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Patriots Have Let Two Top 5 Short Yardage Backs Leave in Past Three Years

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The New England Patriots found themselves in a situation where they needed one or two yards to either pick up a first down or a touchdown 116 times in 2015. Quarterback Tom Brady passed the ball on 49 occasions, converting 25 for a 51% success rate. They ran the ball 67 times and converted 42 of them for a 62.7% conversion rate.

Running the ball in short yardage is usually the smart idea, and the Patriots have one of the best in the business with Brady. Brady ranks 5th all time with an 83.4% conversion rate rushing the ball (data is available since 1994), and he actually was higher on the list before his offensive line disappeared over the past couple of seasons.

Brady has only managed to convert on a quiet 72.4% of attempts over the past three seasons, ranking 21st over that time frame.

Running back LeGarrette Blount is often misclassified as a short-yardage back because of his tremendous 255 lbs frame, but he's actually really bad. He ranks 202nd out of 224 players with 50+ short yardage attempts since 1994 with an ugly 57.1% conversion rate.

Players like former Patriots BenJarvus Green-Ellis (64.6%) and Stevan Ridley (65.2%) are also below the league average of 65.6%, while those like Corey Dillon (67.6%), Sammy Morris (69.3%), and Laurence Maroney (70.6%) are in better standing.

The Patriots are looking to address their bruiser back role in free agency and they're looking towards players like Matt Forte and Chris Ivory. Forte actually has a career average of 61.8%, which is below average, but has posted a 67.9% conversion rate over the past three season. On the other side, Ivory has a career average of 64.4%, but a sub-par 61.3% conversion rate over the past three years.

Perhaps neither are what the doctor has ordered.

What hurts the most is that the Patriots have let two of the best short-yardage backs leave over the past three years. Jonas Gray has an astounding 80.0% conversion rate, good for 6th best over the time frame of players with a minimum of 20 attempts. He could've been a good option moving forward.

But the player that might stand out the most is Danny Woodhead, with an 83.3% conversion rate over the past three years, the 2nd best mark over that time. If only the Patriots paid a couple more dollars to keep him around.

A player like James Starks (66.7% career conversion rate) or fullback Mike Tolbert (68.8%) could be the solution.