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.
Sean’s Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory’s Impact on Cowboys Defense
The Dallas Cowboys report to training camp next week, and for the first time in a long time there may be more excitement for their defense compared to a largely reshuffled offense. This hype for Rod Marinelli's defense, bolstered by the addition of Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, was elevated earlier in the week when the Cowboys learned Defensive End Randy Gregory would be reinstated.
Gregory's presence as a potential starting right defensive end is an uplifting one for the Cowboys as they depart for Oxnard. Above all else, this is a rare turn of fortunes for a player the NFL can now tote as a success story.
Once Gregory's focus shifts towards taking hold of that starting DE position for good and giving the Cowboys a pass rush of him and DeMarcus Lawrence off the edge, his impact could change the entire complexion of this defense.
After watching Gregory's last game for Dallas, a week 16 win in Philadelphia back in 2016, here is what I saw from the Cowboys "Christmas in July" addition to their defensive line.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This first clip is probably Gregory's most memorable play through three seasons with the Cowboys. Two teams going in opposite directions since this game, the Cowboys have cycled through their rotation of pass rushers to play the weak side -- with nobody coming close to the athleticism and bend Gregory displays here.
Already planning on attacking the offensive tackle to the outside with his long arm approach, Gregory regains his balance avoiding the low block to get even with Carson Wentz and finish the play. This type of relentlessness is a signature of the Cowboys defense under Marinelli, now fielding a deep group of defensive ends around Gregory and Lawrence.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Just how much Gregory comes off the field for the likes of Tyrone Crawford, rookie Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper, or Taco Charlton will be determined by his ability to hold up against the run. This was a strength for Gregory against the Eagles, as his cornering ability helped him chase down plays all over the field.
It's hard to understate just how important Gregory's speed and range from this RDE spot could mean to the Cowboys, especially given their changes at linebacker for the 2018 season.
This is a team that's also added plenty of range to the second level of their defense with rookie Leighton Vander Esch and another year of Jaylon Smith.
These linebacker's ability to shoot gaps and be disruptive in the backfield will be aided by the depth Gregory is capable of gaining with ease against left tackles.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Gregory does have a tendency to play upright at times and offer a larger blocking area than needed. As you see above, this can help him as an all-around player, as chasing down the run to the outside comes easy for him.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength at defensive tackle to start the season, with David Irving suspended for the first four games again. Maliek Collins is also coming back from another broken foot, as him and Gregory will be important to watch progress through training camp.
The overall potential for a Cowboys defensive line featuring all three of these players, and the rotational pieces behind them, is incredibly high for a team just looking to get back to their roots this season.
For the Cowboys in 2018, this means running the ball effectively, limiting turnovers on offense, and protecting the lead on defense. Randy Gregory significantly helps the Cowboys do the latter here, improving an already fearsome pass rush in ways that few players are capable of.
This is ultimately why the first-round talent fell to the second round for the Cowboys, who took the risk on Gregory and are now on the long path back towards seeing this gamble pay off, something a very thankful Gregory must see through on the field.
Why Patience Is Key In Evaluating Randy Gregory
The Cowboys were fully aware of the risks involved when they drafted prolific edge rusher Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
They were also well aware of the potential rewards too.
Gregory has spent much of his NFL career away from the Dallas Cowboys, dealing with suspension after suspension and rarely playing actual football. Now, Randy Gregory has gained reinstatement into the league, and all signs point to positivity around his future.
As expected, both the Cowboys and their fan base are excited about the return of Gregory to the roster. And, of course, they should be. Gregory possesses all the traits necessary to be a top tier pass rusher in the NFL, even if we haven't seen it on full display thus far.
At his best Gregory is the prototypical RDE that Cowboys Nation has been yearning for. But it's probably unfair for him to reach that potential as early as this season. Pass rushers coming off suspensions, particularly lengthy suspensions, are rarely able to find their way quickly after returning.
And if you want proof of this, you only have to look across the way at DeMarcus Lawrence. After a strong 8 sack 2015 season, Lawrence was suspended the first four games of 2016. Once he returned, Lawrence battled injuries all season and only appeared in 9 games. Over those 9 games Lawrence tallied just 1 sack and made a minimal impact.
The next season, though? DeMarcus Lawrence was back to playing fully healthy and engaged, en route to a team leading 14.5 sacks and the best overall season of his career.
Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are different players, and this is obviously a different situation, but the need for patience remains the same. To expect Gregory to be a dominant pass rusher in 2018 is more-than-lofty, as he deserves time to work back into playing shape and perfect his craft off the edge.
Unlike Lawrence, Gregory will have a full offseason and 16 game slate ahead of him. Plus, we haven't heard of any lingering injuries affecting Gregory going forward.
So while we may need to temper expectations at least a little bit, I still expect Randy Gregory to become the RDE we all hoped he could be with time.
How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?
There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.
Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.
Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.
With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?
To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.
Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.
Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.
In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.
Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?
Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.
The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.
Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.
If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?
We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.
But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.
Once again, at least it is for now.
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