NFL MVP Watch: Can Anyone Stop Aaron Rodgers?
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 its position-specific variations.
Since common numbers such as yards, completions, and touchdowns don't tell the whole story about a player, we can use NEP to see who is truly separating himself from the pack and adding value to his team.
Because this advanced metric alters depending on the position being analyzed, we'll look at each of the skill positions individually through the first 14 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 14
Quarterbacks: 1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Season Passing NEP: 168.53
Passing NEP per drop back: 0.38
Last week: #2
If I told you a quarterback threw for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns, you would expect a fairly decent Passing NEP, right? That's not the case with Andrew Luck from Week 14.
His Passing NEP was actually worse than Josh McCown's, Zach Mettenberger's and Brian Hoyer's, costing the Colts 25.49 points. Luck may have had the yardage and a last-minute touchdown for the Colts, but two interceptions and a fumble - which was recovered for a touchdown - destroyed his day.
At the opposite end of the spectrum were some great performances, including the 19.65 Passing NEP from Aaron Rodgers. With everyone else in the top five struggling, Rodgers easily rose to the top of the position.
Rodgers' Passing NEP was the third-best of the week and fourth-best all season for him personally. He didn't throw an interception in yet another home game, leading the Packers to a victory Monday night. Rodgers has netted a top-10 showing in Passing NEP in 10 of his 13 games this year, with 8 of those occurrences cracking the top five. No other quarterback has more than seven top-10 Passing NEP weeks.
Playing Catch Up
2. Peyton Manning: 150.11 Passing NEP, 0.29 per pass (last week #1)
3. Tom Brady: 120.71 Passing NEP, 0.24 per pass (last week #4)
4. Ben Roethlisberger: 120.57 Passing NEP, 0.22 per pass (last week #7)
5. Andrew Luck: 115.41 Passing NEP, 0.20 per pass (last week #3)
Running Backs: 1. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Season Rushing NEP: 22.05
Season Target NEP 34.63
Rushing NEP per carry: 0.09
Note: These rankings are a reflection of a simple formula that combines our Rushing and Target Net Expected Points metrics. Adding in the Target NEP (how the player does on all targets) allows us to evaluate the overall impact a running back has in the passing game as catching the ball is more effective than running ball.
The Steelers and Ravens are in a three-way battle for the AFC North division title, and between the two teams, it will likely come down to which squad's running back keeps performing at a high level. We're all salivating over Bell's stats right now at numberFire, as he ranks as a top-three player in our composite metrics (Rushing, Reception, and Target NEP) as well as our efficiency marks (Rushing NEP per play and Reception NEP per target) -- no other running back can make that claim.
Despite poorer receiving numbers, Justin Forsett's rushing ability still places him second on the list of best 2014 running backs thanks to a sensational 0.15 Rushing NEP per rush average.
In addition, by adding in our Target NEP, Jamaal Charles stays in the top three and Marshawn Lynch makes an appearance on the list again. Meanwhile, Matt Forte falls out due to not running the ball very well at all for the Bears lately, making room for DeMarco Murray to make his first appearance on the list this year. Murray's struggled seeing the list thanks to fumbling issues.
Playing Catch Up
2. Justin Forsett: 29.41 Rushing NEP, -1.38 Target NEP, 0.15 per rush
3. Jamaal Charles: 24.91 Rushing NEP, 7.45 Target NEP, 0.15 per rush
4. Marshawn Lynch: 15.40 Rushing NEP, 7.43 Target NEP, 0.07 per rush
5. DeMarco Murray: 15.46 Rushing NEP, 6.29 Target NEP, 0.05 per rush
Receivers: 1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Season Target NEP: 84.59
Reception NEP per target: 0.86
Last week: #1
Note: Receivers and tight ends are evaluated on Target NEP rather than Reception NEP. Target NEP will look at how a player is doing on all targets received, not just on the passes he catches.
After a massive performance on Monday night, you would think Julio Jones would be at the top of this list after lurking as the sixth- or seventh-best receiver of the year the last few weeks. But while Jones does hold a 0.9 point lead in Reception NEP, Brown still claims the top spot over Jones for now.
However, Jones's performance was nonetheless amazing. He caught 65% of his targets to contribute 19.11 points in Target NEP, the third-best mark of the season for a receiver. Jones also contributed 24.33 Reception NEP, the highest of the season and 1.03 points higher than DeAndre Hopkins' mark from last week.
Dropping out this week are Demaryius Thomas and T.Y. Hilton thanks to the worst performances for each the whole season. Thomas was bitten by the game-flow bug, but he only caught two of five targets for a -3.88 Target NEP.
Hilton's standard stats weren't bad in Week 14, as he hauled in 10 receptions for 150 yards. However, Hilton also saw 19 targets against the Browns. Hilton would have been expected to grab a few more targets and since he didn't due to being overthrown or dropping a pass, he ended the week with a -3.45 Target NEP.
Playing Catch Up
2. Emmanuel Sanders: 74.33 Target NEP, 0.87 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
3. Julio Jones: 74.33 Target NEP, 0.87 Reception NEP per target (last week: #7)
4. Jordy Nelson: 72.49 Target NEP, 0.94 Reception NEP per target (last week: #6)
5. Randall Cobb: 71.69 Target NEP, 0.98 Reception NEP per target (last week: #4)
Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Season Target NEP: 64.06
Reception NEP per target: 0.90
Last week: #1
In a matchup between the Chargers and Patriots, Antonio Gates had a chance to catch up with Gronkowski. But he went the opposite direction.
Gronk had a game of usual production with 87 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets (catching 8 of them), playing 2.31 points above expectation. Gates was targeted just 5 times, catching 3passes for just 34 yards. Gates' end result was playing 2.63 points below expectation allowing Travis Kelce to jump into the runner-up spot yet again.
Playing Catch Up
2. Travis Kelce: 49.35 Target NEP, 0.89 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
3. Antonio Gates: 48.14 Target NEP, 0.91 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
4. Greg Olsen: 36.42 Target NEP, 0.68 Reception NEP per target (last week: #5)
5. Coby Fleener: 31.54 Target NEP, 0.81 Reception NEP per target (last week: #7)