Adjusted Scrimmage Yards

Adjusted Scrimmage Yards is not a new concept at The GridFe; I used the metric last season to measure offensive output from skill players. However, I have never given the metric its own post, so I decided to change that. Today, I want to take a look at the top single seasons and total careers, as measured by Adjusted Scrimmage Yards, since 1992. For those unfamiliar with the metric, the formula is:

Rushing and Receiving Yards + Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns*11 + Rushing and Receiving First Downs*9 – Rushing and Receiving Fumbles*251

This list will feature more running backs than receivers, as backs tend to produce more yardage and score more touchdowns than do receivers. This was not the case last year, when Julio Jones and Antonio Brown dominated the competition, but it has been a general rule for most of NFL history. Whether 2015 was an anomaly or a sign of things to come remains to be seen and is a discussion for another time. For now, let’s just get into the stats.

Top Adjusted Scrimmage Yards Seasons

The following table displays every player season with at least 2000 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards (376 in all). Read it thus: In 2002, Priest Holmes turned 383 touches into 2287 yards, 24 touchdowns, 130 first downs, and one fumble. That gives him 3696 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards, tops since 1992.

YearPlayerTeamTouchYardsTDs1DsFmbsASY
2002Priest HolmesKC38322872413013696
2000Marshall FaulkRAM33421892612003555
2006LaDainian TomlinsonSD40423233110323541
2003Priest HolmesKC39421102712413498
2000Edgerrin JamesIND45023031812353483
2009Chris JohnsonTEN4082509169733483
2003LaDainian TomlinsonSD41323701710723470
1999Marshall FaulkRAM34024291210523456
2010Arian FosterHOU39322201812333450
1998Terrell DavisDEN41722252311223436
2006Larry JohnsonKC45721991911223366
2014Le'Veon BellPIT37322151111403362
2006Steven JacksonRAM43623341610543355
1995Emmitt SmithDAL43921482512173337
2003Ahman GreenGNB40522502011573330
2005Tiki BarberNYG4112390119113305
1997Barry SandersDET3682358149633301
2001Marshall FaulkRAM34321472111033293
2002LaDainian TomlinsonSD45121721511033252
1998Marshall FaulkIND41022271010633216
2012Adrian PetersonMIN3882314139543212
2005Larry JohnsonKC36920932111053189
2014DeMarco MurrayDAL44922611310153188
2013LeSean McCoyPHI36621461110213160
2002Ricky WilliamsMIA43022161710373155
2007Brian WestbrookPHI36821041210413147
1998Jamal AndersonATL43721651610353143
2005Shaun AlexanderSEA38519582811053131
1992Thurman ThomasBUF37021131211363112
1992Emmitt SmithDAL43220481910333109
1997Terrell DavisDEN41120371511043092
2001Priest HolmesKC38921691010143088
2003Jamal LewisBAL4132271149383062
1994Emmitt SmithDAL41818252211313059
1999Edgerrin JamesIND43121391710383053
1994Barry SandersDET375216688803046
2013Jamaal CharlesKC32919801910443025
2006Tiki BarberNYG3852127510133016
2007LaDainian TomlinsonSD3751949189603011
2004Tiki BarberNYG3742096159552991
2005Edgerrin JamesIND40418431411522982
2004Curtis MartinNYJ41219421410222964
2000Eddie GeorgeTEN45319621610152922
2006Frank GoreSF373218098862921
2011Ray RiceBAL3672068158222921
2003Deuce McAllisterNOR420215789162914
2013Matt ForteCHI3631933129722888
1996Terrell DavisDEN38118481510852860
1998Garrison HearstSF349210598442860
2002Charlie GarnerRAI2731903119102843
2004Edgerrin JamesIND385203199362817
1992Lorenzo WhiteHOO3221867810122814
2011Maurice Jones-DrewJAX3861980119352813
1992Barry FosterPIT4262034119892812
2006Brian WestbrookPHI3171916119022797
2009Ray RiceBAL332204188232792
2002Clinton PortisDEN3061872179552789
2012Calvin JohnsonDET122196459232772
2010Jamaal CharlesKC275193589132767
2003Clinton PortisDEN3281905148632758
2005LaDainian TomlinsonSD3901832208632751
1995Barry SandersDET3621898128832747
2011LeSean McCoyPHI32116242010212737
2004Shaun AlexanderSEA3761866208652735
2014Matt ForteCHI3681846109122725
2015Julio JonesATL136187189332721
2012Doug MartinTB3681926127612717
2015Antonio BrownPIT1391862108512712
2003Fred TaylorJAX393194279362706
2001Ahman GreenGNB3661981118152706
2001Curtis MartinNYJ3861833109022703
1996Ricky WattersPHI4041855139252701
1993Emmitt SmithDAL3401900108742693
2002Tiki BarberNYG3731984119092690
1995Jerry RiceSF1271884167832687
2002Marvin HarrisonIND1451732119202681
2003Shaun AlexanderSEA3681730169542661
2009Adrian PetersonMIN3571819189072652
2009Maurice Jones-DrewJAX3651765168422647
1995Isaac BruceRAM1221798138422647
2008Michael TurnerATL3821740178632626
2000Ricky WattersSEA341185598852621
1997Jerome BettisPIT390177599962615
1995Herman MooreDET1231686149022600
2008Matt ForteCHI3791715128612596
2014Antonio BrownPIT1331711138512594
1994Chris WarrenSEA3741868118152593
1995Curtis MartinNE3981748158952589
1997Dorsey LevensGNB3821805128652586
2000Robert SmithMIN3311869107842581
2004LaDainian TomlinsonSD3921776188462580
2004Domanick WilliamsHOU3701776148342577
1999Curtis MartinNYJ412172359322565
2003Torry HoltRAM1181701128412564
1999Eddie GeorgeTEN3671762138752563
2005Clinton PortisWAS3821732118732561
2000Curtis MartinNYJ3861712118522548
2012Arian FosterHOU3911641178832545
1995Ricky WattersPHI3991707129562544
2011Arian FosterHOU3311841127752541
2010Adrian PetersonMIN3191639138712540
2000Ahman GreenGNB3361734139062537
2002Deuce McAllisterNOR3721740168042536
2011Calvin JohnsonDET971692167712536
2008Adrian PetersonMIN3841885108592535
1994Marshall FaulkIND3661804128052531
2000Charlie GarnerSF3261789108142528
2014Marshawn LynchSEA3171673178132514
2008DeAngelo WilliamsCAR2951636207302513
2004Corey DillonNE3601738138452512
2015Devonta FreemanATL3371639148832510
2010Ray RiceBAL370177667402508
2012Alfred MorrisWAS3461690138642507
2003Randy MossMIN1171650177712505
2012Marshawn LynchSEA3381786127952504
2008Clinton PortisWAS370170598632503
2000Rod SmithDEN106170198012495
1995Michael IrvinDAL1111603108812480
2002Shaun AlexanderSEA3541635188032478
2000Mike AndersonDEN3201656158442477
1996Barry SandersDET3311700118442477
1995Chris WarrenSEA3451593169252472
1998Emmitt SmithDAL3461507159732470
1994Jerry RiceSF1191592158212470
1999Marvin HarrisonIND1161667127922460
2006Willie ParkerPIT3681716168272455
1999Jimmy SmithJAX116163668612451
2000Fred TaylorJAX3281639148442449
2013Josh GordonCLE92173496802445
1993Jerome BettisRAM320167378842442
2010Maurice Jones-DrewJAX333164178622442
2013Knowshon MorenoDEN3011586138212442
2005LaMont JordanRAI3421588118622433
2010LeSean McCoyPHI285167297922432
2009Steven JacksonRAM375173847722425
1998Fred TaylorJAX3081644177432422
2001Shaun AlexanderSEA3531661167642421
1993Thurman ThomasBUF403170268962419
2007Randy MossNE981493237402412
1999Charlie GarnerSF297176467332412
2011Wes WelkerNE126159997902409
1995Edgar BennettGNB377171577422408
1998Barry SandersDET380178047332406
1998Ricky WattersSEA371161298842403
1998Curtis MartinNYJ412165298652400
2000Stephen DavisWAS3651631118342399
1999Stephen DavisWAS3131516178842395
1996Curtis MartinNE3621485179142391
2002Travis HenryBUF36817471485112391
1994Natrone MeansSD3821585128852384
1992Terry AllenMIN3151679158592384
2005Rudi JohnsonCIN3601548128112384
1996Terry AllenWAS3791547217742371
2001David BostonARI103163387512371
2003Ricky WilliamsMIA4421723107972369
2001Marvin HarrisonIND1101527157502367
2003Edgerrin JamesIND3611551119152366
2015DeAndre HopkinsHOU1111521118312364
2015Adrian PetersonMIN3571707117972364
2012Ray RiceBAL3181621107312363
2014Demaryius ThomasDEN1111619116902361
2008Steve SlatonHOU3181659107432360
2012C.J. SpillerBUF250170387132355
2005Steve SmithCAR1071588137212354
2012Andre JohnsonHOU112159847902353
2008Andre JohnsonHOU115157587912349
2013Marshawn LynchSEA3371573148042347
2002Corey DillonCIN357160978752344
2012Jamaal CharlesKC320174567352343
2007Clinton PortisWAS3721651118062342
2010Steven JacksonRAM376162467512340
2002Jamal LewisBAL355176977782339
1993Jerry RiceSF1011572167432339
1999Emmitt SmithDAL3561516138952335
2010Peyton HillisCLE3311654138282335
1999Dorsey LevensGNB3501607108252330
2007Adrian PetersonMIN2571609137542327
2001Ricky WilliamsNOR373175677782326
2007Joseph AddaiIND3021436158002321
2003Tiki BarberNYG347167739292313
2003Stephen DavisCAR332160387732309
2014Eddie LacyGNB2881566137532309
2008Thomas JonesNYJ3261519157522309
2014Jordy NelsonGNB981519137102301
1995Robert BrooksGNB1061518137102300
2001Corey DillonCIN3741543138252299
1998Eddie GeorgeTEN385160468972296
2014Julio JonesATL105159467622294
1995Brett PerrimanDET113153697612294
2002Fred TaylorJAX336172286232293
2002Ahman GreenGNB343163397342289
1997Rob MooreARI97158486802284
2009Andre JohnsonHOU103157997012283
2008LaDainian TomlinsonSD3441536127112282
1995Marshall FaulkIND3451553148682281
2001Stephen DavisWAS384163758262280
1995Cris CarterMIN1231371178002278
2000Tiki BarberNYG283172596762277
1996Emmitt SmithDAL3741453158752276
1996Eddie GeorgeHOO358155087932274
2014Arian FosterHOU2981573136722269
2010Darren McFaddenRAI2701664106642268
2002Duce StaleyPHI320157087632267
2015Brandon MarshallNYJ1091502147632265
2015Doug MartinTB321167377152264
2005Warrick DunnATL309163647332262
2012Brandon MarshallCHI1191506117522252
1995Derek LovilleSF3051385138312250
2001Terrell OwensSF971433167102248
2004Rudi JohnsonCIN3761538127542245
2010Chris JohnsonTEN3601609126432242
1996Jerome BettisPIT3421553118272237
2006Ladell BettsWAS298159958162233
2013Antonio BrownPIT117150387102230
1997Ricky WattersPHI333155077532227
2002Hines WardPIT1241471127212226
2003Travis HenryBUF3591514118572225
2001LaDainian TomlinsonSD3981603107982224
2005Chad JohnsonCIN102146597612223
2013Calvin JohnsonDET841492126912220
2006Joseph AddaiIND266140688622218
1994Thurman ThomasBUF337144297812218
2000Jamal LewisBAL336166067162215
2000Warrick DunnTB292155596512214
1997Napoleon KaufmanRAI312169786772213
1992Barry SandersDET3411577107562212
1995Craig HeywardATL273143388532211
2007Chad JohnsonCIN99148787622209
2000Corey DillonCIN333159377142209
1997Marshall FaulkIND311152588052208
2010Matt ForteCHI288161696332207
1995Terry AllenWAS3691541117762205
2000James StewartDET3711471117942203
2004Brian WestbrookPHI250151596812201
2013DeMarco MurrayDAL2701471107732199
2010Brandon LloydDEN781430117202199
2000Torry HoltRAM84164266022198
2007Reggie WayneIND1051514107232197
2002Eddie GeorgeTEN3791420147212197
2004Muhsin MuhammadCAR961420167532196
2010Michael TurnerATL3461456127322195
2001Garrison HearstSF293155356812195
1992Sterling SharpeGNB1121469137022192
2004Reuben DroughnsDEN307148188352191
2012Frank GoreSF286144897722190
2005Larry FitzgeraldARI1111450107002190
2013Eddie LacyGNB3191435117312188
2014Justin ForsettBAL279152986612186
2005Willis McGaheeBUF353142558112184
2011Michael TurnerATL3181508117032184
1994Ricky WattersSF3051596117482183
2002Michael BennettMIN292164766342180
2004Clinton PortisWAS383155077552177
2004Joe HornNOR941399117302177
2000Jerome BettisPIT368143887512176
2009Ryan GrantGNB3071450117012176
2009Thomas JonesNYJ3411460146822176
2007Jamal LewisCLE3281552116742176
2006Marvin HarrisonIND951366127812175
2010Ahmad BradshawNYG323154987972173
2002Curtis MartinNYJ310145677102172
2014Emmanuel SandersDEN109144897212170
1999Ricky WattersSEA365159776642168
2002Marshall FaulkRAM2921490107442166
1992Ricky WattersSF2491418117522164
2001Rod SmithDEN1161370117712159
2000Isaac BruceRAM88148296712159
2008Chris JohnsonTEN2941488106512158
2011Rob GronkowskiNE911329187002157
2013Demaryius ThomasDEN921430146612153
1998Duce StaleyPHI315149767122152
2015Odell BeckhamNYG971453136722149
2000Marvin HarrisonIND1021413147022147
2007Terrell OwensDAL821360156902146
2011Victor CruzNYG83153995912144
2013Alshon JefferyCHI105152676832140
2005Reuben DroughnsCLE348160127462139
1995Harvey WilliamsRAI309148997552138
1999Corey DillonCIN294149067332138
2010Rashard MendenhallPIT3471440136722136
2010Roddy WhiteATL1161392107312134
2008Larry FitzgeraldARI961431126612132
1995Terrell DavisDEN286148487652131
2005Thomas JonesCHI340147896722130
1999Duce StaleyPHI366156766952129
1995Errict RhettTB3461317118222126
2011Marshawn LynchSEA3131416137132123
1998Antonio FreemanGNB871429146002123
2014LeSean McCoyPHI340147457742122
2003Moe WilliamsMIN239138987722120
2011Ryan MathewsSD272154667052117
1992Rodney HamptonNYG2851356147012115
2000Terrell OwensSF1001462136532115
1996Jerry RiceSF119133197602114
2004Fred TaylorJAX296156936532112
2002Terrell OwensSF1071379146402109
2009Frank GoreSF2811526136042109
2013A.J. GreenCIN981426116512107
2005Anquan BoldinARI114144777022104
2015Allen RobinsonJAX801400146102103
2012Stevan RidleyNE2961314128442102
2003Curtis MartinNYJ365157026222100
2011Steven JacksonRAM302147866722097
1993Michael IrvinDAL90133677502088
2013Andre JohnsonHOU109140756902083
2014Randall CobbGNB1021324127212079
1996Jamal AndersonATL281152866542079
2000Randy MossMIN801442155822079
1992Michael IrvinDAL79138777112078
2011Roddy WhiteATL100129687702077
2013Reggie BushDET277151276852076
2006Maurice Jones-DrewJAX2121377156212075
2011Jimmy GrahamNOR991310117412072
1994Henry EllardWAS75139267112072
2000Lamar SmithMIA3401340167032071
2002Randy MossMIN112139876912071
2009Wes WelkerNE128138447412069
2005Santana MossWAS87148096022069
2006Chester TaylorMIN345150466952066
1994Terance MathisATL1111342116702066
2007Larry FitzgeraldARI1001409106932065
1993Erric PegramATL325148737762063
2013Adrian PetersonMIN3081437117052063
1998Robert SmithMIN277147885812063
2007Frank GoreSF313153866242062
2011Michael BushRAI293139586712061
2012Roddy WhiteATL92135177312060
2008Steve SmithCAR83146166212060
2008Maurice Jones-DrewJAX2591389147462059
2003Chad JohnsonCIN901355106602059
2000Derrick AlexanderKC811436105702059
1997Corey DillonCIN2601388106512058
2013Brandon MarshallCHI1001295127002057
1995Rodney HamptonNYG3301324108352056
2012Wes WelkerNE120137467422056
2006Rudi JohnsonCIN3641433127162054
1997Tim BrownRAI109142756612051
2007Brandon MarshallDEN107138277432050
2011Larry FitzgeraldARI80141186102048
1999Randy MossMIN841456115512047
1995Tim BrownRAI891342106602046
2001Jimmy SmithJAX113137086812045
2008Brian WestbrookPHI2871338146722045
2010Reggie WayneIND111135567212044
2008Steven JacksonRAM293142187352041
2009Jamaal CharlesKC230141786522040
2006Chad JohnsonCIN93139376612039
2013Ryan MathewsSD311144476322038
2012Reggie WayneIND107135057312037
2014Dez BryantDAL881320166002036
1996Herman MooreDET106129697102034
2000Ricky WilliamsNOR292140997562033
2013Chris JohnsonTEN3211422106432033
2006Reggie WayneIND86131097212032
2001Anthony ThomasCHI300136176602032
2009Reggie WayneIND1001264107302031
1994Andre ReedBUF100139086722031
2003Anquan BoldinARI106141786422031
2004Javon WalkerGNB891382126322031
1993Johnny JohnsonNYJ265146247252029
2000Ed McCaffreyDEN101131796802028
1992Reggie CobbTB331132797532026
2012A.J. GreenCIN1011388116322026
1997Robert SmithMIN269146375402026
1996Thurman ThomasBUF307128787512025
2003Derrick MasonTEN98131486902023
2012Vincent JacksonTB72138486102021
2007Willis McGaheeBAL337143886642020
2006Ahman GreenGNB312143266942019
2011Matt ForteCHI255148745922012
1998Robert EdwardsNE3261446126252011
1997Yancey ThigpenPIT80140176212011
2012Demaryius ThomasDEN941434106032009
2014Odell BeckhamNYG981340125902003
1999Marcus RobinsonCHI84140095602003
2014Lamar MillerMIA254137496732001

The early-to-mid 2000s were anecdotally the heyday of the workhorse running back, and this list provides supporting evidence to that claim. Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson, Tiki Barber, and Shaun Alexander put up so many Canton-worthy seasons that fans were spoiled for most running back performances to follow.

It’s hard to forget Emmitt Smith breaking John Riggins‘s thirteen year old single season touchdown record in 1995, only to lose it to Faulk just four years later. Then Holmes increased the record to 27 three years after that, only to see Alexander raise it to 28 a couple seasons following. He didn’t even get to revel in his glory for an entire season, as the following year Tomlinson drove the record up to 31, where it rests.

Touchdowns are important, but you know what else is important? First downs. Consistently putting the team in a position to maintain possession is one of the key things a rusher or receiver can do, and for two straight years no one did it better than Priest Holmes. If you sort by the “1Ds” column, you’ll see that the top two seasons since 1992 both belong to the former Chiefs standout. Playing behind two Hall of Fame linemen and another All Pro sure helped the matter, but Holmes was a rare talent in his prime, combining power and speed with magnificent vision and a seemingly natural gift for catching the ball out of the backfield.2

It should be no surprise that Marshall Faulk produced three top twenty seasons from his time in the Greatest Show on Turf. As the focal point of one of the great offenses in history, Faulk cemented his place as the greatest double threat back in history. However, many fans forget that his run actually started the year before he arrived in St. Louis. His final season in Indianapolis saw him gain 2227 yards from scrimmage and produce 3216 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards. If you’re keeping track, his fourth best (and often forgotten) season ranks twentieth among all players since 1992. Not bad.

There aren’t many high ranking seasons of recent vintage. Le’Veon Bell‘s and DeMarco Murray‘s 2014 seasons rank 12th and 23rd, respectively. Murray put up more rushing yards that year, so he naturally took home the first team All Pro nod, but Bell was very clearly the more versatile player. Bell also had superior ball control; in fact, Bell has only fumbled once in his entire career (799 touches). His 0.13% fumble rate is by far the best in league history among players with over 750 touches.

A quick note on a notorious compiler: there are 376 unique player seasons on the list, and many players feature multiple seasons. Clinton Portis, Corey Dillon, Barry Sanders, and Tiki Barber have six;3 Adrian Peterson and Emmitt Smith have seven;4 and Ricky Watters, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Marshall Faulk have eight. There is one man, however, who has nine seasons on the list. He has five seasons in the top 100 but none in the top 40. His lack of Rushmore type seasons causes people to label him as a compiler, but this metric shows him to be far more than that. That man is Curtis Martin, a model of consistency.

Top Adjusted Scrimmage Yards Careers

The table below contains every player who ranked in the top 250 in either total Adjusted Scrimmage Yards or cascaded Adjusted Scrimmage yards (I’ll explain below), or averaged over 1500 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards per season. It is sorted by “ASY” but can be sorted by any column. Read it thus: Marshall Faulk turned 3603 touches into 19154 yards, 136 touchdowns, 970 first downs, and 36 fumbles. That comes to 28480 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards (ranked first) and 22326 cascaded Adjusted Scrimmage Yards (also ranked first). He gained an average of 2373 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards per season.

PlayerTouchYardsTDs1DsFmbsASYRKCascRKASY/S
Marshall Faulk360319154136970362848012232612373
Emmitt Smith424518593151985452799422142532153
LaDainian Tomlinson379818456162871302732732186222484
Curtis Martin400217430100865292559041990342326
Terrell Owens1117161851567531124403517232101627
Tony Gonzalez132715141111864623988615731211411
Randy Moss100715451156713132325971731971661
Edgerrin James34611561091811442281081874652074
Marvin Harrison111214608128759112257291729991736
Isaac Bruce1049153479172716224911016253161406
Jerome Bettis3679151119479141222391116881121711
Reggie Wayne1074143458275910218281216132171559
Tiki Barber280315632677154421704131799962170
Steven Jackson3225151217869423216501417191111804
Ricky Watters308914891917374321450151730182145
Warrick Dunn3179153066465125212441616007181770
Jerry Rice10601411011070318211971716570131631
Frank Gore3078151908266139210661816470141915
Andre Johnson1076141546869610209161915938191609
Steve Smith1018143197862716204202115189291361
Larry Fitzgerald103613429986829204202015550241702
Tim Brown1027135068767512202382215340251557
Anquan Boldin1051134247566017197642314646331520
Fred Taylor2824140797460727196812415825201514
Adrian Peterson26191361210263938195352516444152171
Torry Holt931134397463220194412615329261767
Corey Dillon2862131548966028193732715646221937
Hines Ward1057125118664313189192814088401351
Eddie George3133126687862837182532915265282028
Derrick Mason93911949666397182513013748471217
Jimmy Smith864122866759910181643114387361651
Matt Forte2522127186457520180973215277272262
Thomas Jones2986126147159027180303314293391503
Barry Sanders2436127996255622179353415578232562
Rod Smith893117376958712174793513967421457
Ricky Williams2773126157459452174753614536341589
Calvin Johnson750117868456614174543714489351939
Clinton Portis2477119418058026173913814849311932
Ahman Green2434120887459135173463914735321446
Cris Carter9211109210359515172054013754461564
Priest Holmes2119111349459916171594115057301907
Brandon Marshall902113917958417170914213937431709
Jamal Lewis2763124866253839170354314294381893
Chad Johnson79011234675807170164413814441547
Keenan McCardell88811393635689169734512778531061
Muhsin Muhammad871115026257015169394612738541210
Jason Witten102011215605736168824712462601299
Antonio Gates844106441045826168764812701551298
Joey Galloway75711379784986165694912655561105
Shaun Alexander24021097311256531165155014368371835
Maurice Jones-Drew2193111117955221164235114045411825
Roddy White817108826355114161845213095511471
Keyshawn Johnson82710662665579161765312606571471
Chris Johnson2395116546346421159985413778452000
Marshawn Lynch2358109208353125159875513531481776
Santana Moss783105706650618154005611895671100
Charlie Garner1956108085148918153205712936521393
Wes Welker92210075505296152365812590581385
Brian Westbrook182710275714848152125913222501690
Donald Driver77710354624848151926012020641085
LeSean McCoy1996102615951916151816113322492169
Marques Colston71397667250610148626211929651486
Eric Moulds79310158494817148516311871691238
Amani Toomer6809607554814144416411500761111
Shannon Sharpe7889633604737143756511079791198
Willis McGahee230598137050129143676611882681437
Thurman Thomas209696634951823142896712480591588
Stephen Davis212495466950224142236812135631293
Garrison Hearst2060100313946028139006911916661390
Jamaal Charles160396636246025138607012305611733
DeAngelo Williams185097416442115138597111603751386
Terry Allen223096037646137136637211690711518
Herman Moore6599039624515136557311643731366
Vincent Jackson5409068574313134997411187781227
Michael Irvin5838934454604134697511635741684
Johnnie Morton6709123434407133817610700821115
Terrell Davis182488876547420133687712182621910
Laveranues Coles7118840494596133607810932811336
Joe Horn6178798584389131537911076801096
Terry Glenn6138962454277131258010639831094
Arian Foster170387406843516130038111759701858
Chris Warren195590425344726129988211287771444
Larry Centers140987654245514129728310236891081
Terance Mathis6538304644454129138410597851174
Ray Rice17999214433839129098511650722152
Curtis Conway6448695554177128788610237881073
Plaxico Burress5548492644049126078710384861146
Reggie Bush174490015340827125818810633841258
Michael Pittman181791393339129122968910150941118
Tony Martin5428232523986122369010176911224
Greg Jennings5728290643706121749110113951217
Fred Jackson165986433940224120909210269871343
Eddie Kennison569844941377912068939786100928
Irving Fryar5537910503951119909410153931332
Jeff Graham5408151303913119259596711031193
Duce Staley171783723438422116529610208901295
Bobby Engram6557770354271411648979140114832
Michael Turner170978666736817114909810158921277
T.J. Houshmandzadeh6507379454026113429995901061134
Antowain Smith1920786357386251133910096001051260
DeSean Jackson50381944531371133110196781021416
Rob Moore51777013836121131810296551041415
Mike Alstott1664737271437321128610392151121026
Robert Smith15898110383279112461049933981406
James Stewart1698755657375131123310597261011404
Chris Chambers54374895736591117610692421111118
Ricky Proehl57374004838810111701078420135745
Deuce McAllister1663781654359191116610810080961396
Wayne Chrebet58473634138041113410990761171012
Ed McCaffrey5527297553595110081109119115917
Dorsey Levens154772895338213109851119427108999
Antonio Freeman48572686135261095711294871071217
Dwayne Bowe53972244437061088811392461101210
Ronnie Brown1520734840377141083111492541091083
Larry Johnson143771436136513107741159946971197
Antonio Brown5547203383554107161169800991786
Carl Pickens54671356333881067011791991131186
Darrell Jackson50571505133991053711889621191171
Nate Washington4726992453262103711198332141943
Darren Sproles105070234832061028112086171291028
Jerricho Cotchery5466716353573102391218423134853
Derrick Alexander43371814130041023212288381211137
Jake Reed4506999363295102311238785124930
Shawn Jefferson4727017283345102061258008151851
Andre Rison49967575633781020612488381221134
Kevin Faulk129573083133320101461268154147780
Darren McFadden1528743333312201010412787961231263
Andre Reed527698638331121008312886471281120
Heath Miller5946577453477100201297851157911
Deion Branch513656538331099621308050150906
Jonathan Stewart142969974232818996113186701271245
Chester Taylor14597064323281899181328424132992
Marty Booker557674437323699081338220145901
Frank Sanders51867532434710989013483651371099
Ike Hilliard5626523353591098891357927156824
Jamal Anderson148569814132720987513691021161234
Rudi Johnson163066555133515985613789491201408
DeMarco Murray134267503633714982913890651181966
Pierre Thomas11656489403305977413983381401086
Travis Henry162970374033531971714087361261388
Troy Brown586654431322596581417938154743
Cedric Benson172068503332720965614284591301207
Demaryius Thomas4596627472978961714387641251603
Greg Olsen5426292493267959014480891491066
Mike Wallace4426513492957953214583511391362
Marion Barber133561105935016950914684111361358
Ahmad Bradshaw127064214832919943514783191431048
Darnay Scott4306344372870933414879301551167
Jeremy Shockey548614937331993101497549171931
Rodney Hampton155861353733811930915084551311552
Sean Dawkins4456291253157922615177121671025
Joseph Addai12865901483277919715283621381533
Edgar Bennett139962373131810919015383221421313
Adrian Murrell158965682831222913415481011481015
A.J. Green4266264452838910615582841441821
Julio Jones4286295342928909715684241331819
Jordy Nelson4006109492721907115781761461296
Santonio Holmes405611936300989901587760162999
Todd Heap507593042302789351597296178745
Pierre Garcon4976099342834892016077651611115
Dallas Clark509570553306688921617254181808
Lee Evans3916153432686888816277501641111
Brandon Jacobs12235837643131988831637768160987
Lamar Smith14816108453072188411647755163884
Rob Gronkowski3815557662882882516579571531471
Nate Burleson497588739301888251667379175802
Dez Bryant4175826592746879116779641521465
Natrone Means151258464731718876616877971581252
Owen Daniels479566136319787531697125186875
Marcus Allen116854295034716870217077701591450
Terry Kirby10946097392931986881717571170869
Jeremy Maclin4395903442675866517277171651444
Jabar Gaffney456574624303386621737132185787
Anthony Miller3855840412632860817476791681435
James Jones4335861512751385721757163183952
Mike Vick8756110363434185681767042189659
Ben Coates491546249302885191777372176947
Jimmy Graham4355360532995850917877141661418
Julius Jones141860672427813850817975181721215
Tyrone Wheatley13955862472992384951807267180850
Brandon Lloyd381568836270284641817337177769
Henry Ellard3275615222852837218275091731196
Wesley Walls439522453288283491836953196835
Brandon Stokley406537139286382991846673209553
Vernon Davis449566255245882721856999193827
Eric Metcalf7345833312601082641867282179826
Willie Parker133760752925117822818775891691371
Malcom Floyd321555034256281781886925198743
Raghib Ismail421571830249581641897004192907
Ryan Mathews119558563126618814119073961741357
Roy Williams3825500432629810619170541881013
Miles Austin372536738263480521927145184895
Napoleon Kaufman110558991724814796819371901821328
O.J. McDuffie430512329297679651947016190996
Antonio Bryant3675484302485792119570051911132
Michael Crabtree4355267352572791519669891941131
Peerless Price426545431250778701976910199874
Chris Calloway373518828271378601986722206873
Braylon Edwards345532039244578201996937197978
Quinn Early385524533248277902006863201974
Eric Decker3775060502555778020170931871297
Kellen Winslow470524325270777732026820202864
Frank Wycheck509513129271876892036382221699
Michael Jackson3385147442415767520467972041096
Dennis Northcutt451530719245376462056367223765
Brett Perriman4145048252684763520669781951273
Lance Moore391482345261276172076607214762
Qadry Ismail358516233240475852086629211948
Leroy Hoard10725375372752775822096562217948
Benjamin Watson436497338262875492106197234629
LaMont Jordan1055503531261875252116626212836
Hakeem Nicks3585089312343746121267072071066
Knowshon Moreno103450253625210743921369012001240
Yancey Thigpen315508530230374102146660210823
Steve Johnson383478034255473492156590216919
Kevan Barlow116651483323713731921665932151220
Rashard Mendenhall117650313924213731321767852051219
Alfred Morris112550782923511723721868002031809
Mike Anderson101147944225312723321966922081033
Torrance Small358473133238172112206046243721
Donte' Stallworth341493535217371982216215233720
Errict Rhett12634695322587719422266112131028
Cadillac Williams120350402523912716622364502191024
Bert Emanuel354484028234571292246336226891
Brian Hartline3514831152454710122562332311014
Antwaan Randle El4494905152561170992265885255789
Ladell Betts10094972182441270662276049242785
Chris Cooley4314714332511170612286215232785
Alge Crumpler373474339220670022295976249700
Ryan Grant10484903292178697523064932181163
Percy Harvin463471126235669622316348224995
Kimble Anders8625060182251369582325980248773
BenJarvus Green-Ellis10604332422545695523363802221159
Gary Brown11064845232481669302346337225990
Justin Forsett923486519220569292356322228990
David Patten337482125217569242365896254577
Marcus Robinson326470843203469082376081239768
Courtney Hawkins386462318242468992385870257767
Brent Celek371471330217468962395912253766
David Boston3334790252206689524064032201149
Emmanuel Sanders3514671262285688424163272271147
Maurice Morris1018481118229868702425765259687
Danny Woodhead745452931233468672436242229981
Kevin Walter369446125239168622445969251686
Charles Johnson365461724224268472455971250761
Bam Morris107445913625016683724661692351140
Bill Schroeder307460028225667832476074241754
Randy McMichael427454724232567742485655260616
Mike Pritchard389466524228967562495876256845
Harold Green10954699132371067252506079240961
Reuben Droughns10524591252481766732516238230953
Robert Brooks326435132218066652526110237833
Shonn Greene106546442421812657025360002461095
Harvey Williams11014800242151865492546039245936
C.J. Spiller89648672019815649425559902471082
Doug Martin9754679221907645625661622361614
Domanick Williams9244471282029637225760892382124
T.Y. Hilton2924468241904634225859182521586
Le'Veon Bell7994166222061623725960432442079
Sterling Sharpe3253885422014605626057692582019
Eddie Lacy8143947291948581226155712611937
Barry Foster86639372520612576626255462621922
DeAndre Hopkins2393533191784524426350432631748
Johnny Johnson73935331518511508826448712641696
Giovani Bernard6403440171502492726546932651642
Odell Beckham1952793251262415226640522662076
Mike Evans1422257151091337826732982671689
Jeremy Hill4872212211188330526832362681653
Jarvis Landry2142024101151314426930832701572
Devonta Freeman4322112161054313327031022691567
Todd Gurley250129410533180627118062711806
David Johnson161103812553159027215902721590
Kelvin Benjamin7310089501153227315322731532
Amari Cooper7510676451151327415132741513

I’ll start by pointing out that three notable players appear rather low on the list: Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith started their careers before the 1992 and don’t have their full value included in the chart above.5 Rice loses seven seasons here, which come to an estimated 13613 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards; Sanders loses three seasons and about 9679 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards; and Smith loses two seasons and roughly 4293 Adjusted Scrimmage Yards.6

When looking at plain old Adjusted Scrimmage Yards, the usual suspects dominate the top of the list. It is refreshing to see four receivers and a tight end in the top ten, with Terrell Owens leading the way. Given the relative length of a receiver’s career versus a running back’s, it makes sense to see so many receivers rank so highly. However, when we sort by the “CASC” column, we see many of those receivers lose some ground. Cascading is a simple concept and is just the name I chose to use for giving 100% credit to a player’s best season, 95% credit to his second best season, 90% credit to his third best season, and so on. This is what Pro Football Reference does with their Career AV metric, and it helps promote players with higher peaks but shorter careers.

When we emphasize peak seasons, Faulk remains king, Tomlinson leapfrogs Emmitt, and Martin maintains his lofty rank as well. The biggest movers are a trio of Hall of Fame hopefuls who have failed to garner much favor among voters. Erstwhile Colts superstar James completes the top handful, even picking up more career first downs than noted chain-mover Jerome Bettis. Tiki Barber, whose career was basically a pile of mush followed by an incredible peak, also rates highly by this method. Given the way our brains perceive first impressions and make lasting judgments based on them, it is likely that Barber’s chances at a gold jacket would be much greater if his career happened in the reverse order. The last of the trio is Watters, who had a reputation of being sort of the TO of running backs (selfish, otherwise bad attitude, wore out his welcome with several teams despite his immense talent).7 Regardless of what critics thought of his mental makeup, the fact is that he was one of the most versatile and productive backs in a league full of legends.

When we sort by Adjusted Scrimmage Yards per season, Matt Forte stands out among modern players. Yes, Peterson ranks just below him, but Peterson ranking highly doesn’t exactly stand out; we all expect him to fair well in a metric like this.8 Forte, on the other hand, might surprise some people. He didn’t put up stratospheric numbers on the ground, so he naturally went somewhat overlooked by the media. However, he was always a threat in the passing game and only produced two seasons with less than 50 catches or 470 receiving yards. He only came close to the coveted 2000 yards from scrimmage mark once, but he did manage to average 1590 YFS per season, for eight seasons, which is more than most backs can claim. Perhaps, as the game continues to evolve and future fans come to appreciate receiving production out of the backfield, Forte will get the respect he has earned. But during his prime, he was often second class in the Second City.

That’s all for now. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

  1. Keep in mind that the real multipliers for touchdowns and first downs are 20 and 9. However, because all touchdowns are recorded as first downs, using 11 instead of 20 effectively avoids double counting touchdowns.
  2. The strength of the Kansas City offensive line was incredible though. It’s hard to avoid entanglement with Holmes, much like it is with Jim Brown or Emmitt Smith. For instance, Holmes’s successor, Larry Johnson, also produced two top 25 seasons behind that line. However, Johnson was also a gifted workhorse runner, which was clear even from his time at Penn State. That’s why he was a first round pick while Holmes was at his apex. I’m of the opinion that the line probably made Holmes and Johnson look better than they were, but the talented backs returned the favor. It’s generally accepted, to the point of being idiomatic, that good lines make backs look better. However, years of both playing as a lineman and watching line play have taught me that a back with good vision and decisiveness will also make an offensive line look better. The tricky part, for most, is figuring out if one, both, or neither of those things are happening. Entanglement is a nasty mistress, folks.
  3. See previous caveat about Sanders.
  4. See previous caveat about Smith.
  5. Thurman Thomas loses some prime seasons as well, but no one outside of upstate New York seems to care too much about where he ranks on lists.
  6. These numbers are estimated because of unavailable first down data prior to 1991. Using their career averages to estimate Adjusted Scrimmage Yards, their season averages change to 1741 for Rice, 2510 for Sanders, and 2185 for Smith.
  7. Of course, Owens wasn’t afraid to make a catch over the middle, so there’s that.
  8. Note that Peterson would rank higher than Forte, and higher than Martin and Faulk as well, if I didn’t count his 2014 season. Being suspended after one  game will do that to a guy.