Matt McGuire's NFL Draftology 234:
Positional Value Pyramid Tier 4 Part 1
Safeties, Nose Tackles, Left Ends, 4-3 Inside Linebackers
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Updated June 20, 2010
We are now getting into the part of the Positional Value Pyramid where value just doesn't change very much based on a couple rankings. This is Tier 4-Part 1 because I have a total of seven positions in this tier. Tier 2 will be released at a later date.
The first position in Tier 4 is free safety and strong safety, but I will categorize this just as "safety" and break down each specific position.
Safety positional analysis: It is a little redundant now, but I can't emphasize how important the passing game is in the NFL these days. With receivers getting bigger and faster, you simply need playmakers in the secondary, and that is where the safety position comes into play.
The statistic that is the most co-relational with winning is turnover margin. Safeties make turnovers. They are in better position to get interceptions than corners. They knock the ball loose when a running back makes a big run. They simply make huge plays that can win football games. All you have to do is look at players such as Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Bob Sanders. When these players are on the field, they their team a LOT better.
Safeties are also responsible for taking angles, eliminating space on the field and helping out in run support. I combined free safety and strong safety into one position because defensive coordinators are asking their safeties to be more versatile than ever before. Traditionally, a free safety is a rangy ballhawk who helps out in the deep half, while the strong safety is the tough, big-hitter who makes plays in run support.
Scarcity - 2: Average scarcity in the NFL Draft and in free agency. They aren't highly rare, but they aren't a dime a dozen either.
Effectiveness - 2 Safeties can make a big impact in football games, but they aren't on the same level as quarterbacks or left tackles. I would give this attribute grade a "high 2."
Money - 2: Average money here are paid to these positions for good talent.
Durability - 2: Some safeties are more durable than others, and safeties who throw their body around a lot are susceptible to shorter careers, but in general the injury rate and career length seem to be pretty normal.
The second position in Tier 4 is the 3-4 nose tackle.
3-4 Nose Tackle Positional Analysis: I have gotten a couple responses on the WF.com message boards and Twitter about the 3-4 nose tackle not being a Tier 3 position, but trust me when I can back myself up on this.
The 3-4 nose tackle takes on double teams and shuts down the run. He has to be able to be slightly athletic and instinctive while also playing with great leverage, but this is generally all he does.
My biggest problem with the nose tackle is that it is a position that doesn't make a lot of plays in space, and because of this I feel like it hurts the value of the position. Secondly, this isn't a position of great scarcity. All you really need is a big body who can stuff the run and be a two-down player in a football game with solid stamina. Because only about half the league is running the 3-4, this is a position that can be found in the NFL Draft and sometimes in free agency.
Scarcity - 2: I just broke this down, but like I said, finding nose tackles isn't ridiculously difficult. It can be done. If this were a highly scarce position, then Terrence Cody would have been a first-round pick. He wasn't.
Effectiveness - 2 : Nose tackles shut down the run, but they don't do anything else. This is also a passing league now with teams running the ball less and less. Due to this evolution of the running game, nose tackles are less effective than they used to be.
Money - 2: Nose tackles make good money, but they aren't paid like quarterbacks or elite corners.
Durability - 2: We have seen some good nose tackles have fairly long careers, but it's still a position where you have a really big man play a lot of minutes for his size. Average durability.
Our third position in Tier 3 is the 4-3 Left Defensive End.
4-3 Left Defensive End Positional Analysis: We know how important the right defensive end is, but the left defensive end also has a lot of value. You HAVE to get pressure up front in the 4-3 defense or you will get picked apart (barring a genius defensive coordinator who can mask an average line).
The left defensive end is supposed to be a better player in run support than the right defensive end, but if he can provide a pass rush then it's a huge plus for the defense.
The left defensive end isn't as valuable as the right defensive end because he doesn't go up against the quarterback's blind side. The quarterback can see the left defensive end, thus this makes him less effective.
Scarcity - 2: Not too difficult to find in the NFL Draft or free agency.
Effectiveness - 2: You are starting to get the theme with this grading system (I hope). Good, not great effectiveness on the field compared to other positions.
Money - 2: Not a dirt-poor position, but they don't make quarterback money either.
Durability - 2: Their careers aren't short, but they aren't typically long either.
Our fourth position in Tier 4 is the 4-3 Inside Linebacker.
4-3 Inside Linebacker Positional Analysis: No position is more important in terms of intangibles on the defense than the 4-3 inside linebacker. He is the one who calls the plays, gets everyone set up, and is usually a team captain.
4-3 inside linebacker has more value than the 3-4 inside linebacker simply because they make more plays in space and they have greater responsibilities. They have to cover a lot of ground, and it seems to be tougher to find this position in the NFL Draft than 3-4 inside linebackers.
The 4-3 inside linebacker is asked to have range in pass coverage, while also being able to come up and support the run. If he can lay a few big hits, then that's always a good thing. The 4-3 inside linebacker NEEDS to be the leader of the defense. He needs to be intelligent and have good instincts.
Scarcity - 2: Not too difficult to find, but not easy either especially with more three- and four-receiver sets in the game today.
Effectiveness - 2: Very important player on the defense who needs to be able to provide leadership.
Money - 2: Good value for your money here considering what the 4-3 inside linebacker brings to the table on and off the field.
Durability - 2: Solid career length, solid durability. Nothing special.
Tier 4 Part 2 will be released soon, so watch out for it.
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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