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The Final NFL Player Rankings For 20082nd January, 2009 - 5:45 pm
By Christopher Reina
Another regular season is in the books, and while all the awards are being handed out, I like to invite people to remove the illusions of name, reputation, media market, etc. and examine my NFL Field Impact Counter.
There are only four positions on the football field where we can truly use statistics to rank a player?s performance in the same way we can for the other three major sports. Intangibles such as how a running back picks up the blitz or how well a wide receiver blocks for his downfield runners do not appear on stat sheets, and in order to get a truly objective statistical ranking, these elements are, unfortunately, overlooked.
But things such as yards per carry, first downs, fubmles, and many other variables are all taken into account in my formula for a single objective figure.
Players are ranked from highest to lowest by the total FIC for the season, not per game because players only give contribute to a team when they are playing.
Beside each player?s actual salary, we slide in raw cap value figures of the position, ranked top to bottom, which determines their ?deserved? salary.
The player who has the highest FIC receives the highest ?deserved? salary. The player with the second highest FIC receives the second highest salary. The player with the hundredth highest FIC receives the hundredth highest salary.
We then calculate the percentage increase or decrease from the actual and deserved and that figure becomes their Reina Value.
The Reina Value is a valuation system that quickly determines how players perform in relation to their contracts or, in the case of the NFL, their cap value.
To put the FIC into some context, here is a sampling of some extraordinary FIC seasons over the years:
- Marshall Faulk, 1999: 1,212 (1,381 rushing yards, 1,048 receiving yards, 87 receptions, 12 total TDs)
- Daunte Culpepper, 2004: 1,212 (39 passing TDs/4,557 passing yards/406 rushing yards)
- LaDainian Tomlinson, 2003: 1,167 (1,645 yards rushing, 725 yards receiving, 17 total TDs)
- Marvin Harrison, 2002: 1,151 (143 receptions, 1,722 yards, 11 TDs, 92 first downs)
- Priest Holmes, 2002: 1,150 (1,616 yards rushing, 672 yards receiving, 24 total TDs)
- LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006: 1,137 (31 total TDs, 1,815 rushing yards)
- Peyton Manning, 2004: 1,106 (49 passing TDs/4,557 passing yards)
- Barry Sanders, 1997: 1,032 (2,053 yards rushing, 14 total TDs)
Last season, Tom Brady was the NFL's leader with a mark of 1,203, followed by teammate Randy Moss and his mark of 1,034 and Brian Westbrook's 1,023.
Drew Brees, who was second amongst quarterbacks in 2007, was the NFL's top FIC earner with 1,088, an improvement of 77. He very nearly broke Dan Marino's single season yards mark, so his presence on the top of this list is certainly not a shock.
Andre Johnson was third overall and first amongst wide receivers with a mark of 1,017, which isn't too far off from Moss' 2007.
There was a huge drop, however, amongst the top running backs. Matt Forte narrowly edged DeAngelo Williams by six points with an FIC of 746. Forte benefited from having a great year as a receiver with 345 of the 746 points tallied through the air.
Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten finished first and second amongst tight ends for the second consecutive season.
The Associated Press MVP was Peyton Manning, and it is impossible to argue with that selection even through the prism of the FIC. Manning was sixth amongst quarterbacks, and although Brees possibly did more with an 8-8 Saints team that was 26th in points allowed compared to 7th for the Colts, it is difficult to defend a player from a team that doesn't qualify for the playoffs.
- The top-10 quarterbacks of 2007 were Brady, Brees, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jay Cutler.
Brady was injured in the first game of the season and therefore finished a ceremonious 60th.
We already covered Brees as the most statistically dominant player in football in 2008.
Romo missed three weeks due to the broken pinky and was also playing with a rib injury but finished 13th.
Manning finished 6th and was the MVP.
Favre dropped from fifth to 11th and ended the season much maligned in New York.
Palmer only played in four games.
Hasselbeck was limited to seven games due to injury and had a career worst 57.8 passer rating a year after turning in a mark of 91.4.
Anderson lost his job and his 82.5 passer rating dropped to 66.5.
Roethlisberger finished 17th and had a 15 TD drop and 24.1 passer rating decline.
Cutler, who was tenth in 2007, sharply climbed to second on this list and serves as a perfect segue to a new crop of quarterbacks. Cutler's efficiency was better in 2007, but with a slew of injuries to Denver's crop of running backs, they relied almost exclusively on their quarterback's arm, as I argued in my article called
The Not So Subtle Secret To How Denver Won And Loss In 2008.
After the Kurt Warner resurrection as number three is Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers at fourth and fifth. Rodgers had 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with the 6th best passer rating. Rivers led the NFL in passer rating with a mark of 105.5 and was tied with Brees for the lead in TD's with 34, despite just 11 interceptions.
Donovan McNabb played in all 16 games for the first time since 2003 and even though his passer rating was down to 86.4, that was largely due to a number of drops from a patchwork group of receivers, and he still managed to sneak the Eagles into the playoffs.
Matt Cassel replaced Tom Brady in Week 1 and helped lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record that has become controversial after they missed the playoffs. He had a passer rating of 100 or better in five of the seven final weeks of the season, taking full advantage of throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The only serious blight for his season came against Pittsburgh but was not helped by a Randy Moss drop that would have been a touchdown and the physicality of the Steelers knocked Cassel and the Patriots out of rhythm, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice.
David Garrard 9th in FIC and 20th in passer rating, with the discrepancy being largely due to his 322 yards on the ground as a rusher. He was sacked 42 times and for a mobile quarterback to hit the turf with that much frequency shows how porous Jacksonville's offensive line was.
Chad Pennington finished right ahead of Favre in the FIC and in the AFC East standings. Pennington had his best passer rating (97.4) since 2002 and threw eight touchdowns and just one interception while having a passer rating over 100 during Miami's final four games.
Favre had an 81.0 passer rating, which is clearly a big step back from 2007, but is still significantly better than his 2005 and 2006 seasons. The majority of his struggles were with the deep ball. He threw ten interceptions in just 57 attempts over 21 yards. Last season he was far more successful in those situations, with a passer rating in the high 80's.
Eli Manning was 16th and easily had the best season of his career, completing 60% of his passes and throwing twice as many TDs and interceptions, both for the first time in his career.
Kerry Collins, like Jake Delhomme, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, finished the season in the bottom half of the NFL in passer rating despite leading their teams to playoff berths. For Collins, he also helped the Titans secure homefield advantage in the AFC. He was sacked just eight times and threw just seven interceptions.
The 2008 season represented a down year for running backs on the high end, but not overall. There were 26 teams who averaged over 100 yards per game on the ground, compared to 20 in 2007. The median was 113.1 and more teams employed running back committee systems. There were 19 players who had over 500 as their FIC, compared to just 12 in 2007, so the wealth was clearly more evenly distributed.
Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson each were over 900 in FIC in 2007, but Forte had the high of 746 in 2008.
Forte had a very average 3.9 yards per carry, but he rushed for 1,238 yards and an additional 63 receptions for 477 yards as a receiver. Only Maurice Jones-Drew was more productive out of the backfield as a receiver.
DeAngelo Williams was just shy of Derrick Ward for the yards per carry lead (5.5) and he also led all rushers in TDs with 18, just barely eclipsing Michael Turner's 17. Williams rushed for 7.7 yards per carry in 33 attempts on 3rd down and also caught his two receiving TDs as well. The Jonathan Stewart selection was strange because Williams averaged five yards per carry in 2007 and appeared very poised for a breakout season once his carries increased.
Steve Slaton was a third round pick out of West Virginia in 2008 and quickly became Houston's most dangerous threat at running back. He rushed for 4.8 yards per carry, nine touchdowns on the ground and also caught 50 balls for 377 yards.
Peterson's 1,760 yards is nothing to scoff at, but his rookie season was superior on a few levels. His yards per carry average dipped from 5.6 to 4.8 and has wasn't nearly as effective out of the backfield as a receiver, going from 14.1 yards per reception to 6.0. But Peterson was the Vikings' workhorse and willed them to one-point victories and a playoff berth with his play against Green Bay and New York.
Jones-Drew still hasn't been able to duplicate the success he had on the ground as a rookie when he rushed for 941 yards on just 166 carries, but his 12 TDs and workmanlike 842 yards on 197 carries was a solid showing. His biggest value is out of the backfield and he had 565 yards and two TDs.
Turner burst onto the national scene as the lead back of the Falcons, rushing for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. The only thing he didn't do much of was be used as a receiver, but the Falcons have Jerious Norwood for that.
Portis was fourth in rushing yards, but averaged 46.8 yards per game over the final six weeks, compared to 118 per game through his first eight.
Tomlinson's yards per carry has declined from 5.2 in 2006 to 4.7 in 2007 and 3.8 in 2008, which puts him dead last amongst running backs who have had at least 100 attempts. He still did score 12 total touchdowns and finish 10th in rushing yards.
Chris Johnson was fourth in yards per carry and had 1,228 rushing yards while scoring nine touchdowns despite losing a fair amount to LenDale White.
Thomas Jones had his most efficient season since 2003 when he was still in Tampa Bay and increased his anomaly TD output of one from 2007 to 13.
Derrick Ward was the best running back on the Giants' roster in 2008, according to my FIC. He led the NFL in yards per carry with 5.6 and also caught 41 balls for 384 yards. He only had two touchdowns, but he is 10th amongst running backs because of that efficiency.
Westbrook's 2007 season is probably one of the most underappreciated in recent memory. In 2008 his yards per carry slipped to 4.0 and his receptions dropped from 90 to 54. He did, however, score 14 total touchdowns.
Barber's yards per carry dipped to 3.7 from 4.8, but he was much more valuable as a receiver. The injuries he battled late in the season clearly effected his ability to make plays.
Addai was limited to 12 games, but he went from fourth to 41st. He scored five touchdowns, but was limited to just 544 yards and 3.5 yards per carry.
Players who can be in the top-10 in 2008
- Pierre Thomas (21st): Thomas rushed for 4.8 yards per carry and also 9.2 yards per reception. I think the Saints will use him as their featured back with Reggie Bush playing exclusively in a hybrid role.
- Darren McFadden (36th): It was Forte, Slaton and Johnson who had the Peterson-like seasons, but he did have a very good 4.4 yards per carry and a more impressive 9.8 yards per reception. His place in the top-10 depends as much on the number of reps he shares with Justin Fargas as anything.
- Larry Johnson (39th): Johnson had a better yards per carry average in 2008 than he did when he rushed for 1,789 back in 2006. He hasn't been as effective out of the backfield, but I believe he still has one more healthy, dominant season in him if the Chiefs make just a couple of small tweaks.
Moss, Reggie Wayne and Chad Johnson were the three leading receivers in 2007, but in 2008 a whole new class took the stage.
Andre Johnson's season didn't receive the kind of fanfare Randy Moss' did last year, but it was nearly as impressive. He became the first player in NFL history with at least 10 catches in seven games in a season; the Texans were 6-1 in those games.
Fitzgerald had at least 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns for the third time in his five-year career.
Steve Smith, who was suspended for the first two games of 2008, was the only player to average better than 100 yards per game receiving.
There may not be a more underrated receiver in the game than Roddy White, who had 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns to follow-up his 2007 in which he had 1,202 yards.
Is there a player more on the cusp of dominance than Calvin Johnson? He led the NFL with 12 TDs despite playing for the 0-16 Lions. Johnson accounted for 42.9% of Detroit's 28 offensive touchdowns.
Jennings, the Western Michigan product, had over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Marshall had 104 catches and 18 of them came in his first game of 2008 against San Diego.
Like NFC South rival Roddy White, Antonio Bryant is one of the most frequently overlooked receivers in the game, though that is largely because of his frequent run ins with coaches and the law. He had 1,248 yards in 2008 to follow-up his 1009 in 2005 with Cleveland and 733 in 2006 with the 49ers.
Welker was one catch shy of the 112 he posted in 2007.
Tony Gonzalez led all tight ends again in 2008 in FIC, receptions, yards, first downs and touchdowns. He has had over 1,000 yards receiving in four seasons and over 900 in an additional five. It has truly been a historical career for Gonzalez, who was nearly traded to the Packers before the deadline.
Witten played hurt and was in the middle of the Dalls controversy, but he also had 952 yards and four touchdowns.
Clark caught six touchdowns and set a new career high in receptions (77) and yards (848).
Daniels had 862 yards and 70 receptions, which followed-up a 768 yard, 63 reception year in 2007.
Like Clark, Cooley set new career highs in receptions (83) and yards (849), though he scored just one touchdown after averaging 6.8 per season in his first four.
Gates had just 704 yards as Rivers became more comfortable with Vincent Jackson, but he did have eight touchdowns, the fifth straight year he has had at least that many.
Zach Miller was the best receiver on the Raiders (best receiver by 412 yards and 27 catches).
Christopher Reina is the executive editor of RealGM.com