Who ya got? CJ2K or AD?
The question is easy…. who’s the best running back in the NFL today? I think we can all agree that they are the #1 and #2 RB in the NFL. But which is which?
Tale of the Tape:
Experience- 3rd season (2 full seasons in the books, 2010 represents 3rd season)
Combine 40- 4.24
Career Rushing- 652 attempts for 3,410 yards and 25 TD’s (5.2 yards/carry)
Longest run- 91 yards
Career Receiving- 102 receptions for 790 yards and 3 TD’s (7.75 yards/catch)
Longest reception- 69 yards
*Career stats are represented through 2 games of the 2010 season.
Averaging over 1,600 yards and 10+ TD’s per year
Experience- 4th season (3 full seasons in the books, 2010 represents 4th season)
Combine 40- 4.38
Career Rushing- 962 attempts for 4,716 yards and 41 TD’s (4.9 yards/carry)
Longest run- 73 yards
Career Receiving- 91 receptions for 884 yards and 1 TD (9.7 yards/catch)
Longest reception- 63 yards
*Career stats are represented through 2 games of the 2010 season.
Averaging 1,500 yards and 13+ TD/year
Obviously anyone would be ecstatic with either RB whether it be a coach, an owner, a fantasy owner, a fan, whatever. But I’m going to compare each RB according to several criteria and TRY to arrive at a winner (I’m conflicted). There is some degree of subjectivity because they are such different players and have vastly different running styles. AD is a big, physical, strong back with speed and is quite honestly one of the most violent and punishing runners I’ve ever seen. CJ is so elusive and just has a different type of speed. He blows by EVERYONE.
Given the subjectivity involved, I try to eliminate as much as possible and objectively evaluate the following areas:
Speed: While AD is one of the fastest backs in the league and is certainly the fastest power back in the NFL and maybe in NFL history, like I said above, CJ just has a different kind of speed. You can’t put too much stock in combine results, but comparing CJ’s 4.24 to AD’s 4.38, CJ just destroys him. .14 seconds is a HUGE difference in the 40 and it translates on the field. I recently saw a Sports Science special where they analyzed CJ’s 70+ yard TD run against Oakland in week 1 this year. According to their analysis, with full pads, helmet, and carrying a football, CJ was clocked at over 22 MPH. When asked about the stat, CJ said that wasn’t quite running full speed. For some context, I’ll compare this to Usain Bolt who has been clocked at 28 MPH in the 100 M sprint. Yes, 6 MPH is a big difference, but for a football player, in pads, 22 MPH is an incredible feat!
Ball security: This one is pretty easy as well. We all know AD has a fumbling issue. When looking at the numbers, though, the difference between the two backs is actually pretty amazing. In his 3 full seasons and thus far this year, AD has had 20 FUMBLES! Compare that to CJ, who in his 2 full seasons and thus far this year, has had 5 fumbles.
Strength: Just as speed is a no-brainer for CJ, Strength is a no-brainer for AD. He is a physically imposing specimen and is an intimidating force for opposing defenses. At 6’1″ and around 220 lbs., he is a BEAST! It’s not just his size and strength, but his attitude and running style. I’ve heard it said before, and its 100% true, he looks like he runs mad. He is such a violent runner and runs with such an attitude that it just makes his strength that much more of a factor. You rarely see one man bring him down and he has a ridiculous amount of yards after contact. AD had over 900 yards after first contact in 2009 and 65% of his total yards was after first contact. Surprisingly, CJ also has quite a bit of yards after contact and lead AD in 2009 with 1,000 yards after contact and about 50% of his yards were earned after contact. If that were the category we would have a debate. But its not, so in the category of the strength….
Vision: This is a pretty subjective category as there are no stats that you can use to draw a direct correlation. Let me start by saying, both CJ and AD have tremendous vision. I’ve watched both very closely in their careers and I’m always impressed by their ability to press the hole, anticipate the movements of the defense, and cutback against the grain to take advantage of an over-pursuing defense. Both have an innate ability to slip through the tiniest of creases (despite AD’s size) or just bust through a crease. I’ve gone over this a few times and I honestly cannot give the edge to anyone on this one.
Receiving: As with just about every category, both RB’s are extremely gifted. While you don’t typically think of AD as a great receiving back, he’s actually very good. He had 43 receptions last year and averages about 28/year for his career. As you can see he had a dramatic increase last year and for 2010, without Chester Taylor, he is sure to get even more catches. To put this in perspective, the league leader for RB’s last year was Ray Rice with 78 receptions. CJ, being a more elusive and speed back, you would think would be a more viable option out of the backfield. In 2009, he had 50 receptions and averages about the same for his career. In my opinion, CJ has slightly more natural hands and we’re evaluating them as of right now, not in relation to what they may do in the future, so AD’s increased receptions without Taylor is irrelevant for this point. With that being said…
Agility/Elusiveness: AD is extremely fast, agile, and elusive for his size and power. In terms of the best combination of size, power, speed, and agility, AD is one of the most complete specimens in NFL history. He is matched up with, however, one of the fastest players in NFL history. Speed doesn’t always come with agility and elusiveness, but in this case, it does. CJ is able to stop on a dime and change directions and his incredible acceleration and top end speed allows him to appear as if he barely slows down.
Production: We all know AD is a workhorse. He is a physical runner who can wear defenses down and he can literally carry his team to victory. In his 3 full seasons, AD has averaged 305 carries/year and just under 20 carries/game. In his 2 full seasons, CJ has averaged 305 carries/year as well, and just over 20 carries/game. Most people, myself included, look at AD as the workhorse type back and CJ as the elusive back who can’t handle as many carries. Looking at the statistics on this, I was actually a little surprised to see just how closely CJ matches up with AD in this category.
Durability: This is a tricky one. AD was labelled as “Injury-Prone” coming out of Oklahoma and CJ is considered a smaller, speed back who can’t run between the tackles or handle a ton of carries. Both are actually false. Surprisingly, AD has missed only TWO GAMES in his 3 full seasons. CJ has missed 1 game in his 2 full seasons. For the purpose of this debate, I’m considering where they stand right now. If I were evaluating them for future production, this would sway my grade in this category only due to the running style. AD runs so violently and with so much power, I find it hard to believe that he’ll be able to continue to hold up with that type of punishment. On the other hand, CJ is so elusive and he’s so good at avoiding a big hit, that I see him much in the same light as Barry Sanders in that he should hold up fairly well because he takes less overall punishment. As of today however….
Like I said, there are several subjective criteria that can be taken into account when you’re making this pick. The exact question you’re asking can also change the answer. For instance, is the question “Who has had the better career?” “Who would you pick in fantasy?” “Who would you start a franchise with?” “Who do you want on 4th and goal from the 1 (ignoring last week LOL)?” or “Who would you take right now, for 1 game or 1 year?” To me, it can vary a little bit because of the punishment AD takes and if you’re starting a franchise you might want to go with CJ regardless of the rest of your analysis because he will probably hold up better. For this discussion though, I’m going with where they stand right now. When I look at the objective categories above, CJ wins 4-1-3. Obviously, things change and if AD corrects his fumbling issue, that would close the gap and if he continues to catch more balls out of the backfield that could also close the gap. But as of right now, the objective analysis, for me, points to CJ.
Now comes the hard part. It’s my belief that stats are important, but cannot be solely relied upon. Stats can be spun and presented in ways that are deceiving. So while I think they’re a good measuring stick, it’s important to also conduct the “Eye Test”. When evaluating players or teams, you really have to watch them and look at certain key areas when you’re analyzing them. This is obviously subjective and non-scientific, but it’s ultimately the deciding factor in this type of analysis. For example, either one of these backs could be on the Browns and their stats wouldn’t do their talent any kind of justice. A lesser talent could be on a team with an incredible offensive line with a running philosophy and that RB could have ridiculous stats. It doesn’t mean that this RB is BETTER than several others. For me, looking at the stats, and looking at the film, I give the slight edge to CJ. I also discount AD’s stats JUST A LITTLE because he has an incredible run blocking offensive line headed up by Steve Hutchinson. I’m not saying CJ’s line isn’t good, AD’s has just been better.
In addition to the “Eye Test”, personal preference also comes into play. If someone prefers a bigger, power back, that will sway their opinion. If someone prefers an elusive, speed back, that will obviously sway their opinion as well. For me, it’s not so much that I prefer one back over the other. When making my choice, CJ leads in most of the above categories and has done more with less, but AD is such a great back that it ultimately came down to one thing. Who is the biggest game changer? AD has great speed, but not CJ speed. On ANY SNAP, with the smallest crease, when defenders think they have the angle, CJ can blow by them and change the complexion of a game. In a game of inches, and with CJ’s speed just being on a completely different level, CJ is my pick. He’s so dynamic, so elusive, and such a natural runner that I just have to give the slight nod to CJ2K.