Monday, August 30, 2010

Complete QB Rankings

I powered through the rest of the QBs and below you have my projected yardage, interception and TD projections for each QB in the NFL this season, assuming they play a full 16 games. We know that Big Ben is not going to get a full 16, Donovan will likely miss at least 4 games in DC, and some of these guys will miss games dues to either injury or just straightforward benching (I'm looking at you Mr Edwards and Mr Hasslebeck)

Of note, the projections have Orton continuing to accumulate high yardage totals (better than Cutler) and Favre showing his age by slipping to 22nd in the league in yardage. RYan, Cutler and Flacco all look to have big yardage numbers, but Cutler will continue to struggle with interceptions which could land him on the bench before the season is out. The biggest surprise for many (though not those that read this blog regularly) would be Alex Smith in a break out season at 13th in the league in yardage while throwing 27 TDs and only 11 pics.

All of the projections take into account the player's age, experience and prior performance except for Bradford. With no past NFL experience, I was stuck projecting Bradford based on all other first round rookie's who started a significant number of games. This procedure put him near the bottom in yardage and with more Int's than TDs (only 29% of rookie QBs throw more TDs than pics).

Player Team Yds Ints TDs
Matt Schaub Texans 4920 14 31
Drew Brees Saints 4820 15 36
Tony Romo Cowboys 4785 11 27
Aaron Rodgers Packers 4510 11 32
Philip Rivers Chargers 4364 10 29
Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 4321 14 24
Tom Brady Patriots 4200 26 14
Kyle Orton Broncos 3850 11 24
Peyton Manning Colts 3836 16 30
Matt Ryan Falcons 3600 16 27
Jay Cutler Bears 3600 30 36
Joe Flacco Ravens 3600 12 22
Alex Smith 49ers 3540 11 27
Eli Manning Giants 3500 13 25
David Garrard Jaguars 3450 15 14
Jason Campbell Raiders 3315 14 16
Josh Freeman Buccaneers 3315 18 12
Donovan McNabb Redskins 3312 12 19
Jake Delhomme Browns 3121 12 13
Matt Cassel Chiefs 3103 17 18
Vince Young Titans 3000 10 20
Bret Favre Vikings 3000 18 25
Matt Moore Panthers 2990 13 18
Chad Henne Dolphins 2932 14 14
Carson Palmer Bengals 2900 15 19
Mark Sanchez Jets 2850 15 13
Kevin Kolb Eagles 2828 18 19
Matt Hasslebeck Seahawks 2675 18 23
Sam Bradford Rams 2570 20 17
Trent Edwards Bills 2520 14 13
Matthew Stafford Lions 2480 17 20
Derek Anderson Cardinals 2175 18 18

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Blindside Hypothesis: Part 2

I previously started to investigate the Blindside hypothesis by wondering why the LT is the second highest player on an NFL team and why they are paid 64% more than their line mates. Additionally, I wonder whether the difference can really be attributed to some sort of insurance policy on the QBs health or whether there are other factors involved.

In order to continue this investigation, I went back to a data set that I collected during the first four games of the 2007 NFL season. For seven teams I, along with the assistance of Jesse Weinstein-Gould, charted four games, focused entirely on the offensive line. The question we were trying to answer at the time was "how can we begin to measure the impact an individual offensive linemen has on a team's passing game". In order to begin to answer this question we look at each pass play for those games, recorded the time to throw (time from the snap of the ball until the QB starts the throwing motion), whether each offensive linemen successfully held their blocks during that time, whether there was a sack, the distance the throw traveled in the air, yards the receiver ran after the catch and several situation variables such as down, distance to go etc.

The table below summarizes the average Time in the Pocket, Completion Percentage, Sack Rate, Distance of Throw, the percentage of plays in which the QB had no pressure, and the percentage of plays that each position successfully held their blocks (TEs, RBs and WRs were grouped together in Other). Before reviewing the data though, refresh your memory on the win/loss records of the teams involved in 2007: Bengals (7-9), Bills (7-9), Colts (13-3), Dolphins (1-15), Jets (4-12), Patriots (16-0) and Redskins (9-7). This of course was the magic perfect season for the Patriots and the record setting year for Tom Brady.

Column1 Bengals Bills Colts Dolphins Jets Patriots Redskins Max Min
Time in the Pocket 2.12 2.47 2.41 2.36 2.25 2.34 2.53 2.53 2.12
Complete 68.3% 54.5% 64.7% 59.0% 56.6% 73.5% 50.0% 73.5% 50.0%
Sack 3.2% 11.4% 2.4% 4.8% 11.7% 4.3% 7.9% 11.7% 2.4%
Distance of Throw 8.29 6.61 10.41 9.09 6.08 7.86 11.95 11.95 6.08
No Pressure 68.3% 54.5% 69.4% 79.0% 62.3% 84.1% 73.7% 84.1% 54.5%
Left Tackle 93.7% 88.6% 84.7% 96.2% 90.9% 91.3% 92.1% 96.2% 84.7%
Left Guard 92.1% 90.9% 96.5% 95.2% 90.9% 95.7% 97.4% 97.4% 90.9%
Center 96.8% 93.2% 100.0% 96.2% 92.2% 97.1% 94.7% 100.0% 92.2%
Right Guard 90.5% 90.9% 95.3% 98.1% 92.2% 98.6% 94.7% 98.6% 90.5%
Right Tackle 98.4% 95.5% 92.9% 98.1% 90.9% 97.1% 92.1% 98.4% 90.9%
Other 92.1% 81.8% 95.3% 93.3% 80.5% 91.3% 89.5% 95.3% 80.5%

The first of these stats that grab my attention is the No Pressure rate. In this limited sample, the overall average No Pressure rate was 70%, while Tom Brady had no pressure on 84.1% of his pass attempts. This appears to be exceptional line play including near perfection from the Right Guard position (only Colts' Center Jeff Saturday was better, and he actually was perfect in the sample). This exceptional line play assisted Brady in completing 73.5% of his passes in the sample, but only the 3rd best sack rate in the sample (the Bengals and Colts both had lower sack rates).  This means that on roughly 25% of plays in which Brady faced pressure, he was sacked, while Manning was sacked on only 8% of the plays on which he was pressured. This suggests that the line as a whole may have had a significant impact on Brady's ability to put up the record setting numbers that he did that season.

But what about the Left Tackle? Patriots LT Matt Light was successful on only 91% of plays in the sample (Redskins, Dolphins and Bengals all had superior play from the LT), so can one linemen have that much more of an impact? In my next post I will start to explore this with the play by play charted data, to try and determine if in fact the LT has a bigger impact than the rest of the line.

The Blindside Hypothesis: Part 1

Michael Lewis' wonderful book (and I don't say that just because he footnoted me in the book, pg 100 if anyone cares) about the life of Michael Oher notes that the left tackle is more often than not, the second highest paid player on an NFL team. What is particularly striking about that fact is that many of the NFL decision makers that Lewis interviewed did not know it and could not explain why that was the case. This thought is further advanced in the film made of the book when Sandra Bullock likens paying left tackles to buying insurance.

While linemen are vital to any offense, due largely to the fact that no publicly available statistics are available for them, they are often an after thought of the fan and apparently of some professionals. If professionals are not aware of the salary standing of left tackles relative to the rest of the team, they probably not well informed on the relative salaries of the rest of the line, and why large disparities exist between line mates. In order to more closely examine linemen pay, I combined the salary data from USA Today with the games started data from PFR. This allowed me to calculated the average salary and cap number of starting linemen by position.

Salary Cap Space
LT  $          3,575,265  $            3,923,691
LG  $          2,431,490  $            2,868,801
C  $          2,862,943  $            2,694,972
RG  $          1,395,010  $            1,609,293
RT  $          2,824,596  $            2,176,198

The data on linemen salary show that, on average, left tackles are paid 64% more than their line mates and teams use 80% more cap space on left tackles than on other linemen.  As of last year, the closest position to LT's in pay was RT and they were paid on average, $700,000 less than LTs. Teams use more than $1mil more on cap space than the next closest position on the line (LGs). These very large disparities beg the question, is the left tackle worth it or alternatively, why are their line mats not worth more?

In order to begin to answer these questions, we need to begin by answering some more basic questions. For example, is there a link between money spent on offensive linemen, and offensive performance.  Once we calculate the average salary and cap space that teams spent on their starting line last season (see table below) we can begin to answer this by looking at correlations between those salaries and the performance of the offense.

 Team   Total Salary Cap Value
49ers   $          3,066,833  $            3,632,999
Bears   $          4,159,756  $            3,419,117
Bengals   $          1,439,993  $            1,792,931
Bills   $          1,836,777  $            1,022,468
Broncos   $          1,591,193  $            1,938,308
Browns   $          2,349,000  $            3,444,333
Buccaneers   $          1,449,848  $            2,787,048
Cardinals   $          2,581,334  $            2,804,084
Chargers   $          1,427,108  $            1,707,240
Chiefs   $          2,079,990  $            1,943,164
Colts   $          2,872,784  $            2,606,066
Cowboys   $          2,787,103  $            3,043,357
Dolphins   $          5,167,467  $            3,157,894
Eagles   $          2,623,413  $            3,280,240
Falcons   $          1,774,780  $            1,363,322
Giants   $          3,305,000  $            5,037,584
Jaguars   $          2,532,326  $            1,970,106
Jets   $          4,191,848  $            5,007,598
Lions   $          3,534,920  $            2,963,993
Packers   $          1,924,336  $            2,378,670
Panthers   $          3,043,496  $            2,966,222
Patriots   $          2,807,733  $            3,150,845
Raiders   $          2,164,503  $            2,036,698
Rams   $             883,730  $            1,017,063
Ravens   $          1,551,713  $            1,443,419
Redskins   $          2,132,200  $            2,511,252
Saints   $          2,480,208  $            1,895,449
Seahawks   $          1,807,744  $            2,282,744
Steelers   $          4,848,176  $            2,781,576
Texans   $          1,941,447  $            1,777,930
Titans   $          3,050,770  $            3,925,770
Vikings   $          2,070,066  $            3,261,142

Looking for correlations between salary/cap and offensive performance suggests that there are three areas that in which increased spending on the line are related to better offensive performance: sacks, interceptions and yards per catch. The effect on sacks seems fairly straightforward and something we should expect if the market for linemen is at all related to the insurance part of the Blindside hypothesis. The relationship between linemen and salary could be related as better linemen (ie higher cost linemen) may provide the QB more time and thus are less likely to make poor throws, which is similar to the story we could tell about the relationship between linemen salary and yards per catch.

As I continue to explore the value of linemen in the next few posts, the goal is to rigorously test the Blindside hypothesis and determine if LT's salaries are particularly high due, in part, to concerns on insurance and whether that fully explains the large disparities between LT's and the rest of the line.