|I'm not cutting my hair until Advanced NFL|
Stats recognizes my accomplishments.
First, up Quarterbacks.
Zach:Aaron Rodgers. Just watch the guy. He is in complete control out there.
Josh: It's hard not to pick Aaron Rodgers--#1 in EPA and AYPA and an EPA/P that is simply ridiculous.
Jack: Aaron Rodgers. He makes me think every other quarterback is garbage. A 0.14 point EPA/P lead and a 1.6 AYPA lead are just unfathomable.
Keith: Aaron Rodgers, ‘nuff said. The guy has a 72.3% completion percentage (not to mention an absurd 0.41 EPA/P) and has thrown just 3 INTs. Only the all-mighty Alex Smith has less through 8 games. Oh, and he can act too.
Carson: At this point, Aaron Rodgers is the closest thing I've seen to an ideal quarterback in my lifetime. He possesses the quarterbacking holy trinity, as it were: he reads defenses spectacularly and his arm is both strong and accurate. He also uses his athleticism excellently -- less to gain rushing yards and more to buy extra seconds for passing. His competitiveness or intangibles or whatever you want to call them are also outstanding. At this point, the one weakness is his susceptibility to concussions.
Brian: Brady actually edges Rodgers in WPA at the moment, but that's only because he's had to compensate for such a lousy defense. Rodgers kills everybody on EPA, so I'm with everyone else: Aaron Rodgers it is. Don't overlook Brees though. He's having another great year, but a lot of his EPA was generated in that blowout vs. IND.
Next, Running Backs.
Zach: Matt Forte. Carrying the Bears on his back this year. 1000-500 season is a lock. Also, Darren Sproles. You have to use him a certain way, but he keeps defenses honest.
Josh: Of teams whose primary QB has net positive WPA, only three backs exceed the WPA of their QB: Matt Forte (0.50 to Cutler's 0.34), LeSean McCoy (0.72 to Vick's 0.67), and Ryan Mathews (0.82 to Rivers' 0.20). I'm not entirely convinced of the significance of this, but nevertheless I'm impressed.
Jack: Darren Sproles. The prototypical back for the new passing offense. Averages seven yards per touch and is fantastically versatile.
Keith: Darren Sproles. An “open space” running back if there ever was one, Sproles has been dominating both on the ground and through the air. He boasts a ridiculous 55.4% success rate. Reggie who?
Carson: Darren Sproles is not only averaging league bests (among running backs) of 7.1 yards per carry, a 55.4% success rate, and a 0.31 EPA/P, but he's also second in the NFL in receptions (to New England's Wes Welker), with 56. With the exception of pass-blocking, that's basically all the things a running back can do -- and I'm not expert enough to discern Sproles' blocking ability from, say, Fred Jackson's or LeSean McCoy's.
Brian: Sproles is great, but I think Josh is on to something there--sounds like a great idea for a full post. I'll go with Mathews, then McCoy on the basis of RB WPA to QB WPA ratio. Forte is honorable mention.
On we go to Wide Receivers.
Zach: 1. Steve Smith (CAR). Best deep threat in the league. 2. Wes Welker Ultimate possession receiver, and the key cog in the Patriots offense. I'd say more important than Brady, even.
Josh: Welker. Career numbers pretty much across the board.
Jack: Wes Welker. A consistently targeted receiver who consistently makes things happen with the ball. 0.25 WPA/G and he's a big reason why Tom Brady is having yet another excellent year.
Keith: Mike Wallace leads all receivers with at least 50 catches in catch rate at 73.4%. For a big play receiver like Wallace, that is unheard of. Compare that to his career catch rate around 58%. Wallace is also putting up 13.6 yards per target; he led all receivers last year in that category at 12.7.
Carson: In his three years in the league, Mike Wallace's EPA/P (0.45, 0.60, 0.75) and yards per target (10.0, 12.7, 13.6) have only continued to improve. Among the NFL's catch-rate leaders (where he's fifth, at 73.4%), Wallace has the highest deep rate, receiving 31.3% of his targets further than 15 yards out. Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker would also be entirely worthy choices here.
Brian: Welker leads in WPA and EPA, plus he leads the league in targets. He's the one guy his team can't do without. Behind him are Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, and Calvin Johnson, in that order. I like Keith's analysis, though.
Last of the individual positions, Tight Ends.
Zach: Heath Miller. Sure handed and a great blocker.
Josh: Gronkowski. Insert witty reference to taking shirtless pics with porn stars here.
Jack: Jimmy Graham. 82 targets at 9.6 yards per in one of the league's most prolific passing offenses.
Keith: While Jimmy Graham would seem to be the obvious choice, I’m going to go with someone that didn’t go to the U. Rob Gronkowski leads all TE in WPA at +1.64 and is 2nd among all receivers, behind only his teammate, Wes Welker. Not to mention he is producing while dealing with the emotional trauma of having his brother, Dan, cut from the Pats… twice.
Carson: New Orleans Saint Jimmy Graham leads all tight ends in targets (82) and is second only to Jason Witten in target percentage (21.9%), and yet has still managed to post the fifth-most yards per target among tight ends (9.6) and fifth-best EPA/P (0.52). A player to watch for me -- in terms of year-end awards, say -- is New York Giant Jake Ballard, whose deep rate of 38.7% easily leads all tight ends and whose 0.80 EPA/P is also best at the position.
Brian: Graham is the guy we're most likely to see in the Super Bowl, but I'm going to go with Scott Chandler. He's not being thrown to by a future Hall of Famer, but he has an insane 86% catch rate and a 67% Success Rate--both #1 in the league. He's not a deep threat (none of his targets were deeper than 15 yds, which is amazing in and of itself), but he's still producing big EPA and WPA, and is tied with Gronk for the lead in TDs with 6.
And lastly, Offensive Lines.
Zach: CIN. Keeping Dalton upright has been huge to his development, and they give a good push for Cedric Benson and Benard Scott. A very underrated group.
Josh: I think I'd take Green Bay. One of the youngest squads in the league, they've really stepped up and are one of the main reasons the Packers find themselves at 8-0.
Jack: Tampa Bay. Only 10 sacks and a decent running attack despite a banged up LeGarrette Blount.
Keith: PHI. Michael Vick is still healthy, posting a run success rate near 70% and LeSean McCoy is leading the league in run EPA. Oh, and Michael Vick is still healthy. As an Eagles fan, I need something to cheer about.
Brian: Gotta disagree on PHI. I think they're one of the culprits in their team's decline so far this season. I'm going with TB, and the reason is all based on the numbers: They've allowed the least damage by opposing front 7's. TB is #1 in both -WPA and -EPA, and they're #1 in sacks allowed, 2nd least sack yards, 2nd fewest QB Hits, #13 in tackles for losses, #8 in run -WPA, #2 in pass -WPA, #4 4 in run -EPA, and #1 in pass -EPA. A lot of that is due to Josh Freeman's athleticism, but it appears the TB line is a special bunch and deserves a close look.
So there you go. The mid-season All-ANS-Squad. As always, selectees are invited to my house for a game of touch football in my backyard. Remember to wear your Wrangler jeans, leave your Jeep or old-school pickup parked nearby, and bring a couple random American flags flap in the breeze inconspicuously in the background. You know, like everybody does.