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Updated June 12, 2010
There has been a lot of discussion in the WalterFootball.com forums before the 2010 NFL Draft about what positions are more valuable than others and how they should be ranked.
I have the answers. When reading Bill Simmons The Book of Basketball
, I realized the best way to do this was with a pyramid diagram, the same way Simmons diagramed his Hall of Fame Pyramid, except we are doing this with positional value.
I think this is very important to NFL personnel and NFL Draft theory because putting on paper what positions are more valuable than others should be central to determining the overall value between positions rather than just debating it without anything conclusive.
I have used six tiers within the Positional Value Pyramid (or from here on out will be abbreviated "PVP") and inside each tier I have ranked the positions in most to least valuable.
Here are a couple notes on the PVP before I get started with the criticisms of the PVP (please read before you criticize):
Of all the positions in which there are four or more on every 53-man roster - I broke up receivers by No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, and instead I grouped together all cornerbacks and running backs. I feel the No. 1 receiver is far more important than a No. 2 or No. 3 receivers for reasons mentioned later on.
Secondly, how many "elite" No. 1 corners are there in the NFL (Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey - that's probably it)? I just think it's impractical for teams to get No. 1 corners in the 2010 NFL Draft or free agency, and thus I didn't break up the position.
Running backs I grouped together because an elite, three-down running back can do so much for a football team. You don't have to take him off the field on passing downs because he can catch the ball and can pass block - this is quite an advantage for an offensive coordinator and disadvantage for a defensive coordinator because one-trick ponies give less possibilities and we know what's coming. No. 2 running backs are also easily found, so if you want to break the position up then just insert No. 2 running back in the later part of Tier 5.
*I had to break up the defensive linemen and linebackers by scheme. There is simply a massive difference between schemes in terms of assignments and values to the scheme.
*The only way I felt like I could evaluate the positions was by analyzing what an elite player at each certain position can bring to the table - and from here I determined the difference between positions. I sometimes asked myself, "Would I rather have Maurice Jones-Drew or Ed Reed?" The most important note here is I evaluated positions based on how imperative they are to teams winning and losing - what is their true value to a franchise?
*I used a rating system with four attributes to give my audience an idea of how to evaluate each position. However, it should be noted that these didn't determine what tier or ranking a position got. The four attributes are scarcity, effectiveness, money and durability. Each attribute was given a ranking of 1, 2, or 3. Two is always the average for the attribute. Three is thought to be of better value than one in this rating system. For example, for durability, good durability is "3" and bad durability is "1." For money, a cheap position would be a "3" and a "1" is expensive. Since expensive positions come with the big contract, they tie up the salary cap a bit and the less expensive positions in the fiscal category would be of more value only in this domain.
Now a breakdown of the four attributes:
1. Scarcity: How tough is it to find this position? Are they relatively easy to get in free agency and the NFL Draft, or is this the type of position that is highly sought over on Draft Day and very tough to get in Round 2 (think quarterbacks, left tackles and right defensive ends). For scarcity, a very rare position would get a "3" and a dime-a-dozen position would get a "1". The reason for this is that a position that is hard to find has more value since it is rare - think of it like supply and demand. Little supply leads to greater demand, which leads to more positional value.
2. Effectiveness: I had some trouble coming up with a way to define this attribute, but basically it is how valuable is this position to a team winning and losing. I will often refer to a position as being a "low 2" or a "high 2" to distinguish between ratings slightly and make it known when I feel like a position needs more or less than its just due.
3. Money: Some positions cost more than others, and I think this impacts a position's value. I definitely think while quarterbacks are the highest paid position in the game, they get one of the best returns on their investments since they sell jerseys, merchandise and tickets, and get more publicity than any other positions, but here we are just focusing on how much each position costs rather than weighing the ROI (return on investment) of each position, which sounds like a great idea for you economic majors looking for a great idea on next year's thesis you have to write. Expensive positions received a "1" and cheaper positions received a "3" - the cheapness leads to better value and ties up less of the salary cap. Hey, if you want Peyton Manning, he is going to cost a ton of money, but remember I am not weighing in the ROI here.
4. Durability. Some positions lead to shorter careers and more injuries, while come positions have longer careers. Positions with poor durability received a "1" and positions with great durability have a "3".
Criticisms of the PVP
1. I don't have any statistical or scientific research to back my opinions. I try to be as objective and logical as possible, but the bottom line is I don't have any studies that say, which positions last longer or have healthier careers, or which positions are the most expensive. I did do some research by looking at contracts, when certain players' careers tailed off, and I know from being an NFL Draft analyst how difficult it is to find certain positions in the NFL Draft - but I think a fair criticism would be that my PVP isn't objective enough. However, by the same token, can you really expect me to do my own studies on this kind of information? I don't have the resources or time to do it - so please give me a break here.
2. It isn't perfect because it's very subjective and open to criticism. However, no PVP is perfect either. I think my PVP should definitely be analyzed and somewhat scrutinized debating the ranking and positional tiers. Ultimately realize though that this is something that is always going to be flawed.
Introduction to the Positional Value Pyramid
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 1 - Quarterbacks
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 2 - Left Tackles, Right Defensive Ends, Cornerbacks, Rush Linebackers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 3 - Defensive Tackles, No. 1 Wide Receivers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 4 Part 1 - Safeties, Nose Tackles, Left Ends, 4-3 Inside Linebackers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 4 Part 2 - Running Backs, Right Tackles
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 5 Part 1 - No. 2 Wide Receivers, 3-4 Ends, Weakside Linebackers
Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 5 Part 2 - 3-4 Inside Linebacker, Interior Offensive Linemen, Tight End, No. 3 Wide Receivers
Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 6 - Strongside Linebackers, Kickers, Punters
Positional Value Pyramid Spreadsheets
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