Michael Carter takes the NFL crown in an important RB stat
New York Jets rookie running back Michael Carter had himself an outstanding rookie season. In 14 games, the fourth-round pick from North Carolina racked up 964 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage.
When it came to one particular skill that is especially crucial at the running back position, Carter was the best that the NFL had to offer in the 2021 regular season.
Carter forced 54 missed tackles this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He did that on 183 touches (147 rushes and 36 receptions), giving Carter an average of 0.295 missed tackles forced per touch.
That was the best mark in the NFL this season among qualified running backs.
Out of 55 running backs with at least 100 touches, here are the top-10 when it comes to missed tackles forced per touch:
- Michael Carter (NYJ), 0.295 (54 on 183)
- Javonte Williams (DEN), 0.289 (71 on 246)
- D’Ernest Johnson (CLE), 0.286 (34 on 119)
- Rhamondre Stevenson (NE), 0.259 (38 on 147)
- Josh Jacobs (LV), 0.258 (70 on 271)
- Nick Chubb (CLE), 0.254 (63 on 248)
- Kareem Hunt (CLE), 0.250 (25 on 100)
- Rashaad Penny (SEA), 0.248 (31 on 125)
- Najee Harris (PIT), 0.241 (92 on 381)
- Devin Singletary (BUF), 0.241 (55 on 228)
Carter was a dominant tackle-breaker in both phases.
As a rusher, Carter ranked 12th in missed tackles forced (39) despite ranking 32nd in carries (147), placing him at No. 2 in missed tackles forced per carry out of 51 backs with at least carries:
- Javonte Williams (DEN), 0.310 (63 on 203)
- Michael Carter (NYJ), 0.265 (39 on 147)
- Josh Jacobs (LV), 0.263 (57 on 217)
- D’Ernest Johnson (CLE), 0.260 (26 on 100)
- Nick Chubb (CLE), 0.250 (57 on 228)
- Devin Singletary (BUF), 0.239 (45 on 188)
- Rhamondre Stevenson (NE), 0.233 (31 on 133)
- Aaron Jones (GB), 0.228 (39 on 171)
- Rashaad Penny (SEA), 0.227 (27 on 119)
- Melvin Gordon (DEN), 0.222 (45 on 203)
As a receiver, Carter ranked fifth in missed tackles forced (15) while placing 29th in receptions (36), landing him at No. 4 in missed tackles forced per reception out of 42 backs with at least 20 receptions:
- Mike Davis (ATL), 0.477 (21 on 44)
- Najee Harris (PIT), 0.473 (35 on 74)
- Miles Sanders (PHI), 0.423 (11 on 26)
- Michael Carter (NYJ), 0.417 (15 on 36)
- Sony Michel (LAR), 0.333 (7 on 21)
- James Conner (ARI), 0.324 (12 on 37)
- D’Andre Swift (DET), 0.323 (20 on 62)
- Alexander Mattison (MIN), 0.313 (10 on 32)
- Nick Chubb (CLE), 0.300 (6 on 20)
- Mark Ingram (NO), 0.296 (8 on 27)
Carter wrestled with North Carolina teammate and fellow rookie Javonte Williams for the MTF/touch lead throughout the majority of the regular season. When it was all said on done, Carter came out on top thanks to his two-way prowess.
Williams took the crown among rushers by an enormous margin (the gap between Williams and second-ranked Carter in MTF/carry is greater than the gap between Carter and 10th-ranked Melvin Gordon), but Carter also added elite receiving production to his repertoire while Williams was only decent in that phase, ranking 27th out of 42 backs with 0.186 MTF/reception (8 on 43).
Elusiveness may be the most important skill at the running back position. What can you create beyond what is blocked for you? The answer to that question is what separates great running backs from replaceable ones.
Carter has proven he can generate self-created production at an elite level. That gives him the potential to become a true difference-maker for a long time.