Performance Based Value

PFF has compared 2012 on-field performance to cap hits at each position and determined what each player should have earned based on their play. This series of articles highlights the ...

| 4 years ago

Performance Based Value

There are countless ways you can use the data at Pro Football Focus to help your understanding of the pro game and we’re always looking for new ways to enhance your PFF experience — today we’re unveiling the newest.

We’ve created a methodology to translate a player’s 2012 grade and playing time into a dollar figure to suggest how much that player should have been paid during the 2012 season. Over the next several weeks we’ll be revealing some of our 2012 ‘Performance Based Values’ in a variety of team-by-team and position-by-position articles. Those pieces will be linked here as they post, so check in daily to see what we’ve added.

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ
AFC North: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT
AFC South: HOU | IND | JAX | TEN
AFC West: DEN | KC | OAK | SD
NFC North: CHI | DET | GB | MIN
NFC South: ATL | CAR | NO | TB
NFC West: ARZ | SEA | SF | STL

Overall Team Totals | Rookies / New CBA

QB | RB FB | TE | WR | OT | G | C | K & P 
S | CB | LB | Edge Defenders | Interior D-Line


Here are some notes on the method used:

The Basic Idea

We set out to take the highest cap hit at a position and match that up with that position’s highest-rated player. Then take the second-highest cap hit and match it with the second-highest-graded player, and so on. All players who were either active or inactive for at least one game were included, and players who spent the entire year on injured reserve or as free agents, ignored. The goal being to set salaries right, based solely on player performance during the 2012 season.

Making it Work

The problem with keeping it as simple as that first process was that the best player at a position could, for example, have a grade of +30.0 while the second-best could have finished at +20.0; a sizable drop from the top. The top two cap hits, however, could be nearly identical. It wouldn’t make sense to have two players with vastly different grades marked as deserving the same pay, so formulas were applied at each position to find the right balance — following as closely as possible how NFL players are currently being paid, while also accounting for the distribution of our grades.

A player’s playing time was also considered when determining their deserved salary. After all, we wouldn’t want to say a player who played a handful of snaps and ended with a grade of 0.0 should be paid more than someone who played the entire season and finished at -0.1.

Exploring the Data

There are various ways we could use the Performance Based Values. While we could rank players by who should get paid the most at each position, that would basically end up the same as listing them by the highest grades. What is much more interesting is comparing how much money a player actually made in 2012 with how much he should have made based on his performance and that’s where we’ll head first.

Keep in Mind

These values for players apply to the 2012 season. Although it can have some indication for the future, it wouldn’t make sense to apply in that manner in all cases. This is especially true with injured players. Someone like Brent Grimes who went down in Week 1 will not rate very high in Performance Based Value. That certainly doesn’t mean he should be worth so little going forward. Creating a predictive Performance Based Value is something that we may look to do in the future, but currently it should only be used retrospectively.


Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • John

    Where the chiefs at?

    • Nathan Jahnke

      There will be an article on the Chiefs in the next few days.

  • Soren Rasmussen

    Could you give us more concrete information on the formula you used? Also did you compile the information on the distribution of player salaries yourself or is there a third party study on it elsewhere?

    • tiago1801

      I agree

    • Topher Doll

      I really agree, I like the idea but until I understand more about how they did this I won’t be using it. It’s the same for their grading in general, I love PFF, especially their statistics and am a premium member but since we don’t have access to their play by play grading it’s hard for me to really make use of the grades since I don’t know what a +0.5 play looks like compared to a 0.0 or a +1.0.

  • river

    What about dividing it into rookie and 2nd contracts? Players often get accused of shutting down after they get their 2nd contract, and players who weren’t drafted to where their true ability was (Geno Atkins) will be of better value partly because they are on their first contracts.

    • LightsOut85

      I basically agree, but I think the answer would just be something like “well, RIGHT NOW they’re giving great value for their contract, but once they get a new one it’ll probably equal out”, because all this method can do it measure what’s happening right now.

    • Jim B

      Agreed. Definitely going to be a trend toward rookie contracts being undervalued and veterans being overvalued. Not sure how (or even if you want to) you factor in veteran leadership

  • ljstray

    Two things – first, I’d love to see full career total value vs payments. Second, wouldn’t it be great if teams could pay players based on this – AFTER – they perform (seems like a min/max cap spend annually based on win/loss with playoff bonuses should be something the league and union work on at the end of the decade).

  • Jim B

    This isn’t directly related I’d be curious to know how you’d grade positions relative to each other e.g. should a TE used in the throwing game really be valued (franchise tag or otherwise) closer to the TE spectrum or WR spectrum? Relevant to the current Jared Cook situation but also broadly relevant as to whether or not positions are being valued correctly or not.

  • Mike

    This is an awesome set of data, but a complete list would be even better.