MVP Watch: The Final Results

Some races were closer than others, but we finally have our winners.

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 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.

For the last time this season, take a look below.

The Final Top-5 NEP Performers By Position

Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Season Passing NEP: 278.52
NEP per pass: 0.41

This award has belonged to Peyton since Week 12, if not sooner. It was really just a matter of how much he would win by. He will certainly win the actual MVP award with the way he finished the season, too.

In the past two weeks, Manning increased his Passing Net Expected Points (PNEP) by nearly 42 points, a total only 13 other quarterbacks exceeded this year. He also beat the next closest quarterback, Drew Brees by 103 points (6.44 points per game). Manning did it all, setting records for passing yards in a season, passing touchdowns in a season and our own Passing NEP in a season – and that was all in 15.5 games.

In addition, Manning contributed 0.41 points per pass, the highest efficiency in the league. The next closest? Josh McCown – and he only started five games. For some comparison, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers both had sub-0.30 points per pass. It may be a long time until anyone reaches Peyton’s record-setting numbers again – unless he does it himself next year.

Better Luck Next Year
2. Drew Brees: 175.57 Pass NEP, 0.26 per pass
3. Philip Rivers: 162.80 Pass NEP, 0.28 per pass
4. Russell Wilson: 74.66 Pass NEP, 0.17 per pass
5. Tony Romo: 70.70 Pass NEP, 0.12 per pass

Running Backs: LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Season Rush NEP: 37.12
NEP per rush: 0.12

Despite strong showings in Weeks 14 and 15, DeMarco Murray couldn’t soar with Eagles, as McCoy won this year’s running back MVP award by a decent margin (in addition to leading the league in rushing yards). Remember, our award factored in just rushing metrics, not receiving.

After Week 13, McCoy and Murray were starting to separate themselves from the pack. Murray’s arrow seemed to be pointing up, but McCoy swooped in and stole the award as he also led the Eagles to the NFC East division title. How did McCoy win the award? Volume plus efficiency.

Shady was one of only two different backs to carry the ball over 300 times this year. The other was Marshawn Lynch (4.81 Rush NEP), who didn’t crack the top-five standings all year.

It was more than just volume for McCoy. Among running backs with at least 200 carries, he also had the best efficiency mark at 0.12 expected points per rush. Murray’s efficiency slipped over the last two games, but he was still right behind McCoy in that respect. McCoy also had the best Success Rate among back with at least 200 carries at 51.3%, meaning he turned over half of his carries into positive NEP gains, which is incredibly impressive for a running back, let alone one with such high volume.

Better Luck Next Year
2. DeMarco Murray: 21.42 Rush NEP, 0.10 per rush
3. Knowshon Moreno: 17.37 Rush NEP, 0.07 per rush
4. Jamaal Charles: 13.93 Rush NEP, 0.05 per rush
5. Fred Jackson: 13.90 Rush NEP, 0.07 per rush

Wide Receivers: Anquan Boldin – San Francisco 49ers
Season Target NEP: 88.76
Reception NEP per target: 0.93

The first thing to keep in mind with these metrics is that 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.

By grabbing nine receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown against his former team, Boldin kept the top spot among qualifying receivers and is going home as the 2013 numberFire receiver MVP.

Boldin isn’t the flashiest receiver out there and is fairly quiet. He helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2012 and came to San Francisco where the 49ers were hoping he was the missing piece. After a great Week 1 showing, he faded for a few games while team had to re-focus on the run game and get Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree healthy. Apparently it worked, as Boldin received less attention from defenses and more attention from Colin Kaepernick. I stated two weeks ago Boldin needed to maintain his Success Rate to win this award; of the 15 passes he caught in weeks 16 and 17, only two weren't turned into a positive NEP gain.

Better Luck Next Year
2. Demaryius Thomas: 83.02 Target NEP, 0.92 Reception NEP per Target
3. DeSean Jackson: 76.87 Target NEP, 0.87 Reception NEP per Target
4. Josh Gordon: 70.43 Target NEP, 0.87 Reception NEP per Target
5. Antonio Brown: 70.15 Target NEP, 0.72 Reception NEP per Target

Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints
Season Target NEP: 56.74
Reception NEP per target: 0.84

Of all the skill positions, the tight end race was the closest, but there will not be any recounts. Coming in at 0.58 Target Net Expected Points ahead of Julius Thomas was who we all expected: Jimmy Graham.

While Graham didn’t catch a pass in a game earlier in the season, he didn't miss any contests. Orange Julius gave his best effort though contributing 7.24 points on all targets over his last two games compared to Graham’s 4.72 points. While Graham wasn’t the most efficient tight end in the game this year (that was Vernon Davis), he did have the highest Success Rate of the top tight ends (90.7%), keeping him at the top since Week 9, never looking back.

Better Luck Next Year
2. Julius Thomas: 56.16 Target NEP, 0.87 Reception NEP per target
3. Tony Gonzalez: 53.91 Target NEP, 0.73 Reception NEP per target
4. Vernon Davis: 47.62 Target NEP, 0.91 Reception NEP per target
5. Jason Witten: 44.46 Target NEP, 0.70 Reception NEP per target