The 2010 All-WPA Teams - Offense

Last year I introduced the first All-WPA team, which was a fun exercise. This season every player's WPA, EPA and other advanced stats have been updated all season long, so this post is little more than ceremonial. (And here are the mid-season awardees for offense and defense.) Still, I'm sure the players appreciate the official acknowledgment that comes with being recognized by an obscure statistic that only about 20,000 people have heard of and fewer even understand.

To be clear, these are the All-WPA teams, and are not necessarily the best players in the league. They are the players who actually played the best when it mattered most. It's a narrative statistic, highly sensitive to the circumstances of score and time. For those who are uninterested in WPA, feel free to sort the columns however you like. Click on the position headers to go to the full lists of players and their stats.

With that, to the selections. Envelope, please. The 2010 WPA's go to...

American Football Conference

Top honors go to, believe it or not, Joe Flacco. [I hope the picture didn't give it away.] With a modest 5.6 Adjusted YPA, Flacco tops runner-up Tom Brady by 3.54 WPA to 3.26 WPA. Flacco led comeback wins against the Jets, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Plus, he walked off the field ahead after coming back from two TDs down against Atlanta, and he helped put up 37 points against a feisty Buffalo team that scorched the Baltimore defense for 34. Overall he helped Baltimore to an 11-4 record, tied for second best in the AFC.

Brady's EPA of 140.2 puts Flacco's 84.2 to shame, but a lot of his numbers came when games were not on the line. Ironically, one of his best games in terms of WPA came against Baltimore. Brady led a 10-point comeback to tie the game, and ultimately prevailed in an overtime defensive struggle.

Running Backs
Maurice Jones-Drew is tops in the AFC with 1.05 WPA. But he had a strange season, his EPA total was only 11.8, and almost half of his WPA is due to a 75-yard catch and run to win the game against Cleveland in its final minutes.

With only 13 games played, Danny Woodhead is the 2nd-team AFC All-WPA RB. Despite having only 95 rushing attempts and 34 receptions, his 1.05 WPA is thanks to a 5.6 YPC average, which has helped seal big wins for his 13-2 Patriot team. He also led all NFL RBs with a 52.4% Success Rate (SR) and a 0.22 EPA per play. Woodhead edged out Jamaal Charles, who had 1.01 WPA.

Arian Foster deserves an honorable mention. He led the league in WPA for most of the year but faded at the end. He still leads the league in total EPA, with 53.9.

Wide Receivers
Andre Johnson has the best WPA for AFC WRs with 1.84. He also boasts 53.9 EPA (4th in the conference), 14.1 Yards Per Reception (YPR), 8.8 Yards Per Target (YPT) and a 62.3% catch rate (CR) despite running deep routes and attracting double teams. Johnson's biggest play, worth 0.30 WPA, was a miraculous 34 yard TD catch on 4th and 10 to send the game against Washington into overtime.

Mike Thomas of Jacksonville is runner-up with 1.73 WPA. His biggest play was the unforgettable 50-yard Hail Mary batted by a Houston defender into his hands to win the game on the final play. Beyond that, Thomas had a very strong year, with 808 total receiving yards on 12.4 YPR and 8.4 YPT. His 67.7% CR tops Johnson's despite being target deep more often.

Anquan Boldin is third with 1.65 WPA. He was Flacco's primary read on several of the comebacks Baltimore had this season. Boldin also has a knack for fighting off potential interceptions.

Brandon Lloyd (1.18 WPA/73.7 EPA), Mike Wallace (1.33 WPA/57.6 EPA), and Dwayne Bowe (1.30 WPA/54.0 EPA) deserve honorable mentions. Pro-Bowl selectee Reggie Wayne is far down the list with 0.79 WPA and 38.8 EPA, well behind Austin Collie in both categories despite Collie's injury-shortened season. Like Collie, Kenny Britt (1.35 WPA/47.5 EPA) was also on pace for a top season before his injury.

Tight Ends
Longtime veteran Todd Heap has been instrumental in the Ravens' passing game this season, totaling 1.51 WPA despite appearing in only 12 games (11, considering his injury occurred so early in the 12th). His 14.8 YPR is 3rd for all TEs, and his 9.1 YPT is 4th. Heap's EPA is 4th in the NFL for TEs with 36.8.

Antonio Gates trails with 1.38 WPA, but blows away all the competition with his 61.6 EPA. Gates is a shallow-pattern mismatch, an enormous deep threat, a big red-zone threat, and well, he's just threatening all over the field, especially when he's nursing fewer than 10 simultaneous injuries. He averages 15.6 YPR, and 12.0 YPT, which is second only to Mike Wallace for all receivers.

Offensive Lines
New England's offensive line is the run-away number one line in the league with 2.39 -WPA. They allowed only 23 sacks (tied for 4th in the league), 39 QB Hits (2nd). Believe it or not, the Patriot line appears to be better run blockers than pass blockers with a 1.40 Run -WPA and a 0.99 -WPA.

Second best is the Indianapolis line with 1.78 -WPA. They allowed only 17 sacks (best in the league) and 42 QB hits (4th). They're also solid on both runs and passes, with 0.55 run -WPA and 1.23 pass-WPA.

Of course, lines and their skill position teammates, particularly the QBs, are highly dependent on one another. It's impossible to separate the performance of any single player or subset of players from the contributions of his teammates. With that said, those are the two lines that prevented the most damage from opposing front-sevens, and I'm sure it's no coincidence, in either direction, that their QBs will be going to the Hall of Fame.

National Football Conference

Mr. Clutch himself, Matt Ryan, takes the prize. His 4.47 WPA tops all QBs in the league. Like Flacco, Ryan's AYPA is relatively low at 5.2. Ryan has simply played his best when the chips were down. Nine of Ryan's 15 games were decided by less than one score, and he led the Falcons to wins in 7 of them. He benefited by perhaps the most miraculous play of the season when Roddy White chased down 49ers quarterback Nate Clements to force a fumble after a late-game interception thrown by Ryan. Had the fumble not occurred, the play would have gone down as a -0.30 WPA. As it stood, it allowed Ryan to pull off a game-winning FG drive, worth +0.65 WPA.

Drew Brees is the runner-up, right on the heels of Ryan with 4.37 WPA. One of Brees finer moments came against the Falcons, and ironically helped give Ryan another opportunity to pull off an improbable win. Brees led a +0.36 WPA drive in overtime that set up a 19-yard FG attempt, which was missed, allowing Ryan to take over and lead the game-winning drive.

Aaron Rodgers is a distant third with 3.64 WPA, but still tops all the AFC passers. Vick, the NFC starter for the Pro Bowl is fairly far down the list with 2.06 WPA. His recent couple of games have not been good. He only broke even in the miraculous comeback against the Giants because of the deep whole he dug for the Eagles in the first half. Considering he has 2 or 3 fewer starts than the other QBs, he's still only 10th in the league with 0.15 WPA per game.

Running Backs
LeSean McCoy takes the top spot with 1.39 WPA, far more than the next highest RB, Jones-Drew. But like Jones-Drew, a huge part of his WPA comes from a single play. McCoy notched 0.55 WPA on a 4th-down 50-yard TD run to take the lead late in the 4th quarter in Philadelphia's first win over the Giants. McCoy averages 5.2 YPC has 9 total TDs and is second in the league with 592 receiving yards. His SR is 4th in the NFL at 48.7%.

We need to glance down to the overall #9 RB in WPA to find the 2nd place NFC rusher. None other than Adrian Peterson will be backing up McCoy in the WPA Bowl. His 0.43 WPA is thanks to a number of solid plays, including a 0.31 WPA 26-yard pass in the waning moments against Green Bay on a 2nd and 16, a 0.20 WPA 30-yard run in overtime against Arizona, and an 80-yard TD run against Detroit. But Peterson has been unfortunate with some big negative plays, including a stop on a 3rd and goal from the 4 late in the game against Miami. The most notable thing about Peterson this year is...he has just one fumble.

Wide Receivers
Roddy White was the on the receiving end of Ryan's 4.47 WPA to the tune of 2.60 WPA, comprising almost 60% of Ryan's total, and possibly more. You might say that White is the real reason for Ryan's success. I've already mentioned White's best play, but that doesn't even count toward his official WPA, because the play was technically a setback. If you could parse apart each action of the play, his WPA would be even higher, and Ryan's much lower. No matter what, White has had a phenomenal season with 1,327 receiving yards, 9 TDs, 12.2 YPR, 7.8 YPT, 63.7% CR, and 1 game-saving forced fumble.

The Saints' duo of Lance Moore (1.84 WPA) and Marques Colston (1.77 WPA) rank 2nd and 3rd in the NFC. Moore has an incredibly high 0.66 EPA/P and 69.8% CR. His best play was a go-ahead TD reception with 2 minutes to play against Dallas worth 0.24 WPA.

Colston's biggest play was a 30-yard reception to put the Saint's in FG range for the winning kick in the final seconds of the game against San Francisco. He came on strong in the second half of the season, and has now totaled 1,022 yards with 12.2 YPR, 7.8 YPT, and a 64.1% CR.

Greg Jennings (1.36 WPA/62.4 EPA) and DeSean Jackson (1.73 WPA/53.2 EPA) get honorable mentions.

Tight Ends
With Heap injured the last few weeks, Vernon Davis has taken the top spot in the league with 1.58 WPA, and is second in EPA with 48.9. Davis' numbers are especially noteworthy because of the struggles of the rest of the San Francisco offense. Almost one in five 49ers passes go to Davis, which has helped him total 818 yards with 15.4 YPR and 9.4 YPT. Like Gates and Heap, he's also a deep threat and a mis-match problem for linebackers.

Chris Cooley and Tony Gonzalez tie for the second spot on the NFC All-WPA roster with 1.40 WPA. Gonzalez tops Cooley in EPA, 21.8 to 20.7, so sorry Chris, better luck next year. Cooley and Gonzalez are examples of the non-deep threat TE, each with less than 10% of their targets beyond 15 yards.

Offensive Lines
Surprisingly, the top offensive line in the NFC belongs to...Seattle? Yes, Seattle, with 1.48 -WPA. They've allowed 34 sacks, and 51 QB hits, both of which are about average. I suppose they've mostly been when the games were already decided, and the fact that they have a negative -EPA [no, that's not a double-negative] seems to corroborate this. Saint Louis' offensive line is 3rd in the NFC, so perhaps their NFC West schedules have been particularly soft against opposing front-sevens.

The second best line in the NFC belongs to the Giants with 1.33 -WPA. They allowed only 17 sacks (tied for best) and 43 QB Hits (tied for 5th). Strangely, they also have negative -EPA, so they too have over-performed when the chips are down.

Congratulations, gentlemen. I'll be sending out XXLs (and XXXLs for the linemen) unless I hear otherwise from you.

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12 Responses to “The 2010 All-WPA Teams - Offense”

  1. ubrab says:

    Colts and Pats OL ?? That's quite a proof that those OL metrics reflect more their QB ability than anything. Colts OL is horribly bad, and while the Pats one is top tier, Brady/offensive scheme helps it a lot with quick delivery and pocket awareness.

  2. Buzz says:

    I agree the colts OL is horribly bad, they can't run block at all and protect for one of the shortest periods of time as any line. That said the Pats OL is very good especially in the run game and has been for awhile - see the run success % over the last few years and the number of seconds that Brady consistently has to throw.

  3. Tarr says:

    The Colts O-line's ineptitude in run-blocking is manifest in their yards/carry totals, which have floated in the bottom three in the league for three seasons now, despite basically never seeing an eight man front.

    Sack totals have more to do with the QB than the line. Tennessee's O-line doesn't suddenly become better at pass blocking when Kerry Collins takes over for Vince Young.

  4. Ryan says:

    I would totally rock that hoodie. Not even kidding.

  5. Anonymous says:

    How to explain the Colt's 0.55 run-WPA if they are so inept? Perhaps they have had more chances to run out the clock successfully?

  6. Tarr says:

    You mean .37, but yes, it's obviously a function of context. The fact that they have a negative run EPA shows that they have gotten good results in some high-leverage situations, but have been poor overall.

  7. James says:

    Uh, why do 30 teams have stats for their offensive lines from the 2010 playoffs? Even if those were the numbers from the playoffs that were played in January at the beginning of 2010, there shouldn't be that many teams.

  8. Brian Burke says:

    Thanks. Bug. Should be fixed now.

  9. Brett says:

    The Colts O-line looks better than expected at run-blocking because they have a decent run SR despite poor YPC. Normally this might indicate that the O-line is good and the running backs are bad, but I think the Colts are an exception to this rule because of their unique system which often has Manning checking to run plays at the line of scrimmage based on the coverage shown by the defense. Because of this, they almost never run the ball against stacked fronts, and they will always run when they have an obvious scheme advantage in the box. For example, on one drive they caught the Giants playing nickel against their 2-TE package. When Peyton saw this, he ran hurry-up and did not allow the Giants to substitute the rest of the drive. They ran the ball 100% successfully on this scoring drive and probably 80% of that game. It makes the O-line look really good, but really it is all thanks to Peyton's tactics and/or lack of foresight by the opposing coaches.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is a really poor statistic. Essentially, if your team is really good i.e. NE Patriots, your WPA is lowered. Flacco benefits because his team forced him into close games. Whether you put up 7 points in a close game or leading 34-0 shouldn't matter.

  11. Unknown says:

    What is the best way to compare statistical ratings systems like these?

    I.e., you have Flacco #1; David Berri has him #19. Both of you have plausible approaches from regressions. As a non stats hound, how do I examine over time which one of your formulas performs best?

  12. Brian Burke says:

    Good question-

    A stat like WPA is sensitive to the score and time in a game. A long pass when a team is down by 4 with 2:00 to play would get far more weight than the same pass in the 3rd quarter when the QB's team is already ahead by 17 points.

    Stats like Yards per Attempt, or other efficiency stats such as Berri's do not factor in the score or time.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to the various stats. WPA is highly explanatory of past performance. Efficiency is more predictive of future performance.

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