News & Analysis

The NFL's top running backs against stacked boxes

By Connor Price
Jul 4, 2019

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Nov 18, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) rushes past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes (24) in front of quarterback Eli Manning (10) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

PFF continues to discover ways to progress beyond the box score and give football fans a better impression of how talented a player truly is in each facet of the game. In this study, we detail the NFL’s highest-graded running backs when facing a defense with eight or more men in the box — the area of the field that typically ranges three to five yards beyond the line of scrimmage and spans the offensive line in width.

Here were last season’s highest-graded running backs against a heavy box.


GRADE: 71.7 – Henry had one of the most up-and-down seasons of any player in 2018. However, his production against stacked boxes was as consistent as any. The Titans running back led the league in missed tackles forced (24) and placed second in yards after contact per attempt (4.2 yards) in said situations. He was also the only running back to earn double-digit touchdowns (11).


GRADE: 73.5 – Even with the league’s 22nd-ranked team run-blocking unit, Carson was still labeled as a significant breakout player in 2018. All told, 29% of his carries against stacked boxes resulted in either a first down or a touchdown, which ranked fifth among the 38 running backs who logged at least 50 rushing attempts against eight-plus man boxes.


GRADE: 73.9 – Peterson, the only back on this list that has surpassed the daunting age of 30, didn’t excel in any one specific area, but he was proficient enough in all facets to earn a rushing grade of 73.9 on his work against stacked boxes. He ranked inside the top ten in touchdowns (6), missed tackles forced (14) and first downs (22) against eight-plus man boxes.


GRADE: 75.0 – Michel is the first of four rookies on this list. He was one of two players to surpass 30 first downs (33), and he did so on 124 attempts against heavy boxes. The New England running back truly found his stride in the second half of the year as he ranked first in rushing grade (86.0) from Week 8-17.

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