MVP Watch: The NFL's Top Positional Performers (Week 10)

The Falcon has landed once again - Matt Ryan returns to the top of our list.

Most other places use common metrics to tell you who the best player in the NFL is. We're better than that. In order to determine who the best player in the NFL is, we ask one simple question: who gains their team the most points? And to find out, numberFire likes to use a number called Net Expected Points. In a past top performers article, I gave this explanation for NEP:

Every single situation on the football field has an expected point value; that is, how many points an average team would be expected to score in that situation. For example, the Chiefs may be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a third and two on the 50 yard line. That's a ton of variables, but luckily, numberFire has data from the past dozen years of every single play, so most situations have come up at least once. According to our data, an average team may be "expected" to score 1.23 (estimated number) points on that drive. However, Jamaal Charles reels off a 32-yard run to bring the Chiefs into the red zone, increasing the "expected" point value of the next play to 4.23 (still an estimated number) points. Jamaal Charles then gets credit for the difference, in this case 2.96 points, as his NEP total. That's Net Expected Points.

Since passing is often more efficient than running the ball, you'll often see running backs with negative NEP per play scores, meaning that they are losing their team expected points every time they touch the ball. Receivers and tight ends, meanwhile, will usually have high, positive NEP per play scores, since receivers don't touch the ball unless it's a high-yardage completion. Quarterbacks can be in the middle, either positive or negative: completions typically help their score, while incompletions lower it. So when you're looking at NEP, it's important to look at the numbers based on position.

And when you take a look at what the NEP numbers give us this week, we put a new, but familiar, name at the top.

Top NFL Performances by NEP Through Week 9

Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons
Season Total NEP: 107.83
NEP per Pass: 0.32
Last Week: #4

After four weeks of a revolving door, with Brees, Brady, Roethlisberger, and Rodgers each taking a turn at the top of the list, the Champion from Weeks 1 through 5 has returned to take over the crown. Ryan singlehandedly gained the Falcons over 17 NEP of value this past week, and Atlanta needed every single one to take down the Cowboys by six.

Ryan might not want to get too comfy, though. Brady faces a weak Buffalo secondary this week, and Brees will have the opportunity to outduel the current master himself Afro Samurai-style to take the #1 spot.

Best of the Rest
2. Drew Brees: 106.60 NEP, 0.30 per pass (Last Week: #5)
3. Aaron Rodgers: 105.76 NEP, 0.25 per pass (Last Week: #2)
4. Tom Brady: 105.32 NEP, 0.30 per pass (Last Week: #1)
5. Peyton Manning: 96.64 NEP, 0.31 per pass (Last Week: #6)

Running Backs: C.J. Spiller - Buffalo Bills
Season Rushing NEP: 23.02
NEP per Rush: 0.17
Last Week: #1

23.02 NEP may not seem like much, especially considering the gaudy numbers that the quarterbacks up there are putting up, but Spiller's been incredibly efficient with his rushes so far this season. How efficient? Just look at that NEP per rush statistic. Since rushing is generally less efficient than passing, even the great backs (like Ray Rice) will average a negative NEP per rush given a large amount of carries. But not Spiller; he's gaining the Bills 0.17 points over expectation every time he rushes the ball, let alone his pass catching.

But he has a bit of company, although the name shouldn't be surprising if you were paying attention on Sunday. Two weeks ago, Martin had a negative net NEP total on the season. Now? He's second among all running backs, thanks to his three 45+ yard TD rushes.

Best of the Rest
2. Doug Martin: 16.90 NEP, 0.01 per rush, 0.47 per catch (Last Week: #6)
3. Matt Forte: 10.88 NEP, 0.01 per rush, 0.36 per catch (Last Week: #9)
4. Ray Rice: 10.43 NEP, -0.01 per rush, 0.26 per catch (Last Week: #2)
5. Frank Gore: 10.04 NEP, 0.04 per rush, 0.25 per catch (Last Week: #3)

Wide Receivers: Roddy White - Atlanta Falcons
Season Total NEP (based on targets): 58.42
NEP per Catch: 1.10
Last Week: #1

He's just running away with it, now. With 10.50 NEP gained on Sunday, White extended his lead even further while closest competitor Percy Harvin got Ponder-ized. At this point, White has about a game's worth of NEP ahead of the next closest challenger (Brandon Marshall), and that's only assuming an excellent game for Marshall. At this point, White is on pace for 116.84 NEP based on targets, which would break Rob Gronkowski's 2011 record of 110.69 NEP.

Don't sleep on Marshall, though. In jumping from #9 to #2 this week, he's starting to reestablish his exceptional chemistry with Jay Cutler. And the main reason has to be his catch rate - despite often being double covered, Marshall has caught an excellent 65.6% of all Jay Cutler targets so far this season.

Best of the Rest
2. Brandon Marshall: 49.25 NEP, 0.94 per catch (Last Week: #9)
3. Marques Colston: 46.75 NEP, 1.00 per catch (Last Week: #5)
4. Demaryius Thomas: 45.91 NEP, 0.94 per catch (Last Week: #4)
5. Randall Cobb: 45.60 NEP, 1.01 per catch (Last Week: #3)

Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski - New England Patriots
Season Total NEP (based on targets): 39.54
NEP per Catch: 0.74
Last Week: #1

The Gonzalez dynasty has officially ended, and a new dynasty has taken root - Rob Gronkowski holds the top tight end mark for the second straight week. In fact, the tight end rankings didn't budge one inch; positions one through five held serve exactly how they were the week prior.

Now that New England's bye is out of the way, don't expect Gronkowski to let go of his lead easily, either. He's only third on the Patriots with 64 targets, but he leads the team in converting those targets with a 67.2% catch rate. And he faces the Buffalo defense this week to pad those numbers even further; Buffalo is numberFire's No. 31 opponent-adjusted defensive unit so far this season.

Best of the Rest
2. Owen Daniels: 37.27 NEP, 0.88 per catch (Last Week: #2)
3. Tony Gonzalez: 35.57 NEP, 0.82 per catch (Last Week: #3)
4. Brandon Myers: 30.08 NEP, 0.77 per catch (Last Week: #4)
5. Heath Miller: 29.75 NEP, 0.84 per catch (Last Week: #5)