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Sidney Rice has retired. Is he the most random single-season DYAR leader ever? One-year wonder? Injury prone? We offer a career retrospective for the second-best wide receiver named Rice in NFL history.

31 Dec 2013

Quick Reads: 2013 In Review

by Vince Verhei

There was one shining statistical star of the 2013 NFL season, and it's exactly who you think it is. There were two other news-makers, though, who made history for a variety of wrong reasons, and they may have flown under your radar. In fact, one of the most significant players of the year, from a numbers standpoint, didn't play a single down after Week 5.

Using our core advanced metrics -- DYAR and DVOA -- we've gone through the full-season totals at each position and identified the best and worst quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends from this past season. There's also a look at which players have had their performance most drastically different from their conventional statistics, as well as those players who have had the biggest improvement or decline in their performance from a year ago.

Our annual disclaimer: Numbers are never perfect. While we certainly believe that our metrics do a better job of analyzing a player's performance than anything else you'll see, there are some things statistics can't account for. We'll point out where the data needs some missing context as warranted. Also, remember that DYAR is a cumulative stat, so players who miss time (like Jay Cutler or Aaron Rodgers) will find it harder to make it to these leaderboards.

(More information on these statistics is available here.)

Quarterbacks

Top 5

1) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: 2,460 DYAR (2,490 passing DYAR, -30 rushing DYAR)
2) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: 1,754 DYAR (1,759 passing, -5 rushing)
3) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 1,742 DYAR (1,706 passing, 37 rushing)
4) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: 1,150 DYAR (1,127 passing, 23 rushing)
5) Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: 1,072 DYAR (1,000 passing, 72 rushing)

Analysis: As Peyton Manning laid waste to the NFL record book, internal discussion at FO focused on whether or not he was going to fall a little short of the historical records for our advanced statistics. And though he didn't crack the all-time top ten in passing DVOA, he was second in passing DYAR behind Tom Brady in 2007. (Manning's 2004 and 2006 seasons are now bumped to third and fourth place.) Manning is dinged somewhat for playing an easy schedule, especially when compared to the other great seasons in FO history. The Broncos faced an average pass defense of 10.3% DVOA, which ranked 30th in the league. Only Alex Smith and Robert Griffin faced easier schedules. When Brady set the DYAR record in 2007, the Patriots faced an average pass defense of 3.1% (13th in the NFL). When Manning himself set the DVOA record in 2004, the Colts faced an average pass defense of 6.4% (18th in the NFL).

Even considering the schedule, however, this was a ridiculous season. Manning was the top quarterback in our tables seven times in 2013, and finished in the top 10 six other times. Despite a handful of poor games late in the year, his average ranking in Quick Reads was between fifth and sixth place, and his median ranking was second place. The best game of any quarterback in 2013 was Peyton Manning against Baltimore in Week 1; the second-best game was Peyton Manning against Dallas in Week 5. In fact, in the top 25 games of the year, Manning's name appears nine times. Drew Brees (five) and Philip Rivers (two) were the only other passers to make the top 25 more than once. It was the best season in one of the best careers we will ever have the pleasure of watching.

Rivers enjoyed a nice bounce-back season. After finishing seventh or better every year from 2008 to 2011, he fell to 22nd last season, which we can clearly label a fluke in hindsight. Brees has finished in the top ten every year since 2003, and in the top five seven times in that span. It was the second-best season for both Rivers and Brees. Matt Ryan's raw numbers were ugly, but he also played a brutal schedule that included 13 games against teams that finished in the top half of the league in pass defense DVOA, and seven games against teams that finished in the top six. He got a boost of 300 DYAR after schedule adjustments; no other quarterback went up by even 200 DYAR. Ryan faced that slate with his top receiver out of the lineup for two-thirds of the season, and still made the top six in DYAR for the fourth straight season. He could be the most underrated quarterback in the league. And then there's Nick Foles, who was brilliant in his ten starts, leading the league in touchdown rate, yards per pass, yards per completion, and NFL quarterback rating. He was well behind Manning in DVOA, though, mainly because he had a much higher sack rate (2.7 percent for Manning, 8.1 percent for Foles).

Bottom 5 (with an asterisk)

1) Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns: -429 DYAR (-440 passing DYAR, 11 rushing DYAR)
2) Eli Manning, New York Giants: -380 DYAR (-365 passing, -15 rushing)
3) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: -316 DYAR (-317 passing, 1 rushing)
4) Geno Smith, New York Jets: -302 DYAR (-368 passing, 66 rushing)
5) Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders: -284 DYAR (-388 passing, 103 rushing)

Analysis: Brandon Weeden turned 30 years old in October and is entering the decline phase of his career, which is a very depressing thing to think about. Weeden has now finished below replacement level (well below, actually; he had -291 passing as a rookie) in each of his first two seasons, and the track record for players who have done that is dire indeed. It was also the worst season of Eli Manning's career, and the third time he has led the league in interceptions. (Of course, in one of those seasons, he went on to win the Super Bowl.) Given his track record, it's safe to say that his true talent level isn't THIS bad, but he does turn 33 in January, and another subpar season could raise some ugly questions about his future in New York. If Mike Shanahan's plan in Washington was to showcase Kirk Cousins for trade bait, then it backfired. Cousins' dismal performance did nothing but establish that the problems in Washington run far deeper than the quarterback position. Smith's game against Buffalo in Week 10 was one of the worst we've ever measured, but he improved down the stretch. Over the last four weeks of the season, he was 11th-best in passing DYAR. Pryor's season is a hard one to analyze, partly because he bounced in and out of the lineup, partly because of some very specific playing-time splits. Entering the fourth quarter of Week 17, the Raiders were down 34-0 to Denver and Pryor was below replacement level. Pryor then lit the Broncos up for a pair of garbage-time touchdowns. He had more than 100 DYAR in the last quarter of the last game of the year, long after anyone was paying any meaningful attention. Take those 15 minutes away, and Pryor jumps Smith, Cousins, and Manning for second place behind Weeden in this list. None of that really matters, though. This entire list is faulty due to a minor technicality, and a little common sense will tell you that none of these men was the worst quarterback of 2013.

The Worst Quarterback of 2013

Blaine Gabbert ... wait. No. That won't do. We need a different subhead.

The Worst Quarterback of the DVOA Era

That's better. Blaine Gabbert opened the season as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback, but he was benched after two interceptions, six sacks, and a 28-2 loss to Kansas City in Week 1. He re-entered the lineup for two more games in Weeks 4 and 5, but after five more interceptions and six more sacks, he injured his hamstring and never saw the field again. That left him with 86 pass attempts and 12 sacks, a total of 98 pass plays that came up just short of the minimum 100 needed to qualify for our season tables and record book.

In that minimal playing time, however, Gabbert produced an awful lot of bad football. He finished with -426 DYAR passing and -8 DYAR rushing, a total of -434 DYAR that would put him ahead of (behind?) Brandon Weeden as the worst quarterback of the year. His final passing DVOA was -83.7%. Only two quarterbacks with at least 98 plays have ever been worse than that: Alex Smith as a rookie on a 2005 49ers team that had even less talent than this year's Jaguars (-88.6%), and Craig Krenzel of the 2004 Chicago Bears. (-85.4%). You know that Smith eventually turned his career around, but Krenzel never played again. (The Bears actually went 3-2 in Krenzel's five starts, and he also won a national championship in college. In other words, Craig Krenzel was Tim Tebow before Tim Tebow was Tim Tebow.)

When you add this to Gabbert's rookie season (-1,010 passing DYAR, the second-worst season we've ever analyzed) and his 2012 campaign (-268 DYAR), you get a total of -1,704 passing DYAR. That sure sounds bad, but can we put into context? Why yes, yes we can. Before this season, Danny Tuccito looked over the worst quarterbacks on record in total DYAR, and found that the only quarterback worse than Gabbert was Ryan Leaf. Well, forget that. Gabbert has fallen deep below the Leaf pile, and stands alone and undisputed as the Worst Quarterback of the DVOA Era. No high-profile bust of the past 25 years -- not Leaf, not JaMarcus Russell, not Akili Smith nor David Carr nor Joey Harrington -- has ever been this bad. Each of those notoriously bad passers looks down at Blaine Gabbert, likely with disdain, or perhaps pity.

One final kick in the teeth to former Jaguars GM Gene Smith: Gabbert was the tenth overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft. The Jaguars traded up to pick him. J.J. Watt was the eleventh pick. Andy Dalton went to Cincinnati 25 picks later, and with the next pick after that, the San Francisco 49ers took Colin Kaepernick. And that is why Gene Smith got fired.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
We could just as easily have listed Tom Brady or Matt Ryan here. All three of these quarterbacks had to play tough schedules, but Kaepernick is the only passer in the NFL who had to to play the league's top two defenses (Seattle and Arizona) twice each. And among starters, only Philip Rivers had a better DVOA than Kaepernick on third downs.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Matt Flynn, Raiders/Bills/Packers
Flynn's NFL passer rating was 85.7, which finished 21st out of 48 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass plays. He was just a little bit worst than guys like Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, and a little bit better than Matt Stafford or Carson Palmer. Passer rating, though, does not include sacks, and Flynn was sacked on 10.7 percent of his dropbacks, the worst rate in the league. DVOA does include sacks, and by DVOA Flynn was only better than a few other part-timers: Josh Freeman, Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Weeden, and Kirk Cousins.

If we limit our candidates to players with at least 300 plays, the best option here is probably Alex Smith of Chiefs, who had a passer rating of 89.1, but a DVOA of -5.0%. Smith's schedule was very similar to Peyton Manning's and included some of the worst defenses in the league.

Most Improved: Rivers
Per DVOA, Rivers was a below-average quarterback in 2012, and as we've already discussed, he was one of the very best in 2013. New targets Keenan Allen (eighth among wideouts in receiving DYAR as a rookie) and Danny Woodhead (more on him later) had a lot to do with it.

Biggest Decline: Eli Manning, New York Giants/Tom Brady, New England Patriots.
Technically, Manning's DYAR dropped a little more than Brady's did, but the difference is so slight (only 3 DYAR) and the two have so much history that it only makes sense to list them together. We talked about Manning already. Brady had his worst completion percentage since 2004 and the lowest touchdown rate of his career, while losing more yardage on sacks than he ever had before. Brady finished with 981 passing DYAR, his worst healthy season since 2003 and his first below 1,900 since 2006. He'll also turn 37 before the 2014 season starts. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

All 2013 quarterback numbers here.

Running Backs

Top 5

1) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: 478 DYAR (342 rushing DYAR, 136 receiving DYAR)
2) Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers: 386 DYAR (104 rushing, 282 receiving)
3) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: 381 DYAR (247 rushing, 134 receiving)
4) Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: 363 DYAR (171 rushing, 192 receiving)
5) DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: 338 DYAR (299 rushing, 39 receiving)

Analysis: LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Knowshon Moreno finished first, third, and fourth in yards from scrimmage, so their presence here needs little explanation. It was the second time in three years McCoy has led the league in rushing DYAR, and the third time in four years that he has ranked in the top four. It was also the third time in four seasons he has finished among the top ten running backs in receiving DYAR. Danny Woodhead only ran the ball 106 times (a career high, actually) for 429 yards, but he added 76 receptions for 605 yards, and finished with one of the ten best receiving DYAR totals for a running back in our database. He also had a stuff rate of just eight percent, best of all runners with at least 100 carries. In four healthy seasons, Charles has never finished worse than 12th in DYAR, but this was just his second season in the top 30 in receiving data. In his fifth season, Moreno went over 1,000 yards rushing for the first time, and topped his previous best receiving total by better than 150 yards. DeMarco Murray led all runners in DVOA, and was second behind McCoy in rushing DYAR.

Bottom 5

1) Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: -190 DYAR (-169 rushing DYAR, -21 receiving DYAR)
2) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens: -159 DYAR (-132 rushing, -27 receiving)
3) Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns: -136 DYAR (-92 rushing, -44 receiving)
4) Andre Brown, New York Giants: -94 DYAR (-45 rushing, -49 receiving)
5) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: -81 DYAR (-73 rushing, -8 receiving)

Analysis: Believe it or not, this is not the first time one team has produced the two least-valuable running backs. The 1992 Patriots (Jon Vaughn and Leonard Russell) and 1996 Giants (Rodney Hampton and Tyrone Wheatley) also pulled it off. The 1999 Saints had two running backs (Ricky Williams and Aaron Craver) in the bottom three, and the 2001 Panthers had three (Nick Goings, Richard Huntley, and Chris Hetherington) in the bottom five.

All five of these runners were among the seven runners with stuff rates higher than 24 percent. Among running backs with at least 200 carries since 1989, Ray Rice had the fifth-worst DYAR, and the second-worst DVOA. Bernard Pierce's DVOA was even worse, though he only had 152 carries. The Browns signed Willis McGahee after trading away Trent Richardson, who had -95 rushing DYAR and 39 receiving DYAR with Indianapolis. Of course, Edwin Baker had 41 DYAR rushing and 24 DYAR receiving for Cleveland in only three games at the end of the year, so the Browns are probably pretty OK with that trade, whoever's running that team right now. Andre Brown managed to make this list despite missing the first half of the season. Correlation is not the same as causation, but the Giants offense played better before he showed up. Spiller can't really blame his struggles on his teammates, because backfield-mate Fred Jackson was among the top 10 running backs in total DYAR and rushing DYAR, and his stuff rate was only 14 percent.

Also, while we're discussing bad running backs: Houston's Ben Tate finished with -116 DYAR receiving, the worst single season for a running back in our database.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Woodhead
Second in total DYAR, 23rd in yards from scrimmage.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Second in rushing yards per game, ninth in total yards from scrimmage, but just 46th in total DYAR (40 total, 60 rushing, and -20 receiving). His rushing DVOA was in the negative range, His success rate (44 percent) was 32nd out of 48 running backs with at least 100 carries, and his stuff rate (21 percent) was 30th. As a receiver, he averaged only 4.2 yards per target.

Most Improved: McCoy
McCoy was actually llsted under biggest decline last season. That one, clearly, was the fluke.

Biggest Decline: Peterson
One year ago, Adrian Peterson was the most valuable running back in the league. Things change.

All 2013 running back numbers here.

Wide Receivers

Top 5

1) Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: 428 DYAR
2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: 401 DYAR
3) Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: 389 DYAR (337 receiving DYAR, 52 rushing DYAR)
4) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers: 385 DYAR
5) Eric Decker, Denver Broncos: 379 DYAR

Analysis: Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were both top-five receivers last year too. It's good to play with Peyton Manning. Jordy Nelson is top-five for the second time in three years, and was 15th in 2012. It's good to play with Aaron Rodgers (when he's healthy.) Josh Gordon led the league with 117.6 receiving yards per game, second-best since 1982, and he did that with Brandon Weeden playing quarterback for half a season. (Although, surprisingly, his numbers were similar with Jason Campbell at quarterback.) Anquan Boldin was supposed to hold the fort for San Francisco until Michael Crabtree returned to health but he goes into the playoffs as the 49ers' top weapon. At the age of 33, he had far and away his best season in both DYAR and DVOA (25.6%).

Bottom 5

1) Greg Little, Cleveland Browns: -171 DYAR
2) Davone Bess, Cleveland Browns: -134 DYAR
3) Ace Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguars: -105 DYAR
4) Santana Moss, Washington Redskins: -105 DYAR
5) Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans: -102 DYAR

Analysis: This is only the second time two receivers from the same team have finished at the bottom of the DYAR tables. The other was in 2007, when Arnaz Battle and Darrell Jackson pulled it off while with the 49ers. Little finished in the bottom ten all-time in both DYAR and DVOA. In fact, he had the tenth-worst DVOA on record, and Bess was 11th. The numbers for Little and Bess didn't change much whether Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell were at quarterback, so they can't blame their struggles on one passer or the other. Besides, Josh Gordon didn't have any problems playing with the same quarterbacks. (Bess and Little's advanced numbers may be the best testament to Gordon's greatness this season.) Ace Sanders racked up -66 DYAR in the three games started by Blaine Gabbert, but he was still pretty lousy after Chad Henne took over. It was a similar story for Santana Moss, who had -57 DYAR in the three weeks Kirk Cousins started, but he was below replacement level for Robert Griffin, too. He'll be 35 before next season starts, and may be done. Kenny Britt was ninth in DYAR in 2010, but his career has since been a tangled web of injuries, legal woes, and locker-room strife. He'll be a free agent this year, and he insists the Titans never gave him a fair shake and that he can still be a top receiver. Well, what else is he going to say?

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
Stills only caught 32 passes, but he made them count, leading the league with 20 yards per catch. He had 208 DYAR, 20th in the league. He was also 23rd in catch rate. Most importantly, he led the league in both yards per target and DVOA. In fact, with a DVOA of 41.8% and exactly 50 passes, he meets the qualifications for one of the top ten DVOAs in history.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
First in the league in catches and eight in yards, but of the 90 receivers with at least 50 targets, he was 28th in catch rate, 47th in DYAR, 52nd in yards per target, and 63rd in DVOA.

Most Improved: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Why, yes, now that you mention it, the Eagles offense has improved greatly this season. Jackson had his best season in 2013, finishing seventh with 350 DYAR when he had never finished better than 20th before. Oddly, Jackson's numbers were much better with Michael Vick at quarterback (177 DYAR in six games) than with Nick Foles (173 DYAR in ten games).

Biggest Decline: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Obviously, missing 11 games didn't help, but even when he has seen the field, Crabtree hasn't been the same player he was in 2012. Most of the receivers who declined severely (Randall Cobb, Sidney Rice, Julio Jones, Brandon Gibson, Brandon Stokley) this season had similar injury issues. If you're looking for someone who played 16 games and still declined this season, your best bet is probably Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, who went from 415 DYAR last year to 148 this year. He had 44 DYAR in eight games with Matt Schaub at quarterback, and 104 in eight games with Case Keenum.

All 2013 wide receiver numbers here.

Tight Ends

Top 5

1) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: 233 DYAR
2) Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos: 215 DYAR
3) Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: 198 DYAR
4) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons: 135 DYAR
5) Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: 134 DYAR

Analysis: I've been charting a lot of New Orleans Saints games this year, and I feel outright dirty listing Graham here under tight ends. He's a wide or slot receiver who only occasionally puts a hand on the turf. Now, he's still a really good receiver, one who led the league in touchdown receptions. This actually wasn't his highest DYAR total ever, but it's the first time he has led all tight ends in this category. Julius Thomas was a forgotten bottom-of-the-roster guy in Denver until Peyton Manning arrived and turned him into the second coming of Ozzie Newsome. Vernon Davis enoyed the best season of his career with a full season of Colin Kaepernick. Tony Gonzalez leaves the game the same way he always played it, as one of its very best players. Amazingly, this is his 13th season among the top five tight ends in receiving DYAR. In his first NFL game, his teammates included Marcus Allen, and his opponents included John Elway and Flipper Anderson. Jason Witten has never led all tight ends in DYAR, but he has now been in the top five in nine of the past ten seasons.

Bottom 5

1) Logan Paulsen, Washington Redskins: -96 DYAR
2) Garrett Graham, Houston Texans: -84 DYAR
3) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals: -49 DYAR
4) Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: -37 DYAR
5) Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals: -34 DYAR

Analysis: An undrafted free agent in 2010, Paulsen has been a serviceable backup tight end throughout his career, but put into a regular rotation with Fred Davis and Jordan Reed, he stood out as a weak link. Garrett Graham was the target on 40 incomplete passes, more than any tight end except Jimmy Graham, and unlike Garrett, Jimmy Graham made enough plays to justify those incompletions. Pettigrew was the worst tight end in the league last year, so he has at least made some improvement. And what on earth is going on in Cincinnati? Andy Dalton is a perfectly average starting quarterback these days, so why can't any tight end on the team put up decent numbers? Gresham's woes are at least partially self-inflicted; he led all tight ends with three fumbles.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
Green caught 17 passes this year, never more than four in a game, but he was seventh among tight ends in DYAR this year. He was a consistent deep threat, averaging 22.1 yards per catch (even better than Stills, though he didn't have enough receptions to qualify for that leaderboard), and that wasn't because of one or two long passes skewing his small sample size -- he topped 20 yards per catch in seven of the nine games in which he caught a pass this year. Nine of his 17 passes gained at least 20 yards. Pierre Garcon led the league with 113 receptions, but only 16 of them gained 20 yards.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Awkward! Gates was fourth among tight ends with 77 receptions, but just 16th with 65 DYAR and 29th in DVOA. He had only four touchdowns, his catch rate and yards per target were pretty mundane, and he averaged 11.3 yards per catch, which ranked 27th at his position.

Most Improved: Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles.
OK, I cheated a little bit to keep the Eagles theme going. Really, Julius Thomas is the slam-dunk winner here, and Jimmy Graham was also much better in 2013 than he was in 2012 (which is saying an awful lot). But Brent Celek did go from -31 DYAR last to 89 this season. This is interesting, because his receptions fell from 57 to 32, and his yardage fell from 684 to 502. But his touchdowns jumped from one to six, he averaged 3.7 more yards per catch, and he had a top ten DVOA for the first time since 2008.

Biggest Decline: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Perhaps you've heard, but things haven't gone as well as usual in Foxborough this season. Gronk was tops in our tight ends list in each of the past two seasons, and even though he missed five games in 2012. He missed nine more games this season, and was a shell of his old self when he did play. His DVOA hit at least 40 percent in each of his first three seasons, but stumbled to 13.0% in 2013. Mind you, that was still 13th at the position. But Gronkowski had hit such stratospheric heights in years past that above-average results seem dismal in comparison.

All 2013 tight end numbers here.

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 31 Dec 2013

47 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2014, 4:24pm by justanothersteve

Comments

1
by Jack6 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:22pm

Will FO run an article this year on the best postseason QB DYAR/DVOA since 1989? You ran an article on it in 2011, so I would love to see an updated one to see how guys like Rodgers/Manning/brady/Brees compare in their postseason careers.

2
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:30pm

Scott Kacsmar is working on a whole thing about quarterback value in the playoffs that will include DYAR/DVOA.

24
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:49pm

Yep. Let me just say Joe Montana's 1989 postseason is absurd.

3
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:41pm

Question on Manning not cracking the Top-10 of passing DVOA. THe QB Table lists him at 43.5%, which would be 10th as per the table ran in the preseason in the Best QBs of the Football Outsiders era (the 10th place was ~41.5%). Has there been an update to the earlier stats from previous seasons?

4
by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:01pm

Aaron or Vince - Do you have individual special teams DVOA? If you added those to the WR list, does Antonio Brown pop into the top 5? Are there any other teams with a borderline top 5 talent returning punts and kicks?

Inquiring minds.

5
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:29pm

To answer the previous two questions.

3) Whether or not Manning hits the top 10 in passing DVOA depends on what you make the minimum number of attempts. In general, we use 100 attempts as the minimum. By that standard, 43.5% DVOA is 11th all time. If you raise that up to something more akin to starting a whole season, like 400 attempts, then Manning's 2013 season is eighth behind Manning 2004, Brady 2007, Manning 2006, Brady 2010, Rodgers 2011, Young 1992, and Cunningham 1998.

I have thought about increasing the minimums we use to rank players in DVOA/DYAR, but I also think the NFL minimums are a little too high -- especially for RB and WR because of the increase in the use of running back committees and three-receiver sets.

4) Special teams is not measured in DVOA/DYAR for players, but in a different way, so it isn't really something you can add in to receiving value.

6
by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:37pm

Thanks Aaron - happy new year!

7
by Purds :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:43pm

Awesome post. A great read. Thanks!

8
by Purds :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:46pm

That said, this shows that my beloved Colts really don't have any offensive talents. Luck and Brown are ranked #14, but then no one else. The TE is almost the worst, and the WR's aren't much better. How did this team beat SF, Denver, and Seattle? (I know how they won the division -- it stinks!)

11
by Bobman :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:41pm

The power of Pat McAfee! (And his sidekick--pun intended--Sergio "That Punt I'll Down" Brown)

Purds, QB aside, I'd rather have five offensive players ranked from 10-15 than just 1 ranked in the top 3. Not sure we'd get there, but next year assuming a full year of Wayne and Allen, plus the maturation of Rogers, Hilton, Fleener, and Luck (plus Bradshaw/Ballard and an OC who understands T3PO is not a starter) I think the team could easily have two WRs, a TE, QB, RB all in the top 15, with one or two of them flirting with a spot in the 6/7/8 range. That would represent a productive, balanced attack; hard to defend, easy to substitute in case of injury, lower-priced when it comes time to re-sign. (am I sounding like a used car salesman?)

17
by turbohappy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:49pm

The likely 3 best receivers (Wayne/Allen/Bradshaw) are all on IR so that doesn't help. Donald Brown has stepped up and the OC has stopped being an idiot and started letting him leak out as a hot read instead of making him stay in and block where he is horrid. I have no idea what's going to happen in the playoffs, but this team seems capable of playing over their heads and making magic happen or totally falling apart, always exciting!

21
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:08pm

The lack of a first rounder hurts. The colts still have a good sized cap space and I think the colts should go after at least another decent receiver in free agency(or at least avoid overpaying an above average one like garcon).

The colts prior to the wayne injury were actually really surprising me. Wayne's injury just had a domino effect on everyone, from fleener to hilton. It affected the offense's production on screens and dump offs and just made luck's job much worse. Another untold story was after spending a ton of money on free agency, the injuries reduced our line basically back to where it was last year(with some improvement in the tackles). We're still starting McGlynn and perennial Muth punching bag Linkenbach.

After the cardinals loss, I had just about given up on this year. But then the colts have turned it around. A mirage? Maybe. But the switch to less T rich and a lot less Heyward bey was a huge improvement in itself.

Luck is still very streaky. His accuracy fluctuates quite a bit, but hes still got great pocket instincts and can be very dangerous when hot.

And finally, as a colts fan, my favorite thing about this season was mathis. I remember thinking he couldn't sustain this over 16 games, but he did. And he did it without freeney. One of my favorite all time players.

18
by turbohappy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:52pm

While he hasn't exactly been burning it up, I'm suprised to see Fleener that low considering the stats don't include the fact he's a very poor blocker for a TE also.

9
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:12pm

Going to the full stats, I see even more evidence for Lacy as OROY. However, if it goes to Keenan Allen I have no complaints.

15
by Anonymousdeqdfew (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:43pm

Except there is no argument for Lacy to win ROY. Allen kills him when comparing them to their positional peers, and it's even worse when you consider Allen has far more competition at the WR position than Lacy does at the RB position:

Allen: 8th DYAR; 5th DVOA; 8th WPA/G; 13th EPA/P
Lacy: 9th DYAR; 18th DVOA; 28th WPA/G; 36th EPA/P

The WPA/G and EPA/P are especially damning for Lacy. So as we can see, by numbers it's not even close. And when considering the context of Allen facing far more competition, the gap between them widens even further

35
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:06am

Lacy was facing 8 in the box while Rodgers was out for eight weeks. He also missed two games when Rodgers played due to concussion. Allen has had his QB all year and SD has other receivers to take pressure off him. Lacy has also accounted for a higher percentage of his team's offense despite missing two games. (Technically, Lacy only missed one game but he got his concussion on his first carry against Washington courtesy of a Brandon Meriweather head shot.)

39
by Anonymousdeqdfew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:45pm

So the only argument given for Lacy is narrative? That's pretty pathetic. I can also weave a neat narrative for Allen, ready?

Allen was thrust into the #1 WR spot on the Chargers as a rookie. As the season progressed, it was clear Gates has really lost something and with the injuries Allen was clearly the best passing option on the team. He likely faced the best CB on the opposing team quite often. So as a rookie Allen unexpectedly became the #1 WR, no easy feat.

Lacy wasn't even the best RB on his own team. For all the hoopla given to Lacy about making the GB offense good without Rodgers, where is the praise for Starks? Or the offensive line? Starks outproduced Lacy in FAR less rushing attempts:

Starks: 89 attempts; 0.69 WPA; 18.9 EPA; 110 DYAR; 19.2% DVOA
Lacy: 284 attempts; 0.27 WPA; 0.7 EPA; 158 DYAR; 5.2% DVOA

Starks destroys him in WPA, EPA, and DVOA and has only 48 less DYAR despite almost 200 less rushing attempts.

Need I remind people this is a website for advanced statistical analysis; clinging to a narrative as an argument is shameful.

40
by Anonymousdeqdfew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:50pm

Not to mention, the irony of this argument I see perpetuated about Lacy stepping up with Rodgers out is that Lacy's raw numbers would be worse from less usage if Rodgers had never been injured.

47
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 4:24pm

Because obviously defenses would be more keen to stop Lacy instead of Rodgers? No. We have seen that good players raise other good players advanced stats on the same team, even here. Had Rodgers been healthy, Lacy would probably have had fewer carries, but even better DVOA since he'd have had more successful plays though possibly a lower DYAR. He also would have likely had better receiving numbers with AR at QB than the trio of below replacement level QBs he dealt with.

Like I said originally, I can understand Allen winning ROY over Lacy. Nobody else on offense has shown as much on offense as these two at their respective positions and none of the QBs or TEs have stood out. Any time you are comparing that worth of two players at two different positions you are comparing apples to oranges. Lacy was the focus of the Packers offense for half the season. Rivers was the focus of the Chargers offense. Allen looks better because of Rivers. Lacy looks worse because of Wallace, Tolzien, and Flynn.

10
by Bobman :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:35pm

Okay, so all of you mocking the Trent Richardson trade, you may now eat your words! He wasn't one of the bottom five RBs in football! I may just go out and buy him an "I Don't Totally Suck" tee-shirt. Well... maybe I'll wait a few days, just to make sure.

12
by Jerry :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:31pm

It seems to me that since DYAR is cumulative, Gabbert's record should stand. I can see requiring a minimum number of attempts for DVOA lists, but not DYAR.

13
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:40pm

At least since 1989, it seems clear nobody besides Gabbert was allowed to play for so long, while playing so poorly. Can anybody think of anyone similar who will be unmasked once the numbers get through the 1980's? I think it would have been Vinny Testaverde (We haven't even gotten to his 35 interception season yet), if not for his late-career resurgence balancing things out. Nobody else comes immediately to mind.

26
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 1:57pm

Here are the candidates I can come up with (I'm going to try splitting this post up since the spam filter doesn't like it.):

1. Todd Blackledge. And they may well uncover that Bill Kenney was quietly quite a good QB throughout the Blackledge era, making his 24 starts even worse for the Chiefs. I doubt even he was near the Gabbert line, but I think he has the best chance.

2. David Archer was horrendous for the Falcons in the mid-'80s, but he did also improve noticeably after his first season starting, so he's probably not in the same category.

27
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 1:58pm

(Continued)

3. Scott Brunner, who at one time won the starting job away from Phil Simms with the Giants but was really awful and got 30 starts.

4. The Throwin' Samoan, Jack Thompson. He was more Gabbert-like in that he continued to get chances because of his draft status, but probably wasn't as bad as Gabbert.

His later career is going to erase it, but Randall Cunningham's first two seasons could well be even worse than Gabbert's. Even his rushing numbers may not save him if included because of his fumbling issues. It's a much smaller sample in those two years but if you add a full 1987 that showed dramatic improvement, I'm not sure he's going to be much above Leaf-Gabbert territory.

If we ever get deep into the '70s, Bobby Douglass might well turn out to provide the most negative passing DYAR of all time. He had twice the time Gabbert had and didn't throw any better.

28
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 3:01pm

Great stuff...thanks. Did Brunner actually take the job away from Simms, or was Simms just injured (I read somewhere that he missed long period in his early career due to injury).

36
by Jerry :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 2:10am

Ny recollection is that both Brunner and Blackledge played because of injury, not because they won the job.

43
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 3:57pm

I have a difficult time believing that the Chiefs drafted a guy number seven overall and never gave him the starting job. From 1984-1987, Kenney was active for 18 games that he did not start, which suggests that at least some of the time Blackledge was being handed the starting job. I know for certain that Brunner/Simms was a combination of injuries and benchings, and I bet Blackledge/Kenney was as well.

45
by Travis :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 5:22pm

Blackledge was an injury replacement for Kenney in both 1984 and 1985, and was decent enough in his 1985 stint that he was named the starter going into 1986. However, he lost the job due to ineffectiveness after 7 games. Kenney hurt his hand Week 16, so Blackledge started the playoff game against the Jets (and was terrible).

Blackledge had a solid 1987 preseason under new coach Frank Gansz and again went into the season as the starter. (Kenney was battling another hand injury - whether he would have started if totally healthy is unclear.) Blackledge completed just 6 of 15 passes Week 1, and Gansz told Blackledge that Kenney would play in certain passing situations in the next game. Sure enough, Kenney came in on the third play, a 3rd and 9, and while Blackledge played the majority of the game, Kenney continued to come in on passing downs and the entire 4th quarter with the Chiefs way behind.

Then the strike came. Once the regulars returned, Gansz believed they wouldn't have enough practice for a run-heavy offense, so made Kenney the starter.

Blackledge soon asked to be traded. Since Blackledge had no future left with the Chiefs, he was then buried on the depth chart behind former USFL backup Frank Seurer and didn't appear in another game in 1987.

Blackledge was traded to the Steelers in the 1988 offseason.

46
by Shattenjager :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 3:41am

Travis, you are my hero.

That triggered the spam filter, which I think you should consider a personal affront.

42
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 3:44pm

Both happened at different times. Parcells chose to start Brunner over Phil Simms to start 1983.

33
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:46am

Douglass may be helped by his rushing totals. He came close to 1000 yards one year. The Bears' Bob Avellini was also pretty bad.

44
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 4:04pm

I would be shocked if Douglass's rushing numbers weren't incredible, really, which is why I said, "most negative passing DYAR of all time." His passing numbers won't be helped by his rushing. :) A number like DYAR that allows the accumulation of negative value is going to have bad things to say about his passing.

I will be curious to see how his rushing numbers compare to people like Michael Vick, however, since I love rushing DYAR for QBs.

34
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:46am

Douglass may be helped by his rushing totals. He came close to 1000 yards one year. The Bears' Bob Avellini was also pretty bad.

19
by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:54pm

DYAR is cumulative, but can be positive or negative. That's why you still want a minimum attempt number - to filter out cases where someone tried 20 passes and wound up very negative, without getting the chance to do something good to balance it out. (Or vice-versa, where someone has a single great game.)

14
by Thok :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:42pm

Is it too soon to joke about how you have the wrong NE tight end for biggest decline?

16
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:47pm

I thought about making that same joke, but really, Hernandez' numbers in 2012 weren't that special.

23
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:20pm

Oh look, there's Brandon Pettigrew showing up again in the bottom 5 table. I can forsee one of the first UFA's Mayhew will allow to walk to save cap space. Joseph Fauria appears to be a viable receiving tight end in a small sample size, but his blocking was below average.

A lot of folks in the Detroit media are pointing to Ken Whisenhunt as one of the top candidates to replace Jim Schwartz, citing his work with Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers, but in the latter case it seems that he may be getting undue credit for a simple rebound effect from an off year.

20
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:01pm

Its amazing that Manning had the year he had and it still wasn't even the best season of his career. It may not even be his second best(at least statistically). Of course, we know that all qb numbers are skewed by context and his weapons this year were a big reason why he and all the others have otherworldly seasons.

I think one interesting discussion is, independent of the talent, which season was PM's best?

A few come to mind. I thought after the 2005 loss the steelers, Manning worked on the last serious flaw in his game(being able to function if forced to move out of the pocket). The best game that demonstrates this was the 2006 regular season game against NE.

There are other years of course. His 09 year may not have been anywhere near his best statistically, but he was amazing and probably his best in terms of pure ball location. I even liked his 08 season a lot after the slow recovery from his bursa sac removal.

Again, all subjective and other colts fans will have their own preferences. But for me, it was probably 2006.

22
by intel_chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:19pm

Thanks for the interesting comments to go with the stats. I'm glad y'all are committed to unbiased, fact-based analysis. Seeing Brady's name with Eli Manning's name (rather than his brother's) was eye-opening. For the sake of good football, I hope this year is an aberration and not a sign of his beginning decline.

30
by Deelron :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 8:11pm

It could also be both (I'd actually guess that it is), but I think the actual decline is going to be more gradual then it appears based off of just this season.

25
by El Miriodor :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:31pm

No offense to Kenny Stills, but a quick perusal of the DVOA leaderboards for previous years yields that Meachem and Devery Henderson both had extremely high DVOA as the longball threats in that offense, and that's obviously just a system thing where they completely ignore that WR except if he has a torchable player, and if he has a torchable player they beat him like a drum. He's not a special talent, and neither were Meachem or Henderson. Would be curious to see if there are other "system fits" out there where DVOA is high, but it's not necessarily a talented player, but just a guy filling a specific role.

29
by nat :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 6:04pm

Vince: Back in week four, you claimed Peyton Manning had just set the new record for DYAR in the opening four games. Of course, he had not yet done any such thing, because you were comparing DYAR with full opponent adjustments against Manning's DYAR with 40% adjustment strength.

Now that we have the full season, did Peyton set that record for the fastest DYAR start? What was his final DYAR through four games?

31
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 9:23pm

Here's the piece nat is referring to. When that was written three months ago, Manning's DYAR in the first four games of the year was at 829, which would have been a record. As baseline adjustments have evolved throughout the season, Manning's DYAR for those four games actually went up significantly, to 955. (It actually has very little to do with opponent adjustments -- his YAR and DYAR are virtually identical.) So he obliterated the prior four-game mark of 743, set by Tom Brady in 2007.

Philip Rivers (543), Matt Ryan (533), and Drew Brees (502) also topped 500 DYAR in four games. That has now been done 23 times since 1989.

32
by nat :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:20am

Wow. That was a fast start. And against the stronger pass D's of the Denver schedule, it seems, since DYAR and YAR were identical.

Impressive.

37
by Peregrine :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 11:21am

About Matt Ryan, he certainly had some off games, but he also had to produce to overcome a crap defense, with no run game support, an injury-depleted WR corps, and under constant threat of bodily harm because the pass protection was borderline criminal. The degree of difficulty he had to face every week was ridiculous.

Dimitroff, we need big, violent circus freaks. Lots of them.

38
by pm :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:41pm

Can someone at FO explain how Peyton Manning has -30 rushing DYAR this year? His only rushing attempt of the year was the TD run vs. the Cowboys. Other than that, he hasn't any scrambles or sneaks or any fumbles on run plays.

41
by Vince Verhei :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 3:35pm

Our numbers list Manning with four running plays, not counting kneeldowns: a 1-yard touchdown against Dallas; a 5-yard loss against Jacksonville; and two fumbled snaps, one recovered, one lost. I don't know why some fumbled snaps end up as runs and some as passes, unless the QB recovers the ball and then proceeds to run or pass.

The fact that Peyton Manning had more than 670 plays this year and gained positive yards on a run just one time may be the most fascinating stat of the entire season.