Define “right now” however you like, but, if only during the very moment “The Other Peyton” was bulldozing Charles Godfrey for his 3rd rushing touchdown (of the half), I think the answer might be a resounding “yes.”
If nothing else, as Torry Holt alluded to during his brilliant color work for Fox’s Panthers-Browns broadcast, Peyton’s certainly the best back in the league that grew up wrestling wild hogs.
That’s right, America. Wild hogs. Peyton Hillis wrestled them. I’m guessing Peyton Hillis won, too.
Merciless punishing of livestock and unassuming defensive backs aside, however, is this former Arkansas Razorback really amongst the NFL’s elite at his position? Top 5? Top 3? Hell, maybe even Top 2?
It’s certainly reasonable to suggest as much, and Frump offers some interesting statistical tidbits to stoke up the debate…after the jump.
Now, of course, questions like this are inescapably prone to subjectivity and conjecture. And, admittedly, that’s often part of the fun.
However, though I understand it’s virtually impossible to take a completely objective approach here, I think it’s wise to at least head in a direction as devoid of personal perception, emotion, and bias as possible.
With that in mind, let’s just look at the numbers. Readily accessible numbers that are arguably the foundation of the running back position: Rushing Yards; Yards Per Carry; Yards from Scrimmage; and, of course, Touchdowns.
As of Monday Night’s game, Peyton Hillis is 9th in the NFL in rushing yards. Here’s Hillis amongst the eight backs ahead of him:
- Arian Foster – 1,147
- Jamaal Charles – 1,021
- Adrian Peterson – 1,016
- Maurice Jones Drew – 991
- Michael Turner – 974
- Chris Johnson – 973
- Rashard Mendenhall – 962
- Ahmad Bradshaw – 916
- Peyton Hillis – 905
Of those eight, only four are averaging more Yards Per Carry than Hillis:
- Jamaal Charles – 6.34 (Wow)
- Arian Foster – 5.12
- Ahmad Bradshaw – 4.72
- Adrian Peterson – 4.68
- Peyton Hillis – 4.55
Of those four, only three have amassed more Yards from Scrimmage (Rushing + Receiving) than Hillis:
- Arian Foster – 1,600
- Jamaal Charles – 1,380
- Adrian Peterson – 1,347
- Peyton Hillis – 1,319
Finally, of those three, only one has more rushing touchdowns (in parentheses), and none have more total touchdowns on the year:
- Arian Foster – 13 (12)
- Peyton Hillis – 13 (11)
The next closest back to Hillis in total touchdowns is Adrian Peterson, with 9 (along with Mendenhall and Chris Johnson). Jamaal Charles has managed only 4 total scores on the year, but his 6.34 YPC deserves a round of applause in and of itself.
To break it down more globally, here’s Hillis’ NFL rankings in each of the above criteria:
- Rushing Yards: 9th
- Yards per carry (amongst backs with at least 150 carries): 7th
- Yards from Scrimmage: 4th
- Touchdowns: Tied for 1st
Is such production remarkable enough to cement him a spot in the “best” five? Three? Two, even? You tell me.
The only back he’s clearly behind, in my opinion, is Arian Foster, but then it doesn’t appear anyone’s even close to touching that Texan at the moment.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether you consider Hillis elite or not — if only for the moment — I just hope we can all put an end to these ridiculous, superficial Mike Alstott comparisons.
Seriously, if Hillis doesn’t play another down this year, he’s already, in just his 3rd season, eclipsed the absolute best of Alstott’s career . And it ain’t close.