While other sites and analyses may look at standard statistics like yards per carry and completion percentages to determine the best player in the league - the MVP - we like to dig a little deeper here at numberFire. We like to use our favorite metric, Net Expected Points (NEP), and the various types, depending on the position.
Since common numbers such as yards, completions and touchdowns don't tell the whole story about a player, we can use NEP to truly see who's separating themselves from the pack. We can find the players who actually are contributing the most points for their respective teams, dubbing them the most valuable in the league.
Because this advanced metric alters tremendously depending on the position being analyzed, we'll look at each of the skill positions - not all of them as one group - individually through the first 10 weeks of the season to determine the most valuable player at each position. You will see higher NEP values for quarterbacks and receivers than for running backs due to the nature of their production.
Take a look below.
Top-5 NEP Performers by Position Through Week 11
Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Season Passing NEP: 182.81
NEP per pass: 0.43
Last week: #1
It’s Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers all alone at the top. It’s amazing what a hot start can do for a player like Rivers; unfortunately, things don't get easy for him over the next three weeks as he gets to face the Chiefs, Bengals, and Giants, teams that aren't bad at defending the pass.
Manning and Brees had marginal gains from last week to this one, but did well considering they both were facing a top ten defense. Brees has a great opportunity to make up some ground against the worst defense in the league this week. The last time he faced Atlanta, he contributed 15 points more than an average quarterback would have in his position.
Wave goodbye to Aaron Rodgers from this list, Packers fans. Even if he hadn’t gotten injured, I don’t think he would have gotten above the three spot here. Enter Russell Wilson, someone I mentioned last week, into top-five quarterback discussions.
Playing Catch Up
2. Drew Brees: 130.04 Passing NEP, 0.30 per pass (last week: #2)
3. Philip Rivers: 104.45 Passing NEP, 0.28 per pass (last week: #3)
4. Matthew Stafford: 71.59 Passing NEP, 0.17 per pass (last week: #5)
5. Russell Wilson: 57.43 Passing NEP, 0.19 per pass (last week: NR)
Running Backs: LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Season Rushing NEP: 15.24
NEP per rush: 0.07
Last week: #3
Knowshon no more - there's one less Bronco leading the charge.
As mentioned last week, it shouldn’t be a surprise if we see McCoy rise to the top, though I thought Moreno would be better than his -4.93 Rush NEP showing against the Chiefs on Sunday. Now, because of that poor performance, Moreno has a good shot at falling out of the top five with the Chiefs on the docket again in Week 13. If he does, look for Matt Forte to find is way back to the top five.
McCoy's Success Rate is nearly 50%, meaning about every other rushing attempt he has, he is making a positive contribution on the field for himself and the team. His rate has kept on an upward trend this year, and it’s showing in this ranking as well as in the win column for his team. McCoy has this week off, but when he’s back, he shouldn’t have a problem taking home the numberFire runnnig back MVP award this year. His only hurdle: an underrated Cardinals defense. Good thing he has two weeks to prepare for that game.
Playing Catch Up
2. Alfred Morris: 13.05 Rushing NEP, 0.07 per rush (last week: #2)
3. DeMarco Murray: 11.42 Rushing NEP, 0.10 per rush (last week: #4)
4. Knowshon Moreno: 9.42 Rushing NEP, 0.06 per rush (last week: #1)
5. Fred Jackson: 7.51 Rushing NEP; 0.05 per rush (last week: #5)
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson - Philadelphia Eagles
Season Target NEP: 59.44
Reception NEP per target: 0.90
Last week: #1
Don’t forget: Target NEP shows how many points a receiver is adding for his team on all targets, whereas Reception NEP looks at receptions only. The Reception NEP per target, in essence, shows us efficiency.
DeSean and Demaryius still lead the way for receivers this week. Jackson didn’t seem to be affected as much as others (like Riley Cooper) when Foles came back down to Earth against the Redskins last week, and continues to lead the way.
Thomas, considering the Broncos opponent (Kansas City), had a very respectable 3.5-point increase in Target NEP last week. Even if that happens again in Week 13 against KC, DT should have no problem staying at the top of the receiver ladder. When DeSean is back from the bye week (and through Week 13 as well), don’t be surprised to see these two separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Both have the potential to put up monster numbers with the rest of their schedule.
Antonio Brown got the biggest boost this past week, as he beasted against Detroit in Pittsburgh. He added 12 points to his Target NEP with two touchdowns on 147 yards. His Success Rate indicates he could stay in the top five for the rest of the year, but with four tough divisional games left, game flow could really dictate what kind of looks he gets.
Playing Catch Up
2. Demaryius Thomas: 48.34 Target NEP, 0.89 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
3. Antonio Brown: 47.51 Target NEP, 0.76 Reception NEP per target (last week: NR)
4. Jordy Nelson: 43.51 Target NEP, 0.95 Reception NEP per target (last week: #4)
5. Calvin Johnson: 42.22 Target NEP, 0.97 Reception NEP per target (last week: NR)
Tight Ends: Julius Thomas - Denver Broncos
Season Target NEP: 50.21
NEP per target: 1.02
Last week: #2
Last week I wrote that this award was Jimmy Graham’s to lose. Well, after another touchdown (10 on the season) for Thomas, we have a different number one in the tight end rankings.
Both Graham and Thomas had tough matchups, but Orange Julius reclaimed the top spot. But he's now facing injury issues – at the time of this writing, he has yet to practice this week. Can Graham take advantage if Thomas misses time? He will have to since he faces a top-10 defense (based on adjusted strength of schedule) in three of his next five games.
Thomas isn’t the only one facing injury issues; Jordan Reed is going through concussion protocol with the league right now after suffering one against the Eagles. If he can’t suit up, it could open the door for Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, or even Vernon Davis to move up the ranks. Considering the current injuries and Jimmy Graham’s rest of season schedule, this race could just be getting started.
Playing Catch Up
2. Jimmy Graham: 48.06 Target NEP, 0.90 Reception NEP per target (last week: #1)
3. Jordan Reed: 40.27 Target NEP, 0.95 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
4. Tony Gonzalez: 34.31 Target NEP, 0.75 Reception NEP per target (last week: #5)
5. Jason Witten: 30.93 Target NEP, 0.70 Reception NEP per target (last week: NR)