FanPost

Relative values to improvement

The Cowboys drafted the highest rated cornerback in the 2012 NFL Draft. While the Dallas secondary was abysmal down the stretch (http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2012/2/6/2776418/did-the-2011-cowboys-secondary-have-too-many-turkeys), the play of the offensive line was also distasteful. Upon the conclusion of the season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) only Tyron Smith ended up with a positive grade among the starting offensive linemen.

Of course, Tyron Smith was the first player taken by the Cowboys in the 2011 NFL Draft. According to many football guys, media members, and fans, there are four keystone positions in the NFL:

1. Quarterback

2. Pass rusher

3. Cornerback

4. Offensive tackle (on the quarterback's blindside)

One more position should be added to that list (please grant me a moment to explain why):

5. Wide receiver

The value of a top notch quarterback is obvious to even the most casual of football fans. Pass rushers (which include defensive ends and outside linebackers playing in a 3-4 scheme) and cornerbacks are valued far more than guards, running backs, tight ends, defensive tackles, linebackers, and safeties (also special teams players). There could be several reasons why (http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2012/2/24/2822132/is-adding-a-defensive-lineman-and-a-ball-hawking-defender-the-key-to), but looking at the average salary for the top players at their respective positions offers some perspective:

Position group

Franchise value

Percentage of total

Quarterback

$ 14.436

15.508%

Defensive end

$ 10.605

11.392%

Cornerback

$ 10.281

11.044%

Wide receiver

$ 9.515

10.221%

Offensive line

$ 9.383

10.079%

Linebacker

$ 8.856

9.513%

Defensive tackle

$ 7.960

8.551%

Running back

$ 7.742

8.317%

Safety

$ 6.212

6.673%

Tight end

$ 5.446

5.850%

Kicker / Punter

$ 2.654

2.851%

Consider that the top two salaries among offensive guards is less than $9 million, and the value of the offensive tackles can be teased out from the offensive line franchise value. Surprisingly, the value of a great wide receiver has risen to the level of the other cornerstone positions. When factoring the increasing importance of a great passing game in the modern NFL, however, this should not come as a surprise.

Remember that the individuals that own these 32 NFL teams did not achieve their social and financial status through good fortune (unless they won the genetic lottery and are the son of a billionaire), so to speak. These are shrewd businessmen that do not make a habit of overpaying for anything. They hire people that do not overpay for players, or those employees (General Managers) get fired. So the table above should accurately reflect the relative value of each position to the overall composition of the team.

Here is how the (cough) World Cham...I just can't write it. Here are the top players at the respective positions for the New York Giants:

Position

Player

Relative value to the team

Quarterback

Eli Manning

15.508%

Defensive end

Jason Pierre -Paul

11.392%

Cornerback

Aaron Ross

11.044%

Wide receiver

Hakeem Nicks

10.221%

Offensive line

David Diehl

10.079%

Linebacker

Michael Boley

9.513%

Defensive tackle

Chris Canty

8.551%

Running back

Ahmad Bradshaw

8.317%

Safety

Antrel Rolle

6.673%

Tight end

Jake Ballard

5.850%

Kicker / Punter

Lawrence Tynes

2.851%

In order to reflect the relative importance of a pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware is categorized as a defensive end. Now look at the Cowboys:

Position

Player

Relative value to the team

Quarterback

Tony Romo

15.508%

Defensive end

DeMarcus Ware

11.392%

Cornerback

Morris Claiborne

11.044%

Wide receiver

Miles Austin

10.221%

Offensive line

Tyron Smith

10.079%

Linebacker

Sean Lee

9.513%

Defensive tackle

Jay Ratliff

8.551%

Running back

DeMarco Murray

8.317%

Safety

Gerald Sensabaugh

6.673%

Tight end

Jason Witten

5.850%

Kicker / Punter

Dan Bailey

2.851%

This suggests that an oft-injured Terrence Newman and a highly inconsistent Mike Jenkins were huge factors in why the Cowboys struggled from the second half of the game at Washington through the conclusion of the season. Getting below average play from Doug Free in 2011 also had deleterious effects on the season.

The relative contributions of Sean Lee, Jay Ratliff, DeMarco Murray, and Jason Witten were minimized due to the positions they play. On the other hand, the poor play from Phil Costa, Bill Nagy, and Kyle Kosier did not have the same negative impact that the poor play from Terrence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins had upon the Cowboys.

This makes the move up to draft Morris Claiborne all that more impressive. While David DeCastro would have improved the play of the offensive line, his relative value to the team is low.

It could be argued that the level of play of the complementary pass rusher (Anthony Spencer), the other starting cornerback (Jenkins or Newman), and the second wide receiver (Dez Bryant), has a greater impact than the play of Phil Costa or Bill Nagy. It makes sense when analyzing those positions for the Giants:

Position

Player

Relative value to the team

2nd Pass rusher

Justin Tuck

?

2nd Cornerback

Corey Webster

?

2nd Wide receiver

Victor Cruz

?

Regardless, the Cowboys look much better this season thanks to the addition of Carr and the possibilities Adrian Hamilton and Kyle Wilber present:

Position

Player

Relative value to the team

2nd Pass rusher

Anthony Spencer

?

2nd Cornerback

Brandon Carr

?

2nd Wide receiver

Dez Bryant

?

Will it lead to post season success?

Tune in on September 5th.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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