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I shouldn’t post this: Approximate value top 200

Posted by Doug on May 11, 2008

So I finally wrote down all the details of the approximate value (AV) method. You can find them at this ever-evolving page.

Sometimes, for example if you want to assess a trade or determine the top draft classes of all time, you need a metric that is capable of comparing players across positions and eras. In baseball and basketball, lots of stats have been cooked up to do this, and they can do so with a reasonable degree of precision. In football, no such stat exists. In most cases, people use "starter" or "number of years as a starter" or "number of pro bowls" as the metric when they have to compare across positions.

AV is intended to be an improvement over those metrics, and nothing more. It is not Not NOT an ubermetric whose purpose is to decide once and for all who the best players in NFL history were. So I should not Not NOT rank all the players in post-merger NFL history according to AV and present them in a list. To do so would be to imply that I've done something I haven't done. To do so would be to invite links from team message boards where the first post is "some guy posted his list of the best players of all time" and the second post is "I stopped reading as soon as I saw _______ ranked ahead of _________. What a bozo!" And I have to admit that I'm overly thin-skinned about that sort of thing.

But I'm going to do it anyway, for a couple of reasons. First, it's May. I don't think that one requires any more explanation. Second, I'd like feedback on groups of players that people think are over- or under-valued (by the way, allow me to agree in advance that mediocre quarterbacks with long careers are overvalued and that truly great cornerbacks are undervalued --- I'm just not sure right now how to fix those problems). This post will probably lead to some improvements in the system. Third, I've learned a lot from tracing down the reasons why some guy I've barely heard of is rated so high. You can too. Follow the links. Even if you ultimately don't agree with the ranking, you might learn that some players were better than you remember them, and others weren't as good.

Now let me explain exactly what the list is. Remember that AV puts a number of every player-season. My opinion is that most people mentally rank players by counting all the players' seasons, but weighting their best seasons more. In order to mimic that, I've defined each player's approximate career "value" to be:

100% of his best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, plus, ....

So, for two players with the same career AV total, the one with the higher peak will be rated a little higher. And junk seasons at the end of a player's career count for almost nothing.

Players are only eligible for the list if their career started in 1970 or later. Here it is:

  1 Reggie White             165
  2 Jerry Rice               153
  3 Dan Marino               152
  4 Brett Favre              149
  5 Bruce Smith              144
  6 Lawrence Taylor          142
  7 John Elway               141
  8 Peyton Manning           138

NOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO SKIPPED STRAIGHT DOWN TO THE LIST WITHOUT READING THE POST: the author of the algorithm that generated this list does not agree with the entirety of the list. He, in fact, acknowledges that it's obviously wrong in spots. He does think it's pretty respectable, given the difficulty of comparing players across positions and eras using only objective data. He also thinks it'll give us something to talk about here in May.

We now return to the list.

  9 Derrick Brooks           137
 10 Steve Young              133
    Anthony Munoz            133
 12 Junior Seau              131
 13 Rod Woodson              129
 14 Ray Lewis                128
 15 Mike Singletary          127
 16 Warren Moon              125
 17 Emmitt Smith             124
    Joe Montana              124
    Dan Fouts                124
    Marshall Faulk           124
 21 Ken Anderson             123
 22 Walter Payton            122
 23 Randy White              120
 24 Bruce Matthews           118
    Michael Strahan          118
 26 Marvin Harrison          117
    Jack Ham                 117
    Jack Youngblood          117
 29 Chris Doleman            116
 30 Zach Thomas              115
 31 Warren Sapp              114
 32 Barry Sanders            113
 33 Jack Lambert             112
 34 Boomer Esiason           111
    Rickey Jackson           111
 36 Derrick Thomas           110
 37 Terry Bradshaw           109
 38 Drew Bledsoe             108
    Jason Taylor             108
    Isiah Robertson          108
 41 Ronnie Lott              107
    Terrell Owens            107
 43 Randall Cunningham       106
    Thurman Thomas           106
    Randy Moss               106
    Jim Kelly                106
 47 John Randle              105
    Michael Irvin            105
 49 Steve McNair             104
    Tim Brown                104
 51 Mike Webster             103
    Rich Gannon              103
 53 Dan Hampton              102
    Vinny Testaverde         102
    Sam Mills                102
    Troy Aikman              102
 57 Mark Brunell             101
    Tony Dorsett             101
    Mel Blount               101
 60 Steve Largent            100
    Randall McDaniel         100
    LaDainian Tomlinson      100
    Edgerrin James           100
    Dave Krieg               100
    Hardy Nickerson          100
 66 Pat Swilling              99
    Too Tall Jones            99
    Rod Smith                 99
    Cortez Kennedy            99
    Shannon Sharpe            99
    James Lofton              99
    Howie Long                99
    Kevin Greene              99
    Marcus Allen              99
 75 John Hannah               98
    Karl Mecklenburg          98
    Steve McMichael           98
 78 Steve Grogan              97
    Curtis Martin             97
    Ken Stabler               97
    Wilber Marshall           97
    Trent Green               97
    Willie Roaf               97
    Greg Lloyd                97
    Franco Harris             97
    Cris Carter               97
 87 Henry Ellard              96
    Orlando Pace              96
    Jimmy Smith               96
    Gary Zimmerman            96
    Clay Matthews             96
    Jim Everett               96
    Richard Dent              96
    Andre Reed                96
 95 Will Shields              95
    Neil Smith                95
    Ricky Watters             95
    Tiki Barber               95
    Art Monk                  95
    Tom Brady                 95
    John Lynch                95
102 Richmond Webb             94
    Brian Urlacher            94
    Andre Tippett             94
    Mike Kenn                 94
    Lomas Brown               94
    Isaac Bruce               94
108 Eric Dickerson            93
    Mo Lewis                  93
    Phil Simms                93
    Harry Carson              93
112 Joe Theismann             92
    Deion Sanders             92
    Ted Washington            92
    Randy Gradishar           92
    Tony Gonzalez             92
    Darrell Green             92
118 Donnie Shell              91
    Mike Haynes               91
120 Clyde Simmons             90
    Bryant Young              90
    Ray Childress             90
    Torry Holt                90
    Dave Butz                 90
125 Tom Jackson               89
    Eric Allen                89
    Bob Baumhower             89
    Lyle Alzado               89
    Jim Plunkett              89
130 Donovan McNabb            88
    Aeneas Williams           88
    Charles Haley             88
    Cornelius Bennett         88
    Roger Craig               88
    Jack Reynolds             88
136 Simeon Rice               87
    La'Roi Glover             87
    Warrick Dunn              87
    Daunte Culpepper          87
    Lydell Mitchell           87
141 Cliff Branch              86
    Ronde Barber              86
    Leslie O'Neal             86
    Tom Nalen                 86
    Gary Clark                86
    Kevin Carter              86
    Henry Thomas              86
    John Riggins              86
    Jeff Garcia               86
150 Joe Ferguson              85
    Ken Norton                85
152 Doug Wilkerson            84
    Tarik Glenn               84
    Chad Brown                84
    Louis Wright              84
    Steve DeBerg              84
    Jim Langer                84
    Walter Jones              84
    Bill Romanowski           84
    Bert Jones                84
161 Michael Dean Perry        83
    Stanley Morgan            83
    LeRoy Butler              83
    Mike Munchak              83
    Jacob Green               83
    Nat Moore                 83
    Jackie Slater             83
    Steve Wisniewski          83
    Jim Harbaugh              83
170 Brian Dawkins             82
    Fred Taylor               82
    Charles Mann              82
    Ron Jaworski              82
    Robert Brazile            82
    Fred Smerlas              82
    Levon Kirkland            82
    John L. Williams          82
178 Jonathan Ogden            81
    Keenan McCardell          81
    Chester McGlockton        81
    Willie Anderson           81
    Lemar Parrish             81
    Seth Joyner               81
    Harvey Martin             81
185 Eugene Robinson           80
    Larry Allen               80
    Art Still                 80
    Irving Fryar              80
    James Brooks              80
    Carnell Lake              80
    Bob Kuechenberg           80
    Rob Burnett               80
    Vern Den Herder           80
194 Joe Jacoby                79
    Dan Dierdorf              79
    Joe Nash                  79
    Chris Chandler            79
    Kerry Collins             79
    Jake Plummer              79
    Mark Gastineau            79
    Brian Sipe                79
    Wes Chandler              79

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 11th, 2008 at 7:26 pm and is filed under Approximate Value, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.