The 2010 All-WPA Teams - Defense

This will be the first year of the WPA's for defenders. Last season we only had stats for offensive skill players, but this year we'll be looking at +WPA and to some extent +EPA, both of which measure defensive play-making, to select the All-WPA defensive squads.

Keep in mind what these stats measure. This is not an attempt to value a player in terms of his overall ability or his future expected performance. This is just a list of the guys who made the most big plays when it mattered most.

The envelope please...

National Football Conference

Defensive Ends

Although he only appeared in 11 games, Detroit's Kyle Vanden Bosch tops all DEs with 1.79 +WPA. Vanden Bosch has 5 sacks, 1 pass defended, 11 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, and 10 tackles for losses. He also boasts a 1.20 Tackle Factor (TF). His strip sack of Washington's Rex Grossman allowed teammate Ndamukong Suh to recover and return the ball for a game-clinching TD, worth 0.23 +WPA.

Right behind Vanden Bosch is the Giants' Justin Tuck with 1.76 +WPA. Tuck also has by far the highest +EPA of all DEs with 78.5. He is credited with 12 sacks, 3 passes defended, 24 QB Hits, 1 forced fumble and 16 tackles for losses. His 1.38 TF ties him for first among DEs with Philadelphia's Trent Cole. Tuck's biggest play was an 11-yard sack of David Garrard on Jacksonville's 29 as the Jaguars were threatening to steal the game on their final drive.

Jared Allen (1.68 +WPA/57.6 +EPA/1.06 TF), Julius Peppers (1.43 +WPA/51.8 +EPA/0.96 TF), and Israel Idonije (1.27 +WPA/+45.9 +EPA/0.90 TF) will be the alternates in case Vanden Bosh or Tuck can't make it to my back yard for the WPA Bowl. Most of the top DEs, either in terms of WPA or EPA are in the NFC this season.

Defensive Tackles
Darnell Docket is tops in the NFC with 1.51 +WPA. He also leads all DTs in +EPA with 46.4. He's recorded 4 sacks, 1 tipped pass, 14 QB hits, 1 forced fumble, 9 tackles for losses, and a 1.12 TF. His biggest play was a forced fumble returned for a TD by Kerry Rhodes in the 4th quarter in the Cardinals' win over the Saints, worth 0.23 +WPA.

Rookie Ndamukong Suh will be lining up next to Dockett at the WPA Bowl this year thanks to his 1.26 +WPA. His biggest play was his TD return to seal the game against Washington, woth 0.23 +WPA. Suh boasts 10 sacks (most of any DT), 3 tipped passes, 13 QB hits, 12 tackles for losses, and a 1.23 TF.

Other NFC tackles in the running were Justin Smith (1.20 +WPA/30.7 +EPA/1.28 TF), Justin Babineaux (1.08 +WPA/33.5 +EPA/1.26 TF), and Corey Williams (1.00 +WPA/32.1 +EPA/0.89 TF).

Linebackers
Geno Hayes tops the NFC LBs with 2.11 +WPA, mostly thanks to two plays, both against the Cardinals. Hayes intercepted a Max Hall pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald and took the ball 41 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Later in the same game, Hayes tipped a 4th-quarter pass allowing Barrett Ruud to intercept the pass. Both plays were worth 0.22 +WPA. Hayes also boasts 51.6 +EPA, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, 3 QB hits, a forced fumble, 13 tackles for a loss, and a 0.89 TF.

And hooray for the under-appreciated London Fletcher, who is second in the NFC with 2.00 +WPA and 63.6 +EPA. Fletcher has 3 sacks, 11 passes defended, 2 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, 4 tackles for a loss, and an interception to go along with his 1.33 TF. Fletcher's top play was a fumble recovery on the goal line, preserving the Redskins' lead over the Buccaneers at a crucial moment in the 4th quarter.

Curtis Lofton is just behind Fletcher with 1.97 +WPA. He also has 43.9 +EPA with a 1.49 TF.

Other top NFC linebackers in +WPA include Brian Urlacher (1.78 +WPA/51.7 +EPA/1.53 TF), Paris Lenon (1.78 +WPA/58.7 +EPA/1.35 TF), and James Laurinitis (1.71 +WPA/42.3 +EPA/1.40 TF).

Safeties
LaRon Landry played only 9 games but still leads the NFC in +WPA with 1.73. He's also tops in +EPA/G with 4.37. Landry boasts 1 sack, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble, 6 tackles for losses, 1 interception, and a super-human 1.70 TF. You might think that his TF suggest he leads the conference by cleaning up the mess that the rest of the Redskins defense left for him, but +WPA and +EPA only count plays that have positive impacts for the defense. Landry is a play-maker. His biggest play came in overtime against the Packers when he intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass, setting Washington up just outside field goal range, a play worth 0.30 +WPA.

The Eagles' Quintin Mikell is second in the NFC with 1.68 +WPA and leads the league in +EPA with 56.0. Mikell has 1 sack, 15 passes defended, 1 QB hit, a forced fumble, 5 tackles for losses, and 3 interceptions. His biggest play was a 52-yard fumble return for a TD in the 4th quarter of the Eagles' game against the 49ers.

Honorable mentions go to Kerry Rhodes (1.54 +WPA/50.7 +EPA/12 PD/4 Int), Deon Grant (1.37 +WPA/45.6 +EPA/10 PD/3 Int), and Roman Harper (1.32 +WPA/46.0 +EPA/8 PD/Int).

Cornerbacks
DeAngelo Hall virtually won an entire game single-handedly, both literally and figuratively. His 4-interception game against the Bears gave Hall a total of 0.99 +WPA. Hall leads all CBs with 2.39 +WPA and is 4th in the NFL among CBs in total +EPA. He's totaled 14 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 3 tackles for losses, and 6 interceptions. His biggest play was a 92-yard interception return for a TD against Chicago, worth 0.40 +WPA. Another of his more notable plays was a fumble recovery returned 32 yards for a TD just before halftime against Dallas, worth 0.21 +WPA.

Charles Woodson is second in the NFC in +WPA for CBs with 1.91, and first among all CBs with 48.7 +EPA. Woodson has 1 sack, 10 passes defended, 5 QB hits, 5 forced fumbles, 6 tackles for losses, and 2 interceptions. His biggest play came has his team led the Jets by 3 in the 4th quarter. Woodson intercepted a Matt Sanchez 1st down pass on the GB 43, a play worth 0.21 WPA.

Other notable NFC CBs include Tramon Williams (1.83 +WPA/44.9 +EPA/19 PD/6 Int), Phillip Buchanon (1.45 WPA/25.5 +EPA/17 PD/1 Int), D.J. Moore (1.38 +WPA/42.8 +EPA/8 PD/4 Int), and Brent Grimes (1.30 +WPA/42.2 +EPA/22 PD/5 Int).

American Football Conference

Defensive Ends
Houston's Mario Williams tops the AFC DE's with 1.13 +WPA. In just 12 games, he's recorded 9 sacks, 2 passes defended, 19 QB hits, 1 forced fumble and 10 tackles for losses. His tackle factor is fairly low through, at 0.62. Perhaps he's pulled from obvious run situations. His biggest play came against Washington. With 1:32 to play, Williams sacked Donovan McNabb for a 14-yard loss to force a 3rd and 20, worth 0.22 +WPA.

Tied for second in the AFC are the Titans' teammates Dave Ball and Jason Babin with 1.10 +WPA for each. Ball has only played in 11 games, while Babin has played in all 15 so far. Ball has more EPA per game however, by a margin of 2.76 to 2.74. Babin has the bigger TF with 0.84 compared to Ball's 0.61, so I'm giving the award to Babin. His biggest play this year was a stuff of a Kyle Orton  keeper from the 1-yard line with 1:51 to play, worth 0.13 +WPA. Unfortunately for the Titans, the Broncos were eventually able to get the touchdown and win the game.

Robert Mathis (1.12 +WPA/35.6 +EPA/0.94 TF), Kendal Langford (1.04 +WPA/26.0 +EPA/0.97 TF) and Shaun Ellis (1.02 +WPA/ 25.9 +EPA/0.84 TF) get honorable mentions, but as I mentioned above, most of the top DEs were in the NFC this year.

Defensive Tackles
The top DT of the AFC was Kyle Williams with 1.42 +WPA and 39.2 +EPA. He racked up 5 sacks, 1 tipped pass, 12 QB hits, 16 tackles for losses, and a 1.22 TF. His top play of the season was a fumble recovery and return for 11 yards against Cleveland, worth 0.15 +WPA.

Haloti Ngata is right behind Williams with 1.34 +WPA and 35.9 +EPA. He totaled 6 sacks, 3 tipped balls, 13 QB Hits, 12 tackles for losses, and had a 1.31 TF. His biggest play was a 10 yard sack of Tom Brady in the final seconds of regulation to preserve a tie, worth 0.17 +WPA.

AFC DT honorable mentions include Sione Pouha (1.13 +WPA/30.8 +EPA/1.38 TF), Richard Seymour (1.04 +WPA/35.8 +EPA/1.26 TF), and Eric Foster (0.90 +WPA/30.9 +EPA/0.65 TF).

Linebackers
The top three linebackers in the AFC, and the NFL as well, are all Steelers. Lawrence Timmons (2.62 +WPA), LaMarr Woodley (2.18 +WPA), and James Harrison (2.14 +WPA). They also represent the top three in the league in +EPA. Pittsburgh's James Farrior is the 5th ranked LB in the AFC, which tells us a few things. First, the Steeler's LB corps is having a monster season. Second, the Steeler defense is obviously built to let the LBs make the plays. And it's possible the scorekeeper in Pittsburgh is giving lots of assists, allowing the LBs to all have claims to the same plays' WPA.

Timmons is the tackler of the bunch, with a TF of 1.48. He also has 3 sacks, 7 QB hits, 9 tackles for losses and 2 interceptions. His biggest play wasn't terribly spectacular, but he dropped Michael Turner for a 3-yard loss on a 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 14 late in the 4th quarter, worth 0.17 +WPA.

Woodley does it all, with 8 sacks, 5 passes defended, 11 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, 8 tackles for losses, and 2 interceptions. His tackle total is relatively low, however, with 0.57 TF. His best play was a hit he put on Joe Flacco with less than 3 minutes remaining to force an incomplete pass on a critical 3rd and 2, worth 0.34 WPA.

Harrison is the pass rusher with 11 sacks, 17 QB hits, 6 forced fumbles, 14 tackles for losses, and 1 interception. His TF is an impressive 1.13. The biggest play for Harrison this season is a stuff of Miami's Ronnie Brown in the final drive of that weird game where Ben Roethlisberger fumbled into the end zone but was given the ball back. The stuff was worth 0.21 WPA, but was as much about the play call as Harrison's tackle.

Other notable AFC LBs include Cameron Wake (1.97 +WPA/55.8 +EPA/0.73 TF), James Farrior (1.91 +WPA/51.7 +EPA/1.29 TF), and Ray Lewis (1.87 +WPA/47.6 +EPA/1.54 TF).

Safeties  
Troy Polamalu blows the field away with 2.29 +WPA despite missing 2 games. He also leads the pack with 55.4 +EPA. He's tallied 1 sack, 10 passes defended, 2 QB hits, 1 (huge) forced fumble, 6 tackles for a loss, and is tied for the most interceptions for a safety with 6. His tackle factor is modest at 1.00, but he's got the league's best linebacker corps in front of him gobbling up tackles. His biggest play came in week 1 against the Falcons. With the score tied at 9, the Falcons were in their 2-minute drill, and Polamalu intercepted Matt Ryan and returned the ball to the Atlanta 1, a play worth 0.45 +WPA.

Michael Huff ranks second in the AFC with 1.71 +WPA. He has 4 sacks, 5 passes defended, 4 QB hits, two forced fumbles, 7 tackles for losses, and 2 interceptions on top of a 1.25 TF. His biggest play came against the Chargers. With a minute to play, and a 1-point lead, Huff strip-sacked Philip Rivers on the Oakland 33. The fumble was recovered by teammate Tyvon Branch who returned the ball 64 yards for the game-clinching TD. In total, the way was worth 0.43 +WPA.

Other notable AFC safeties include the aforementioned Tyvon Branch (1.38 +WPA/51.5 +EPA/1.47 TF), Michael Griffin (1.38 WPA/44.9 EPA/1.15 TF), and LaRon's older brother Dawan Landry (1.23 WPA/35.3 EPA/1.34 TF). Ed Reed has only appeared in 9 games after starting the season on the PUP list, but he's 3rd in the league in +EPA per game, and is tied with Polamalu for the most interceptions by a safety.

Cornerbacks
Steelers CB William Gay tops the AFC with 1.58 +WPA. Gay's conventional numbers might not be too impressive (2 sacks, 11 passes defended, 4 QB hits, 4 tackles for losses, and no interceptions), but he made some game-changing plays, the biggest of which saved the game against the Bills. With 3 minutes to play, Gay tipped a pass which was intercepted by Troy Polamalu at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line, worth 0.39 +WPA.

Runner-up in the AFC is the Browns' rookie Joe Haden with 1.27 +WPA. Haden racked up 1 sack, 17 passes defended, and 6 interceptions, tied for second in the NFL among CBs. His biggest play was interception that saved a 1-point lead against Carolina with a minute and half to play, worth 0.31 +WPA. His second biggest play was an interception of Ben Roethlisberger at the Cleveland 3-yard line and returned 62 yards to the Pittsburgh 35 early in a very tight game, worth 0.23 +WPA.

Honorable mentions go to Sheldon Brown (1.20+ WPA/25.3 +EPA/10 PD/2 Int), Antonio Cromartie (1.18 +WPA/27.8 +EPA/17 PD/3 Int), and Alterraun Verner (1.08 +WPA/39.9 +EPA/11 PD/3 Int). [Didn't Darth Vader blow up Alterraun in the first Star Wars movie?]

There you go. Your NFC and AFC All-WPA teams. That took a lot longer than I thought. Now I remember why I made those automatically updating player stats pages.

Perhaps +WPA doesn't tell us who the best defenders are, but it does tell us who the playmakers are.  At the very least it makes us take a second look at some guys who might otherwise get lost in the all the attention guys like Ray Lewis, Darrell Revis, or Jared Allen get.

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13 Responses to “The 2010 All-WPA Teams - Defense”

  1. Borat says:

    Who is Ray Allen?

    Is he the defensive coordinator for East Carolina?

  2. Brian Burke says:

    You don't know who Ray Allen is? You obviously don't know your football. Besides, no one actually reads all the way to bottom of these posts except you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "Didn't Darth Vader blow up Alterraun in the first Star Wars movie?"
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/In_star_wars_episode_4_what_planet_was_blown_up_by_the_death_star

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ray Allen? Best three-point shooter in the history of football of course.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Brian, I know this is off topic for the most part with this post, but looking over some articles on here tonight got me thinking...Have you ever done any type of analysis of offensive and defensive stats by quarter? Obviously, some stats are affected by clock management and situations (e.g. is it a blowout?). I am highly interested in how much football coaches at various levels and especially the NFL, may use "sandbagging" or other similar strategies to try gain a psychological advantage over their opponents. I have wondered if there is any way to analyze team statistics and find "hidden" trends and tendencies that might would reveal that something of this nature is going on. I am a big New England Patriots fan, and this season has been interesting on defense for us. For most the the season, we have been near the bottom of the league overall in defense, and especially with yards allowed. It has been infuriating and nerve-wracking to see offenses drive up and down the field on us, but then thankfully, we are one of the best teams in the league at generating timely turnovers. It is widely known that going into this season, we had a young defense that was still learning Belichick's highly complicated defense. While this is true, I just find it hard to believe that they can be so bad about letting teams go wild on them, but then they always make big turnovers. It could just be that NE is running a bend-dont-break defense, but I am thinking that this ineptitude may be planned. What would be the benefit of this? It may fool some teams in to game planning a certain way for us, and Bill with his extensive football knowledge will know how they will most likely game plan for the type of defense he has, which then allows him to counter-game plan, and ultimately leads to NE having a better chance of making the playoffs, where I think the the defense will suddenly "flip a switch" and come alive. I could be wrong, it is just a theory...

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wonder how these statistics correlate across years. Would last year's all stars be this years?
    Also seems to discriminate against the best CBs who never get thrown at.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry but after looking at the Cornerback stats I really question the validity of this....not only do I question it but I wanted to throw the damn stats out the window.

    Looking at these stats one would conclude that Terrell Thomas is a better CB than Corey Webster...simply un true.

    How on earth TT's success % is in the 40s and Corey Webster is in the 30% is impossible....seriously....it's impossible. So either someone is straight up fabricating #s or just not doing the proper work....

    maybe i'm not understanding WPA...but I don't think I want to anymore....

  8. Anonymous says:

    just do the math...TT is not a LB, he's a CB and he has 100 Tackles....

    why the hell would he be getting throw at that much if his colleague (Cweb) had a success rate% in the 30's?

    stop fabricating #'s

  9. Brian Burke says:

    Come on. It took me a long time to make up all these numbers!

  10. Anonymous says:

    cant just give the steelers their due for an amazing year WITHOUT their 2 best d linemen? You have to add "And it's possible the scorekeeper in Pittsburgh is giving lots of assists, allowing the LBs to all have claims to the same plays' WPA."? Isnt this true of every team?

  11. Anonymous says:

    oh and its the scheme right? wonder why every team doesnt just adopt their scheme? oh yeah cause they dont have the players to pull it off!

  12. Anonymous says:

    The playcall is first for every backfield stuff, not just harrisons!

  13. Anonymous says:

    otherwise great read.

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