Performance Based Value: Detroit Lions
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 Detroit Lions:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle
With all the players making ridiculous jumps in performance from Year 1 to Year 2, Fairley got overlooked by some. Not PFF though. Fairley ended up the fifth-highest graded defensive tackle despite playing only 511 snaps and having a penalty grade of -9.0. He had a two-week stretch in Weeks 10 and 11 where he compiled a total grade of +11.4 with three sacks and 11 total pressures. His combination of speed and power is one that few possess, and Fairley has been a tremendous value as the 13th overall pick.
Cap Hit: $2.3m
Performance Based Value: $6.3m
Value Differential: +$4.0m
2. Joique Bell, Running Back
Mikel Leshoure may have received the bulk of the carries, but it was Bell who made the greatest impact from the running back position for the Lions. Bell was used mainly as a third-down back, and ended up second among running backs in Yards Per Route Run. Bell also had an exceptional Elusive Rating of 58.0, which looks that much better when compared to Leshoure’s 16.1. Bell broke six more tackles than Leshoure, despite touching the ball 115 less times. He compiled an amazing value of $4.3m while playing only 32% of the possible snaps.
Cap Hit: $545k
Performance Based Value: $4.3m
Value Differential: +$3.8m
3. Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle
It’s scary to think about how good Detroit’s defensive tackles were last season. Three of the four best values on the team came from the defensive tackle position. Suh finally lived up to his rookie hype as soon as public perception started to turn on him. He still struggles in run defense at times, but last year he was one of the elite interior pass rushers in the NFL. His 58 total pressures were the second-most of any defensive tackle and his 9.0 Pass Rushing Productivity was the third-highest. However, his huge value really came from being a workhorse. Suh played 910 snaps, the second-most among defensive tackles. Although he will have to step his game up considerably to warrant his $18m cap hit in 2013, he was tremendous value in 2012.
Cap Hit: $6.6m
Performance Based Value: $9.8m
Value Differential: +$3.2m
4. Sammie Lee Hill, DT – Cap: $1.3m, PBV: $3.5m, Value Differential: +$2.2m
5. Chris Houston, CB – Cap: $4.0m, PBV: $5.4m, Value Differential: +$1.4m
6. Don Carey, S – Cap: $359k, PBV: $1.6m, Value Differential: +$1.3m
7. Gosder Cherilus, T – Cap: $4.0m, PBV: $5.1m, Value Differential: +$1.2m
8. Rob Sims, G – Cap: $3.1m, PBV: $4.1m, Value Differential: +$998k
9. Jonte Green, CB – Cap: $424k, PBV: $1.3m, Value Differential: +$911k
10. Mikel Leshoure, HB – Cap: $731k, PBV: $1.5m, Value Differential: +$815k
1. Cliff Avril, Defensive End
Avril’s play this season should be a case study on the importance of sacks. Avril had 10 sacks. That’s more than Brian Robison, Michael Bennett, and Derrick Morgan. Avril’s Pass Rushing Productivity, on the other hand, was a mediocre 7.4, the 29th-best mark among 4-3 ends. If he was average in run defense he would have had some good value given his 708 snaps. He was well below average, however, with the fourth-worst run defense grade and the fourth-worst Run Stop Percentage among 4-3 ends. Avril still has value as a spot pass rusher, but he has had only one season with a positive run defense grade in his career (2009).
Cap Hit: $10.6m
Performance Based Value: $947k
Value Differential: -$9.7m
2. Corey Williams*, Defensive Tackle
Chalk this one up to injury. Williams finished with positive grades in run defense and pass rush, but was able to play only 226 snaps. He had shown enough in preseason to maintain his starting role from the past two years heading into Week 1. After missing two games due to injury though, his job had been passed to Fairley, and Williams would eventually end up on the IR. Williams put up a sub-par Pass Rushing Productivity of 3.1, but his Run Stop Percentage was a solid 5.5. At 32 and coming off a knee injury it will be interesting to see what Williams is valued at this offseason.
Cap Hit: $5.0m
Performance Based Value: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$3.9m
3. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Defensive End
If you have any questions as to why the Lions’ defense allowed the sixth-most points in the NFL, look no further than the two starting ends. Neither was worth even $1m and it looks like both will be elsewhere next season. The Lions have already cut Vanden Bosch, and I’m sure Lions fans think that it was one year too late. Vanden Bosch had the worst grade among starting 4-3 ends, at -31.2. His Pass Rushing Productivity was 48th out of 62 defensive ends. Those numbers are especially putrid when you consider offenses had to account for one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league. At 34 and with his play on a serious decline, Vanden Bosch will be looking at a major pay cut if another team gives him a chance.
Cap Hit: $4.6m
Performance Based Value: $925k
Value Differential: -$3.7m
4. Dominic Raiola, C – Cap: $5.4m, PBV: $2.8m, Value Differential: -$2.6m
5. Nate Burleson*, WR – Cap: $2.9m, PBV: $925k, Value Differential: -$1.9m
6. Stephen Peterman, G – Cap: $3.3m, PBV: $1.6m, Value Differential: -$1.7m
7. Tony Scheffler, TE – Cap: $2.6m, PBV: $973k, Value Differential: -$1.6m
8. Brandon Pettigrew, TE – Cap: $2.3m, PBV: $761k, Value Differential: -$1.6m
9. Jeff Backus, T – Cap: $2.4m, PBV: $925k, Value Differential: -$1.4m
10. Shaun Hill, QB – Cap: $2.3m, PBV: $925k, Value Differential: -$1.3m
Summary – Team Value Differential: -$10.5m
It would be hard for a 4-12 team to get positive value, and the Lions clearly had some big contracts under perform. They didn’t really have any player blow away his rookie contract, which is what usually leads to a large differential. Their best value differential was Fairley’s $4m, but that was only the 89th best value in the NFL in 2012. Also, the Lions’ two highest performance based value players, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, played almost equal to their cap hits. Overall, Detroit had 34 players with positive value and 37 with negative.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner