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The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Quick Reads: 2011 in Review
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vince Verhei

Year of the Quarterback, indeed. Though the individual records for passing in Football Outsiders' advanced metrics refused to fall, we saw more good passers than ever before. Wide receiver records for total value were also threatened, and two wideouts had more production per play than we've ever seen before. And one man produced what was almost certainly the best season for a tight end in the last 20 years. There were also some guys who just grabbed the ball and ran with it, but they hardly matter anymore.

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 Matt Schaub) will find it harder to make it to these leaderboards.


Top 5

1) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 2,579 DYAR (2,544 passing DYAR, 35 rushing)
2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 2,342 DYAR (2,268 passing DYAR, 74 rushing)
3) Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 2,290 DYAR (2,235 passing DYAR, 55 rushing)
4) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: 1,586 DYAR (1,591 passing DYAR, -5 rushing)
5) Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: 1,454 DYAR (1,446 passing DYAR, 8 rushing)

Analysis: It's awfully clear who the top three quarterbacks in the league are, and all three were in the top three last year, too. If you're wondering, even if we go with DYAR per game, the rankings still go Brees-Rodgers-Brady. As Aaron pointed out in the final DVOA ratings, three of the top six quarterback seasons since 1992 came this season, and each of Tom Brady's last four healthy seasons make the top eight. What's a little surprising is how many of the best quarterbacks this year were in the NFC. It starts with Brees, Rodgers, Romo, and Stafford, and the next two on the list are Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. That's six of the top seven passers in one conference. (Eight and nine are Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, ten is Michael Vick.) Cam Newton was 12th with 809 DYAR (619 passing, 190 rushing) narrowly beating out Andy Dalton's 805 (807, -2) for the best ranking among rookies.

Bottom 5

1) Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars: -858 DYAR (-825 passing DYAR, -33 rushing)
2) Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears: -403 DYAR (-429 passing DYAR, 26 rushing)
3) Curtis Painter, Indianapolis Colts: -252 DYAR (-269 passing DYAR, 17 rushing)
4) Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: -213 DYAR (-188 passing DYAR, -25 rushing)
5) Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: -203 DYAR (-262 passing DYAR, 59 rushing)

Analysis: Gabbert and Ponder were rookies, Hanie and Painter had never started a game before this year, and Bradford was in just his second season. Gabbert had the fifth-worst season in our database, and he did it in only 14 starts. Hanie, however, only played six games, starting four. That's -67 DYAR per game for Hanie, and -57 for Gabbert. The two names who just missed this list also bear mentioning. Arizona's John Skelton barely missed the bottom five for the second straight season. Number 7? Tim Tebow.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Is there a Skyline Chili variable in the NFL's passer rating formula? For the second straight season, the Cincinnati Bengals put a quarterback in this spot. Among the 34 quarterbacks who qualified for the official passing crown (not the 47 quarterbacks on FO's tables), Dalton finished 20th in passer rating, but 12th in DVOA. It would be easy to blame the schedule, and Dalton did play eight games against the top 10 teams in pass defense DVOA. However, DVOA and VOA were very similar. Dalton just doesn't play a game conducive to gaudy passer rating numbers. He was 22nd in completion percentage, but 14th in interception percentage, and sixth in sack rate (which isn't even part of the passer rating).

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals: Kolb finished 17th among qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating, but 27th in DVOA. He had a tendency to pad his stats with completions that killed drives. In nine starts, he had 17 failed completions on third or fourth down. Over 16 starts, that would have been 30 failed completions on third down, which would have been in the top five in the league. (Matt Hasselbeck was first with 39.) He also had a complete lack of pocket presence, with the second-worst sack rate of any quarterback. (Worst: Tim Tebow.) Teammate John Skelton, who will never be confused with Dan Marino, finished 26th, seven spots higher.

Most improved: Alex Smith, San Francisco: Smith had qualified for the DVOA tables in four prior seasons, and never made the top 25 in DVOA or DYAR. In 2011, he finished 13th in DYAR and 14th in DVOA. Jim Harbaugh preaches ball control, and Smith had the lowest interception percentage in the league.

Biggest decline: Bradford: In his rookie season, the Rams quarterback's advanced metrics were not as impressive as his reputation (34th in both DYAR and DVOA), but they were a darn sight better than what he did in his follow-up campaign. His completion percentage fell from 60.0% to 53.5%, his touchdowns dropped from 18 to 6, and he gave up more sacks (36 to 34) in fewer games (10 to 16). Whoever ends up coaching the Rams next year may have to start all over with the development of the franchise quarterback.

All 2011 quarterback numbers here.

Running Backs

Top 5

1) Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints: 450 DYAR (198 rushing DYAR, 252 receiving)
2) Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: 388 DYAR (148 rushing DYAR, 240 receiving)
3) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: 379 DYAR (324 rushing DYAR, 55 receiving)
4) Ryan Mathews, San Diego: 352 DYAR (197 rushing DYAR, 156 receiving)
5) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: 310 DYAR (202 rushing DYAR, 108 receiving DYAR)

Analysis: News flash: You don't need a back to rack up tons of yards to win anymore. It's almost a hindrance. Eight of the top nine running backs in rushing DYAR missed the playoffs, and 18 of the top 25. Darren Sproles may be the most underrated free agent acquisition of the year, though playing with Drew Brees obviously helps. (Teammate Pierre Thomas was sixth in the rankings.) The MVP race will likely come down to Brees and Aaron Rodgers, but can you imagine the Baltimore offense without Ray Rice? McCoy led the league in rushing DYAR. Mathews and Stewart are both only 24, so you might have to get used to seeing their names in this space.

Bottom 5

1) Tashard Choice, Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins/Buffalo Bills: -142 DYAR (-89 rushing DYAR, -53 receiving)
2) Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs: -84 DYAR (-89 rushing DYAR, 5 receiving)
3) Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: -78 DYAR (-94 rushing DYAR, 16 receiving)
4) Deji Karim, Jacksonville Jaguars: -74 DYAR (-78 rushing DYAR, 4 receiving)
5) Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins: -69 DYAR (-54 rushing DYAR, -15 receiving DYAR)

Analysis: What an awful season Choice had. He was last among running backs in receiving DVOA, and would have been last in rushing DVOA as well if he had gotten enough carries to qualify. Thomas Jones makes the bottom five for the second year in a row. He was benched in the middle of the year, but Romeo Crennel started him again by season's end. Thomas was last among running backs in rushing DYAR and DVOA. You can't blame his teammates — Reggie Bush was 30th in rushing DVOA, 21 spots higher. Karim averaged 2.1 yards per rush, and makes this list despite getting only 63 carries. He was stuffed for no gain or a loss 21 times, and had 18 other runs for 1 or 2 yards. In Torain's first game, he ran 19 times for 135 yards. The rest of the year: 40 carries, 65 yards, 1.6 yards per rush.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Sproles: The top running back in total DYAR was 20th in the league in yards from scrimmage.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: By the end of the year, Johnson was averaging 4.0 yards per rush and was 12th in the league in yards from scrimmage. Do not be fooled: This man sucked. He was 49th out of 51 qualifying runners in DVOA and DYAR, and 46th in Success Rate and Stuff Rate. He also had a negative DVOA as a receiver.

Most improved: Mathews: In his rookie season, the Chargers running back was 18th in rushing DVOA. This year, he was 10th. He made even bigger gains in the passing game, upping his receiving DVOA from -19.4% (49th) to 35.2% (4th).

Biggest decline: Choice: Choice has put up good numbers in the past, and though it's always been in part time duty, he had a decent sample size. He's had at least 50 rushes and 20 passes in each of his four seasons. He averaged better than 5.0 yards per rush in his first two years, but that dropped to 3.7 his third year and 2.7 this year. His receiving numbers have also fallen. His yards per catch has gone from the high 8s to the mid-6s, and his catch rate this year was just 63 percent.

All 2011 running back numbers here.

Wide Receivers

Top 5

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: 586 DYAR
2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers: 530 DYAR
3) Wes Welker, New England Patriots: 475 DYAR
4) Victor Cruz, New York Giants: 468 DYAR
5) Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers: 410 DYAR

Analysis: Johnson had the second-highest DYAR for a wide receiver in our database, trailing only Michael Irvin's 636 DYAR in 1995. Nelson had 96 targets, and set a record for highest DVOA for any player with at least 60 targets. Welker proved he can run more than slants. He had 17 receptions on deep passes (more than 15 yards downfield), tied for 18th. Cruz was tied for third in 20-yard catches, and second in 40-yarders. (Johnson was first in both categories.) Wallace topped this list last year with 457 DYAR, and has been top ten in DVOA in each of his first three seasons.

Bottom 5

1) Devin Aromashodu, Minnesota Vikings: -152 DYAR
2) Mike Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars: -149 DYAR
3) Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos: -147 DYAR
4) Jonathan Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs: -94 DYAR
5) Mohamed Massaquoi, Cleveland Browns: -86 DYAR

Analysis: As usual, bad quarterbacks tend to make bad receivers. We've already discussed the guys throwing to Aromashadu, Thomas, and Royal. Both Baldwin and Massaquoi found themselves playing for multiple quarterbacks this year. Kansas City's Matt Cassel and Tyler Palko were 39th and 41st in DVOA, while Cleveland's Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy were 30th and 31st. Does that mean Baldwin gets more of a pass?

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers: Floyd was tied for 57th among wide receivers in catches, but seventh in DYAR. He had the second-highest DVOA of all time among players with more than 60 targets. Unfortunately for him, Nelson set the record this season, which means Floyd can't even claim to lead the league this year.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Roddy White, Atlanta. Second in the league in catches, but 19th among wide receivers in DYAR. The addition of Julio Jones was supposed to open things up for White, but he still only caught 56 percent of the balls thrown his way. That left him with 80 passes not caught, most in the league.

Most improved: Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys: In his fifth season, set new career highs in catches, yards, yards per catch, DVOA, DYAR, catch rate, and most notably, touchdowns. He had four scores in his first four years, but found the end zone 11 times in 2011.

Biggest decline: Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos/St. Louis Rams: Did he lose his glass slipper? Lloyd was one of the league's bigger punchlines for the first seven years of his career, but was listed as the most improved wide receiver in this space one year ago. In 2010, he ranked second in DYAR (414) and sixth in DVOA (20.0%). In 2011, he ranked 67th in DYAR (17) and 71st in DVOA -11.1%. Lloyd was a close second behind White with 77 passes not caught, but he was 27th in reception. Playing with Sam Bradford didn't help, but remember that he left Denver before Tim Tebow took over.

All 2011 wide receiver numbers here.

Tight Ends

Top 5

1) Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: 505 DYAR
2) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: 331 DYAR
3) Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: 287 DYAR
4) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons: 237 DYAR
5) Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: 205 DYAR

Analysis: As a rookie in 2010, Gronkowski was second among tight ends in DYAR. In his sophomore season, he completely obliterated the single-season DYAR record for his position. Gates had set the record last season with 371 DYAR in only ten games. That's 31.6 DYAR per game for Gronk in 2011, 37.1 for Gates in 2010. This is the best era for young tight ends since guys like Christensen, Winslow, and Newsome were catching more passes than most wide receivers, but the best tight end of all time, Tony Gonzalez, still stands out among his younger peers.

Bottom 5

1) Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars: -120 DYAR
2) Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts: -54 DYAR
3) Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams: -51 DYAR
4) Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders: -39 DYAR
5) Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals: -39 DYAR

Analysis: Four of these men repeat the "bad quarterbacks produce bad receivers" lesson. The fifth is Myers. Between Jason Campbell's start and Carson Palmer's finish, the Raiders had decent quarterbacking this year, completing better than 60 percent of their passes as a team. Myers' catch rate of 59 percent was 34th among tight ends, though, and his 9.5 yards per catch was 41st. We could criticize the Raiders for letting Zach Miller go — except Miller was right behind Housler with -37 DYAR.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans. Dreessen had 140 DYAR, just outside the top ten at his position, even though he caught only 28 passes. He had a catch rate of 72 percent, though, and averaged 12.6 yards per catch.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: Pettigrew played for one of the league's top passing offenses, and was third among tight ends with 83 catches. He ranked 29th, however, with only 30 DYAR. He ranked 44th among tight ends with 9.3 yards per catch.

Most improved: Jake Ballard, New York Giants. As an undrafted free agent in 2010, Ballard played in only one game. In 2011, he was sixth in DYAR (165) and DVOA (31.5%).

Biggest decline: Clark. The absence of Peyton Manning played a huge part, obviously. However, there were signs of decline even in 2010. He played only six games that year, with his lowest DVOA since 2007. His DVOA this year was by far the worst of his career. Clark will be 33 in June, and his time is probably done.

All 2011 tight end numbers here.


50 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2012, 1:13am

1 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Sorry I misread that sentence I criticized... Remove this comment if you want.

3 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Darren Sproles may be the most underrated free agent acquisition of the year, though playing with Drew Brees obviously helps.

Really? Maybe I don't pay enough attention to the major sports news outlets, but I thought I've seen them call Sproles the best free agent acquisition of the year and blame the decline of Philip Rivers on Sproles not being there. To me that makes the underrated card hard to play.

4 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Regarding the idea of QB production affecting WRs, and specifically the Baldwin question, who is the best WR for a bad QB? Larry Fitzgerald has endured terrible passers but this year was one of his best statistically, at least in Yards and Yards Per Catch. Fitz is a beast though, so it may be an unfair comparison

6 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

That would be a great stat. Something that compares receivers against each other out of the context of their offense and/or their QB. Is there any conceivable way to separate the two? Compare to their own teammates? Is there any statistical way to rate Larry Fitzgerald against Eric Decker for example?

10 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

It's interesting that Johnson is held against Stafford, but no elite WR has a poor QB, and no poor WR has an elite QB.

As to your question, probably the easiest way to separate out QB performance is a year-by-year comp in teams that say dramatic changes in QB performance with similar receiving corps. AZ in 2009 to 2010, IND in 2010 to 2011, CAR in 2010 to 2011 for the reverse.

WRs are harder to gauge, because wholesale changes of the entire group are somewhat rare. You can still somewhat track this in roving QBs, though. Favre in 2007 (GB) versus 2008 (NYJ) versus 2009 (MIN). Brees in SD versus NO. This doesn't separate out changes in coordinator, but that might be easier in Favre, who tended to call his own audibles when it suited him. Sample sizes are small, but it might suggest how the partitions actually work.

I still think DVOA massively underestimates the effect of rushing and overestimates passing, and that's probably an effect of the era which it evaluates. This is an especially large effect for historical comparisons, which were not nearly so passing-heavy or defensively limited.

12 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Titus Young and Nate Burelson don't count as poor? They're ranked 55th and 60th by DVOA. Meanwhile Larry Fitzgerald manged 11th in DYAR and Brandon Marshall got 16th, those numbers might not be "elite," but they're quite high with Matt Moore and John Skelton at QB.

15 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

This was only Burleson's second full season as a starting WR, in his 9th year in the league. His previous full starter season was 2004, for a Vikings team where he was the only healthy WR. He's really a #3 WR playing the #2 spot.

Titus Young was a rookie who was injured for the pre-season and had no mini-camp. He basically made cameo appearances until week 8. By the end of the season, he was an adequate #3 WR.

The larger issue I have is the perception that Megatron is not quite as good as Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, etc, but also that Stafford is a mediocre QB dependent upon a transcendent WR. Both of those arguments cannot be simultaneously true.

If Stafford is only a Rypien, throwing to some receiving god, then Calvin Johnson is so far above Larry Fitzgerald's level as to be laughable. But if Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are actually comparable in talent, then Johnson's historical performance means that Stafford is closer to good Kurt Warner level than evil Kurt Warner level. There's the argument in between, which I suspect is the correct one, that Andre is Starscream to Calvin's Megatron and Fitzgerald is similar, and Stafford actually is on the Romo-esque level of competence, and is approximately correctly rated by DVOA. Where he has the better #1 receiver, Romo has better WR depth.

16 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Oh well in that case, allow me to the first person who thinks CJ is the best receiver in the game. He's making plays I haven't seen since 07 Moss, and on a regular basis. I don't know if he's so far above Fitz as to be laughable, but I think he is above him by a (to borrow from Will Allen) non-trivial amount.

I would say Stafford is a touch below the Romo level.

22 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

I think that's a fair analysis of Stafford, and it's worth noting that this is the only season in which Stafford has looked anything like a first-round pick. This may be a sign of things to come (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease) or the lone good season in a sea of typical Lions-QB mediocrity (see Mitchell, Scott).

There were certainly times when Stafford played like an elite QB, but there are still stretches, particularly after he makes a mistake, where he looks no better than any other "rookie" QB: locking onto receivers, forcing balls into coverage, imagining pressure when there is none. Next season, he should pass the 35- to 40-game threshold and give us a better idea of his potential NFL ceiling.

I don't know that I could identify one receiver as the best among active WRs, but at this point, even putting aside my Lions bias, I have a hard time listening to a discussion of elite WRs that does not include Megatron.

34 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Poor QB, great WR: Kolb/Fitzgerald, Newton/Steve Smith, Painter(Orlovsky)/Wayne (although Wayne isn't precisely great), Yates/Andre Johnson, and if Kenny Britt hadn't gotten injured...

Great QB poor WRs: E.Manning (Manningham especially, but Nicks plays volleyball too), C. Palmer (Heyward-Bey, Murphy).

5 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

I know DVOA and DYAR factor in things like down and distance, as well as adjusting for the opponent's defense. Is there anything that accounts for the defensive front being faced? For someone like Maurice Jones-Drew, for example, is there a "Blaine Gabbert is your quarterback, the defense doesn't care about the pass" adjustment? I'm not a statitician, so I have no idea how you would go about doing that, but it seems like, when grading performance, the quality of the ground or air attack of a team has some bearing on the performance of the other.

8 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Tim Tebow is clearly ranked too low because DVOA fails to recognize his ability to keep his team close while only scoring 3 offensive points. Reading signs given by animal entrails is way better than this.

11 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Close, but you forgot to blow sunshine about a non-related team for which you have a rooting interest and you don't have any spelling/grammatical errors. Good effort, though.

9 entire season as outlier

I have to think that the strike/lockout had a statistically meaningful impact. Not only in allowing mediocre QBs to perform above their historical average, or the excellent QBs to truly excel. But also because with a defense giving up huge chunks of yards and points, the offense has to score that much more.
Is it surprising that the top 3 QBs also are on teams with the three worst passing defenses?

13 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

When I woke up 30 minutes ago, literally the first thing I thought was "How the hell did I not list Chris Johnson under biggest decline?" Can't believe I overlooked that one, or that I'm not getting excoriated for it here.

I know DVOA and DYAR factor in things like down and distance, as well as adjusting for the opponent's defense. Is there anything that accounts for the defensive front being faced? For someone like Maurice Jones-Drew, for example, is there a "Blaine Gabbert is your quarterback, the defense doesn't care about the pass" adjustment? I'm not a statitician, so I have no idea how you would go about doing that, but it seems like, when grading performance, the quality of the ground or air attack of a team has some bearing on the performance of the other.

This year, in the charting project, we're tracking defensive personnel for the first time. It's still going to be based on personnel, not formation -- an in-the-box safety will still just count as a "DB" -- but it's a start. In the past, we've found that when starting quarterbacks get injured, the running game usually suffers more than the passing game. So there's obviously something to your point.

25 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

HA! Shows what you know! When the starting and back up qbs are an interchangeable mix of a 2nd year Tavaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger on a leave of absence from his Amway business, and Kelly Holcomb picked off of waivers from a seniors league, and the running back is a rookie Adrian Peterson facing 14 in the box, you still want to see a handoff on every play, and when Ted Cottrell shows up coaching the opponent's defense, and, in a Jedi Mind Trick, aligns his defense like the Chargers are playing a Mike Leach Texas Tech squad, well, that's entertainment!!

14 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Thanks for the Skyline Chili shout out, as it is easily the greatest food on the planet that not enough people know about. As far as the season long DYAR goes, I would bet heavily that we see vastly improved years from Shockey and Olsen (neither of whom made the top 5 this year) with Cam Newton's continued improvement. I would also bet on Newton's run DYAR to drop a bit but his overall DYAR to rise as he becomes more comfortable making 2nd and 3rd reads looking to his TEs. If I were Carolina I would put Williams, Smith, Shockey, and Olsen in at the same time as much as possible to try to create matchups like the Patriots do with Gronkowski and #7 in DYAR Hernandez. I'm not saying they will reach those lofty heights, but production from both of those guys should continue to increase provided they stay healthy.

20 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

What was Cutler's DVOA/DYAR versus Skelton? I'd love to see the Good QB/Bad WRs versus Bad QB/Good WRs comparison.

21 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

"Do not be fooled: This man (Chris Johnson) sucked. "

Don't sugar coat it Vince. Tell us what you really think.

24 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Wasn't there a week when Jonathan Baldwin was the top-rated wide receiver in the game this season? Without that game, he probably would have been the worst WR by a wide margin.

26 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Wow, those are some horrendous numbers at the bottom of the QB list. Just think what Hanie could have done with 16 starts! What is the worst QB DYAR of all time and where does Gabbert's season rank? Is Hanie's QB DVOA historically awful or fairly garden variety awful?

Are there any players who missed time due to injury that would crack the top 5 at their positions if you pro-rate them to 16 games? Peterson and Forte come to mind as at least threatening to crack the top 5, maybe Andre Johnson or Arian Foster?

28 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Worst QB season in our database, by a mile, is David Carr's rookie season with the expansion Texans in 2002. He set the record for sacks that year, and finished with -1,113 DYAR. Next worst is Bobby Hoying with the 1998 Eagles (-992). However, Hoying had the worse DVOA (-70.0% to Carr's -46.9%). Worst DVOA was Alex Smith's rookie year with the 2005 49ers (-89.4%, 1 touchdown pass, 10 fumbles, 11 interceptions).

Matt Schaub finished 10th in DYAR in 10 games. Over 16 games he would have been ... ninth. There's a very tight cluster from 5th to 8th.

Arian Foster only missed three games, but over a full schedule would have ranked ninth in rushing DYAR instead of 14th. The real loser in running backs is Fred Jackson, who only played 10 games. Over 16 games, he would have been second to McCoy in rushing value, and a dominant first overall with 457 total DYAR.

Andre Johnson, over a full season, would still not have cracked the top ten. Considering how good the rest of the offense was, It's safe to say he was still hurt when he played.

29 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Gronkowski is a freak. I have to note here that unlike some TEs with great receiving numbers of the past, the guy is actually a very good in-line and downfield blocker. Hernandez at #7 is more the H-back hybrid type TE. Both on the field at the same time is just punishment.

30 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

This statement: "News flash: You don't need a back to rack up tons of yards to win anymore."

Seems somewhat flawed, mostly because teams went to RBBC a lot more than they did a single back. And we've had a lot of discussion of what a 'valuable' RB is by receiving yards vs. rushing; again, Matt Forte's numbers where he gained over 200 yards rushing and was not as good as someone who gained 80 yards on 7 carries makes me wonder how valuable this really is.

31 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

News flash: You don't need a back to rack up tons of yards to win anymore.

I think everyone's known that for a long time, captain. Is Disco dead, too?

32 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

I would place Stafford above Romo on the list of best quarterbacks. Romo has done less with a more complete team and stafford has done more with a worse team. Besides Johnson and Pettigrew the lions dont have huge weapons like the cowboys, especially in the run game. Even though the cowboys lost three running backs, the lions also lost three and it was earlier in the season than the cowboys. This put a lot of pressure on Stafford and he delivered whereas Romo did the opposite. Staffords o-line is not very talented but did over-achieve this year and the defense is shaky at best, which places even more pressure on him. There is also the factor of Romo costing the cowboys what seemed like sure wins and a spot in the playoffs. Stafford made the plays needed to come through with a win at the end of games. I would even go as far to say that Stafford is the strength of the Lions and Romo is a hinderance to the Cowboys. He has good numbers because he is surrounded by talent and a good system, but a good QB could take that team to the next level.

50 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Of course Romo also has a bad O-Line (seriously the interior of that line is terrible and the best player on the line was a rookie), had receivers constantly getting hurt, had receivers not run the correct routes, also had a shaky at best defense (in fact a worse defense than the Lions). Seriously, the Cowboys best receiver this year wasn't even on the team to begin the year.

Anyone who thinks that Romo is the Cowboys problem is either a) Someone who doesn't follow football or b) is an idiot.

33 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

if they could, the Rams should trade Bradford and draft Griffin. Too bad they could only get fifty cents on the dollar for him now

39 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

I think it would be very premature to write Bradford off at this point. His offensive line imploded, his receivers were inhumanly awful to start with, he had a shortened off-season to learn a complex new system and he got injured. I think he's an excellent candidate for a 2004 Brees style turnaround if his situation improves.

43 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

The Rams passing offense after we traded for Lloyd was basically three options:

1. Pass to Brandon Lloyd if there are less than four people covering him.
2. Throw to the shifty slot receiver in the period between him becoming competent and him getting injured or suspended (anywhere between 5 and 20 passes)
3. Panic and hurl the ball anywhere or curl up in a ball before you get killed.

I think that accounts quite largely for both the amount of missed passes to Lloyd, and the awful showing of Bradford. Lloyd might have declined in numbers, but he is still easily (EASILY!) the Rams best receiver. Admittedly at times I would have been our best receiver, but shush.

I think the massive change to the offense for what is essentially an offense of 1st, 2nd or 3rd year players without much of an offseason also accounts for a lot of the decline, which is why I'm not sure that firing McDaniels is a great way to go.

I'm not sure what effect changing from a west coast offense to McDaniel's one had on the offensive line, but the play of Saffold, Bell and Smith all went sharply downhill from last year. For example, Jason Smith played well enough last year before getting hurt to look like a good long term solution at right tackle. Not worthy of the #2 pick, but a bit less of a bust than Robert Gallery. This year he looked awful. In particular though, there were a good number of occassions when he blocked down onto a tackle or 3-4 end, rather than taking the DE or 3-4 OLB that obviously appeared to be his assignment. I'm not sure how much of that is on Smith just blowing the assignment and how much it is on him not knowing the assignment (which is a bit different). He'll be gone next year, short of a contract renegotiation, but I think he's more of a bust due to injury and circumstances than due to skill.

Bradford certainly hasn't done anything like enough to deserve being jettisoned. You don't go from Offensive Rookie of the Year to bust in a few games without a catastrophic injury.

I should also point out that while Lance Kendricks was subject to the "bad QB play so bad advanced stats" thing, he did help himself out with that by dropping a lot of passes.

36 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

I think a good use of time off-season would be reevaluating how TEs are measured. Right now it suffers from fantasy-football-syndrome with its focus squarely on receptions rather than some combination of receiving and blocking. If you do something on that front, the results could probably also serve to help measure offensive linemen and to a lesser extend HBs and FBs.

37 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Eddie Royal has been a big lousy disappointment, pre-Tebow too. If he's got the ball in his hands and has some space around him, he can do some cool things, but good luck getting him the ball. He doesn't adjust to the ball, and makes quarterbacks look a lot less accurate than they are - Orton, too.

41 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

At the game on Sunday, my friend who buys some of my seats and I were discussing the possibility of dismissing the notion of Eddie Royal as receiver and trying to introduce the notion of Eddie Royal as scatback. Probably won't happen now, I think he's a free agent, and his post-Shanahan seasons have been sufficiently awful to probably end his tenure in Denver. I don't know that I'll ever understand how he looked so good in his rookie season and then looked so very below-average/awful since then. In lieu of understanding it, I will blame it on Josh McDaniels being the antichrist.

40 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

"He [Kolb] also had a complete lack of pocket presence, with the second-worst sack rate of any quarterback. (Worst: Tim Tebow.)"

I am staggered that a non-Tebow quarterback managed to be worse than TJ Yates and Blaine Gabbert in this respect. Were they 3rd and 4th?

44 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

Vince, is there any chance that a similar sort of piece could be done for defensive players and O-linemen (or O-line units) once all the info needed from gamecharting is in? I'm not sure if it would be more appropriate to be on here or FOA12, but I think it would be a shame to only have this sort of info on the skill position players, when I think it would be possible for you to do it for the other positions.

48 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

"Biggest decline: Clark. The absence of Peyton Manning played a huge part, obviously. However, there were signs of decline even in 2010. He played only six games that year, with his lowest DVOA since 2007. His DVOA this year was by far the worst of his career. Clark will be 33 in June, and his time is probably done. "

Vernon Davis! He dropped by more DYAR although not quite as much DVOA. It also would've been more interesting if you talked about why he got so much worse when his quarterback got so much better.

49 Re: Quick Reads: 2011 in Review

4 drops that cost him close to 150 yards and 2 TDs. And staying in the block longer.
Also if Clark played only 6 last year his DYAR base would be significantly lower. Not a fair comparison.