Peyton Hillis Is the NFL's Chuck Norris: Is He Also Its Best Running Back?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2010

Peyton Hillis Is the NFL's Chuck Norris: Is He Also Its Best Running Back?

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    About a month ago, I wrote an article detailing how Peyton Hillis is the NFL's Chuck Norris.

    I predicted his dominance against the New England Patriots. I called for his getting more carries than Jerome Harrison early in the season. I said he was the foundation the Browns should build on.

    I was one of the first to talk about how foolish Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos were for trading him. I even detailed his off-field adventures.

    Now, everyone seems to be on his bandwagon, and rightfully so.

    That being said, I'm going to take the Hillis discussion to the next level. I'm going to make the argument that he's the best running back in the entire NFL.

    You're probably already asking, "How can a player who's 12th in the league in rushing yards be considered the best running back in the league?"

    Well, let me try to answer that question...


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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    This is an aspect of Peyton's game that I don't anticipate anyone arguing. There is no doubt that he is one of the most powerful runners in the league.

    He's not afraid of contact, and he finishes runs as well as anyone.

    Just ask Cincinnati's Roy Williams...


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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Peyton Hillis plays for the Cleveland Browns. While the team looks much better this year, playing there as a running back still has its disadvantages.

    First on that list, the absence of a decent passing game. The Browns are 29th in the NFL in passing yards and have few, if any, stars in that portion of the offense. In fact, Hillis is actually second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards.

    There is a bit of a void in the offense where a decent passing game should be, and that leads opposing defenses to focus most of their energy toward stopping Hillis.

    He's still managed to rush for 726 yards in nine games without a viable threat at receiver to take some pressure off him.

    Many of the backs in the league that have more rushing yards than Hillis play in much more balanced offensive systems.


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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Of the 11 players who have more rushing yards than Hillis, nine have more carries and eight have a lower average per carry.

    The two players with fewer carries are Darren McFadden and Jamaal Charles, and if you combine their touchdown totals, the number is still short of Hillis' eight.

    Hillis is averaging under 17 carries a game, which simply isn't enough. His style wears down defenses, so when he gets more carries, opposing defenses become less effective against him. Take a look at Hillis' career stats in games in which he had at least 20 rushing attempts.


      Games Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns
    Peyton Hillis 4 559 5.6 5


    If Peyton had averaged 20 carries per game this year, he would be sixth in the league in carries and third in yards with 864.

    Plus, the added carries would also mean more touchdowns. He's currently third in the league with eight rushing scores. He's averaging one such touchdown every 19 carries. If he had averaged 20 carries per game as previously discussed, he'd have one or two more scores to his name.

Playing Hurt

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Expecting 20 carries per game from Hillis over the course of this year is a bit unrealistic considering the injury he played through a few weeks ago. He was listed on the team's official injury report for Weeks 5 through 7 with a thigh injury.

    His numbers in those three games were still respectable, considering the pain he played through. He had 138 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries. He also had 11 receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.

    Let's imagine the injury never happened and assume Hillis would've been as effective in those three games as he was in the six he's played healthy. Over those six games he averaged 98 yards per game. That number applied to nine games would give Hillis 882 yards.

    That number would put him third in the league in rushing yards.

    Another elite running back that could have this argument made for him is Darren McFadden. However, as I said previously, his touchdown total is significantly less impressive than Peyton's.


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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    As I mentioned before, Hillis is second on the Browns in both receptions and receiving yards. Through nine games this year, he has 34 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown.

    He's 10th among running backs in receiving yards and eighth among all position players in total yards from scrimmage.

    This slide could easily be tied into the one concerning Peyton's situation. If he played in a system that used his receiving skills more effectively, or if he had a great quarterback alongside him, his receiving numbers would certainly be better.


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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Peyton Hillis is third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with eight. He's behind Arian Foster and Chris Johnson, who have 10 and nine respectively.

    Here's the thing: Foster has 20 more carries, and Johnson has 43 more than Hillis.

    He's tied for second in the NFL with nine total touchdowns, once again behind Foster, who has 11.

    I'll make the argument again, however, that if Hillis hadn't been hurt and was used as much as Foster, he could very well be ahead of the Texans star in these categories.

Success Rate

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    One of the coolest statistics websites on the Internet is "Football Outsiders." Their in-depth statistical analyses of of each position are very telling.

    They've created four innovative statistics that show things the regular numbers do not. They are called Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement or DYAR, Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average or DVOA, Effective Yards and Success Rate.

    You can find a detailed explanation for each stat by clicking the hyperlink attached to each stat's title. Hillis is fourth in DYAR and DVOA, eighth in Effective Yards and first in Success Rate.

    Explained quickly, DYAR refers to how much better a player is than a replacement, DVOA refers to how much better a player is than an average running back and Success Rate refers to whether or not the back gets the yards he needs in certain situations.

The Future

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Peyton Hillis is 24 years old. If he stays healthy, he could have at least two or three more great years ahead of him. On top of that, the Browns are an improving team, and Hillis should be an integral part of their resurgence.

    Colt McCoy looks like he could be the real deal in a couple years, and we all know a great quarterback makes everyone's job easier.

    If the Browns can acquire an elite receiver through the draft, free agency or through a trade in the near future, their offense would be significantly more efficient and balanced.

    A decent passing game would take a lot of pressure off Hillis and allow him to produce even more than he does now.

Your Thoughts?

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    I honestly believe that Peyton Hillis is the best running back in the NFL. I was very sad that my favorite team, the Broncos, traded him this offseason.

    However, I was happy for Hillis and hoped that he'd be entering a situation in which he'd be appreciated. Fortunately, it looks as though the Browns do.

    I've given a few reasons why I think he's the best back. Can you think of any others? Or maybe you just want to call me crazy. Tell me how you feel in the comments section.

    And oh yeah, don't forget that Peyton Hillis is the NFL's Chuck Norris!