If I had to pick an all-time favorite Buffalo Bill…there’s a pretty good chance I’d pick Fred Jackson. Few in the NFL have a better story of how they made the big time – a journey that took Jackson to D-3 Coe College to minor league indoor football to NFL Europe to Buffalo’s practice squad to Buffalo’s bench to finally a breakout role the past two seasons with the Bills. Jackson’s had to prove himself time and time again, even to the Bills, the only NFL team to ever believe in him. Jackson’s had to scratch and claw and fight for every single opportunity he’s ever had, and even when the deck stacked against him he’s come out and performed brilliantly time and again.
What’s incredible to me is how little respect and notice Jackson gets league-wide (at least among the media and fans). Anyone who has watched Buffalo play over the past few years should know just how freaking good Jackson is at this point. The man has been awesome, to say the least, over the past few seasons.
And here’s some statisical proof:
One of the very best football sites out there right now is Pro Football Focus. The staff there does an insane amount of film breakdown and really discovers the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of each and every NFL player. Recently, PFF compiled three years worth of data on the league’s running backs, measuring them using a metric called the “Elusive Rating.” I’ll quote from the site on how they come up with that rating:
"The formula first combines carries and receptions to reach a “ball-handling opportunities” figure. The total forced missed tackles in both facets are then divided by that first number and the result is multiplied by yards per carry after contact and then again by 100.[(Missed Tackles Rush + Missed Tackles Rec) / (Rushes + Receptions)] * (Yards per Carry after Contact / Att. * 100)"
Basically, lots of yards after contact and forcing missed tackles = good running back.
The league’s second “most elusive running back” over the past three seasons? Fred Jackson.
PFF on Jackson: “Fred Jackson is another player who has long been an underrated runner, and was on his way to a truly spectacular season last year before a broken leg saw it end prematurely. Despite ranking 14th in touches over the past three seasons no player has forced more missed tackles than his 149. Adrian Peterson is next up with 148, but he has touched the ball 155 more times. ”
149 missed tackles. Wow. An incredible statistic, especially considering Jackson has had to split carries and missed the second half of 2011.
And this “Elusive Rating” doesn’t even measure all the other great things Jackson brings to the table: receiving ability, excellent blocking, leadership, etc.
So yeah, Jackson’s worth every penny of that contract he signed this offseason.
Oh, and the league’s second-worst running back during the past three years? Freaking Tashard Choice. Choice had forced both the fewest missed tackles (18), and had the lowest yards after contact average (1.5) in the study. Can we please cut this guy ASAP?