NFL MVP Watch: Tony Romo or 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 16 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 16
Quarterbacks: 1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Season Passing NEP: 169.63
Passing NEP per drop back: 0.32
Last week: #2
After a down week, Aaron Rodgers reclaimed the top spot by putting up 13.31 Passing Net Expected Points against the, according to our power rankings, second-worst pass defense in the league. But the impact doesn't stop there, as Rodgers also has a leg up on the competition in Rushing NEP. While Russell Wilson clearly leads the group of running quarterbacks, Rodgers has contributed 22.83 points on the ground -- the fourth-best mark for a quarterback in the league.
Peyton Manning continues to be hot and cold for the Broncos, and had four passes intercepted on Monday, including a pick-six, resulting in -4.38 NEP for the Broncos. A good game against the Raiders could give him the slight edge at the quarterback position this year.
For the Tony Romo fans -- yes, he belongs in the MVP discussion, but he's not the MVP. End of story. While his per drop back NEP rate is incredibly close to Rodgers' -- and second best in the NFL -- he hasn't seen the same volume Rodgers has, making it difficult to give Romo the nod.
Playing Catch Up
2. Peyton Manning: 159.46 Passing NEP, 0.28 per pass (last week #1)
3. Ben Roethlisberger: 147.02 Passing NEP, 0.24 per pass (last week #3)
4. Tony Romo: 134.59 Passing NEP, 0.31 per pass (last week #7)
5. Matt Ryan: 129.79 Passing NEP, 0.21 per pass (last week #6)
Running Backs: 1. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Season Rushing NEP: 21.02
Season Target NEP 39.15
Rushing NEP per carry: 0.07
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.
In Week 16, Bell made small gains on the ground (0.11 Rushing NEP) and through the air (0.43 in Target NEP). That's fine, though, as his challengers still can't keep pace.
The latest two players to fall are Jamaal Charles and Justin Forsett, as they both struggled toting the rock in Week 16. Charles lost 4.22 Rushing Net Expected Points, while Forsett was even worse with a -4.80 Rushing NEP total. It was Forsett's second game in a row playing below expectation -- throw in a negative Target NEP and he's becoming the forgotten man.
With Charles and Forsett faltering, Marshawn Lynch engaged "Beast Mode," rumbling for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 10 attempts. Lynch takes a big lead in the Rushing NEP category, but since he only has one-fifth of Bell's Target NEP, he's just playing for second place right now.
Playing Catch Up
2. Marshawn Lynch: 26.35 Rushing NEP, 7.52 Target NEP, 0.10 per rush
3. Jamaal Charles: 20.53 Rushing NEP, 3.09 Target NEP, 0.13 per rush
4. Justin Forsett: 21.52 Rushing NEP, -3.34 Target NEP, 0.07 per rush
5. Eddie Lacy: 3.21 Rushing NEP, 24.34 Target NEP, 0.04 per rush
Receivers: 1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Season Target NEP: 95.04
Reception NEP per target: 0.84
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.
Antonio Brown has a stranglehold on the standings, and with one week left, he isn't stopping. Brown turned in another solid, consistent performance, taking 7 of his 9 targets for 90 yards and a touchdown. It amounted to 3.40 Target NEP, and helped to maintain a good gap between him and Emmanuel Sanders.
Jordy Nelson put up his second best game of the season to at least compete for second place in the receiver ranks with 14.27 Target NEP. Nelson went for 113 yards and a touchdown by catching all 9 of his targets.
Watch out for Julio Jones in the final week of the season, too, as he's posted 35.81 Target NEP over his last three starts. If he receives a heavy dose of targets, and if the Panthers can't stop him, he could be in for another monster week.
Playing Catch Up
2. Emmanuel Sanders: 86.75 Target NEP, 0.90 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
3. Jordy Nelson: 85.27 Target NEP, 0.93 Reception NEP per target (last week: #5)
4. Julio Jones: 82.38 Target NEP, 0.88 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
5. Randall Cobb: 76.55 Target NEP, 0.90 Reception NEP per target (last week: #4)
Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Season Target NEP: 67.89
Reception NEP per target: 0.91
Last week: #1
Rob Gronkowski played below expectation according to our Target NEP metric for the first time all season. He was targeted 10 times in an ugly game against the division-rival Jets, but only caught 6 of them, failing to have any plays bigger than a 10-yard reception.
But did his -1.27 Target NEP hurt him in the standings? Not at all -- even with Travis Kelce putting up the third-biggest game of his season (6.62 Target NEP), Gronkowski still maintains a double-digit lead.
Jason Witten finally made some noise this year with the biggest game of his season. Witten caught all 7 of his targets for 90 yards and a touchdown for 10.82 Target NEP in Week 16. The second-best game of Week 16 is great and all, but it's too little too late for the savvy veteran.
Playing Catch Up
2. Travis Kelce: 55.13 Target NEP, 0.82 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
3. Antonio Gates: 49.53 Target NEP, 0.90 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
4. Greg Olsen: 46.43 Target NEP, 0.70 Reception NEP per target (last week: #4)
5. Jason Witten: 42.63 Target NEP, 0.84 Reception NEP per target (last week: #7)