DRC decision, other thoughts, and a look at Sack Differential

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend.  I’ve got some random thoughts to get out before they get too stale, followed by a quick look at the importance of sacks:

DRC:  I would have tagged DRC, and it would have been an easy decision.  In my mind, the only possible reason for not doing so is if DRC was actively undermining the coaches.  I know a lot of people have resorted to calling DRC a “locker room cancer” and such, but I just don’t get the sense he was that big of a problem.

Last year the entire team fell apart.  The coaches appeared to be undermining each other. Two were fired midseason and it became clear that the head coach would be let go after the season ended.  Is it really a surprise that this led to a team “quitting” on itself?  I’m not trying to excuse that type of play, but the fact is almost the entire team was guilty, and it’s reasonable to think that in a better atmosphere, DRC will return to somewhat consistent play.

He was very bad for a lot of last year, and clearly is not worth $10.7 million.  However, the Eagles DONT NEED THE CAP SPACE.  It really doesn’t matter how much you’re paying him, since it’s only a one year commitment and it doesn’t preclude the team from doing anything else.  Worst case scenario: he sucks again and is gone after next year.

As it stands, it looks like the Eagles will not bring him back.  That means the team is now looking for an entire starting DB corps.  Maybe in a better line-up Nate Allen is acceptable.  Maybe in a great line-up Kurt Coleman can be covered for.  That still leaves 3 starting spots.  I know Howie has claimed to be fully committed to BPA (best player available) in the draft, but it’s going to be extremely tempting to take someone like Dee Milner.  If that ends up being a reach, then the Eagles have blown a huge opportunity to kick-start the next phase of the franchise.

If they don’t draft Millner (or another top prospect), where is the team going to find 2 starting CBs?  I’ve mentioned before that this is not a 1 year process.  Still, I was hoping the team would use its resources to band-aid a few of the holes it couldn’t fix this offseason.  DRC fits this role perfectly (band-aid).

Draft Watching:  It’s fun to read about all of the draft prospects and compare the “big boards”, but remember, at this point most of it’s useless.  The boards are going to change, some dramatically, so don’t get too caught up in things like “Floyd has passed Star” or “no QB’s are worth 1st round picks”.  We’ll probably get a very different story closer to draft day, after all the interviews are done and teams have done a lot more film work.

I do like looking at the National Football Posts rankings, though.  They claim that their evaluations will not be affected by the combine, only by prospect interviews and character issues from here on in.  They’ve got Nassib ranked #1 overall…(he’s the guy the Eagles likely have their eyes on in the Mike Vick-as-insurance scenario).  If this ranking holds, safe to say he won’t be there for the Eagles in round 2.

When it gets closer to the draft I’ll pull together a “consensus” prospect ranking, and we can use that with our Draft Strategy Chart to look at what the Eagles should do.

Nick Foles:  He will probably be traded.  Again, ignore what the “Eagles sources” are saying.  Given the supposed weakness in this year’s QB draft class, holding on to Foles until draft day and then auctioning him off will maximize his value.  Some team will be desperate for a QB and see their top choice gone.  If things fall the right way, the Eagles can definitely get a 2nd round pick for Foles.  At the very least, he’s should garner a 3rd + a later round pick (and IMO he’s worth a lot more than that).

OG’s in the first round:  I don’t care what Mike Mayock says.  I don’t care if Chance Warmack will immediately be the best guard in football.  Choosing a Guard in the first round is a dramatic misallocation of resources.  The draft is not just about finding prospects who will play.  It’s about maximizing the VALUE of every pick.

Sacks:  This relationship will be fairly obvious, but it’s not a stat I see referenced very often (sack differential). Obviously getting sacked is bad and sacking the other QB is good, but the overall sack differential (sacks-sacks allowed) is HIGHLY correlated with winning.   The only Super Bowl champion in the last 10 years with a negative regular season sack differential were the Ravens this year (-1).  Here is the chart, with Sack Differential on the y-axis (and SB winners in yellow):

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 11.22.09 AM

The correlation value is .62, a very big number.  For reference, this is about the same as the value we found for TO margin (.64).  However, I’d argue that sacks differential is MUCH easier to effect than TO margin. (I’ll do a persistence post as a follow-up).  The idea here is to view OL and DL play as more of a continuum rather than discrete units.  Overall, you want to win the LOS (line of scrimmage).  That could mean EITHER allowing fewer sacks on offense or creating more on defense (I’m intentionally ignoring the run game here).  Ideally you will be good at both, but it’s the net effect that we are looking for.

So for example, rather than fixate on either the OL or DL in the draft, the Eagles should take whoever will add the most to EITHER unit.  Right now, NT is a bigger immediate need than anything on the OL, but if the team finds an OT that adds more than the available NT’s, it should draft the OT.  Given the choice between a Great OL/Bad DL combo and a decent OL/DL combo, it may in fact be better to go with the first choice, which runs counter to popular draft strategy.  Teams typically focus on improving weaknesses, when they should focus on BIGGEST IMPACT.  So choosing to take an area of strength and make it dominant (say the 49ers taking an OL) may be a better strategy than trying to go from mediocre to good at another position group.  This is of course all relative (and near impossible to accurately quantify), but it’s more support for taking the BPA rather than need.


9 thoughts on “DRC decision, other thoughts, and a look at Sack Differential

  1. I don’t see the problem with letting DRC walk. Eagles aren’t going to win the Superbowl next season, especially with bringing in a new scheme on both offense and defense, so who cares if the secondary sucks? A terrible secondary just means a higher draft pick in 2014.

    Agree on everything else.

    • Valid point. However, a lot of the work I’ve done shows the Eagles can definitely rebound to make the playoffs next year, in which case you’d like to put the best team out there. Not contenders though, so from 50,000 ft view, you’re right, higher pick is better. Still be nice to see a decent team next year though.

      • Yeah they have a chance to rebound, I won’t argue that. And watching a team that isn’t terrible is far more enjoyable than watching one that sucks. With that said, it is highly, highly unlikely this team will be able to compete for a Superbowl. They’re better off building for 2014, which is what letting DRC walk does.

  2. Regarding NT’s, unless you find the next Vince Wilfork, its a waste of resources going for one early. Because most NT’s play very few snaps (most 3-4 teams take them out on passing downs, those they give almost 0 value regarding sacks, I know some sacks appear in less obvious passing downs) and looking around the NFL its clear you can find a good one later on.

    • Very true, and if you look at the Optimal Draft Strategy post, you’ll see DTs also have one of the highest miss rates in the 1st round (just 64% have become “starters” within the sample). However, if someone like Star is clearly an elite player and better than all of the other prospects, I’d like to take him. Matching him with Cox could be incredible. Can’t double both of them, otherwise nearly the whole OL is committed to just 2 players, a huge advantage for the defense. Definitely a case of the whole (cox + stud NT) being greater than the sum of its parts.

  3. The sack differential is quite intuitive because sacks generally mean that a drive will stall (and result in a punt). Obviously this is not always the case, but often having a 2nd and 16 (or 3rd and 16) is the death knell of a drive. I have no idea if this stat is readily available, but would you happen to know the percentage of the time when a team taking a sack fails to get a subsequent first down?

    Quick DRC nib: I believe we have already debated this, but I just want to comment on your “zero opportunity cost” stance. A few points: 1) cap space can be allocated to signing other players. To the effect that one may believe FA is not the way to go, DRC should still be equated as a FA and not an Eagle at heart. Either way, you are getting a mercenary. 2) Correct me if I am wrong, but the Eagles can still carry over unused cap space into next year. 3) Playing DRC at cornerback prevents the growth and development of another player (dynamic costs). 4) Having a lame duck player also effects the chemistry of the rest of the defense, because they will be aware by mid-season whether DRC will be renewed. Simply summarized, tagging DRC is a misallocation of resources. For the $10.66m price, you can basically secure his services for two seasons on a 5yr, two guaranteed contract. Much more prudent usage of salary (and provides greater cap flexibility).

    • All that DRC stuff is valid, however there are a few points I disagree with:

      -The development cost would normally be an issue, but the Eagles dont have anyone on the roster that is a good candidate for “needs playing time to develop”.
      -Part of the reason I like the franchise tag is that its ONLY for 1 year. SoI understand your point about the 2 yr deal at the same price, but due to his inconsistency, id rather pay him the $10 for one year and not be tied to him next year.
      -Obviously the Eagles could use $10 mil towards another player, I just meant that they have enough space to go after whoever they want. Theoretically the franchise tag would hurt that, but realistically I dont see any way they sign enough FAs to need that $10 mil in space. That could change. If there are a couple stud FAs that the Eagles want to sign for big money, maybe it comes into play. I dont think thats likely though.
      -Similar to the last point, I don’t see the carryover space helping that much. Most people are ignoring the fact that DRC does have upside (a lot of it actually). He showed early last year that he can be among the best corners. I think the chance to get that outweighs the go-forward cap savings by not tagging him.

      It’s clear im in the minority, so I expect most people agree with you. Again, I don’t love DRC, just think the risk/reward for tagging him is pretty attractive.

      • Most of the stuff is reasonable speculation on both our parts, so I will just touch one point that we seem to disagree about. In regards to paying the tag now versus committing to two years guaranteed, view the second year of the guarantee as an option to keep him on the roster. For balance sheet purposes, view both cap hits as being in Y1, with the amount saved between Salary Y1 and Tag being carried over to secure the salary in Y2. You are literally getting DRC for free the second year (because of the team’s ability to carry cap space) by signing him to a two year guaranteed deal instead of the tag.

        Also, using the tag locks in future losses. There are two outcomes: 1) DRC outperforms and we have to overpay to keep him (without being able to credibly threaten to retag DRC); or 2) we do not resign him and have basically spent 10.67m to push our problems one year into the future. I just don’t see the upside to it compared to giving him a deal now.

  4. I know I’m about 2 weeks late on this, but I agree with you 100% about DRC.

    I was reading through that entire section thinking, “That’s EXACTLY what I’ve been saying”.

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