In Value/Cap Ratio (VCR) Part II: Digging into VCR by Contract Type we explained that VCR is most appropriately used to compare players within the same salary range. The reason for making comparisons within a given salary range is that, though the VCR formula treats a player’s Approximate Value (AV) and percentage of team cap as equal parts of the equation, players’ AVs (i.e. contributions) cannot feasibly grow at the same rate that their salaries multiply. This is best illustrated with an example. In 2014, Russell Wilson, on his rookie contract, made only $817,000 and threw 20 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers, on a veteran contract that year, made $17.6 million, 21x the amount that Wilson was paid. It is simply not logistically possible for Rodgers to throw the number of touchdowns (420) in one season that would technically make him 21x as valuable as Wilson.
Since players who are making significant salaries and absorbing large percentages of their teams’ caps will not have a high VCR, comparing them with other players within their salary range will provide the proper context in which to evaluate them.
In 2014, Rodgers, the NFL MVP, had a VCR of 1.59, which was 26th out of 81 quarterbacks in the NFL. Of the 81 quarterbacks, only 53 had an AV of at least 1. The 28 quarterbacks who didn’t have an AV either played a few snaps or not at all. So, out of the quarterbacks who actually played, Rodgers had an average VCR. However, when comparing him to quarterbacks making $15 million or more (his salary range), Rodgers’ value becomes apparent. Rodgers’ VCR of 1.59 exceeds that of all quarterbacks in that salary range including Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Jay Cutler. In fact, the only quarterback making above $10 million who outranked Rodgers in VCR was Tony Romo, who made only $11.7 million, $6 million less than Rodgers. Despite his much lower cap hit, Romo’s VCR of 1.69 barely topped Rodgers’.
To provide the right context for evaluating VCR, players were grouped into ten distinct categories based on their salary cap charges. Averaging the VCR of players within distinct salary ranges provides a measuring stick with which to evaluate individual players. Below are the ten salary ranges, the average VCRs within those ranges, and the players within those ranges who had the highest VCR in 2014.
As you can see, the average VCR for players making under $1 million is above 5.00. As their salaries increase, their VCRs decrease to the point that the average VCR for players making $10 million is below 1.00.
Looking at the best performers by salary range, the excellence of the 2014 Green Bay Packers offense is startling. In four out of the ten ranges, the best performer was an offensive player for the Packers. Further, when looking at overall VCR, irrespective of salary, four out of the top 13 players in the NFL were members of the Packers’ offense.
This data would suggest that the 2014 Green Bay offense as a unit must have had an impressive aggregate AV. Indeed, after sorting players’ AVs by team and by unit (offense, defense, special teams), the Packers’ offense was the best unit in the NFL in 2014 by a large margin, with an AV of 148. Following them is the Dallas Cowboys offense, with an AV of 134, and the Seattle Seahawks defense, with an AV of 130. For perspective, the average AV for an NFL unit (offense or defense, not special teams) in 2014 was 97 as you can see in this first chart.
Below is a list of the aggregate Approximate Value of every offensive, defensive and special teams unit in the NFL for the 2014 season.