Performance Based Value: Safeties

In a list headlined by the sinking play of a trio of former Defensive Players of the Year, Gordon McGuinness uses PFF's Performance Based Value calculations to break down the ...

| 4 years ago
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Performance Based Value: Safeties


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 we go through the list of 2012’s most overvalued safeties:

1. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

2012 Cap Hit: $11.4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.4m
Value Differential: -$10.0m

After seeing his play bounce up and down in 2010 and 2011, the Packers opted to move Charles Woodson to safety this past year. It wasn’t so much that Woodson was awful in 2012, he finished 37th among 88 qualifying safeties (those who played at least 25% of the top mark for defensive snaps), but he didn’t really excel either. Factor in the fact that he played just 486 snaps in the regular season and he didn’t come close to justifying his lofty cap number.

2. Antrel Rolle, New York Giants

2012 Cap Hit: $9.0m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.0m
Value Differential: $-8.0m

In terms of his overall grade, Antrel Rolle had his best season since 2008, looking far better than he did a year ago. The trouble is that in New York he’s being paid like one of the top safeties in the league, despite allowing 72.7% of the passes thrown into his coverage to be completed. Definitely the best New York has gotten out of Rolle in his time there, but it’s still not worthy of a cap hit near the $9 million mark.

3. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

2012 Cap Hit: $9.1m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.4m
Value Differential: -$6.7m

When he was on the field in 2012, Troy Polamalu was the usual force to be reckoned with on the Steelers’ defense we’ve become accustomed to seeing, allowing a mere 0.22 yards for every snap in coverage. That’s all well and good, but when you miss more games than you start, it’s always going to be difficult to provide your team with good value for money and, when your cap hit is as much as Polamalu’s, it becomes impossible.

4. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens

2012 Cap Hit: $8.5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.0m
Value Differential: -$6.5m

The second straight former Defensive Player of the Year on this list (and third in the Top 4 spots), Reed finds himself here for a different reason than Polamalu. Starting every game in 2012, he was tied for fourth among all safeties with four interceptions and added a further seven pass break-ups. Still, his play deteriorated compared with seasons past, with him finishing tied for second at his position with five penalties. His struggles to tackle properly were well documented — Reed ended with 15 misses in the regular season and a further six in the playoffs.

5. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

2012 Cap Hit: $8.0m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.7m
Value Differential: -$6.3m

Had Berry been drafted after the new rookie wage scale had been implemented, he likely wouldn’t be a part of this Top 10 and, a year removed from a season-ending injury, he had a much better second half of the season. Topped by his performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15, Berry looks to be on his way back to where he was before the injury. His overall play in 2012 just wasn’t good enough to merit $8 million, however.

6. Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints

2012 Cap Hit: $6.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $900k
Value Differential: -$5.4m

Among the many reasons for the New Orleans Saints’ dismal season, the terrible play of their safeties ranks high on the list. Offering little in run support, and not producing the sack numbers to mask his lack of consistent pressure like he did in 2009, only one safety finished the year with a lower grade than Roman Harper. Allowing an average of 1.17 yards for every snap in coverage, he was one of the worst safeties in football, despite being paid like one of the best.

7. Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts

2012 Cap Hit: $6.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$4.9m

While his play in previous years still wouldn’t have quite warranted a cap hit of over $6 million, Antoine Bethea’s play this year wasn’t even close to that level. With a Run Stop Percentage of 3.4 on plays where he lined up 8 yards or closer to the line of scrimmage, he almost had as many missed tackles, four, as he did tackles resulting in defensive stops, five.

8. Nate Clements, Cincinnati Bengals

2012 Cap Hit: $5.5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $900k
Value Differential: -$4.6m

After his struggles in the opening weeks of the season, the Bengals opted to follow the Packers’ lead and move a veteran corner to safety. Like Woodson in Green Bay, Nate Clements didn’t play poorly in his new role. However, average play and a total of 264 defensive snaps in the regular season doesn’t justify a $5 million dollar salary.

9. Dawan Landry, Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Cap Hit: $4.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$3.6m

Landry’s season was dragged down by three poor performances against Houston, Detroit, and Buffalo. Still, even without those poor games he didn’t offer much beyond average, not excelling in any part of his game. Average players shouldn’t be making that kind of money, even less so when they are prone to a few poor games per season.

10. Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans

2012 Cap Hit: $4.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $900k
Value Differential: -$3.4m

The worst safety outside of New Orleans this past season, Michael Griffin did little to help the Titans’ defense when he was on the field. Capped by awful performances against New England and Minnesota, Griffin missed a tackle once every 4.4 attempts and struggled just as much in coverage.

 

Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

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