Le’Ron McClain: An Early Assessment


Last week I offered some numbers, along with my impressions, about the Kansas City Chiefs free agency NT acquisition, Kelly “Queequeg” Gregg. Working with Football Outsiders stats, I concluded that he represented a clear upgrade over the departing “Sweet” Ron Edwards. I also expressed concerns as to whether the combined loss of both Edwards and “Perv” Smith would be overcome by the addition of Chief Queequeg and 6th round draftee Jerrell Powe.

The week prior, I brought a similar analysis with our latest addition to the Thriller B’s, WR Steve Breaston. As with Gregg, the stats suggest that Breaston promises to bring significant improvement to our WR corps.

For this week’s installment, I’ll assess what FB Le’Ron “McTrain” McClain adds to the Chiefs stable of offensive backs. All that, después del jumpo.

As before, I’ll first call upon Football Outsiders DVOA statistics and ranking system to see what kind of insight those might provide. First, let’s compare the offense that McClain came from to the one he’s joining.

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens ranked 12th in weighted DVOA total offense. They were 13th in run offense, and 7th in pass offense. The Chiefs ranked 16th in weighted DVOA total offense, were 9th in run offense and 15th in pass offense.

The Ravens QB, Joe Flacco, ranked 11th in DYAR, 15th in DVOA, passed for 3585 yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs, and a 62.6% completion rate. The Chiefs QB, Matt Cassel, ranked 14th in DYAR, 16th in DVOA, passed for 2958 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs, and a 59.3% completion rate. In short, these are 2 very similar QBs in terms of efficiency and productivity whose main difference is that one played in an offense that had several good weapons while the other had very good weapons but very few of them to work with.

Next up, Run Blocking and Pass Blocking.

The Ravens ranked 9th in Run Blocking and 25th in Pass Blocking. They were 24th in Power Blocking, 6th best against the Stuff, 29th in 2nd Level Blocking, and 27th in Open Field Blocking. The Chiefs ranked 5th in Run Blocking and 18th in Pass Blocking. They were 20th in Power Blocking, 5th best against the Stuff, 3rd in 2nd Level Blocking and 8th in Open Field Blocking. Across the board, advantage Chiefs.

Lastly, we assess the RBs of each team.

The Chiefs laid title to the #1 RB, Jamaal Charles, in both DYAR and DVOA categories. The Ravens feature back, Ray Rice, was #13 in DYAR and 19th in DVOA. After that, the Chiefs fall off the cliff with Thomas Jones with 45th ranking in DYAR (due to -94 DYAR value) and 43rd in DVOA. By contrast, the Ravens’ Willis McGahee came in at #33 in DYAR (+6 DYAR value) and #32 in DVOA.

Onward to the option 3 backs. Neither the Chiefs Jackie Battle nor Le’Ron McClain saw enough touches to be ranked in DVOA or DYAR however we do have some raw statistics to work with. Battle earned a raw DYAR value of 5 but a -4.1% DVOA. McClain’s raw DYAR was 19 along with +1.1% DVOA which suggests he is a slightly better option than Battle.

In the receiving department, Charles was 7th in DYAR and 8th in DVOA, while Rice was 11th and 21st respectively. McClain ended up at #44 in DYAR (raw score of 11) and 43rd in DVOA (-6.9%). Jones did not catch enough passes to merit ranking however his raw scores of 29 DYAR and 13.1% DVOA seem to suggest that he is a better receiving target than McClain.

In terms of overall efficiency and production, we are talking about two fairly comparable teams with the Ravens holding a slight advantage due to a better passing game. No shock there. So what, if anything, have we gained by signing of McTrain? On paper, the answer would seem to be “not much” other than perhaps providing us a possible upgrade over Battle/Cox/Castille?

If your answer is a veteran running back with a proven track record of past success then one can make the same argument about Thomas Jones, right?

For me, I guess it just comes down to a few simple concepts.

The Chiefs struggled in short yardage situations last year due to, in my opinion, lack of beef at our interior line positions and lack of thump in the backfield. To make matters worse, we just released our best interior lineman and are replacing that level of talent and experience with what seems to be a promising 2nd year player – lot of question marks and concerns there. In acquiring the 6 ft, 260 lb McTrain, I think we are simply compensating, in the backfield, for our lack of size and experience drop-off along the interior OL.

Here’s another simple point to consider. Thomas Jones is 34 while McClain is 27. Given that, the odds are that McTrain is a little more likely to make a return to his former productive self, and maintain it longer, than is the case with Jones. Best of all possible worlds of course is that they both do.

Lastly, McTrain contributed to a decent run offense and a good pass offense. With the Chiefs, he will be contributing to an upper tier run offense and what seems to be an up and coming pass offense. I can’t find any negatives here, only positives.

Bottom line, I am inclined to regard McTrain as a peripheral upgrade for our offense, but one that also comes with a pretty big upside.

That’s my Double Take. Let’s hear your takes Addicts?