Much was made about this off-season when the Jets moved up in the second round of the NFL draft to select Breece Hall out of Iowa. The stats nerds hated it. The fans loved it. Five games into the regular season how is that selection looking?
Following the 2022 NFL draft, there was an outcry from the stats community who hated the pick, or more accurately, the move up to pick a running back in the second round.
Before looking at this in more detail, my own thoughts on the Breece pick at the time was that it was a good move that put Zach Wilson in the best position to succeed. Surrounding Zach with playmakers was the only way to end 2021 knowing whether or not he was the guy going forward. Michael Carter showed his ability clearly in 2021 but this system is going to have a heavy workload, and Carter missed time last year picking up some knocks through the season, so the workload has got to be spread out.
The Computer Says “No”
The only clear rationale I could discern from listening to the arguments of the online NFL analytics community was that it was bad to move up and pick Hall, a RB, losing the 5th-round selection when there are serviceable RBs available in the later rounds. The critic that probably picked up the most of Jets’ fan’s fire on Twitter was @PFF_George who took a lot of grief for this discussion:
So good from @PFF_George on the Forecast. Discussion on the Jets draft was excellent. To be clear, the Jets got good players, but anyone would have gotten good players picking so high and so often. Their process was below avg to poor pic.twitter.com/VfWbspcg4E — Jack Lichtenstein (@jacklich10) May 3, 2022
Robert Saleh echoed the confusion of fans when asked about the process on Connor Hughes’s “Can’t-Wait Pod”:
What did it cost, a 5th round pick? Yes I get it value & all that stuff is cool (motions hands), but to add a home run hitter to your group is significant.
Don’t get me wrong, analytics is and should be a huge part of the arsenal that teams and front offices use. Especially in the decisions that they make both in acquiring players and in-game planning for opponents. The reason those teams continue to hire GMs, coaches, and scouts instead of plugging in the R program once a year is that analytics is only part of what you need to assess these things.
Knowing the difference that a player like Breece Hall will have early on in the season is big. The impacts on the development of your young QB are worth more than knowing the percentage of 5th-round RBs that make an impact long-term.
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How It’s Going
This week we had Breece Hall’s coming out party at the expense of the Miami Dolphins in a game where he had 97 yards rushing, 100 yards receiving, and a touchdown to top it off. Those who watch the games can tell you this has been coming for a few weeks. Hall has been slowly taking over the larger portion of the rushing snaps from Michael Carter. Hall started with only six in Week One and then up to 19 against Miami in Week Five.
What’s really impressive though about Hall, and a big reason why the Jets wanted him so badly in this draft, is how elusive he is. Of Hall’s yards, 67% have come after contact. It’s no secret that the Jet’s O-Line has struggled to get any consistency in the run game, which isn’t surprising given how much change there’s been in the personnel. On average, Hall is getting hit after only one and a half yards, but somehow managing to average 4.9 yards a carry.
Jets running 18 zorro for the Breece Hall TD pic.twitter.com/8mEHgIJzFA — Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) October 11, 2022
We saw on Sunday what a difference it will make when the line improves. When you saw guys getting to the second level and blocking ahead, Hall can start to make some serious chunk plays.
His pass-blocking grade from PFF has been 61 this season, and this was hurt massively by the only bad part of his performance against Miami. Weeks prior to that, he was grading out in the 70s week after week. After a shaky start in the passing game with a few drops in key moments, Hall most definitely found his rhythm with 213 yards on 17 receptions which put him second in overall production amongst running backs behind only Austin Ekeler with 214 yards on 31 catches.
Breece Hall is going to be a good one. pic.twitter.com/Rf9OR1Nnr7 — Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) October 9, 2022
Why It Matters For The Jets
Hall’s performance against Miami was great to see for fans not just because of how exciting it was to watch but because it proved his ability to take over a game and put the team on his back. So much of what the Jets have built over the last three years, from the offensive line to the tight ends and the willing and capable blockers among the receivers is based on the fact that the Jets want to run the ball.
The system is designed to not require the QB to do too much. The offense can feast off the play-action game once the run game has the opposing defense over-committed to stopping it. Hall is exactly the type of back that allows you to play that sort of game from the day he arrives in the team facility instead of three years after he’s drafted.
Lastly, you have the thing scouts love to throw on their scouting reports that no one can prove or disprove: the intangibles. From what we’ve seen of the 2022 draft class so far, each and every one of them has that in spades. The attitude and the composure of these young players is something else. The fire and passion they’re bringing to the team is something to be excited about.
Does Breece Hall prefer making guys miss or running guys over? "I prefer winning football games" @BreeceH pic.twitter.com/MUIuKsuUiA — Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 9, 2022