Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room features Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill and three forms of contact balance important to NFL running back play.
Running Back evaluation has a lot of vague terminologies. Vision is the most well-known. Another big offender is Contact Balance.
Contact Balance is a term that encompasses a wide range of outcomes. Running through contact is a desirable skill. However, we need more context for what it means and how to value it.
If a defender slaps a runner on the thigh pad and that runner earns 50 yards afterward, it’s considered a measurable form of contact balance. As a result, stat services inflate the value of that player’s contact balance, when a runner who plows through direct contact from a head-on collision with a defensive tackle and drags that defender wrapped around his waist for another three yards doesn’t earn the statistical love, but it’s a far greater display of strength, balance, and technical skill.
A good starting point for measuring contact balance is to define it. The Rookie Scouting Portfolio process defines four types of collisions in football games:
- Direct collisions: Opponents meeting head-on.
- Indirect collisions: Where an opponent initiates a collision from an angle to the recipient.
- Offensive-initiated collisions: When the offensive player is the aggressor and makes the first contact.
- Defender-initiated collisions: When the defender is the aggressor and makes the first contact.
The RSP also differentiates the size of the defenders involved in the contact as well as the form of contact:
- Reaches: When a defender extends an arm or both arms to grab onto an opponent.
- Wraps: When a defender establishes a grip or hold onto an opponent.
- Hits: When a defender strikes an opponent with enough force to reshape the motion of that opponent’s body part due to the collision–even slightly.
A better way to track Contact Balance would be to use these definitions to classify the term into sub-groups and track the yardage gained in these scenarios. It’s something that I am considering for future RSP publications in the same way that added charting to my quarterback evals.
Still, RSP readers have been receiving evaluations rooted in an advanced definition and understanding of Contact Balance for several years–even without the yardage data. Readers have learned that running backs with effective contact balance know how to use their free arm to buffer contact and re-frame their space afterward. Runners with effective Contact Balance also know how to maintain a shoulder-width spacing with their feet through the contact in order to work past it.
Kylin Hill demonstrates these three skills below on a run against Missouri.
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