## 2016 AV-Adjusted Team Age: Overall

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we looked at the average age for each team’s offense and defense in 2016. Today, let’s look at the overall picture (ignoring special teams). By that measure, the Jaguars, Browns, Rams, Bucs, and Texans have the five youngest teams in the NFL. Take a look: [click to continue…]

## 2016 AV-Adjusted Team Age: Defense

Being young isn’t by itself a virtue: the Browns ranked in the bottom 5 in points allowed, yards allowed, net yards per attempt allowed, net yards per rush allowed, turnovers forced, and first downs allowed. But Cleveland was, by far, the youngest defense in the NFL last season.

Yesterday, we looked at the age-adjusted offenses from 2016. Today we do the same for defenses, and the Browns were the youngest group in the league last year, with an average age of just 25.2 years. [click to continue…]

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## 2016 AV-Adjusted Team Age: Offense

After each of of the last five 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, and to calculate age using each player’s precise age as of September 1 of the year in question.  Today, we will look at offenses; tomorrow, we will crunch these same numbers for team defenses. The table below shows the average AV-adjusted age of each offense, along with its total number of points of AV. Last year, the Rams, Jaguars, and Titans were the three youngest offenses. Each of those three are still in the top five this year, joined by the Bucs at #1 and the Seahawks at #4. [click to continue…]

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## Players On Rookie Contracts Contribute Half of All NFL Value

Yesterday, I wrote that NFL rookies were screwed by the CBA negotiated in 2011. Today, some more data on that point.

Using the Approximate Value metric created by PFR, we can calculate what percentage of league-wide AV belongs to each class of players. For example, rookies typically provide just over 10% of all AV in any given season; before the new CBA, that number was just under 10%. And when you combine rookies with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year players, those players are responsible for just about half of all NFL value. Given that some 5th year players are also on their rookie contracts, it’s safe to say that about half (if not more) of all AV is provided by players on their rookie contracts.

The graph below shows, in a blue line, the percent of AV provided by players in their first four seasons.  The orange line shows the percent of league-wide AV provided by rookies.

We don’t see an enormous switch post-2011 from vetearns to rookies, just a slight one. Players in their first three seasons produced 33% of all AV from 2006-2010, which jumped to 36% over the last five years. But the bigger point is just that football is, and has always been, a young man’s game.

## 2016 Approximate Value Released

With the All-Pro votes now in, the initial 2016 Approximate Value numbers have been released by PFR. Here are the leaders:

Query Results Table
Games Misc
Rk Player Year Age Draft Tm Lg G GS Yrs PB AP1 AV
1 Matt Ryan 2016 31 1-3 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 21
2 Damon Harrison 2016 28 NYG NFL 16 16 1 0 1 18
3 Aaron Rodgers 2016 33 1-24 GNB NFL 16 16 1 1 0 18
4 David Bakhtiari 2016 25 4-109 GNB NFL 16 16 1 0 0 17
5 Von Miller 2016 27 1-2 DEN NFL 16 16 1 1 1 17
6 Bobby Wagner 2016 26 2-47 SEA NFL 16 16 1 1 1 17
7 Drew Brees 2016 37 2-32 NOR NFL 16 16 1 0 0 16
8 Calais Campbell 2016 30 2-50 ARI NFL 16 16 1 0 0 16
9 Ezekiel Elliott 2016 21 1-4 DAL NFL 15 15 1 1 1 16
10 Julio Jones 2016 27 1-6 ATL NFL 14 14 1 1 1 16
11 Sean Lee 2016 30 2-55 DAL NFL 15 15 1 0 1 16
12 Andrew Luck 2016 27 1-1 IND NFL 15 15 1 0 0 16
13 Alex Mack 2016 31 1-21 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 16
14 Khalil Mack 2016 25 1-5 OAK NFL 16 16 1 1 1 16
15 Le’Veon Bell 2016 24 2-48 PIT NFL 12 12 1 1 0 15
16 Jack Conklin 2016 22 1-8 TEN NFL 16 16 1 0 1 15
17 Kirk Cousins 2016 28 4-102 WAS NFL 16 16 1 0 0 15
18 Aaron Donald 2016 25 1-13 LAR NFL 16 16 1 1 1 15
19 Devonta Freeman 2016 24 4-103 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 15
20 David Johnson 2016 25 3-86 ARI NFL 16 16 1 1 1 15
21 Zach Orr 2016 24 BAL NFL 15 15 1 0 0 15
22 Dak Prescott 2016 23 4-135 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 15
23 Tyrod Taylor 2016 27 6-180 BUF NFL 15 15 1 0 0 15
24 Olivier Vernon 2016 26 3-72 NYG NFL 16 16 1 0 0 15
25 Travis Frederick 2016 25 1-31 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 14
26 Chris Harris 2016 27 DEN NFL 16 15 1 1 1 14
27 Dont’a Hightower 2016 26 1-25 NWE NFL 13 13 1 0 0 14
28 T.Y. Hilton 2016 27 3-92 IND NFL 16 16 1 1 0 14
29 Zack Martin 2016 26 1-16 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 14
30 LeSean McCoy 2016 28 2-53 BUF NFL 15 15 1 1 0 14
31 Benardrick McKinney 2016 24 2-43 HOU NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
32 C.J. Mosley 2016 24 1-17 BAL NFL 14 14 1 1 0 14
33 Matthew Stafford 2016 28 1-1 DET NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
34 Aqib Talib 2016 30 1-20 DEN NFL 13 13 1 1 1 14
35 Russell Wilson 2016 28 3-75 SEA NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2017.

You can view the top 100 players here, and individual player AV by team is available as well.

## AV Retention Rates, 2014-2015

Last year, I looked at AV Retention Rates, a measure of how sticky a team’s composition was from year to year. We’ll get to the methodology in a minute, but let’s start with two examples.

Cincinnati was very consistent from 2014 to 2015. Andy Dalton was the quarterback both years, and Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and A.J. Green were the three leaders in yards from scrimmage in 2014 and again in 2015. The offensive line was unchanged, with Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, and Russell Bodine as the main five in both years, although Smith and Zeitler missed some time in 2014. The big change on offense wasn’t external, either: it was the return from injury for both Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones, which dropped Mohamed Sanu down in the pecking order.

On defense, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, and Carlos Dunlap were starters on the defensive line both years, with Rey Maualuga manning the middle and Reggie Nelson and George Iloka at safety. Adam Jones and Leon Hall were two of the three cornerbacks to play 60%+ of defensive snaps in both years, with the main change in the secondary being being Dre Kirkpatrick replacing Terence Newman (Minnesota). On the line, the big change was the return of Michael Johnson from a one-year stint in Tampa, with Wallace Gilberry dropping from 73% of snaps to 58% as a result. And at linebacker, Maualuga, Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, and Emmanuel Lamur were the four to see the most snaps in both 2014 and 2015, though the pecking order changed a bit.

In other words, the 2015 Bengals looked a whole lot like the 2014 Bengals. But in Washington, turnover was the story of the 2015 season. In 2014, Kirk Cousins started 5 games; last year, he started all sixteen. Matt Jones and Chris Thompson combined for over 50% of snaps at running back last year, reducing the heavier load endured by Alfred Morris in 2014. Tight end Jordan Reed caught 11 touchdowns and led the team in targets last year, but started two games and didn’t score in 2014.

On the offensive line, only LT Trent Williams was a holdover. With RG Chris Chester in Atlanta, 5th overall pick Brandon Scherff took over and started all 16 games. Morgan Moses, a third round pick in 2014 who started just one game as a rookie, took over at right tackle, relegating 2014 starter Tom Compton to the bench (he’s now in Atlanta with Chester). Kory Lichtensteiger (center) and Shawn Lauvao (left guard) both started in 2014, but were lost early in the season with injuries, putting Spencer Long (G) and Josh LeRibeus (C) into the lineup.

At safety, Ryan Clark, Brandon Meriweather, and Phillip Thomas were replaced by Dashon Goldson, Kyshoen Jarrett and Trent Robinson. At corner, Bashaud Breeland was the consistent presence year over year, but David Amerson (one of the lone blunders from Washington’s front office last year) and E.J. Biggers were replaced by Will Blackmon and DeAngelo Hall (limited to just 3 games in 2014). The front seven was relatively consistent year over year, though Jarvis Jenkins and Brian Orakpo were gone in 2015, with Preston Smith, Ricky Jean-Francois, Terrance Knighton coming on board. [click to continue…]

## AV-Adjusted Team Age (Offense) from 2012-2015

Background:

In 2012, the Jaguars went 2-14 with an offense centered around Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne, Maurice Jones-Drew, Cecil Shorts, and Justin Blackmon. Since then, the team has been rebuilt, and gotten better and younger. Among offensive players, only Marcedes Lewis was on the team during each of the last four years. I’ll have more on the Jaguars tomorrow, but given the way the Jets have moved from young and bad to old and good, I think that’s the more interesting team to analyze today.

Here’s how to read the table below. In 2012, the Jets offense had an age-adjusted AV of 26.9; that dropped to 26.4 in 2013, then rose to 27.5 in 2014 and up to a league-high 29.2 last season. That’s an average of 27.5, but more interesting (to me) is the variance of 1.1 years. [click to continue…]

## AV-Adjusted Team Age (Defense) from 2012-2015

Part of the last non-awful Bears defense

Background:

I thought it would be fun to do a quick checkdown and look at the AV-Adjusted team age for each defenses over the last four years. Here’s how to read the table below, using the Bears as an example. In 2012, Chicago’s average age on defense was 29; in 2013, it was 27.7, then 27.5, and finally, 26.1 last season. That means the Bears average age has had a variance of 1.1 years, the second largest in the data set behind only San Diego. [click to continue…]

In each of the last four 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. For the second year in a row, the Jaguars and Rams were the two youngest teams in the NFL; this year, though, the team formerly known as St. Louis took the top spot.

The average AV-adjusted team age last season was 27.1 years; the Rams (25.6) and Jaguars (25.8) were the only teams below 26, while the Jets (28.2) and Colts (28.6) were the only teams above 28 years. Here’s how to read the table below, using the St. Louis line: the Rams were the youngest team in the NFL in 2015, with an average age of 25.6 years as of September 1, 2015. The team’s offense had an AV-adjusted average age of 25.0, the youngest in the NFL, while the defense was at 26.0, the second-youngest. [click to continue…]

## Checkdowns: Pro-Football-Reference.com releases 2015 AV

Thanks to the tireless work of Mike Kania and his team on 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. [click to continue…]

## AV Retention Rates, 2013-2014

Change is inherent in the very fabric of the NFL. From year to year, little stays the same for most teams. But the team that changed the least from 2013 to 2014 was … the Dallas Cowboys?

There were six Dallas players who produced 12 or more points of Approximate Value last year: DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo, Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. Of that group, all but Martin were key contributors in 2013, too. As measured by AV, the only big changes for the Cowboys were the losses of Jason Hatcher (8 points of AV in 2013), DeMarcus Ware (5) and Sean Lee (5). And other than Martin, the only notable players for the team last year that weren’t key parts of the team in 2013 were DE Jeremy Mincey, FS J.J. Wilcox, OLB Anthony Hitchens, ILB Rolando McClain, and DE Tyrone Crawford. And, perhaps, another reason the Cowboys may have appeared to have little turnover last year? Dallas generally stayed very healthy, which is one way of keeping the same players in the lineup year over year. [click to continue…]

In each of last three 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 Jaguars line. In 2014, Jacksonville was the youngest team in the league, with an AV-adjusted team age of 25.8 years (all ages are measured as of September 1, 2014). The average AV-adjusted age of the offense was 24.5 years, giving the Jaguars the youngest offense in the NFL (and by over a year!). The average age of the defense was 26.6 years, and that was the 10th youngest of any defense in football in 2014. [click to continue…]

## Super Bowl Champions and First Round Contributors

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…]

## Best AV-Weighted Winning Percentages of Defensive Players and Hall of Famers

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…]

## Best AV-Weighted Winning Percentages of Offensive Players

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%
2003NWE161570.8758%0.07
2004NWE1616100.87511.5%0.101
2005NWE9950.6255.7%0.036
2006NWE1616100.7511.5%0.086
2007NWE151516118.4%0.184
2008NWE1616100.68811.5%0.079
2009NWE1616100.62511.5%0.072
2010NWE1616110.87512.6%0.111
2011NWE1110.8131.1%0.009
2012DEN151270.8138%0.065
2013DEN000.8130%0
Total0100%0.813

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…]

## Overvalued? College Teammates and the Biggest Mistakes in the NFL Draft, Part 2

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. []

## Rookie Draft Impact and Super Bowl Champions

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…]

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.

## Checkdowns: Pro-Football-Reference.com releases 2013 AV

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
Rk
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

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:
[click to continue…]

## The 2012 Colts were very rookie-heavy, with one big exception

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.
[click to continue…]

## Are certain teams better at drafting than others?

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.

## 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.

## What veterans did the eventual Super Bowl Champs add in the prior offseason?

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. []

## Is Ray Lewis the Best Player to Retire after winning the Super Bowl?

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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## Checkdowns: How the Ravens and 49ers compare to previous Super Bowl teams

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.

## Trivia: Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs look to repeat as Super Bowl champions

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

## Checkdowns: Pro-Football-Reference.com releases 2012 AV

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.

RkPlayerAgeTmGAV
2Robert Griffin III22WAS1518
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