Positional Value in the NFL

The other day Kevin Cole had a few interesting thoughts on MVP race as to why its so hard for a non-QB to win the award and he mentioned a few things on contract value to identify importance for perhaps a non-QB winner so I thought why not look to see just how the markets currently value each position by slicing the data a few ways.

First, I wanted to look at the overall spending in the NFL. This would include every contract in the league with the exception of practice squad players. Each group is ranked by average spent per player and I added a value index which is how many times more valuable the league sees the position than every other position.

PositionPlayersAvg/PlayerValue
QB89$8,443,0482.72
LT86$4,889,3411.49
EDGE188$4,327,1741.33
RT64$4,271,1171.29
WR220$3,443,4151.03
IDL199$3,398,9981.02
C68$3,217,7250.96
CB227$2,960,0830.87
G137$2,872,4890.85
S157$2,755,6410.81
TE135$2,578,7630.76
LB209$2,538,5900.74
RB139$2,327,7090.68
K37$2,289,4510.68
FB16$1,633,9580.49
P34$1,632,3140.48
LS33$992,1710.29

You can certainly see across the NFL how much value a QB brings. They are worth 2.72 times more than the average non-QB, compared to LT which is at 1.49. Interestingly enough left tackle was second which surprised me but it is a position with fewer players than along the defensive line and is also a bit more veteran friendly and I think one that trends to feature higher drafted rookies. Right tackle would be 4th while wide receiver comes in at 5.

What if we got rid of rookie contracts and SFAs from the mix?  It really does not change that much in terms of value, though obviously the salaries rise.

PositionPlayersAvg/PlayerValue
QB37$16,477,5052.09
LT29$10,949,1901.39
EDGE60$10,065,0041.28
WR54$9,912,3551.26
RT23$8,840,9421.12
IDL64$7,354,6500.93
CB58$7,126,2790.91
C25$6,737,8240.86
G41$6,649,1300.84
LB52$6,454,7120.82
S46$6,383,3300.81
TE32$6,286,0680.80
RB35$5,386,8100.68
K16$3,978,3230.51
P14$2,570,8170.33
FB6$2,536,3890.32
LS10$1,151,5000.15

Our top three remain the same while right tackle and wide receiver flipped. CB and LB also increased a bit but again not too much.

What if we limit the numbers to the top 10 players at each position?  This is a bit more indicative of what the NFL does and does not view as “most valuable” as it takes out a bit more of the impact of volume on the each position’s players.

PositionPlayersAvg/PlayerValue
QB10$36,400,0002.94
Edge10$21,688,6081.63
WR10$19,625,5001.46
LT10$18,517,7501.37
IDL10$18,450,0001.37
CB10$16,688,3331.23
LB10$15,528,5001.13
S10$14,295,0001.04
RT10$14,240,0001.03
G10$13,661,1000.99
RB10$12,311,4540.89
TE10$11,781,1790.85
C10$10,823,8100.77
K10$4,341,5670.30
P10$2,959,5600.20
FB10$2,154,3330.15
LS10$1,173,5830.08

Here we get what I think is considered the more traditional alignment of impact on a game. QB dominates with over $36M a year per player and a value that is 2.94 times more than the other positions. Edge jumps to number two with a spend of $21.7M per player and a 1.63X value. Wide receiver also increases to three with left tackle and the IDL basically being a tie at 4.

Right tackle takes a big high dropping from the top 5 to number 9. This is an increase from the past as they had been under guards but now are right in line with that position. Center also takes a major fall as teams do not pay up for centers at all and that has been a constant for years. Running back value increases which is a sign of a poor process by too many teams IMO. Its been beaten to death at this point but basically no running backs “beat the system” and there is really no reason for them to make a jump here other than being blinded by volume of attempts in a given year. I think the same can be said for the off the ball linebackers who have seen their salaries spike at the top. While they do not physically break down like a running back I think it is a bit strange to see teams put so much emphasis on top players when overall the team’s do see them as a less impactful position.

As for the MVP discussions I think it is very clear as to why QBs almost always win. Their value just skyrockets everyone else. Wide receivers and offensive lineman are probably considered somewhat dependent on the QB and it is going to be hard for pass rushers to make up the big gap in any given season to reach the same value level.

Running backs do occasionally win and I guess it shows the bias that exists for watching a player with the ball in their hands at the snap. Even on a top player basis the NFL teams value a left tackle, right tackle, and guard as more important than a running back. You would think that the perception in that case should be that the running back benefits greatly from those three positions the way that a receiver benefits from the QB. But I guess getting the ball at the snap and “leading the charge” blinds the voters the way some teams at the top get blinded when handing out massive contract extensions that turn into dead money in the blink of an eye.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC