Analytics

Creating a Statistic: Defensive Big Play Value

A pick-six to take the lead. A big sack to push a team out of field goal range. A forced fumble when a runner is trying to grind out that extra yard. These plays all make a huge impact on the outcome of a football game, and their value cannot be understated. In a game of inches, one big play by one impact player can make all the difference.

Schuessler’s Defensive Big Play Value measures those game-changing plays and gives an objective insight into which players on defensive side of the ball make the most “big plays” to lead their team to victory. This metric allows fans and football pundits alike to compare a bull-rushing defensive end to a ball-hawking safety, finding out who has the biggest impact on the game.

Von Miller is one of the top-ranked players in DBPV as a havoc-wreaking linebacker. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing – USA Today Sports

While baseball and basketball have holistic measures such as Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the football statistical community has not created such all-encompassing metrics to this point. The closest thing to a statistic that allows football players of different positions to be compared is Pro Football Focus’ grades, and those are made subjectively and not freely available to the public.

Though the Defensive Big Play Value does not represent a player’s complete game on the field, it does give insight to one of the most important parts of football: game-changing plays on defense. This number for each player is tabulated by valuing a variety of big play defensive statistics, including interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles, passes defended, and defensive return yards. Defensive Big Play Value, or DBPV, was created through many trials of valuations of these statistics and was an idea started by football enthusiast Antone Wilson. BPV has been used for analysis and scouting in college football.

Out of the top eleven teams in the NFL in 2017 in turnovers forced (fumbles and interceptions), ten had winning records. Of the top ten teams in sacks, nine had an above .500 winning percentage as well. This year has been no different, as the top 12 teams in turnovers forced are all still in the playoff hunt and 11 of the top 15 teams in sacks are competing for or have clinched a playoff spot as well. This shows the value of the DBPV when trying to select, scout, and analyze players.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 NFL players this season in Schuessler’s Defensive Big Play Value:

As you can see, the pass-rushing defensive ends and linebackers have had a huge impact on games, while a couple of Chicago Bears defensive backs also made an appearance in the top 10. J.J. Watt leads all players with a mark of 83.92, but Khalil Mack has the highest points per game at 6.52. This graphic shows that any players above an average of five points per game for DBPV would be considered elite playmakers. Here’s a look at players 11-30:

The next 20 players on this list play a wide variety of positions, though there are quite a few defensive backs listed near the top. Xavien Howard (who has been limited by injury) is one standout on this list, averaging above 5.0 BPV points per game. Other quick observations from the top 30 DBPV performers:

  • The Bears have three players in the top 10 (and four in the top 30). No other teams have more than two players in the top 30.
  • 23 of the top 30 players are playing for teams still fighting for a playoff spot
  • Any player averaging above 3.75 BPV points per game can be considered one of the top playmakers in the NFL, regardless of their other qualifications.
Dee Ford has been a big part of Kansas City’s opportunistic defense this year. Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Here’s a look at each of the top DBPV players by team:

Defensive Big Play Value is unique as it allows players of all defensive positions to be compared for one of the most important parts of football: impact plays. Come back next week as Breakdown from the Bench will reveal the top players for DBPV in a weekly report just for Week 16!

If you are interested in hearing more about Schuessler’s Defensive Big Play Value, seeing more of the ratings for NFL players, or using the metric, contact Cole Schuessler by email (schuessc@csp.edu) or on Twitter (@ColeSchuessler).

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