Somewhat Serious Question: Is Peyton Hillis a Top 3 Running Back in the NFL right now?

Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm ET


Frumped by

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.

Peyton Hillis' facemask is easily the best in the NFL

Peyton Hillis' facemask, easily the best in the NFL, is evocative of his alma mater's mascot -- not to mention his running style

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:

  1. Arian Foster – 1,147
  2. Jamaal Charles – 1,021
  3. Adrian Peterson – 1,016
  4. Maurice Jones Drew – 991
  5. Michael Turner – 974
  6. Chris Johnson – 973
  7. Rashard Mendenhall – 962
  8. Ahmad Bradshaw – 916
  9. Peyton Hillis – 905

Of those eight, only four are averaging more Yards Per Carry than Hillis:

  1. Jamaal Charles – 6.34 (Wow)
  2. Arian Foster – 5.12
  3. Ahmad Bradshaw – 4.72
  4. Adrian Peterson – 4.68
  5. Peyton Hillis – 4.55
Arian Foster of the Houston Texans

Regardless of where Hillis falls, for my money, Arian Foster is easily the best back in the NFL at the moment

Of those four, only three have amassed more Yards from Scrimmage (Rushing + Receiving) than Hillis:

  1. Arian Foster – 1,600
  2. Jamaal Charles – 1,380
  3. Adrian Peterson – 1,347
  4. 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:

  1. Arian Foster – 13 (12)
  2. 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.

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8 Responses to “Somewhat Serious Question: Is Peyton Hillis a Top 3 Running Back in the NFL right now?”

  1. raggamuffin Says:

    He’s just the flavor of the month.

  2. Dejuan Says:

    Peyton Hillis is the best running back in the NFL right now. He’s amazing!

  3. senc321 Says:

    oh yeah if hillis is sooo great how come Denver was so eager to get him out of town. These numbers cannot hold up. Josh stands by his biggest trade.

  4. senc321 Says:

    For 2 years we all loved seeing Hillis run. Not alot of carries ,but damn, he ran hard. Josh never wanted Peyton . HE WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN

  5. Chandler Vatavuk Says:

    Somewhat Serious Question: Is Peyton Hillis a Top 3 Running Back in the NFL right now?

  6. Jeremy Says:

    Hillis is crushing people. The comps to Alstott are ridiculous. Hillis is having a great year, but won’t be recognized as a running back – he’ll always be compared to full backs – because he’s guilty of BRBWW. Being a Running Back While White. Even more remarkable is that he’s putting up these #s on a team with hardly any passing offense.

  7. Ciaran Says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting, guys. Good stuff.

  8. Chris Says:

    Keep in mind, when it comes to the browns, every oponent KNOWS the gameplan is “throw hillis at them”. They know he’s coming, and they still can’t stop it.

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