McGahee in Baltimore

Jamal Lewis has been on a slide since his monster year in 2003 when he threatened Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Since then Lewis has declined from 5.3 yds per rush to 3.6. Even his receiving has declined steadily, except for 2004 when his average was distorted by a very small number of catches (10).

Year  G  Att  Yds   Avg  Rec Yds   YPC
----------------------------------------
2000 16 309 1364 4.4 27 296 11.0
2002 16 308 1327 4.3 47 442 9.4
2003 16 387 2066 5.3 26 205 7.9
2004 12 235 1006 4.3 10 116 11.6
2005 15 269 906 3.4 32 191 6.0
2006 16 314 1132 3.6 18 115 6.4


Willis McGahee’s performance in Buffalo over the past three seasons has been solid but unspectacular, with an average of 3.9 yds per rush.

Year  G   Att   Yds  Avg  Rec Yds  YPC
----------------------------------------
2004 16 284 1128 4.0 22 169 7.7
2005 16 325 1247 3.8 28 178 6.4
2006 14 259 990 3.8 18 156 8.7

Assuming McGahee gets the same number of carries and receptions as Lewis did in 2006, we can estimate the Ravens' new team rushing and passing efficiency. Although that assumption is unlikely because Baltimore will likely use spread sets, it gives us a feel for the difference between the two running backs. McGahee gives Baltimore 0.3 extra yds per rush and 1.2 extra yds per catch.

314 carries x 0.3 yds/rush = 51.4 added rushing yards
18 catches x 1.2 yds/catch = 21.6 added passing yards

+51.4 yds / 476 team rush attempts = +0.11 yds/rush team rushing efficiency
+21.6 yds / 525 team pass attempts = +0.04 yds/att team passing efficiency

If we run the new efficiencies through the efficiency win model, we see that McGahee could be worth half a win.


I realize it’s a little abstract to say a player can add 0.42 wins to a team’s record. What the math says is: given a similar number of carries and receptions, and given McGahee’s slightly better stats, the Ravens could expect to average 0.42 more wins if the season were played out a million times.

Compared to what we saw with quarterbacks McNair and Brees, who were each estimated to bring an extra 2 or more wins to their new teams, 0.42 added wins seems relatively modest. For a running back to make a very large impact on a team’s record, he would have to be a 5 yd/carry type of back. LaDanian Tomlinson, for example, averaged 5.2 yds/rush in 2006.

Personally, I think these estimates are conservative. Lewis’s strength was in the straight-ahead runs, and not much else. From all the reports, Baltimore intends to use McGahee in a variety of formations making their offensive more versatile and less predictable.

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