Draft Needs According to 2010 EPA - Offense

Looking at each team's 2010 regular season EPA broken out by position might provide a decent starting point for identifying team needs. EPA (Expected Points Added) is a statistic that measures each play's change in team net scoring potential. Aggregating the EPA production for each team by position can suggest where teams need to be looking to upgrade or more depth.

For example, consider a team whose production from the offensive line, quarterback, running back, and tight end positions all rank somewhere in the top third of the league. But its wide receiver production ranks in the bottom third. It should be no secret where the team should look to improve.

Although it's doubtful the stats will tell us much we don't already know about team needs, they can confirm, underscore, or possible refute the common perceptions.

The table below lists each team's EPA rankings by position. Within each position, the top third of the league is shaded in green, and the bottom third is shaded in red. EPA stats for the QB, RB, TE, and WR positions are straightforward aggregations of each player's EPA by team. But offensive line EPA is measured indirectly, using the concept of -EPA. Each column is sortable.


There are any number of observations we can pull from this table. For example, looking at Baltimore, we see that they are healthy at the skill positions but are being held back by poor line play. That would confirm the consensus opinion--Flacco, Rice, Boldin, and Heap had solid years.

Cleveland's performance at the QB and WR positions last season were poor. And although obviously linked, the Browns appear strong at OL, RB and TE. They seem satisfied with McCoy's development, so they may be looking to upgrade at WR.

Denver needs a RB and a TE. Detroit needs a RB. Houston should probably be looking at defensive players only this year. Jacksonville needs to buttress its line, and should think twice about making a big offer to Marcedes Lewis.

New England could use a WR. New Orleans needs a RB. The Giants could improve at TE, as could the Jets. Oakland needs a WR. Philly needs help on the line. Washington needs help everywhere but at TE.

Admittedly, some of these numbers don't make sense in that they don't match popular perceptions of how good a player is supposed to be. For instance, is RB really the weak spot for the Titans? Obviously not, but strictly speaking, Chris Johnson did not have a very good year in 2010, and he was strategically overused.

What about the 'basket case' offenses--the squads with red shading all the way across or almost all the way across? ARI, BUF, CAR, CHI, MIN, SEA, and SF. Usually, when an entire team stinks, it starts with the line. Of the basket cases, only one has a halfway decent line. That's Arizona, and its troubles can be put squarely on the QB position. Otherwise, when a team is poor across the board, the place to start rebuilding is on the line. Besides, without halfway decent line play, we can't even get a good read on whether the skill players are any good, using statistical methods or otherwise.

The table doesn't account for injuries from last season, nor does it project free agent losses. And it's always important to acknowledge the shortcomings of individual stats in football. Still, last year's performance is never a bad starting point when looking at draft needs.

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11 Responses to “Draft Needs According to 2010 EPA - Offense”

  1. James says:

    This is great! When's the defensive article coming out?

    This is reassuring as a Cowboys fan, considering it's reasonable for QB and WR improvement with a healthy Romo and Bryant. However, it also seems that maybe the line wasn't as bad as everyone thought.

    At the same time, this makes Green Bay look even more terrifying going forward as they were top 5 in OL, QB, and WR, and yet they have Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley coming back next year!

  2. Willy says:

    What about defense? A good defense puts less pressure on its offense and vice versa (thus, why Houston is green across, but only because of the number of possessions they traded with their opponents, and why Chicago, which is mostly red across, was able to make it to the divisional round).

  3. Greetings says:

    I think there's a pretty close relationship in this chart between the EPA of the WR and the EPA of the QB. The bottom 1/3+1 of the league in QB EPA is the same team as the bottom 1/3+1 in WR EPA.

    I didn't notice as close a tie between RB and OL but that may have to do with the Passing parts of the EPA formula that affect OL much more than RB.

  4. Misfit says:

    Good stuff. And, to no surprise, the Seattle offense left a lot to be desired. Offensive line should be priority 1 or 2 along with QB.

    I can't wait for the defensive version of this. Though simple, it's fun to match perception with statistical reality.

  5. Giles says:

    Tampa is the big surprise to me. I thought their wins last year were mostly due to a soft schedule but maybe the team really does have some potential?

    As a Miami fan it makes for sad reading.

  6. Martin says:

    I like that you have made this chart, because it sheds some statistical light on something that's quite hard, but it has it's faults. Just look at IND. Is the OL really the 8th best? And is the RB's really in the bottom half of the league? I know that every stat has it's flaw (just look at ATL during the season), but any stat that has the Colts OL in the top 25 really needs some tweaking

  7. Brian Burke says:

    Martin-Thanks. I meant to address that point in the post. ONS may not have the 8h best OL, but Manning makes them play like the 8th best. In that way, OL is not a big need for them. Their particular composition makes other positions bigger needs.

    Tomorrow, we'll see that IND needs defense desperately. They dont have a defensive Manning to make everyone else look good.

    To put it another way, "appearing good" on this table means it's not a need.

  8. Brian Burke says:

    ONS should be IND.

    Struggling with my new Android touchscreen.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Brian, can one infer from this article that you disagree with the old NFL chestnut, "Draft the best player available, regardless of position"? And if so, have you written about that?

  10. Joseph says:

    "New Orleans needs a HEALTHY RB." There, fixed that for you.
    Seriously, when you're picking up at least 3 guys (Julius Jones, Ladell Betts, & DeShawn Wynn) that were street free agents who nobody else wanted, you're pretty bad off in the health department.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow...this absurd too...

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