Much speculation has been made on Tashard Choice recently. Some love what he's done and would like to see him get more snaps. Some go so far as to pencil him in as a cut or trade. I decided to figure out just how good Tashard really is. Coty has already done some digging on the subject and illuminated several aspects of his game that previously went unnoticed. I will touch on these points again and hopefully expound a bit more. Plus, I'm going to do some comparisons to Felix just to have some perspective. Plus, Jones is the only one I can compare to since Barber is gone. So, how good is Tashard Choice? How has he done in his 3rd back role? Make or break year for him?
What we're talking about here is of course is broken tackles, and even yards after contact. Over the past 3 years Choice has gotten 275 touches while breaking only 18 tackles. That is a broken tackle rate of 6.5%. Felix Jones on the other hand has had 400 touches with 49 broken tackles. That's a 12.2% broken tackle rate. So, for perspective it looks Felix is a much more physical back, breaking twice the percentage of tackles as Choice. Continuing this theme of physicality, Choice averages 2.10 yards after making contact with a defender. Jones on the other hand averages 3.04 yards after contact. Again, Jones is much more physical. What does this mean? My thoughts are that Choice wouldn't have an edge over Felix in short yardage and goal-line situations, where being physical is quite important.
Here is where Coty gave us all a wake-up call about Choice. Per PFF, Choice has been rated as the 5th worst pass-blocker over the past 3 years. In 174 snaps that he's stayed in to block, he's given up 18 QB pressures. By my own math that would be a blocking failure rate of 10.3%. So every 10 times he blocks, he's going to give up a pressure. Jones, on the other hand, has only given up 8 pressures on 157 snaps. That's a failure rate of 5.1%. Jones is twice as efficient in pass-blocking as Choice. I'm not sure if this is true, but wouldn't you want your non-starter to block a lot more than your starter? Much like the 2nd TE assumes most of the blocking assignments compared to the starter.
We've heard before this year about how Felix is one of the sure-est handed players on the team. In 2008 Felix caught 2 passes thrown his way, and in 2009 Felix caught 90.5% of his targets. In 2010 his catching efficiency was 92.3%. How are Choice's hands? Well, in 2008 he caught 72.4% of his targets, and 71.4% of his targets in 2009. In 2010, Choice managed to improve to 80.9%. However, on average, that means Choice won't catch 1 out of 4 balls thrown his way. For my money that means Choice is not a reception option on third downs and the goal line. He's more of a 1st down pass-catching threat. Why bother? Well, for instance, in '09 Choice on his receptions average 8.4 yards after the catch. Not too bad. For comparison, that year Felix averaged 7.6 yards after the catch. So, all in all, I think Choice is a situational pass-catcher. His hands eliminate him as a receiving option in tough spots, but his yards after the catch warrant some looks at times to help eat up yards.
Now we look at the most important stat for a running back... running the ball. Over the past 3 years out of all his running snaps Choice has averaged 4.8 YPC. Thats really pretty good. Choice compares favorably to Felix in his area. Felix over the same time has averaged 5.3 YPC. Additionally their 1st down percentage remains very close at 26.6% for Choice and 24.2% for Felix. But, I want to take a closer look at Choice. While both he and Felix had a down year in '10, Choice fell off the wagon in one important respect, limited snaps (less then 10 snaps in a game). While in '08 and '09 Choice has averaged 6.5 YPC and 7.3 YPC respectively, in '10 he went down to a dismal 2.8 YPC. That simply is not good for a limited-snap 3rd back. Could it be an aberration? We should hope so. However, when tasked with more than 10 snaps in a game, he's been fairly consistent. He's gone 4.5, 3.6, and 4.5 YPC through his 3 seasons.
What conclusions can we draw? Well, he certainly has some holes in his game that are cause for concern. I would say he isn't that versatile as a running back. His pass-blocking leaves a lot to be desired and should not be counted on during important downs in the passing game. What can I say for this year? Well I think Choice could potentially be serviceable as the 2nd back. Its hard for me to say he'd excel in that role. The games he's had more than 10 snaps have been up and down in YPC efficiency, but average to be ok. I personally wouldn't want to cut him. I think he is still very useful to us this year. Now, depending on how he does this year (if he's here), I think the team can make an informed decision if they chose to let him walk after his contract is up. This year though, I really would not mind him being traded. Given he has not been stellar, only showing flashes, I'd jump at the chance to trade him for a roll of the dice in the draft, no matter what round that would be. Felix himself shows why Choice is not the starter on this team. Felix Jones is simply more of a complete, versatile back. Now that Barber is out of the picture and Murray is a question mark, I think Choice should potentially be given the 2nd back role. We'll see what he does with it.