Hillman/CJ Anderson, Jonathan Stewart/Mike Tolbert

2014: LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch

2013: Marshawn Lynch, Knowshon Moreno

2012: Ray Rice, Frank Gore

2011: Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead

2010: James Starks, Rashard Mendenhall

Weird: Dion Lewis and the Giants are NFC favorites?

LeGarrette Blount was in a Super Bowl three years apart with two different teams (2014, 2017)

C.J. Anderson was in a Super Bowl three years apart with two different teams (2015, 2018)

Tevin Coleman was in a Super Bowl three years apart with two different teams (2016, 2019)

The running backs in the Super Bowl three years ago were James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead with Patriots, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount with Eagles. The only active player currently on a team other than the one he was with three years ago is Lewis, who is on the Giants.

Weirder: The last Super Bowl to not feature a team that had a RB who made multiple Super Bowls, was 18 years ago

The last Super Bowl that doesn’t feature at least one running back to appear in multiple Super Bowls is 2012. (Though Brandon Jacobs was signed by the 49ers that season.) To find the last Super Bowl that didn’t have a team that had played a running back that season who went to multiple Super Bowls, you’d have to go to 2002 between the Raiders and Buccaneers.

Weird sidenote: Saquon Barkley and Dion Lewis are teammates on the Giants, both have exactly 2,310 career rushing yards, Lewis entered the NFL seven years earlier.

Leading rushers of the 2010s:

1. LeSean McCoy

2. Frank Gore

3. Adrian Peterson

4. Marshawn Lynch

5. Matt Forte

6. DeMarco Murray

7. Mark Ingram

8. Chris Johnson

9. LeGarrette Blount

Leading DYAR/DVOA on Super Bowl teams:

2019: Mostert, 7/1, McCoy, 29/28

2018: Gurley, 1/1, Michel, 24/26

2017: Lewis, 1/2, Blount, 37/36

2016: Freeman, 13/14, Blount, 14/18 (Coleman, 12th in DVOA)

2015: Anderson, 28/27, Stewart, 33/34

2014: Lynch, 2/1, Blount, 22/15

2013: Lynch, 5/17, Moreno, 6/13

2012: Gore, 4/4, Rice, 7/7

2011: Green-Ellis 18/18, Bradshaw, 21/21

2010: Mendenhall, 22/25, Jackson, 35/35

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