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Super Bowl Champions and First Round Contributors

The only skill position player in Super Bowl XLIX drafted in the first round

The only skill position player in Super Bowl XLIX drafted in the first round

On offense, the Patriots have one player on the entire roster who was selected in the first round: tackle Nate Solder.  On defense, starters Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Vince Wilfork were chosen by New England in the first round. And let’s not forget Darrelle Revis, a first round pick of the Jets; those are five of the best players on New England’s defense right now.  The Patriots defense also features Jerod Mayo and Dominique Easley, two former first round picks now on injured reserve.

But most of New England’s key contributors were not first round picks. Tom Brady, of course, was a 6th round pick. Rob Gronkowski was a 2nd, Julian Edelman was a 7th, Brandon Lafell was a 3rd, Rob Ninkovich was a 5th, and so on. Every year, Pro-Football-Reference generates an Approximate Value rating for each player in the NFL. This year, former first round picks of the Patriots generated just 23% of the team’s Approximate Value. [click to continue…]


Yesterday, I looked at the best AV-weighted winning percentages of offensive players. Today, we examine the same numbers but for defensive players and kickers since 1960. Again, players who entered the league prior to 1960 are included, but for purposes of this study, only their 1960+ seasons count (assuming they produced at least 50 points of AV). That’s a pretty important bit of detail to mention when it comes to the top player on the list. The player with the best AV-adjusted winning percentage since 1960 is Packers linebacker Bill Forester, who entered the NFL in 1953 but only gets credit for his 1960-1963 seasons in Green Bay (spoiler: those were pretty good ones). After him, of course, we have yet another Patriots lineman. Today it’s Vince Wilfork: [click to continue…]


A true winner and Tom Brady

A true winner and Tom Brady.

Yesterday, I looked at the weighted career winning percentages for running backs, with the weight being based on each player’s yards from scrimmage in each season of his career. Today, I want to do the same thing but for all offensive players, using PFR’s Approximate Value ratings.

By this methodology, Dan Koppen has the highest AV-weighted career winning percentage of any offensive player since 1960. The table below shows his AV and team’s winning percentage in each season of his career. Because Koppen’s best season came in 2007, when the Patriots went 16-0, Koppen’s career winning percentage gets a big boost from that season (18.7% of his career winning percentage comes from ’07 since 18.7% of his career AV comes from that year). On the other hand, Koppen played in just one total game for the 13-3 Patriots (2011) and the 13-3 Broncos (2013), so he gets almost no credit for those performances. Of course, he doesn’t need it, because his average season, after adjusting the weights based on his AV grades, was a 13-3 season.

YearTmGGSAVRecord% of Car AVWtWin%

The table below shows the top 500 career AV-adjusted winning percentages among all offensive player since 1960 (minimum: 50 points of AV). As always, players who entered the NFL before 1960 are included but only their seasons beginning in 1960 count. The table below is fully sortable and searchable, so get to searching and leave your thoughts in the comments. [click to continue…]


Bush played with some talented teammates at USC.

Bush played with some talented teammates at USC.

Last week, I wrote about whether having great college teammates might cause quarterbacks and wide receivers to be overvalued in the NFL draft. The results were inconclusive on the impact of teammates on quarterbacks, but they indicated that wide receivers who played with first-round QBs in college tended to underperform in the NFL relative to their draft position. Receivers such as Mike Williams of USC (#10 in 2005) and Marcus Nash of Tennessee (#30 in 1998) may have gone too high in the draft in part because they played with great college QBs who made them look good.

Today, I look at running backs drafted since 1984. I use a slightly different way of looking at the data that I think is a little better. I also revisit the QBs and WR/TEs with that method. Instead of considering the number of first-round college teammates that a player has, I consider the total draft value of college teammates at different positions, as determined by Chase’s chart.1 Going this way makes it possible to look at the entire offensive line’s value, for example, rather than just the number of players who were high picks.

For example, according to PFR’s Approximate Value (AV), Ki-Jana Carter is the biggest underachiever at RB relative to his draft position (since 1984). After being drafted #1 in 1995, he generated just nine points of AV in his first five years.2 Carter also had a lot of help from his friends in college. He ranks 10th out of 104 RBs picked in the top 32 in terms of the total value of his college offensive linemen according to my measure. His tight end also went in the top ten in 2005; Carter would be 2nd in total line value if we included TEs. Two of his offensive lineman went in the first round in the following year. Two Penn State fullbacks were drafted that year, too.3 Could Carter have looked better than he was because he ran behind those great college blockers? Or is the NFL success of the running back who ranks fourth in terms of offensive line help (Warrick Dunn) more representative of RBs, in general?

In addition to looking at the offensive line, I’ll consider whether the total value of college teammates at other offensive positions predicts that running backs become overvalued in the draft. While we might think that RBs are particularly dependent on line help, it actually appears that having a great QB is again the one clear predictor for players being overvalued. [click to continue…]

  1. I thank commenter Stuart for suggesting this approach in the comments to last week’s post. []
  2. Carter averaged 3.3 yards on 227 carries over his first five injury-plagued seasons. []
  3. Two Penn State halfbacks were drafted in 1996, as well. One of them was Stephen Michael Pitts, who went to Middletown High School South (NJ), a school that also graduated Knowshon Moreno and, only slightly less famously, me. []

The NFL Draft is this week, which means we have something resembling real football to talk about. But how much impact will the players who hear their names called during the 2014 Draft have on the 2014 season? Here’s the short answer: as a group, they will make up about 10% of games played by all players and 8% of all starts.

What do I mean by that? Each year, every team’s players start 352 games, which is the product of 16 (games) and 22 (starters). Players selected during the 2013 Draft started 27 games per team last year, which is in line with the recent average of eight percent. I also looked at the number of games played by all drafted rookies, and divided that by the number of games played by all players on that team. Take a look: the blue line represents games played by drafted rookies and the red line represents games started; both numbers on shown on a percentage basis for the league as a whole. [click to continue…]


2013 AV-Adjusted Team Age

The Rams are loaded with young talent

The Rams are loaded with young talent.

In each of the last two years, I’ve presented the AV-adjusted age of each roster in the NFL. Measuring team age in the NFL is tricky. You don’t want to calculate the average age of a 53-man roster and call that the “team age” because the age of a team’s starters is much more relevant than the age of a team’s reserves. The average age of a team’s starting lineup isn’t perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you want to calculate a team’s average age by placing greater weight on the team’s most relevant players.

My solution has been to use the Approximate Value numbers from Pro-Football-Reference.com.  The table below shows the average age of each team, along with its average AV-adjusted age of the offense and defense. Here’s how to read the Rams’ line. In 2013, St. Louis was the youngest team in the league, with an AV-adjusted team age of 25.5 years (all ages are measured as of September 1, 2013). The average AV-adjusted age of the offense was 25.9 years, giving the Rams the third youngest offense in the NFL. The average age of the defense was 25.2 years, and that was the youngest of any defense in football in 2013.

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It’s Christmas in January. Again. Thanks to the tireless work of Mike Kania and the P-F-R staff, PFR has now generated the Approximate Values for every player in the NFL this year. For the uninitiated, you can review how AV is calculated here. And if you’re so inclined, you can thank Mike or PFR on twitter. (You can still thank Neil, although he has now officially moved on.)

Here’s a list of the top 100 players. AV is also listed for each player on each team’s roster page on PFR (for Seattle, it’s Richard Sherman). You can use the PFR player finder for all sorts of AV-related fun, too. For example, you could see the player with the most AV on your favorite team (for the Jets, it’s Muhammad Wilkerson), or by position (among wide receivers, it’s a three-way tie between Antonio BrownAlshon Jeffery, and Demaryius Thomas), or by age (among those 35 or older, it’s Peyton Manning, or John Abraham for non-quarterbacks; Vontaze Burfict and Luke Kuechly lead the 23-and-younger crowd.)

Here’s a list of the 25 players with an AV of 15+ or greater:

Games Misc
Rk Player Year Age Draft Tm G GS PB AP1 AV
1 Peyton Manning 2013 37 1-1 DEN 16 16 1 1 19
2 Richard Sherman 2013 25 5-154 SEA 16 16 1 1 19
3 Louis Vasquez 2013 26 3-78 DEN 16 16 1 1 19
4 Navorro Bowman 2013 25 3-91 SFO 16 16 1 1 18
5 Vontaze Burfict 2013 23 CIN 16 16 1 0 18
6 Luke Kuechly 2013 22 1-9 CAR 16 16 1 1 18
7 Drew Brees 2013 34 2-32 NOR 16 16 1 0 17
8 Jason Peters 2013 31 PHI 16 16 1 1 17
9 Jamaal Charles 2013 27 3-73 KAN 15 15 1 1 16
10 Karlos Dansby 2013 32 2-33 ARI 16 16 0 0 16
11 Cam Newton 2013 24 1-1 CAR 16 16 1 0 16
12 Robert Quinn 2013 23 1-14 STL 16 16 1 1 16
13 Philip Rivers 2013 32 1-4 SDG 16 16 1 0 16
14 Tyron Smith 2013 23 1-9 DAL 16 16 1 0 16
15 J.J. Watt 2013 24 1-11 HOU 16 16 1 1 16
16 Muhammad Wilkerson 2013 24 1-30 NYJ 16 16 0 0 16
17 Russell Wilson 2013 25 3-75 SEA 16 16 1 0 16
18 Matt Forte 2013 28 2-44 CHI 16 16 1 0 15
19 Greg Hardy 2013 25 6-175 CAR 16 13 1 0 15
20 Colin Kaepernick 2013 26 2-36 SFO 16 16 0 0 15
21 Andrew Luck 2013 24 1-1 IND 16 16 0 0 15
22 Robert Mathis 2013 32 5-138 IND 16 16 1 1 15
23 LeSean McCoy 2013 25 2-53 PHI 16 16 1 1 15
24 Patrick Peterson 2013 23 1-5 ARI 16 16 1 1 15
25 Ndamukong Suh 2013 26 1-2 DET 16 16 1 1 15

The Best Skill Position Groups Ever

Atlanta has a pretty nice set of weapons for Ryan.

Where does Ryan's crew rank?

The Atlanta Falcons have a pretty good group of skill position players. Tony Gonzalez has a comfortable lead on Jerry Rice’s career receptions pace; Gonzalez will one day become the first tight end inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Steven Jackson is a borderline Hall of Famer who was stuck on perpetually lousy teams. Roddy White may not be Hall of Fame caliber, but he’s better than you realize: I ranked him as the 37th best receiver of all time in February and he ranked 21st on the list of best six seasons in True Receiving Yards. And he has shown little sign of slowing down, either: White’s recorded at least 80 catches, 1100 yards, and 6 touchdowns in each of the last six years, a mark previously achieved by only Rice and Marvin Harrison. But White will soon pass the torch to Julio Jones, who will battle with A.J. Green and Dez Bryant over the next decade for the title of most freakishly athletic receiver. As for the quarterback, well, Matt Ryan’s 56 wins is the most of any quarterback through five seasons in NFL history.

With those five men, the Falcons have one of the best quintets in league history. Of course, with eleven men on the field and only five offensive lineman on most plays, “skill position players” generally refers to a group of six players. According to Football Outsiders, Harry Douglas was usually that sixth man last year, as he was on the field for 585 snaps in 2012. Douglas is a fine player as a third receiver, but he will bring down the value of this group.

Which made me wonder: which teams have fielded the best six skill position players ever? It’s tricky to even know what “best” means: a 30-year-old Earl Campbell isn’t the same as the 24-year-old version, but if you look simply at productivity in that season, you’re making a list of the best offenses. So here’s what I did.

1) I included in my data set every player who scored at least 5 points of AV in a particular season. This should minimize players who didn’t make any significant contribution in that season.

2) Next, I measured the top six non-lineman offensive players for each team according to their career AV.

3) Then, I took the geometric mean of the career AV of those six players to come up with a team grade.

This is far from a perfect measure — it’s actually quick and dirty — but it was the easiest thing I could think of. Of course, we’ll have to wait a few years for players like Jones and Ryan to rack up their career AV, so I thought it would be fun to look at the current top ten groups.

Before moving on to them, let’s take a look at those who deserve honorable mentions:
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Last week, I wrote about how the 2012 Redskins were powered by a pair of rookies in Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. The only team whose rookies had more passing/rushing/receiving yards in NFL history was the 2012 Colts, while the only non-expansion team with a higher percentage of yards from rookies was the ’55 Colts.

In the comments, Shattenjager pointed out that the list I presented was pretty quarterback-heavy. So I thought a fun thing to do would be to use PFR’s Approximate Value (AV) system instead of yards, and re-run the numbers.

The table below shows all non-expansion teams since 1950 that had at least 25% of their AV come from rookies. For each team, I’ve listed their record and winning percentage, total team AV, their rookie AV, and the percentage compiled by rookies. Then I listed their top four rookies in terms of AV.
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Are certain teams better at drafting than others?

A.J. Smith knows a perfect throwing motion when he sees one.

A.J. Smith knows a perfect throwing motion when he sees one.

On the surface, this seems like an obvious question. Yes, certain teams are good at drafting and certain teams are bad at drafting. It’s easy to think of the Matt Millen Lions or the Raiders at the end of the Al Davis era as terrible drafting teams. With the benefit of hindsight, they were terrible at making draft selections. But is it easy to identify going forward which teams will be good or bad in the draft?

Think back to April 2007. A.J. Smith and Bill Polian were widely considered the two best draft minds in the NFL. At the time, Smith’s last three draft classes had been outstanding. He added Philip Rivers (via the Eli Manning trade), Igor Olshansky, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner, and Nate Kaeding in 2004, and followed that up with Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson, and Darren Sproles in 2005 and another strong class (Antonio Cromartie, Marcus McNeill, and Jeromey Clary) in 2006.

The defending Super Bowl champions were the Indianapolis Colts, a team that Polian had built from scratch. From 1996 to 2003, Polian’s eight first round picks were spent on Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Rob Morris, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Dallas Clark. His most recent first round pick was Joseph Addai, who had 1400 yards from scrimmage as a rookie and 143 yards in the Super Bowl victory over Chicago.

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Yet another draft value chart

Last November, I provided an updated version of my own draft value chart where I measured the value provided by each draft pick to his Approximate Value over the course of his first five years. A week later I decided another change was needed. While AV measures the value provided by a player, the marginal value provided by a player is a better measure of the value of a draft pick. As a result, I re-did the chart and only gave players credit for their AV above 2 points of AV.

You can view the values for both of those charts and the Jimmy Johnson chart here. This week, I spoke with Peter Keating of ESPN the Magazine, who is working on an article regarding how teams should value draft picks. Keating asked if I could make two changes to the chart, and I was happy to do so (and thought you guys might be interested). First, I increased the measure of replacement-level AV from 2 to 3 points. Theoretically, this change would reward the best players, as the higher the value used for replacement level, the fewer players that will meet that threshold. The other change was to reduce the number of years measured from five to four, since that matches the length of the typical rookie contract under the new CBA. The chart below shows the raw data and a smoothed curve depicting the marginal AV (over 3) produced by draft picks in the first four years of their career over a 28-year period.
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The Time Value of Draft Picks

How do you compare the value of a draft pick this year compared to a draft pick next year? NFL teams have often used a “one round a year” formula, meaning a team would trade a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round pick this year for a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounder next year. But to my knowledge, such analysis hasn’t evolved into anything more sophisticated than that.

So I decided to come up with a way to measure the time value of draft picks. First, I calculated how much Approximate Value each draft pick provided from 1970 to 2007 during their rookie season. Then, to calculate each player’s marginal AV, I only awarded each player credit for his AV over two points in each year. As it turns out, the player selected first will provide, on average, about 4 points of marginal AV during his rookie year. During his second season, his marginal value shoots up to about 5.5 points of AV, and he provides close to 6 points of marginal AV during his third and fourth seasons. In year five, the decline phase begins, and the first pick provides about 4.7 points of AV. You can read some more fine print here.1

Here’s another way to think of it. The 1st pick provides 4.0 points of marginal AV as a rookie, the same amount the 15th pick provides during his second year, the 17th pick produces during his third year, the 16th pick during his fourth year, and the 8th pick during his fifth year. So the 15th pick this year should provide, on average, about the same value next year as the 1st pick in the 2014 draft (of course, that player might have something to say about that, too).

The graph below shows the marginal AV (on the Y-axis) provided by each draft selection (on the X-axis) in each of their first five years. The graphs get increasingly lighter in color, from black (as rookies) to purple, red, pink, and gray (in year five):
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  1. The charts in this post are “smoothed” charts using polynomial trend lines of the actual data. I have only given draft picks credit for the AV they produced for the teams that drafted them – that’s why the values are flatter (i.e., top picks are less valuable) than they were in this post. Finally, astute readers will note that the draft looks linear in the second half; that’s because if I kept a polynomial trend line all the way through pick 224, some later picks would have more value than some early picks []

The youngest and oldest NFL teams in 2012

Last August, I looked at the 2011 age-adjusted team rosters. I have reproduced the intro to that post below:

Measuring team age in the N.F.L. is tricky. Calculating the average age of a 53-man roster is misleading because the age of a team’s starters is much more relevant than the age of a team’s reserves. The average age of a team’s starting lineup isn’t perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you would want to calculate a team’s average age by placing greater weight on the team’s most relevant players.

Using Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value system, I calculated the weighted age of every team in 2012, with the weight for each player being proportionate to his contribution (as measured by AV) to his team. You don’t have to use AV — Danny Tuccitto did an excellent job producing age-adjusted team rosters based on the number of snaps each player saw — but since AV is what I’ve got, AV is what I’ll use.

The table below shows the total AV for each team in 2012. The table is sorted by the team’s average (AV-adjusted) age. I’ve also included the offensive and defensive AV scores and average ages for each team.

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Mike Wallace dropped Pittsburgh for Miami.

Mike Wallace dropped Pittsburgh for Miami.

Happy New Year to the NFL, which opened for business at 4PM yesterday. It’s been a busy couple of days, as the Seahawks (Percy Harvin) and 49ers (Anquan Boldin) acquired veteran receivers a day before the floodgates opened. The Dolphins made the biggest waves yesterday by signing WR Mike Wallace and ILB Dannell Ellerbe from AFC North heavyweights, and then later released ILB Karlos Dansby and signed OLB Philip Wheeler from the Raiders. The Colts chose to go quantity over quality by signing four different players (G Donald Thomas from New England, OLB/Colin Kaepernick turnstile Erik Walden from Green Bay, T Gosder Cherilus from Detroit, and DE Lawrence Sidbury from Atlanta). The Ravens lost Paul Kruger to Cleveland but did sign former Giants DE Chris Canty.

Tennessee made some noise signing G Andy Levitre from Buffalo and TE Delanie Walker from San Francisco, while the Chiefs picked up 3-4 DE Mike DeVito and TE Anthony Fasano from the AFC East. Chicago helped out Jay Cutler by signing TE Martellus Bennett (Giants) and T Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans), while Sam Bradford will be happy to know that the Rams added TE Jared Cook from Tennessee. The Broncos added guard Louis Vasquez from division-rival San Diego to keep Peyton Manning upright, and are rumored to be after Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Eagles won’t win the headlines, but made a couple of interesting signings in NT Isaac Sopoaga (San Francisco) and TE/HB/WR/FB/Chip Kelly chess piece James Casey from Houston. About an hour later, the Eagles added CB Bradley Fletcher (Rams), S Patrick Chung (Patriots) and LB Jason Phillips (Panthers). And there were some releases, with Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo), Nnamdi Asomugha (Philadelphia), Sione Pouha (Jets), and Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Huff (Oakland) among the more notable cuts. You can check out Pro-Football-Reference.com’s free agent tracker to stay up to date on the latest signings.

The first few days of the league year provide fans across the country with an opportunity to ring in the new year with a dash of optimism. But how often does adding a veteran or two via trade or free agency land a team in the Super Bowl? The table below lists every notable veteran acquisition1 by the 40 teams to make the Super Bowl since 1993, the start of the Free Agency era in the NFL. The “W/L” column shows whether the team won or lost in the Super Bowl, while the AV column shows how much Approximate Value the player provided in his first season with the new team. The N-1 Tm and N-1 AV columns show where the player came from and how valuable he was in the prior year; the table is sorted by the average of the player’s AV in Years N and N-1.
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  1. Here, notable means having an AV of 4 or greater in Year N. []

Better than Elway?

Better than Elway?

Today’s title gives a pretty good hint as to what today’s post is about. The table below shows the career Approximate Value for the top 50 players whose last game happened to be a Super Bowl victory. For reference, I’ve also includes things like number of games, Pro Bowls, 1st-team All-Pro selections, and number of seasons starting.

In addition to Lewis, Matt Birk of the Ravens also joins the list, and for the heck of it, I’ve included Anquan Boldin, who has hinted that he might retire. Full disclosure: I defined a player as “retiring after winning the Super Bowl” if his last season came during a year in which he played for the eventual Super Bowl champ. So Wes Chandler, who played for the ’88 49ers but retired in mid-season, is included in this list even though he shouldn’t be. Ditto Michael Dean Perry, who was on the Broncos in 1997 but actually finished the season with the Chiefs. I could filter out all the Chandlers and Perrys of the world, but my time is better spent elsewhere (for that matter, just about every person’s time is better spent elsewhere), and therefore I’ll present the full, overinclusive list instead of spending an extra hour of time fixing it and possibly not presenting it at all.

The table is sorted by the Career AV column; the AV column shows the player’s AV in his final season.
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Ever wondered which Super Bowl teams were the oldest or youngest? I went and calculated the AV-adjusted age of every team to appear in the Super Bowl. (AV stands for Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value system, which assigns an approximate value to each player in each season; you can read more about it here.) You can probably guess who the oldest team was, but the youngest might be a bit of a surprise. Baltimore and San Francisco both come in roughly in the middle of the pack, with the Ravens slightly older than the 49ers. This also jives with Football Outsiders’ snap-adjusted ages article.

Bill Barnwell wrote a good article yesterday summarizing the success of Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens general manager. That made me curious to see what percentage (based on AV, not total players, naturally) of the players on each Super Bowl team had never before played for another team. Great general managers do more than build their teams through the draft (and Barnwell specifically praised Newsome for that, including the trade for Anquan Boldin), but the question of what percentage of the team is “homegrown” is still an interesting one.

For the Ravens, 73% of their players (as measured by AV) have never played for another team, with Boldin, Cary Williams, Jacoby Jones, Bryant McKinnie, Matt Birk, Bernard Pollard, Corey Graham, and Vontae Leach being some notable exceptions. On the other side, 75% of the 49ers have only worn the red and gold, although Justin Smith, Jonathan Goodwin, Randy Moss, Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, Mario Manningham (at least, in the regular season) were key contributors who are not home-grown 49ers.

When it comes to AV-adjusted age or measuring how ‘home-grown’ each team is, neither team really stands out from the pack. The ’78 and ’79 Steelers featured 22 starters that were all home-grown, although making placekicker Roy Gerela the lone outlier (and since AV does not include kickers, both Pittsburgh teams were at 100%).

In addition to the AV-adjusted ages and “home-grownness” of each Super Bowl participant, the table below includes where each team (since 1970) ranked in points for, points allowed, yards, and yards allowed, and whether or not the team won the game. The table is fully sortable and searchable, and the rows for San Francisco and Baltimore will remain highlighted after sorting.

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Manningham won't be a Super Bowl hero this year.

Manningham won't be a Super Bowl hero this year.

Last year, Mario Manningham was one of the stars of Super Bowl XLVI, as his great sidelines catch helped the Giants defeat the Patriots (although it wasn’t even his most meaningful catch in that game). As a member of the 49ers this season, Manningham has been placed on injured reserve, but that doesn’t make him ineligible to earn a second straight Super Bowl ring. Brandon Jacobs, who was waived by the 49ers in December, is in the same boat.

How rare is that? Believe it or not, only four players in NFL history have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. Guard Russ Hochstein was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2001 and played in one game in 2002; he was waived in October and signed by the Patriots a week later. He stayed in New England through 2008, so Hochstein picked up a Super Bowl ring for his cup of coffee with the Bucs and then earned two more the next two seasons in New England. Hochstein was also a freshman with Nebraska in 1997, when the Cornhuskers were named national champions by USA Today and ESPN.

Defensive back Derrick Martin was drafted by Baltimore in 2006 and has already spent time with four distinguished franchises. He made the AFC Championship Game with the Ravens in 2008, won the Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010, won another super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, and nearly made it back there this year with New England.

Those are the two obscure names. The other two? Well, let’s see if you can guess.

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


It’s Christmas in January. Once the 2012 All-Pro teams were announced (my thoughts here), my buddies Mike Kania and Neil Paine worked through the weekend to provide us with Approximate Values for every player in the NFL this year. For the uninitiated, you can review how AV is calculated here. And if you’re so inclined, give a thanks to Neil or Mike or PFR on twitter.

Here’s a list of the top 100 players. AV is also listed for each player on each team’s roster page on PFR (for Dallas, it’s Tony Romo). You can use the PFR player finder for all sorts of AV-related fun, too. For example, you could see the player with the most AV on your favorite team (for the Jets, it’s Antonio Cromartie), or by position (among inside linebackers, it’s Patrick Willis), or by age (among those 35 or older, it’s Tom Brady, or Tony Gonzalez for non-quarterbacks), or by draft status (Wes Welker had the highest AV in 2012 among undrafted players).

Here’s a list of the top 20 players by AV.

1Tom Brady35NWE1618
2Robert Griffin III22WAS1518
3Adrian Peterson27MIN1618
4Matt Ryan27ATL1618
5Aaron Rodgers29GNB1617
6Cam Newton23CAR1616
7Russell Wilson24SEA1616
8Drew Brees33NOR1615
9Marshawn Lynch26SEA1615
10Eli Manning31NYG1615
11Peyton Manning36DEN1615
12Alfred Morris24WAS1615
13Julius Peppers32CHI1615
14J.J. Watt23HOU1615
15Wes Welker31NWE1615
16Andre Johnson31HOU1614
17Calvin Johnson27DET1614
18Doug Martin23TAM1614
19Tony Romo32DAL1614
20Roddy White31ATL1614

Creating a Draft Value Chart, Part II

Last week, I took another stab at creating a draft value chart. The biggest modification I made was looking at just the value provided by a player in his first five years to a team. As a result, the graph flattened, compressing the difference between the value provided by the top and bottom picks.

I’m not sure if there’s a right answer, or even what the “market” is. Almost no one thinks the high values assigned by the Jimmy Johnson draft chart are “correct.” Still, I think advanced analysts can sometimes get carried away with the idea of trading down. You may not need a dozen superstars to win, but you probably need a few, especially on offense.

Last time, I stated that we needed to take the marginal value of a player compared to that of an undrafted pick. That’s true, but after thinking it over some more, we need to do this on a yearly basis. A player providing 1 or 2 points of AV in a season obviously isn’t doing much. Therefore, I reconstructed the draft value chart by giving a player credit only for the AV he produced after 2 points of AV in each season. So if a player had an AV of 10 in each of his first 5 seasons, he gets credit for 40 points of value. Using these values produces the following chart, along with a logarithmic trendline:

After again removing the marginal value for the draft slots on the “career” level — even undrafted players, on average, will have some seasons with AV over two in their first five years — we can finalize this draft value chart. You can view all the values here. We can also compare this (in blue) to the Jimmy Johnson draft chart (in red):
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Creating a NFL draft value chart, Part I

Nearly five years ago, I came out with my own draft value chart to replace the “Jimmy Johnson” draft chart commonly cited by draftniks. What I did then was assign the career approximate value grade to each slot for each player drafted over a 30-year period, smoothed the data, and came up with a chart that actually represented career production.

The chart was due for an update in any event, but I’m going to make a key change. Using each player’s career AV makes sense on some level, as the drafting team gets the chance to have a player for his entire career. But the real value in the draft –especially now thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement — is the ability to get a player for cheap on his rookie contract, which expires after (at most) five years. The Jets got a great deal with Darrelle Revis early in his career, but now that he’s the highest paid cornerback in the NFL, much of his value (even pre-injury) is gone.

There’s also another consideration. Of the 100 top-ten draft picks between 1998 and 2007, only 48 players1 were still on the same team entering their sixth season. From the perspective of the head coach, things look even bleaker. In only eleven instances were the head coach and the top-ten pick still on the same team after five years (i.e., in year six): Chris McAlister and Jamal Lewis with Brian Bilick in Baltimore, Donovan McNabb with Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Richard Seymour with Bill Belichick in New England, Julius Peppers and Jordan Gross with John Fox in Carolina, Carson Palmer with Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Eli Manning with Tom Coughlin in New York, A.J. Hawk with Mike McCarty in Green Bay, Mario Williams with Gary Kubiak in Houston, and Levi Brown with Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona.

If you’re a head coach — or a general manager — I’m not sure it makes sense to project any more than five years down the line. Therefore, I’m going to construct my draft value chart based on the amount of Approximate Value provided by that player in his first five years after being drafted.2 Using PFR’s AV as my guide, I graded each player drafted from 1980 to 2007 and counted how much AV they accumulated in each of their first five years. Below is a chart plotting the data along with a smoothed line:

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  1. counting Eli Manning and Philip Rivers as staying with the teams that drafted them []
  2. Note: I am giving the player credit for all of the AV he earned, regardless of whether or not it was accumulated with the team that selected him. []

2011 Age-adjusted team rosters

Measuring team age in the N.F.L. is tricky. Calculating the average age of a 53-man roster is misleading because the age of a team’s starters is much more relevant than the age of a team’s reserves. The average age of a team’s starting lineup isn’t perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you would want to calculate a team’s average age by placing greater weight on the team’s most relevant players.

That’s not easy to do for the 2012 season, but we can apply one method to last year’s rosters. Using Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value system, it’s simple to calculate the weighted age of every team last season, by weighing each player’s age proportionately to his percentage of contribution (as measured by the Approximate Value system) to his team.

Let’s take a look at the (weighted) average age of each offense last season:


RkTeamAvg Age
1Seattle Seahawks25.7
2Tampa Bay Buccaneers25.7
3Denver Broncos25.9
4Jacksonville Jaguars26.0
5Cleveland Browns26.1
6Pittsburgh Steelers26.2
7Cincinnati Bengals26.3
8San Francisco 49ers26.4
9Green Bay Packers26.4
10Buffalo Bills26.5
11Dallas Cowboys26.6
12Miami Dolphins26.6
13Arizona Cardinals26.7
14Oakland Raiders26.7
15Philadelphia Eagles26.8
16Carolina Panthers26.9
17Chicago Bears26.9
18Minnesota Vikings27.1
19New York Giants27.1
20Baltimore Ravens27.3
21St. Louis Rams27.3
22New York Jets27.3
23Detroit Lions27.4
24Washington Redskins27.4
25Kansas City Chiefs27.6
26New Orleans Saints27.6
27Houston Texans27.7
28San Diego Chargers27.7
29Tennessee Titans27.8
30Atlanta Falcons28.1
31Indianapolis Colts28.4
32New England Patriots28.4

An offense where the star eats Skittle is a young one

It’s not too surprising to see Seattle at the youngest team in the league last year, and they look to have a young offense again in 2012. The Seahawks will get younger at quarterback if either Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson replaces Tarvaris Jackson. At wide receiver, Sidney Rice (26 in 2012), Doug Baldwin (24) and Golden Tate (24) are the projected top three, although the team just added 29-year-old Braylon Edwards. Marshawn Lynch is still just 26, and the Seahawks added Utah State’s Robert Turbin in April’s draft. The offense line, anchored around LT Russell Okung (25) and C Max Unger (26), has all five starters under the age of 30, as are both Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow, Jr..

The Patriots, meanwhile, featured the league’s oldest offense last season. We all know about Tom Brady (34 in 2011) and Wes Welker (30), but Brian Waters (35), Matt Light (34), Logan Mankins (29), and Deion Branch (32) made were older members of the Patriots’ supporting cast. New England has a pair of young tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) and young running backs (Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen), but the rest of the offense remains old. Obviously Brady and Welker continue to play at a high level, but the team didn’t wasn’t focused on age when it added wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (32).
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He played for them?

Montana, Unitas, Manning and Culpepper all went to the AFC West.

In light of the Ichiro Suzuki trade to the Yankees, Jason Lisk wrote about other prominent star baseball players who switched teams late in their career. I’m going to do the same for football.

The table below shows all players who accumulated at least 100 points of career AV with one team and then switched teams. Len Dawson played for the Steelers and Browns before embarking on a Hall of Fame career with the Chiefs, but he won’t make this list since he never switched teams after his tenure in Kansas City. Johnny Unitas does because he finished his career with the Chargers. Brett Favre’s stint with the Falcons doesn’t count, but his time with the Jets and Vikings does.1

As you might suspect, the top of the list is dominated by quarterbacks. Peyton Manning will join Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Brett Favre as Hall of Fame quarterbacks that looked a bit out of place donning other colors. But it’s actually quarterback Jim Hart who spent the most seasons with one team, the St. Louis Cardinals, before a one-year stint with the Redskins.
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  1. Note that pass rushers Chris Doleman, Jason Taylor and Richard Dent all returned to their original teams after a stint with another franchise; for them, I’m only including their AV during their first stay with those teams. []