NFL Player Z-Score Rankings at the Halfway Mark
I introduced you folks who read Baltimore Sports and Life to Z-Score back in 2014. We looked at whole decade’s worth of players, and in 2014 followed Z-Scores throughout the season. Using Z-Score throughout the season, we’ve tracked who is worthy of the “elite” tag.
Click here for links to all of the decades we have broken down, including an in depth look at last years rankings.
Check out this article for all you need to know about Z-Score. The short version is that it is a score that is assigned to each qualifying player on a scale of -4.0 to +4.0, where 0.0 is average.
Anything over +1.96 is considered in the top 5% or “elite” by some definitions. In most seasons, scoring above +1.96 means you should be in consideration for the league’s MVP. All-Pro status at a minimum.
As we put week 9 behind us, each team has officially hit the half way mark of their season. What better time than now to take a look at the league’s elite candidates, and the top rookies thus far in 2015. Of course we’ll highlight the Ravens. This is Baltimore after all.
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Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons: sRBZ – 1.934. Jones came oh so close the 1.96, top 5%, or “elite” mark. For all intents and purposes, he is elite. Make no mistake about it. He has caught 80 balls in nine games, putting him on pace for 142.3 receptions on the year. Marvin Harrison holds the record at 143. Antonio Brown challenged it last year, but came up short at 129. His yards per reception is closer to average at 12.9, but leads the league with 1,029 receiving yards. Jones has found the endzone six times. His 114.3 yards per game ranks second to this next guy, who gets us started at the 1.96 mark….
Z-Score All-Pro Candidates
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears: sRBZ – 1.96. I know, I know. Jeffery has only played four games. But he has qualified for statistics in those four games by catching 33 balls, or 8.3 per game. (Jones, 8.9). He put up two more yards per catch than Julio Jones at 14.9. Jeffery leads the NFL at 123 receiving yards per game. Had he played all 16 games, that would put him on pace for 1,968 yards. Calvin Johnson holds the record for receiving yards in a season at 1,964. If he finishes the season, playing in 12 games, these elite numbers should garner All-Pro consideration, along with Julio Jones.
Karlos Williams, RB, Buffalo Bills: sRBZ – 2.124. Again, a candidate bitten by the injury bug, but playing at an elite level when healthy. Williams returned in week 9 after a few weeks off from a concussion, only to rush nine times for 110 yards (12.2 YPC). On three separate occasions, Williams averaged over nine yards per carry for a day. His 6.8 yards per touch is among the tops in the league. He also has found the endzone six times in five games. The only other player with more touchdowns than games played in 2015 is next up on the list. Karlos Williams won’t get any love as a backup running back. But this at least suggests that he should be earning more than his 10 or so touches a game. He should share the load equally, if not earn more of it over fellow RB, LeSean McCoy, who ranked 14th out of the RBs by the z-score metric.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons: 2.225. Freeman burst onto the scene, essentially stealing, earning the starting role from rookie RB, Tevin Coleman. No RB has touched the ball more thus far than Freeman with already 212 touches in 9 games. Have to wonder if he’ll hit that performance wall before he gets to the 377 touches he’s on pace for. He’s got 1,141 scrimmage yards, which is 241 more yards than second place, Mark Ingram. His 126.8 YPG, and 11 TDs dwarf the field. He’s also put the ball on the turf just once in all of those touches, making Freeman the clear cut best RB in the NFL right now.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: sRBZ – 2.56. I hate that I have to write about Tom Brady in a positive way. But here are facts without gushing over him. 68.6% completion rate (4th). 8.3 YPA (5th). 24 TDs (1st). 24/5 TD/turnover ratio (1st).
Rookies in the 2015 class (worst to best)
Ameer Abdulah, RB, Detroit Lions: sRBZ – -2.308 (Round 2)
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: sRBZ – -1.856 (Round 1, #15)
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins: sRBZ – -1.544 (Round 4)
Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins: sRBZ – -1.476 (Round 3)
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: sRBZ – -0.487 (Round 1, #1)
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks: sRBZ – -0.364 (Undrafted)
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: sRBZ – 0.050 (Round 2)
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns: sRBZ – 0.165 (Round 2)
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans: sRBZ – 0.499 (Round 1, #2)
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders: sRBZ – 0.651 (Round 1, #4)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings: sRBZ – 0.94 (Round 5)
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams: sRBZ – 1.499 (Round 1, #10)
Karlos Williams, RB, Buffalo Bills: sRBZ – 2.124 (Round 5)
Where do the Ravens rank?
Joe Flacco: sRBZ – -0.519. Flacco is just below average in all categories we measure. 63.3 completion percentage. 6.7 Y/A, 1.6 TD/G (13 total). 13/12 TD/turnover ratio. He ranks 23rd among QBs according to our Z-score, much lower than his 14th place finish a year ago. Not his best year, but in the table below, look at who is below him. The guy he faced off with in the Super Bowl just three seasons ago and is now benched. Nick Foles, who topped this ranking in 2013. Three #1 overall picks including the best regular season QB ever, and the heir to his throne in Indy. Been a crazy year for quarterbacks.
Justin Forsett: sRBZ – 0.063. Forsett is just about average on the year. What he has lacked in efficiency (4.4 yards per touch), he has made up for with his ball security, not coughing it once this year, and his 88 yards per game are not terrible in a day where there are a lot of dual threat backfields.
Steve Smith: sRBZ – 1.013. Smith ranks 12thamong receivers, including tight ends, in our ranking. Also the highest ranking Ravens player, and the only Ravens receiver to qualify for measurement. 46 catches for 670 yards in seven games was pretty good. His 95.7 yards per game ranked 5th in the NFL, and he found the endzone three times. The Ravens will surely miss him after an Achilles tear ended his season, and maybe his career as he contemplated retirement.
No other Ravens players qualified. Perhaps Crockett Gillmore, or Kamar Aiken with Steve Smith out, will appear in our rankings later in the season.
Here are the complete Z-Score, sRBZ rankings midway through 2015. (Current through week 9).
Wide receivers/Tight Ends
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]