In today’s NFL, the big play is king. Teams are able to pick up big chunks on yards due to complex offensive schemes, tighter penalty rules, and freak athletes on the offensive side of the ball. And while playing solid, fundamental defense throughout the game is usually still a staple of the league’s best teams, making that game-changing play has now become of utmost importance for defenses in today’s NFL.
Earlier this NFL season, we released a stat called Schuessler’s Defensive Big Play Value, explained here. This statistic measures the aforementioned big plays that can change the course of the game, and gives players a “score”. This score allows an versatile linebacker like Luke Kuechly to be compared to a pass-rushing defensive end like JJ Watt. This article takes a look at the top scorers in DBPV, as well as the top performer from each team and some the most underrated players based on salary.
Top 10 – Defensive Big Play Value
Looking at the top 10 players in the NFL in Defensive Big Play Rating, a couple of things stand out. First, seven of the the ten players on the list helped propel their teams to the NFL playoffs, and the other three were all on teams competing for a playoff berth in the final weeks of the season. Two teams feature two players in the top-10, the Bears and the Chiefs. The merits of the Bears defense needs no explaining, and while the Chiefs D wasn’t great overall this year, they made enough big plays in most games to get Mahomes and KC’s high-powered offense the ball. This graph also shows that players with an average of over five points DBPV per game are elite playmakers.
11-30 – Defensive Big Play Value
Looking at the next 20 players on the list, Xavien Howard and Justin Houston (another Chief) standout as players who weren’t able to play part of the season due to injury, but still had top-notch numbers when they were on the field. Two Seattle players make a showing near the top and two of Buffalo’s young players on their sneaky good defense are back-to-back on the latter part of the list. A bevy of pass-rushing defensive ends and ball-hawking defensive backs highlight those ranked 11-30. This graphic shows that those with a season total over 50 DBPV points likely were very disruptive and made a big impact on defense for their team.
With many teams squeezed by the cap, getting value out of players that aren’t on a huge contract makes a big difference for most NFL squads. Comparing DBPV to 2018 salary, here were the most cost-efficient players.
Top 10 – DBPV by 2018 salary value
Swearinger’s (acquired by the Cardinals off of waivers on Christmas Day after 16 games with Washington) strangely structured contract gives him the top spot (he made just $176,000 this season, according to spotrac), but the rest of the list is mostly filled with young impact players on their rookie deals. This list signals could the next line of defensive stars in the NFL, and shows some underrated players that were a great value for their teams. Again, seven of these ten players played on teams in the NFL playoffs.
Finally, we take a look at the top player for eaching team in the NFL.
Top Player in DBPV for each team
One observation from this list comes from looking at the lowest scores on this list. 10 teams had a top player that finished with a DBPV per game that was 3.4 or lower, and seven of those teams failed to make the playoffs. This list is filled with players that are known for changing the game (JJ Watt, Von Miller, Luke Kuechly) as well as some players that are lesser known, but trending upwards in their playmaking abilities (Darius Leonard, Jamal Adams, Eddie Jackson).
The league is recognizing the value of players who can change the game with one huge play on the defensive side. It is clear with a growing number of high-flying offenses who can move the ball up and down the field, finding out who those players are has now becoming more important than ever in the NFL.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter (@ColeSchuessler).