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An analytical exam of greatest Buffalo Bills backs

By Tim Graham

Sorry if I'm late to the party -- it's not unusual for me, but I generally make up for it by hanging around waaaaaaayyyyy too long -- but I just found this interesting piece from Football Outsiders senior writer Mike Tanier.

In it, Tanier uses metrics to rate the top five Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins running backs all-time.

The Buffalo list:

1. O.J. Simpson
2. Thurman Thomas
3. Joe Cribbs
4. Fred Jackson
5. Jim Braxton

What stood out to me was Tanier's analysis of Thomas' career, calling him one of the "all-time hang-around champs" for, essentially, padding his numbers while his career was depreciating.

Thomas started scoring negative DVOA scores (Football Outsiders' standard measurement to compare production to a statistical average) in 1993, when his average dropped from 4.8 yards to 3.7 yards a carry.

Tanier writes:

"In terms of career value, I don't want to erase 1994 and beyond, but when comparing all-time greats you have to be a little cruel. Thomas just wasn't doing much to move the needle on the Hall of Famer scale after 1994."

If you're a stats guy, then this article will be worthwhile. If you'd rather say "Screw all you numbers dweebs," then you probably will give yourself a migraine by trying to comprehend the analysis.

Also of note is Braxton over Travis Henry, Marshawn Lynch, Willis McGahee and Antowain Smith. But Tanier offers very good reasons for that, too.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |