Punch Drunk Wonderland

Will Christine Michael blossom in Dallas

I loved Christine Michael coming out of college and was bummed that he wound up on a Seattle team that wouldn’t have a great deal of need for him. He hasn’t had many opportunities in his two NFL seasons, but things could change now that he’s landed in Dallas. The Cowboys have the league’s best offensive line that have allowed running backs to find great success in the past. Currently, they are looking at several options at RB in Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Darren McFadden, and now Michael. Will this be Michael breakout opportunity? Our friends at numberFire have taken a look.

The beautiful thing about football analysis is its subjectivity.

No two analysts will look at the same team, the same unit, the same player, or the same play in the exact same way. The way one examines a complex player’s profile actually often indicates a lot about what the analyst values in the football world; that scouting report becomes a scouting report about the reporter just as much as the player. What becomes even tougher is when the player himself is fairly ambiguous in his profile — little production but impressive tools, high draft pedigree but buried on the depth chart.

Some people may see this, then, as an impossible task of analysis. I see in it an NFL version of the Rorschach test.

Despite the many players who have had great ability but never panned out, one still divides analysts far more than any other: that is Christine Michael. Michael has been enigmatic for football minds since entering the league. One of the most purely physically talented draft prospects in recent history, he wasn’t given a chance in college (or in the pros).

Now, however, we get to put our best football psychological test under the microscope, as the Dallas Cowboys traded for Michael over the weekend. With little talent competition, we may finally get to see what he’s truly made of.

So, I ask you: when you look at Christine Michael in Dallas, what do you see?

Tell Me About Your Mother

Christine Michael is a tough nut to crack within our collective football psyche. Before we can get into the musings and deliberations, however, we have to look at the inkblots: what do we know about the man named C-Mike?

We’ve already broken down his college pedigree — as well as his physical attributes — on numberFire. What I want to take a closer look into here is Michael’s usage and production here in the NFL, and the best way to do that is with a little tool we like to call Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP helps us take the numbers we get from the box score and assign them contextual value so that they relate even closer to the game on the field. By adding down-and-distance value, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.

The table below shows Michael’s NFL production and ranks among running backs with between 15 and 100 carries in a season, in terms of Rushing NEP and Reception NEP. We know there’s not much too look at from the pros yet, but this is all about finding how you interpret the data. What do we find?

Year Rush NEP Per-Play Rec NEP Per-Target Target NEP
2013 0.60 (15th) 0.03 (t-12th) N/A N/A N/A
2014 4.19 (7th) 0.12 (6th) 1.39 (48th) 0.69 (9th) 0.61 (39th)

A lot of what this comes down to is how you look at the data. When I see Christine Michael, I see a boatload of potential on every play that has been given just 56 touches in his career so far.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...