Once upon a time I saw OneRepublic in concert. I've only been to a handful of concerts in my life (true story... my first one ever was Taylor Swift in 2011), so you know I dug it.
Among the many different tracks that OneRepublic puts together is crowd-favorite "Good Life". It's a sweet tune that actually has a spot on my writing playlist, so that makes things really convenient and meta today, doesn't it?
Ryan Tedder tells us that he woke up in London yesterday, blah blah blah. He says he got some new names and numbers that he doesn't know, and addresses to places like Abbey Road.
Now I don't know if Tedder meant the B507 or the seminole album by The Beatles, but on his way to Abbey Road if he was digesting those "numbers that he doesn't know" he might have been talking about Price Per Yard.
After a week away from Inside The Star I couldn't wait to get back to my keyboard and start cranking out some quality and high-octane content for you guys once again. As has been the Monday tradition for the past month, I'm starting with the numbers that I do know - Price Per Yard.
The PPY metric and I have become quite close over the last few months. I spent a large amount of time building excel spreadsheets and crunching numbers, and I dropped some of that analysis here at Inside The Star:
There are two more pieces left to this PPY pie (Pies Per Yard would be an incredible analysis as well...). There's today, hey hi there welcome to this article you're already 250+ words into, and next Monday. Today is a summary of the past three seasons and what trends we've seen, and seven days from now will be a Price Per Yard projection into the 2016 season.
Shall we? Or shall we? I think we shall.
Price Per Yard: The Base Value
It's important before we get started that you understand a key element in the PPY puzzle - The Base Value.
By now you are well familiar with the methodology that went into PPY (it can be found in the introductory link), and you are likely familiar with the notion that base values need to be used in order to discern who is truly great at this game.
I'm shaking things up a bit (by the way I consumed about 18 milkshakes in the time it took to fully complete the PPY analysis) and giving you the base value calculation to kick things off. I'm so nice, aren't I? You're really nice, RJ. Thanks man.
2013-2015 Price Per Yard: A Look At The Entire NFL
**Click the image to zoom in
Well well well, that's a lot of colors.
You'll notice right away that the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams all have asterisks next to their names. This is because
they don't matter there isn't data available for all three seasons analyzed for these specific teams. For all intents and purposes we're purging them from this exercise (by the way that purge movie looks terrifying... I had to step away from this article for a second to calm down after thinking about it).
There are three teams that we need to discuss here as they seem to be the best ones in this realm over the course of the last three seasons.
- Running Back Spending = $9,775,156
- Offensive Line Spending = $75,132,328
- Run Game Spending = $84,907,484
- Team Rushing Attempts = 1,200
- Team Rushing Yards = 5,233
- Price Per Yard = $16,225.39
- % Diff From RY BV = 4.41%
- % Diff From PPY BV = -8.81%
The World Champions, in my estimation, earn the bronze medal when it comes to the three-season summarized Price Per Yard. This might seem perplexing as from 2013-2015 the Orange Crush are the only team to be spending less than the BV per yard AND out-gaining the BV in overall rushing yards.
Over the course of Price Per Yard I've fielded the question "Well what does this mean in the grand scheme of football?" many times. Simply being good at PPY, obviously, doesn't guarantee anything. It's just math. Numbers. Data.
The reason PPY is important is because of the value that it represents and the freedom that it allows. If Team A is having success in one avenue of their team at a reduced rate, it means that they can devote the funds that they're not spending to an area where they need them.
The Broncos personify this quality more than any other team. Due to the value they've had at the run game over the last three seasons they've been able to make huge investments on the other side of the ball in players like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward. Those three served as the foundation for one of the greatest defenses we've ever seen, and one that secured Super Bowl 50 for Denver.
The New England Patriots
- Running Back Spending = $10,647,054
- Offensive Line Spending = $59,946,124
- Run Game Spending = $70,593,178
- Team Rushing Attempts = 1,126
- Team Rushing Yards = 4,825
- Price Per Yard = $14,630.71
- % Diff From RY BV = -3.73%
- % Diff From PPY BV = -17.78%
The ultimate Price Per Yard bridesmaid is the team that has won more games this century than any other, so I think that's a fair trade off.
In 2014 the Pats made what one could argue, I won't, one of the biggest Free Agent Signings in NFL History when they secured the services of Darrelle Revis for one season. Why one of the biggest? Just check that ring on their finger, boss.
Revis served as the linchpin for the 2014 Patriots Defense and leader of their secondary, you know the one that featured Malcolm Butler who you've probably never heard of. Renting Revis indisputably helped New England get over the ten-year hump that had plagued them since their previous Super Bowl Championship in the 2004 season.
How was New England even able to afford Revis, though? That's where Price Per Yard comes into play. Over the last three seasons the Patriots have spent 17.78% less than the BV per yard. Sure, they've gained 3.73% less yards than the BV, but that's a minimal number when you consider the savings they've had and the benefit that it's provided - you know, winning Super Bowl XLIX. Small little benefit, right there.
The Dallas Cowboys
- Running Back Spending = $8,236,678
- Offensive Line Spending = $57,862,006
- Run Game Spending = $66,098,684
- Team Rushing Attempts = 1,058
- Team Rushing Yards = 4,929
- Price Per Yard = $13,410.16
- % Diff From RY BV = -1.66%
- % Diff From PPY BV = -24.64%
The qualifier for "How is Price Per Yard useful to an NFL team?" is obviously a Super Bowl title. The first two teams we've named here comprise 66% of the last three so they've obviously got their ducks in a row in that avenue.
The team I believe to be the best at Price Per Yard over the last three seasons only has one playoff win, no Lombardi Trophies, to show for their success. The facts of the matter are that the facts numerically suggest this.
Dallas has spent a staggering 24.64% less than the BV per yard, and managed to only fall 1.66% below the RY BV. You need to understand how mathematically incredible this is.
Let's look at the Run Game Spending. Among teams we have complete data for (so excluding GB, CLE, STL/LA) only the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers devoted less money to their overall run game. Those teams have 4,073 and 4,223 yards respectively while Dallas has 4,929 (6th in the NFL in this span).
It could be argued that the Cowboys spent 2013 understanding Price Per Yard, 2014 mastering it, and 2015 fell apart in more ways than one. Where they deserve criticism, I know I've handed out a ton, is in that they haven't devoted the resources they've saved via Price Per Yard to areas where they need them like the Broncos and Patriots have.
The important thing to remember about Price Per Yard is that there is no indisputable winner. All we can do is make our own observations based on the data at hand.
Next week, August 1st, I'll be launching the final installment in my Price Per Yard series by using what we know about 2016 from a financial perspective to predict and project what teams need this season in order to have equal, or great, returns on their investments.
If you have any comments or questions about Price Per Yard, the philosophy behind it, the formula that went into it, or just simply want to talk and/or debate it… you can comment below, email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018
Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.
Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.
Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.
Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit
The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.
When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.
Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.
What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.
Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.
Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together
Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.
With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.
Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.
Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.
Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay
Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.
Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.
Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.
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