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Archive for the 'Approximate Value' Category

ESPN The Magazine Draft Preview Features PFRs Career Approximate Value

14th April 2011

ESPN The Magazine - ESPN.

ESPN the mag knows where to find the best way to compare QB's to LB's. If you look, in the large spread of draft preview material, you'll find FIVE pages of draft material using PFR's homegrown Approximate Value. AV is found on our player pages and in our leaderboards. Only here can you find the stats the Worldwide Leader finds the best way to compare OL's and CB's.

Approximate Value Introduction
Approximate Value All-Time Leaders

Posted in Approximate Value, P-F-R News | 8 Comments »

Site Features: Approximate Value Leaderboards!

9th December 2010

In a move that's admittedly long overdue, we've added Doug's Approximate Value metric to a variety of places throughout the site:

And as always, you can search for AV leaders using the PFR Play Index's Season Finder (example).

Also, we overhauled the main AV page to make it more user-friendly, added a sub-page for Doug's extended explanation of the method, and created a blog category for AV to make it easier to find past and future posts that feature the stat.

Posted in Announcements, Approximate Value, P-F-R News, Play Index, Site Features | 11 Comments »

What is a Hall of Fame Player Worth?

9th August 2010

I was watching the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony for Dick LeBeau, John Randle, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Jerry Rice, Floyd Little and Emmitt Smith on Saturday and among all the accolades from the pre-ceremony commentators to the introductions to the speeches, it got me wondering, "what is a Hall of Fame player worth?"
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Approximate Value, HOF | 9 Comments »

Checkdowns: Blogging the Boys Draft Articles

22nd April 2010

One.Cool.Customer at the Dallas Cowboys focused website "Blogging the Boys" has been doing some fantastic work on the draft, in part using some of the Approximate Value information from this site. In "The NFL Draft by Numbers: Do the Cowboys Draft Well", you can find historical draft class data since 1980, with some cool charts that show the 1983, 1993 and 1996 draft classes as the best since 1980. In the most recent post, "The NFL Draft by Numbers: Do drafts build championships?, the focus is on examining how performance in the draft correlates to wins and losses over the last decade. Even if you are not a Dallas fan, I think it is some good work that you can appreciate.

Posted in Approximate Value, Checkdowns | 1 Comment »

The Best Player Available

19th April 2010

If you spend any time listening or reading about the draft, you will no doubt be sick of the phrase "best player available". Writers and teams debate drafting for need versus taking the best player regardless of need. General Managers have vague press conferences where they avow to take the best player available. Part of me wants to know exactly who does not want to take the best player available--it's just identifying that player when you are comparing 22 positions that often have different skill sets that is hard. So I decided to take a look at how often teams actually do draft the best available player.

Lots of things can affect the outcome and make the best talent appear like a bad pick, from injuries to scheme to the input of the other teammates in what is a team game where individual statistics reflect more than the individual. Still, the only way I know to objectively test it is to look at the career value, and this seems like a decent exercise for applying Approximate Value.
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Posted in Approximate Value, NFL Draft | 8 Comments »

2010 NFL Draft Preview — It may reduce your enthusiasm

13th April 2010

2010 NFL Draft Preview

We aren't going to scout Suh, Okung, and Bradford for you, but we can show you how the careers of NFL draft picks have played out.

The preview above shows:
*The top six players taken since 1970 at each draft slot along with their Career Approximate Value,
*The average AV at each draft slot for all players,
*The average AV of every retired player taken at that slot and a recent retiree whose AV matches this number,
*Links to a full listing of each team's 1st, 2nd, ... rounders, and
*Links to all of the players selected with the 1st, 2nd, 203rd... picks in the draft.

To be honest, I find the Recent Retiree listing to be a bit depressing. For instance, the Eagles with their haul of picks would expect: Artrell Hawkins, Shaun Williams, Ryan Nece, Kalimba Edwards, Anthony Wright, Tutan Reyes, Milford Brown, Derrick Gibson, Glenn Earl, Rex Tucker and Anthony Maddox in return. I need to watch more football because I haven't heard of one of those guys before now. You can click on the column headers to sort the team column to find your team.

Enjoy and tell your friends if you think they might enjoy this feature.

Please check out our full list of draft features and tutorials.

Posted in Approximate Value, History, NFL Draft | 8 Comments »

Do star safeties have shorter careers than players at other defensive positions?

5th April 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at Peter King's comment on Eric Berry to examine whether safeties were risks at the top of the draft. In that post, I determined that safeties were not risky in the sense that they didn't pan out. In fact, compared to other positions, a higher percentage of safeties panned out in that they made at least one pro bowl and were at least good starters (career AV > 49).

However, King did raise a point about safeties being less likely to stay healthy, citing recent injuries to star safeties Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders, and Ed Reed. Today, I try to take a stab at looking at that issue. The best way we have of doing that is to look at games played data, though games played is also susceptible to talent and ability as well as health. In an attempt to deal with that fact (though I am sure I fail in limited specific cases), I decided to look at players who already proved to be good players at a young age (age 25 and under) and see how many games they played from ages 26 to 29, how frequently they retired before age 30, and how old they were during the last season they were able to play 10 or more games for an NFL team. The hope here is that if a player has played well through age 25, he should continue to play in games through age 29, unless he missed those games due to injury, or was benched or forced to retire due to injury-related decline.
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Posted in Approximate Value, History, NFL Draft | 5 Comments »

Fifth Down Post: NFL Draft and Team AV

18th March 2010

Pro-football-reference will be teaming up with the Fifth Down throughout the off-season, although not on a weekly basis like we did during the regular season. Here's a short article that looks at what percentage of each team's Approximate Value came from players it drafted.

I don't think you can draw too many conclusions from this; the Saints don't get "credit" for Pierre Thomas (UDFA) since he wasn't drafted. The Patriots don't get credit for acquiring two stud WRs by trading draft picks for them. And teams that are really bad may end up starting low round draft picks who aren't very good and wouldn't start on most teams, but get "credit" for drafting players who accumulate value. Still, I thought it was an interesting exercise (made all the more interesting by noting that Cleveland somehow ranked last on the list).

Here's the link:

Posted in Announcements, Approximate Value, Checkdowns | 4 Comments »

Who is the greatest Charger ever?

22nd February 2010

Yesterday, the Chargers released star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, bringing an end to one of the most successful eras in San Diego history. When Tomlinson was drafted by the Chargers they were the worst team in the league. San Diego had gone 1-15 the year before LT arrived and were still feeling the aftershocks from Hurricane Leaf. As Tomlinson fades into the sunset, the San Diego skies are much brighter: his Chargers have won the AFC West each of the past four seasons. And while general managers John Butler and A.J. Smith have done a masterful job remaking the Chargers, much of San Diego's turnaround in the '00s can be traced back to Tomlinson. But does that make him the best Charger ever?

This is one of those questions that Doug's Approximate Value system was designed to help us answer; using AV we can compare the contributions of players across positions and eras. Here are the 20 players who accumulated the most AV in the 50-year history of San Diego Chargers football (disclaimer: 2009 AV, while incorporated below, has not yet been published by P-F-R):
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Posted in Approximate Value, Great Historical Players, History | 50 Comments »

HOF 2010: Rickey Jackson

27th January 2010

Previous HOF 2010 Bios: John Randle; Roger Craig; Russ Grimm; Steve Tasker; Aeneas Williams; Art Modell; Terrell Davis; Dermontti Dawson; Tim Brown/Cris Carter/Andre Reed; Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene and Charles Haley; Cortez Kennedy; Don Coryell; Ray Guy; Cliff Branch; Shannon Sharpe; Jerry Rice; Richard Dent; Emmitt Smith; Dick LeBeau

He has a most common name, but even then it gets misspelled quite often. Perhaps if he had a catchy nickname or unusual last name, Rickey Jackson's Hall of Fame chances would have materialized before this year. He was no shrinking violet and often spoke his mind, but Jackson's career can be characterized by always being overshadowed--by teammates, contemporaries, and by playing for a franchise that didn't have a whole lot going for it when he arrived.

It began at the University of Pittsburgh. Jackson was a star high school player from Florida, and headed north to Pittsburgh, where he played on some of the most dominant defenses and some of the most talented college teams of all-time. Jackson was in the shadow of his fellow defensive end, Hugh Green, who finished second in the Heisman voting in 1980 as a a defender. When Pitt met South Carolina in the 1980 Gator Bowl, it was supposed to be about Heisman winner George Rogers versus runner-up Hugh Green. Jackson stole the show, making 19 tackles as the Panthers won in a rout, 37-9. He followed up that performance by being selected the MVP of the East-West Shrine game.

Still, after those great performances to end a stellar career for an elite program, Jackson fell to the 2nd round of the draft. He was not only overshadowed by his teammate, but also by the most dynamic linebacker of a generation, Lawrence Taylor. In most years, a player with the eventual career of Rickey Jackson would be the best linebacker from his class, but not in 1981. You could basically write LT's name in at one of the two all-pro spots for the next decade, during both Taylor and Jackson's primes. While LT joined the illustrious history of the New York Giants, Jackson was the first defensive selection of the New Orleans Saints by new coach Bum Phillips for his 3-4 defense. How bad was New Orleans as a franchise when Jackson was drafted? The franchise had been in existence since 1967, but had never made the playoffs, and had never even had a winning season in the fourteen seasons before Jackson was drafted. Jackson made an immediate impact with the Saints, and before the preseason was through, it was clear that Jackson was a playmaker and a steal in the second round. He finished with an unofficial rookie franchise record of 8 sacks in 1981 (the sack became an official statistic the next season, so those 8 are not included in his official career totals). Jackson led the Saints to 7-7 upset of eventual Super Bowl runner up Cincinnati in October of 1981, when he recovered a fumble on the opening drive and spearheaded a defense that held the Bengals to 205 yards of offense.

Still, Jackson toiled in the relative of anonymity of New Orleans early in his career. The Saints rose from the depths to the achieve mediocrity during Phillips' tenure, going 19-22 over a three year span from 1982-1984. During that time, the defense ranked in the top 5 in yards allowed (but lower in points due to the offense continually ranking near the bottom of the league). Jackson was named to his first pro bowl in his third season, and would be selected four consecutive seasons. Despite the Saints having a defense that ranged from average to above average over this time, the only other defensive Pro Bowler was Bruce Clark in 1984. During what we might consider his prime, from ages 25-28, Jackson was the clearly best player on a team without any stars, and made the defensive unit into an overall productive one.

Toward the end of the 1986 season, Jackson stated that he thought the Saints were on the verge of a defensive breakthrough and could turn into a Chicago Bears-type dominant defense. The team was in its first year with head coach Jim Mora, who had previously coached in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars. Mora had brought with him two linebackers from the USFL, Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson, and the team had also drafted Pat Swilling in 1986. Swilling and Johnson weren't starting full-time yet. When he said it, Jackson's prediction seemed borderline insane. By that time, the Saints were in their twentieth straight non-winning season, and he was suggesting they could be like the Bears defenses that were dominating the league at the time?

The Dome Patrol was born in 1987, and easily ranks as the best group of 3-4 linebackers in the league's history. The funny thing is, again, Rickey Jackson was overshadowed. He is the most likely member of the Dome Patrol to get enshrined in Canton, but if he had actually received more individual honors while playing as a member of the Dome Patrol, his case would be iron-tight. From 1987 to 1991, Jackson was not selected to a single pro bowl. In 1989, he missed the first two games of his career, as a result of a late night car accident in September that was expected to keep him out much longer. He played the remainder of the season with wires in his jaw.

Each of his three linebacker mates, meanwhile, were selected pro bowlers three times over that span. Perhaps he was taken for granted since the others were new and the additional impact they added could be seen. Clearly, he didn't have to do as much and carry the team like he did before 1987. With another outstanding edge rusher in Swilling, he may have had more responsibilities in coverage than before, when he was the pass rushing option. Jackson intimated as much in an interview before the 1991 season, when he groused that pro bowls were based on sacks, and he had slimmed up so he could get back to rushing the passer more. While he didn't make any pro bowls over that five year span, I think you can give him credit for what the group accomplished in terms of honors as a whole. He may not have won an award like the Defensive Player of the Year that Swilling won in 1991, but he should get an assist Swilling's 17 sacks and the DPOY Award, as teams couldn't just gameplan against Swilling.

Jackson returned to the pro bowl at ages 34 and 35, recording 25 sacks over those two seasons. 1992 is notable because every member of the Dome Patrol was selected to the pro bowl. Swilling went to Detroit as a free agent before the 1993 season, and Jackson kept on plugging, while the guy that replaced Swilling, Renaldo Turnbull also made the only pro bowl of his career.

At age 36, Jackson couldn't come to a contract agreement with New Orleans, and then signed a below market deal with the San Fransisco 49ers for a chance to win a Super Bowl ring. It paid off, as Jackson won a ring as starter on the 1994 San Fransisco 49ers. He retired after two seasons in San Fransisco, with 6 pro bowls to his credit, 128 sacks (plus 8 as a rookie), with well over 1,000 tackles, and 227 games played (the only two he missed were after the car accident in 1989). He was never selected as a first team all-pro by the Associated Press, which is likely their oversight and not an indictment of him, considering that a) LT occupied one of those spots for a decade and so their was only one up for grabs, and b) he did make multiple all-pro teams from other selecting groups.

Let's put Jackson's career up against other players who were never selected first team all-pro by the Associated Press and are currently in the Hall of Fame. There were lots of players pre-1950, but this is everyone who started their career since 1950.

position first last pro bowl starter career AV All Pro Other
LB Rickey Jackson 6 15 111 4
QB Troy Aikman 6 12 97 1
DE Elvin Bethea 8 14 89 0
LB Harry Carson 9 13 94 2
QB John Elway 9 16 138 1
RB John Henry Johnson 4 8 58 0
OT Mike McCormack 6 10 80 7
WR Tommy McDonald 6 9 68 3
QB Warren Moon 7 15 119 1
OT Jackie Slater 7 13 93 3
TE Jackie Smith 5 15 77 0
OT Bob St. Clair 5 11 80 5
QB Roger Staubach 6 8 104 0

Elway and Staubach both had Super Bowl MVP's on their resume as well, while Moon was selected as the AP Offensive Player of the Year in 1990. Comparing him to the other non-QB's on the list, Jackson rates very well. He is higher than everyone in AV (and significantly higher than several). He had more seasons where he was named to an all-pro team than everyone but St. Clair and McCormack, two offensive tackles who played the majority of their careers in the 1950's and had more selecting groups naming all-pros than in Jackson's era.

When we compare him to other linebackers using the Approximate Value method, his career total of 155 (which is different from the 111 listed above because it is just the raw sum of every season played, with no peak season weighting) ranks very favorably for induction. He is 9th all-time, and everyone ahead of him is either in the Hall of Fame or will be soon after they become eligible. He ranks ahead of thirteen linebackers already in Canton. Remember also that AV uses AP All Pro Selections as one of the weighing factors, and since he is the anti-Zach Thomas and was not favored by the Associated Press, he is arguably undervalued.

One of the great things about AV is that it identifies players like Jackson who were likely undervalued by things like just looking at pro bowls and all pros. So what is it that AV "sees" about Jackson? When he was on teams that had very few good players, the defense still performed at an above average level and Jackson was recognized as the best player. When he was on teams that had multiple stars on defense, those teams were elite with Jackson in the lineup. A player who seemed to always make the defensive teams he played with better seems to indicate a Hall of Fame talent to me. He was the underappreciated teammate playing opposite of the rare Heisman trophy defensive player runner up in college, and a defensive player of the year in the NFL a decade later. I don't think that was just coincidence. In 2010, he's finally getting recognized as a finalist, and it seems fitting that it is occurring in a year when the franchise he helped change from doormat to respectable NFL franchise is making its first appearance in the Super Bowl. The only thing that should keep him out in 2010 is the fact that three spots are effectively open for several players who have Hall of Fame resumes. He should be in eventually, if not this year.

Chances Rickey Jackson will make the HOF in 2010: Average

Chances Rickey Jackson will make ever the HOF: Very Good

Posted in Approximate Value, HOF, Player articles | 11 Comments »

Checkdowns: Colts-Saints common players

24th January 2010

The Colts and Saints do not have an illustrious history of players who played for both franchises. The complete list, with the player's career Approximate Value and the list of seasons during which he played for each team, below:

Read the rest of this entry »

name av pos Colts Saints
Dave Rowe 52 DT-NT 1978 1967-1970
Ashley Ambrose 52 DB 1992-1995 1999; 2003-2004
Joe Federspiel 48 LB 1981 1972-1980
Sean Dawkins 48 WR 1993-1997 1998
Billy Newsome 46 DE-DT 1970-1972 1973-1974
Don Morrison 38 T-C 1978 1971-1977
Craig Heyward 38 RB 1998 1988-1992
Qadry Ismail 38 WR 2002 1998

Posted in Approximate Value, Checkdowns | 8 Comments »

Percy Harvin and Tony Dorsett

13th October 2009

At 5-0, the Minnesota Vikings are off to a terrific start. Part of the reason? Minnesota's two big additions in the off-season -- Brett Favre and rookie wide receiver/running back/returner Percy Harvin -- have paid significant dividends already for the Vikings. The New York Times NFL Blog, The Fifth Down, reminded me of something interesting -- Harvin won the national championship last year with the Florida Gators and is on a pretty good team in the pros. If he were to win the Super Bowl this season, he'd join a pretty exclusive club: only three players have won a college championship their last season in college and then were starters on a Super Bowl champion the following year: Randall Gay (LSU, New England 2004), William Floyd (Florida State, San Francisco 1994) and Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh, Dallas 1977). Percy Harvin actually isn't a starter yet (he's started in 2 of 5 games, but is generally behind Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian on the depth chart), but his impact on the team may be more significant than that of any other receiver on the Vikes.

Whether Harvin starts or not, he'll still join an exclusive club. There haven't been many players to win a national title and then earn any amount of playing time and a Super Bowl ring the following season. The complete list is presented below, including the approximate value the player contributed to his team in his rookie year:

player   	 rkyr	tm	college	        AV
Eric Alexander	 2004	nwe	lsu	         0
Randall Gay	 2004	nwe	lsu	         5
Marquise Hill	 2004	nwe	lsu	         0
Brian Griese	 1998	den	michigan	 0
Tyrone Williams	 1996	gnb	nebraska	 2
William Floyd	 1994	sfo	floridast	 8
Derrick Lassic	 1993	dal	alabama	         3
Danny Stubbs	 1988	sfo	miami(fl)	 2
Tony Dorsett	 1977	dal	pittsburgh	16

Percy Harvin isn't the only one who can make history, however. Eagles tight end Cornelius Ingram tore his ACL in August 2008, and watched his Florida Gators win the championship while he was on injured reserve. After being drafted by the Eagles in April, Ingram tore the ACL on the same knee in August 2009 and was placed on injured reserve. If the Eagles win the Super Bowl this season, he'll instantly become the luckiest unluckiest football player ever.

(And before anyone points out, I know there was a third player drafted from the Gators this season. Unfortunately, he was drafted into football purgatory.)

Posted in Approximate Value, College, Trivia | 5 Comments »

HOF Class of 2010: And then there were 131

19th September 2009

The names of the 131 candidates on the preliminary list of modern-era nominees for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010 have been released. There are 103 players on the list, including punters and kickers. In its current form, Approximate Value does not assign points to kickers and punters, although PFR favorite Nick Lowery is on the preliminary list. Of the remaining 99 players, they are presented below, sorted by career AV:

160	WR 		Jerry Rice
129	RB 		Emmitt Smith
121	QB 		Ken Anderson
114	DE/LB 		Chris Doleman
111	LB 		Rickey Jackson
107	DT 		John Randle
107	QB 		Randall Cunningham
105	QB 		Boomer Esiason
104	WR 		Tim Brown
104	CB/S 		Aeneas Williams
102	RB 		Ricky Watters
101	TE 		Shannon Sharpe
100	DT 		Steve McMichael
100	T 		Mike Kenn
100	LB 		Sam Mills
99	QB 		Rich Gannon
99	DT 		Cortez Kennedy
98	WR 		Cris Carter
98	LB 		Hardy Nickerson
98	CB 		Eric Allen
98	LB/DE 		Pat Swilling
97	DE 		Richard Dent
97	WR 		Andre Reed
97	LB/DE 		Kevin Greene
97	DE 		Too Tall Jones
96	WR 		Henry Ellard
96	T 		Lomas Brown
95	CB 		Louis Wright
93	LB 		Clay Matthews
93	RB 		Roger Craig
93	DT/DE 		Ray Childress
92	LB 		Karl Mecklenburg
91	QB 		Phil Simms
90	G 		Steve Wisniewski
90	S 		Donnie Shell
89	LB 		Cornelius Bennett
89	DE 		Clyde Simmons
89	DE 		Leslie O'Neal
88	S 		LeRoy Butler
87	QB 		Joe Theismann
87	WR 		Cliff Branch
86	WR 		Gary Clark
86	DT/DE 		Michael Dean Perry
85	QB 		Jim Plunkett
85	DE/LB 		Charles Haley
84	T 		Joe Jacoby
83	C 		Dermontti Dawson
83	G/T 		Chris Hinton
83	NT 		Fred Smerlas
83	S/CB 		Carnell Lake
82	S 		Steve Atwater
82	WR 		Stanley Morgan
81	WR 		Herman Moore
81	DE 		Charles Mann
81	CB 		Albert Lewis
80	RB 		Ottis Anderson
79	WR 		Irving Fryar
79	S 		Darren Woodson
78	RB 		Herschel Walker
77	CB 		Raymond Clayborn
77	T 		Jim Lachey
77	RB 		Eddie George
76	DE/DT/NT 	Joe Klecko
76	LB 		Matt Blair
75	G 		Max Montoya
75	DE 		Al Baker
75	LB 		Chris Spielman
75	S 		Joey Browner
75	LB 		Rod Martin
74	C 		Kent Hull
74	C 		Jay Hilgenberg
73	RB 		Terrell Davis
72	CB 		Lester Hayes
71	QB (also P) 	Danny White
70	LB 		Darryl Talley
68	WR 		Roy Green
68	TE 		Russ Francis
68	WR 		Sterling Sharpe
66	DE 		Dexter Manley
66	LB 		Ken Harvey
66	RB 		Larry Centers
65	CB 		Frank Minnifield
65	S 		Kenny Easley
64	TE 		Todd Christensen
63	T 		Tony Boselli
63	G 		Russ Grimm
63	RB/WR/KR/PR 	Eric Metcalf
61	RB 		Mike Pruitt
60	TE 		Frank Wycheck
60	TE 		Ben Coates
59	T 		Jimbo Covert
56	QB 		Doug Williams
56	TE 		Mark Bavaro
55	RB 		Gerald Riggs
46	RB 		George Rogers
45	T 		Korey Stringer
43	RB 		Leroy Hoard
39	RB/KR/PR 	Brian Mitchell
 7	ST/WR 		Steve Tasker

And below, the list of the non-players up for induction:

Administrator 	Bobby Beathard
Administrator 	Gil Brandt
Administrator 	Leo Carlin
Administrator 	Frank "Bucko" Kilroy
Administrator 	Art Rooney, Jr.
Administrator 	Ron Wolf
Administrator 	George Young
Coach 		Bill Arnsparger
Coach 		Don Coryell
Coach 		Tom Flores
Coach 		Jimmy Johnson
Coach 		Chuck Knox
Coach 		Buddy Parker
Coach 		Bum Phillips
Coach 		Dan Reeves
Coach 		Buddy Ryan
Coach 		Clark Shaughnessy
Commissioner 	Paul Tagliabue
NFL Films 	Ed Sabol
NFL Films 	Steve Sabol
Official 	Jim Tunney
Owner 		Jack Kent Cooke
Owner 		Ed DeBartolo, Jr.
Owner 		Ole Haugsrud
Owner 		Art Modell
Owner 		Carroll Rosenbloom
Owner  		Bud Adams, Jr.
Trainer 	Otho Davis
K 		Gary Anderson
K 		Nick Lowery
P 		Ray Guy
P 		Reggie Roby

Other links:

Greatest QBs Ever
Most Dominant RBs Ever
Greatest WRs Ever
One of many Jerry Rice posts by Doug
Top Ten Tight Ends of All Time
Art Monk = Shannon Sharpe?
Greatest Ks Ever
Greatest Coaching Records of All Time

Posted in Approximate Value, General | 20 Comments »

AFL versus NFL: draft class peaks and declines

17th September 2009

Before moving on to the draft classes of 1967-1969, I thought I would do another quick thought experiment, and while this post is included in the AFL versus NFL series, it certainly has broader application. Even if you are not interested in the specifics of the AFL versus NFL breakdown, you may find it informative as you assess how much the 2009 season will be determined by the 2007 draft class versus the 2002 class.

I've already looked at the draft classes of the early (1960-1963) and middle (1964-1966) of the decade. But how the heck am I going to combine all of that information to come up with a coherent overall view of how the two leagues compared? It's not going to do a lot of good to simply know how much talent the AFL got in 1960 versus 1964 if I cannot combine it in some meaningful way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in AFL versus NFL, Approximate Value, NFL Draft | 4 Comments »

Dick Butkus

19th August 2009

There are two schools of thought on Dick Butkus.

1) He's one of the greatest, if not the greatest, middle linebackers in NFL history. Population: Just about everyone. The Sporting News ranked him as the 9th best player in NFL history. The Associated Press put him at number five. In his prime, he was known as the most feared man in the game. Jonathon Rand, like many sports writers, named him the greatest linebacker of all-time. At the age of 36, he was (and still is) the youngest non-RB to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2) He's the 50th best linebacker in NFL history. Population: Sean Lahman
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Approximate Value, Great Historical Players | 22 Comments »

Great Defensive Backs playing together

5th August 2009

I've spent some time this summer examining great players playing at the same position on the same team since 1950. If you want to check out the prior posts, just follow the links below:

Great Linebackers Playing Together
Great Defensive Linemen Playing Together
Great Front Sevens Playing Together
Great Offensive Linemen Playing Together

Today we'll finish off this series on non-skill position players with a look at great defensive backs playing together. Just as before, this post is not a look at the greatest defensive backs groups ever assembled. We might attempt to do that one day, but that’s not the goal here. What I want to know is what teams have seen a bunch of great safeties and corners playing together while those players were in their primes?

As always, I’m using Doug’s Approximate Value system to rate the defensive backs, as opposed to things like interceptions, tackles, Pro Bowl selections or starts. Approximate Value incorporates all of those factors, and a little more. It’s far from perfect, but it’s probably the best way to rank large groups of players from several different eras across every position.

I recorded the peak three years for every defensive back since 1950, and assigned the average of those numbers as the rating for each player. Then I gave him an age adjusted score for each season. As usual, the age adjusted score is the rating I’m giving each DB for each season of play, not his actual AV grade.
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Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever | 27 Comments »

What great running back was most helped by his offensive line? Part III

3rd August 2009

One year ago, Doug wrote Part I and Part II of this series. Doug wanted to measure the quality of the five starting offensive linemen each running back ran behind for each season of his career. He then used a weighted-average for each runner (based on his number of carries) in each season to derive a career rating. Essentially, he figured out (for all post-1950 runners) the quality of the five linemen each RB played behind during the average carry of his career.

But Doug's post was written before my most dominant RB ever series, and we can use that formula to make a small but key tweak. Instead of measuring the linemen for each carry a runner has, we can do it for each yard of value the running back earned. We don't really care what type of line O.J. Simpson ran behind in San Franciso, where he accumulated 12% of his career carries. We think O.J. is great because of what he did in Buffalo -- and really, because of what he did in two particular seasons in Buffalo. Therefore, we want to focus on the quality of his lines in '73 and '75; in those two seasons he earned 61% of his career value. It turns out he played behind a very good line in '75 but a bad one in '73. These are, of course, simply estimated values of offensive line ability, but at this point, that is the best we can do.

To take another example, Walter Payton's best season was 1977, and he dominated behind an absolutely dreadful line. But if you weigh each carry of a runner's career qually, you will underrated Payton because he had a ton of carries in the mid-80s playing with star linemen like Jimbo Covert and Jay Hilgenberg. We want to match up the quality of the linemen with the quality of the running back years.
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Posted in Approximate Value, History | 17 Comments »

All-decade team of the 80s: Part I

30th July 2009

If you're a first time reader, you might want to check out the following links, first:

90% of the '00s All-decade offense
90% of the '00s All-decade defense
My All-decade offense of the '70s
My All-decade defense of the '70s
Doug, JKL and I discussing the All-80s offense on the podcast

A few quick notes about the '80s:

1) A bunch of marquee players -- Eric Dickerson, Wes Chandler, Fred Dean, Dave Casper and Herschel Walker -- were traded in mid-season during the decade. As far as Approximate Value and my position formulas go, I simply combined those numbers into one season.

2) Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982. I used unofficial statistics to record "sacks over 0.5 games played" for as many players as I could find in '80 and '81.

3) There were two strikes in the decade -- '82 and '87. Doug's Approximate Value system and my QB/RB/WR formulas take this into account, but things like games played and games started will be affected. And, as with the '70s post, not all games started data are accurate.

4) Of the 280 teams in the decade (there was no expansion in the '80s -- the NFL was a 28-team league in all ten seasons), 204 of them played a 3-4 defense. With 73% of the teams fielding three defensive linemen and four linebackers, I feel obliged to do the same even if the official team did not. Let's take a quick look at the official All-decade team, as chosen by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

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Best players by uniform number

28th July 2009

Now that has uniform numbers for every player since 1950, I thought we might as well take a look at the best players to wear each number since then. As usual, we'll be ranking players by Approximate Value (AV). A few notes before the big list:

1) Only seasons from 1950 or later are being considered. So Otto Graham is considered, but only his seasons from 1950 through 1955 count for AV purposes. This doesn't eliminate those guys: while three of Charlie Trippi's best seasons came before 1950, he still makes the cut as one of the three best players to wear #2 since 1950. (But don't interpret the chart to read me as saying Trippi was not as good a player as Aaron Brooks). Similarly, Benny Friedman would be a good choice for uniform #1, Don Hutson for #14, Steve Van Buren for #15, and Sid Luckman for #42; but their accomplishments (along with the accomplishments of many others) were from pre-1950 and unfortunately are therefore excluded.

2) As a general disclaimer, AV works well at measuring groups of players. On average, most of the players with an AV of 100 will be better than most of the players with an AV of 90. But there will be lots of individual cases (especially at the same position) that are not correct -- Edgerrin James being ahead of Jim Brown, Jon Kitna over Daryle Lamonica and Sam Mills outscoring Dick Butkus are just three examples of that. There are many more; AV is not perfect, but it's the best way to ranks lots of players across different positions and across different eras. And yes, that's even if it says Mr. Brady is not among the top three players to wear number twelve (ditto Mr. Graham and #14). Remember, AV looks only at regular seasons.
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90% of the All-Decade Team, Part II

1st July 2009

Yesterday, we looked at my choices for the through-nine-years All-decade offense. Today, we'll do the same for the defense.

Even when the 3-4 defense was at its peak in the '80s, that All-Decade Team still selected four linemen and three linebackers (although it still chose three 3-4 players in its front seven). We'll do the same here, but we'll keep in mind that Pro Bowl and AP honors are less likely to be given to 3-4 linemen, which will drive their AV scores down, too.

Defensive Ends:

100	6	141	136	8	1	3	1	36.5	Jason Taylor
 78	4	113	112	8	1	2	2	34.5	Michael Strahan
 76 	5	111	105	7	0	3	1	 1.0	Richard Seymour
 71	4	106	106	7	1	2	1	23.0	Julius Peppers
 66	1	139	137	9	0	0	0	 0.0	Aaron Smith
 66	2	110	 99	7	0	1	1	28.0	Simeon Rice
 63	3	113	103	6	0	1	1	27.5	John Abraham
 62	2	128	127	8	0	1	1	19.5	Patrick Kerney
 59	1	112	105	7	0	0	0	12.0	Adewale Ogunleye
 58	4	103	 89	7	0	2	1	22.5	Dwight Freeney
 58	1	144	139	9	0	0	0	 4.5	Kevin Carter
 57	2	117	112	7	0	0	1	14.0	Aaron Schobel
 56	2	111	102	7	0	0	0	 8.5	Jevon Kearse
 54	1	123	106	7	0	0	0	 8.0	Mike Rucker
 53	3	 79	 65	4	0	1	1	13.5	Hugh Douglas
 53	2	 77	 71	5	0	2	0	19.5	Jared Allen

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Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever | 28 Comments »