The 2011 All-WPA Teams - NFC Offense

I actually care about stats.
This is the second installment of the 2011 All-WPA Teams. This time we'll look at the NFC offense. As I wrote in the intro for the AFC offense: Keep in mind what these stats measure. They 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 below to go to the full lists of players and their stats, and the links behind each player's name will take you to a game-by-game break down of their 2011 season.

With that, to the selections. Envelope, please. The 2011 WPA's go to... 

National Football Conference

Aaron Rodgers tops the NFC with 5.83 WPA. He's by far #1 in the league in EPA, which suggests a lot of his gaudy numbers have come when the game was already in hand. He's #3 in SR, and #1 in AYPA. Rodgers had a monster game against NYG, good for 0.94 WPA.

Drew Brees is second with 4.94 WPA in his record-breaking season. Brees is #2 in total EPA, #2 in SR, and #4 in AYPA. His most heroic game came against CAR in a 30-27 win.

Just like Tom Brady in AFC, Rodgers and Brees had their WPA numbers inflated thanks to their below average defenses, which gave them ample opportunities to match TD for TD.

Running Backs
Jonathan Stewart tops the NFC with 1.11 WPA. He's #5 in the league in both  total EPA and SR. His 5.1 YPC is tied for #8 in the NFL so far this season. Cam Newton gets all the attention for the CAR offense, but Stewart deserves his share of the credit. Stewart was consistently positive all season, with just two negative WPA games. His two biggest games of the season came against DET in a 49-35 loss and against JAX in a 16-10 win.

Darren Sproles is next with 0.83 total WPA. A lot of his success came from his receiving, as he is second only to Ray Race with 681 yards. Sproles, however, has been just as successful on the ground, destroying the competition with 7.0 YPC! A lot of that is due to how he's used--often on 3rd and longs, when it's not too hard to get yardage. He is also the runaway #1 in total EPA for all RBs. Sproles' biggest game was a 0.28 WPA performance against JAX.

Wide Receivers
Calvin Johnson tops the NFC with 2.63 WPA. He's #7 in total EPA but 15th in SR. this is due to his deep routes, double teams, and the fact that he's Stafford's target of last resort when everyone else appears covered. His 1.19 WPA performance in last week's 28-27 win over OAK not only won the game, it put DET in the playoffs for the first time in half a generation.

Victor Cruz is #2 in the NFC with 2.33 WPA. Cruz is #4 in EPA and tied for #9 in SR. He's #3 in YPT and absorbs 22% of all NYG targets. Amazing performance for an undrafted second-year player. Cruz had 4 huge games this season, each one a win--against NYJ, PHI, MIA, and NE.

Marques Colston repeats his appearance on the NFC All-WPA Team with 2.00 WPA, and that's just in 13 games. He's #3 in total EPA and #1 in SR. He's #9 in YPT and he tops the league in CR at 75.3%. Despite missing 2 games, this has been Colston's best season, which is fortunate for him as he hits free agency after the season.

Tight Ends
In what could be his final season, veteran Tony Gonzalez tops the NFC with 1.40 WPA. He's #5 in the league in total EPA and is #6 in SR. His Catch Rate is higher than it's ever been. Gonzalez is still playing at a high level, so maybe we'll see him again next season.

Jason Witten is right behind Gonzalez eith 1.34 WPA, which is second only to his 2007 season. His total EPA is#4 in the league and is tops for his career. Oddly, Witten is far down the list at #20 for SR, suggesting he's enjoyed more than his share of big plays.

Offensive Lines
Green Bay's offense tops the WPA list with 1.79. They're also #3 in EPA. Oddly, they're right in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed with 34, but better in terms of QB Hits with 53, good for 8th in the league. They're also middle of the pack in terms of tackles for losses allowed with 58. It's not all Aaron Rodgers making them look good. They've been just as successful running as passing. They're saving their worst for when the game is out of hand.

The NFC second most successful o-line belongs to NO with 1.61 WPA. They're also #1 in EPA, #4 in sacks allowed, QB Hits, and tackles for losses.

As I wrote last year: 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.

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

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3 Responses to “The 2011 All-WPA Teams - NFC Offense”

  1. Jonathan says:

    An XXXL ANS hoodie. What every NFL linesman dreams of.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm a big fan of the WPA and any attempt to calculate player value, but the obvious questions remain. If the best RB is only 1.xx WPA, then are all RBs essentially replaceable? Or does the "average" RB have a negative WPA? (In which case the null hypothesis may be that the formula isn't yet right). Also, how does Colston (who I admire) compute to 2.00 WPA and Jimmy Graham have less than 1.35?


  3. Brian Burke says:

    Micah-Good questions.

    WPA doesn't know what kind of play is happening. It only knows the start and end game-state of each play. It's not that WPA is perfect. It's certainly not. But we can say that there is no bias in terms of RB plays vs QB/WR plays. And yes, the average RB play is negative in terms of both EPA and WPA. Teams just run too often.

    Graham's production has mostly come in non-critical situations. Nothing against him. He's awesome. It's just that Colston happened to be the guy in the clutch.

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