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Green Zone League Articles

2016 Most Impactful Defensive Players
By Keith Van Wagner
Special to gzl-football.com

Last season I introduced a new metric by which I tried to capture the most impactful players. By impact plays, I mean sacks and TFLs. This is still kind of a beta metric, because I'm not sure of how I've assigned values for sacks and TFLs and will likely end up tweaking it. I thought long and hard about adding in interceptions, but that may not really fit into this framework. Nic and I discussed pulling together some unified defensive metric but it proved to be elusive.

Below is a list of the Top 10 "Impact" Players, accounting for TFLs and sacks. I assigned weighted point values for TFLs and sacks. I looked at a few different ways to do this, but ultimately came up with the following formula: 1 pt for every TFL, 3.09 pts for each sack. The rationale for this is based on the negative yardage these impact plays result in for the defense. I used 3.09 because it represents, by my calculation, the factor by which sack yardage exceeds TFL yardage. The basic idea is that, assuming the avg sack is 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage, a sack represents a loss of those 6 yards PLUS the opportunity cost of the pass that wasn't attempted. The average pass attempt in 2015 yielded 7.3 yards, so Im using that figure again. So I added the 7.3 yards lost by not attempting the pass with the 6 yards lost from the sack itself. The only caveat here is I'm not sure if sack yardage is factored into total passing yardage.

I then looked at yardage lost for TFLs. These are almost exclusively rush attempts. For the average rushing attempt Im using 4.3 yards. Therefore the sack that is negative 13.3 and the TFL is negative 4.3 yards, the sack is 3.09 more impactful.

I struggled with the TFL stat before settling on the above methodology. At first I thought I should count the avg amount of a TFL (estimated at -1). But then I concluded that because the avg yards per carry already includes negative yardage, this would be double counting. Again, your thoughts would be appreciate on this.

Anyway here are the Top 10:

1. DE Quinton Coples, WAS 72.53
2. DE Brandon Graham, MIN 56.08
3. DE Cameron Jordan, CLE 55.08
4. DE Cornelius Washington, HOU 53.17
5. DE Lawrence Sidbury, CHI 50.08
6. DE Amos Houston, JAX 47.08
7. DE Greg Romeus, SD 44.99
8. OLB Daryl Washington, ARI 44.81
9. DE Justin Houston, STL 41.99
10. DE Gerald McCoy, TB 40.90

I'll leave it at that for now. Let me know your thoughts on how to maybe improve this. Thanks!
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