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Fantasy Football: Using yards after contact over expected to evaluate running backs

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) carries the ball during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the signature metrics PFF utilizes in the analysis of running backs are yards after contact per attempt (YAC/att) and forced missed tackles per attempt. These are used so heavily in analysis because they're parts of the running back’s game that the player can control.

Obviously, a large portion of a running back's work is situation-dependent. But what if we control for these situations? First, let’s examine a few concepts that are likely to impact yards after contact on any given play.

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Yards Before/After Contact Trends
Season AVG YBC/att AVG YAC/att
2020 1.49 2.90
2019 1.32 2.95
2018 1.48 2.88
2017 1.40 2.63
2016 1.60 2.57

There has been a semi-notable improvement in league-average YAC/att over the past five seasons. On the other hand, yards before contact per attempt (YBC/att) seems noisy and not useful in terms of year-over-year stability. The improvement in YAC/att is likely scheme-related, as more teams shift toward the increasingly popular outside zone concepts popularized by Kyle Shanahan — at least in recent history.

Let’s test these metrics at a player level to determine if the player owns their YBC/att or YAC/att across seasons.

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