Understanding Advanced Stats: Yards After Contact

Advanced stats are relatively new in football, especially at the college level. So periodically we’ll share some insight into how our stats are collected and how they can be used.

One of our favorite advanced stats is yards after contact for running backs. But, like all stats, it can only be understood within context.

As much as we love advanced stats and believe they add critical insight into evaluations of players, they can be misleading if they aren’t blended with traditional scouting.

With that thought in mind, we’re going to look at yards after contact in an evaluation of Georgia running back Nick Chubb.

First let’s explain our YAC stat in a little more detail. We use a very strict definition of YAC in an effort to highlight the yards that are gained by a running back’s skill set rather than dumb luck. We don’t chart yards after incidental contact, but rather focus on meaningful contact that reasonably could have resulted in a tackle if not for the rusher’s ability to avoid the tackle or push forward for extra yardage.

This definition tends to widen the gap between the true power runners and the smaller rushers who rely on avoiding contact all together. And Nick Chubb certainly fits this description of a power runner who should generally post strong YAC numbers.

In Week 1 against North Carolina, Chubb was at his best. He ran for 222 yards and picked up 111 after contact. It was an impressive showing.

But on Saturday against Nicholls State, Chubb was completely shut down. He managed just 19 YAC on 20 attempts and was stuffed for zero or negative yards six times.

Those stats alone might indicate a cause for concern. How can a dominant future NFL running back get shut down against Nicholls?

But this is where the blend of traditional scouting and stats are necessary.

The Georgia offensive line was overpowered by Nicholls, often leaving the backfield swarming with defenders. And while a running back like Chubb can power through one would-be tackler, he can’t take on three.

Here’s an example of one of Chubb’s stuffs near the goal line:

This play obviously results in zero YAC, but Chubb can’t be blamed. He had no chance against that wall of defenders who plowed through the Georgia offensive line.

When evaluating yards after contact in the future, consider the offensive line’s performance. A power runner will pick up YAC due to his own skill set, but it’s up to the offensive line to ensure that he’s getting into one-on-one situations in gaps which provide him the opportunity to pick up the those extra yards.

When the offensive line fails to do its job—as was the case for Georgia on Saturday—there’s very little a running back can do to take matters into his own hands.

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