In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Performance Based Value” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2012. You can read about the work we’ve done to create it here, but in short:
• It’s solely about what a player did on the field in 2012
• Players are grouped by positions so their play essentially earns them a portion of the positional salary pool
• It’s all about cap hits (these values are approximate)
Here are 2012′s most undervalued and overvalued New Orleans Saints:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Brian De La Puente, Center
In 2011 the Saints signed Olin Kreutz to be their center. That experiment failed quickly, and this former undrafted rookie took over. De La Puente played well enough in 2011 to keep the starting job in 2012 where he broke out as one of the better centers in the league. His 16 total pressures allowed was above average for centers, and his +13.6 run block rating was seventh-best. When you can get one of the best centers in the league for the veteran minimum, you’ve got yourself a deal.
2012 Cap Hit: $540k
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.8m
Value Differential: +$4.2m
2. Jimmy Graham, Tight End
Even though Graham didn’t have the same season in 2012 as he did in 2011, it was still a decent one. His 15 dropped passes was way too high, but he still maintained a 64.9% catch rate on the year with 11.6 yards per catch. He was a productive tight end playing on a third-round rookie contract.
2012 Cap Hit: $710k
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.9m
Value Differential: +$4.2m
3. Pierre Thomas, Halfback
The Saints have a very crowded backfield so it might be easy to forget about Pierre Thomas, who played in only 37.2% of snaps. He played far too well in those snaps for us to ignore him. He had 19 players miss tackles on him over his 105 carries, and had a high 86.7% catch rate. He wasn’t penalized on the year and was a good blocker, which means he basically does everything right.
2012 Cap Hit: $2.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $6.0m
Value Differential: +$3.7m
4. Drew Brees, QB – Cap: $10.4m, PBV: $13.7m, Value Differential: +$3.3m
5. Lance Moore, WR – Cap: $2.3m, PBV: $4.5m, Value Differential: +$2.2m
6. Ben Grubbs, G – Cap: $2.7m, PBV: $4.9m, Value Differential: +$2.2m
7. Akiem Hicks, DT – Cap: $530k, PBV: $2.5m, Value Differential: +$1.9m
8. Junior Galette, DE – Cap: $550k, PBV: $2.3m, Value Differential: +$1.7m
9. Jahri Evans, G – Cap: $3.4m, PBV: $4.9m, Value Differential: +$1.5m
10. Tom Johnson, DT – Cap: $490k, PBV: $1.9m, Value Differential: +$1.4m
1. Sedrick Ellis, Defensive Tackle
A clear case where the NFL’s old rookie scale didn’t work so well, Ellis is in the last year of his five-year rookie contract and didn’t play up to it. He rushed the passer 412 times and couldn’t come up with a sack. He had just four stops over the last eight weeks as well. While there are certainly plenty of worse defensive tackles in the league, Ellis just wasn’t worth anywhere near $7 million.
2012 Cap Hit: $7.6m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.0m
Value Differential: -$6.5m
2. Roman Harper, Safety
There are three key numbers when judging safeties that Harper doesn’t fare well in. His catch rate allowed is 70.8%, his yards per catch allowed is 14.4 and he had 12 missed tackles on the year. Put all of that together and you have a safety that is far below average, yet still has two years on his contract where he will be paid like a very good safety.
2012 Cap Hit: $6.4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $920k
Value Differential: -$5.4m
3. Jermon Bushrod, Offensive Tackle
He allowed only four sacks in 2012, which is decent for a tackle, but his 58 total pressures allowed was the second-most among his peers. He at least is a good run blocker and was penalized only six times on his 1130 snaps, which made him worth a bit more than the veteran minimum, but he was worth nowhere near $6.9 million.
2012 Cap Hit: $6.9m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.0m
Value Differential: -$4.9m
4. Will Smith, DE – Cap: $5.3m, PBV: $970k, Value Differential: -$4.4m
5. Jonathan Vilma, LB – Cap: $4.9m, PBV: $830k, Value Differential: -$4.1m
6. Devery Henderson, WR – Cap: $3.6m, PBV: $830k, Value Differential: -$2.8m
7. Jabari Greer, CB – Cap: $4.6m, PBV: $2.1m, Value Differential: -$2.5m
8. Malcolm Jenkins, S – Cap: $2.7m, PBV: $780k, Value Differential: -$1.9m
9. Scott Shanle, OLB* – Cap: $2.3m, PBV: $930k, Value Differential: -$1.3m
10. Zach Strief, T – Cap: $2.4m, PBV: $1.2m, Value Differential: -$1.2m
Summary – Team Value Differential: -7.9m
The Saints are an interesting case with a great offense and poor defense, yet there are players making a lot of money on both sides of the ball. This has led to a lot of their offensive players being undervalued and a lot of their defensive players being overvalued. Those overvalued big name players on defense put the team in the red.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke