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Cost-Benefit Analysis: Which Colts Were the Biggest Bargain in 2013?

When I look at an NFL team, the most important thing to me is efficiency. How can a GM build a team to get the most from the smallest amount of resources? Getting a $30 million dollar player is great, but if you can get 90% of the production for 60% of the price, isn't that a better option? 

Of course, there are exceptions, but overall, the most efficient team builders will be the most successful. In large part, this is why the Colts were so successful under Bill Polian. Polian was able to get very good production from late-round picks for a large part of his time in Indianapolis, which allowed the Colts to pay their elite players elite money (and later in his time in Indianapolis, mediocre players). 

So, on that note, I decided to look at the Colts' roster compared to their payroll in 2013. I devised a formula that combined AV (approximate value, which simply values total production) and normalized Pro Football Focus grades (which valued the quality of play) to assess both production and level of play. There is value in both production and quality of play. While Mike McGlynn gets a somewhat high AV for starting 14 games, his play on the field was putrid, and needs to be accounted for. While Reggie Wayne's AV is kind of low, his outstanding play while healthy should be accounted for. 

The formula wasn't all that complicated, and it's not perfect by any means, but it worked for me. It went something along these lines: I normalized the +/- PFF grades on a 0.0-1.0 scale and then multiplied that grade times the player's 2013 AV for what I called "Production Points." Again, it's not a perfect, or even well thought-out scale, but it's what I went with. 

For what it's worth, here's what the scale came out with the 10 most productive Colts for 2013: Robert Mathis, Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Gosder Cherilus, Anthony Castonzo, Cory Redding, Vontae Davis, Donald Brown, Jerrell Freeman and Reggie Wayne. 

That's a pretty good list. 

So, once I got my production points, I had something numerical I could work with with the contracts. I took each player's 2013 cap hit and divided it by their production points to get "Dollars per production point." How much did each player's relative production cost? That's the question I wanted to answer. I think I got a pretty good answer. On that long introductory note, here are the top 10 most efficient players, money-wise, for 2013. Part 2, the biggest cap-wasters, will come later. 

10. QB Andrew Luck

2013 Cap Hit: $5,024,545

AV: 15

PFF Grade: +11.1

Production Points (PP): 13.86

Dollars Per PP: $362,500.33

It's no surprise that Andrew Luck falls on his list. He was one of the most productive Colts on the team, and the most important, and he's still on his rookie contract. While the No. 1 contract isn't necessarily cheap — Luck's cap hit is still fifth-highest on the team — getting near-elite production from a quarrterback for $5 million a year is a steal. The quarterback position is the most important, and most expensive, on a team, and gettin Luck for this price right now is highway robbery. 

 

9. Vontae Davis

2013 Cap Hit: $1,861,250

AV: 6

PFF Grade: +15.5

Production Points (PP): 5.86

Dollars Per PP: $317,414.78

Davis, though under appreciated by some, was incredibly productive for the Colts in 2013 after an inconsistent first season in Indianapolis. While the Colts likely lean on him to be on an island a bit too much, he was up to the challenge the vast majority of the time. Some will question whether or not he's worth a big-money contract, and I personally support it, but there's no question that he provided great value as a No. 1 corner in 2013. 

 

8. Xavier Nixon

2013 Cap Hit: $95,294

AV: 1

PFF Grade: -3.4

Production Points (PP): 0.33

Dollars Per PP: $288,448.60

Nixon isn't a name that most would expect to show up on this list, but his minute cap hit lands him at No. 8. Nixon provided about 150 decent snaps as a depth OL for very little money. Nixon was moved to the active roster in early December and had a solid start in the Colts win at Kansas City along with a few decent games in spot duty and as an extra offensive lineman. He had a rough game against J.J. Watt after Joe Reitz got hurt in Week 15, but, can you blame him?

 

7. Anthony Castonzo

2013 Cap Hit: $2,182,117

AV: 9

PFF Grade: +11.8

Production Points (PP): 8.43

Dollars Per PP: $258,994.12

Bill Polian's last first-round draft pick has quietly developed into a pretty darn good left tackle. Castonzo isn't elite by any sense of the word, but he's been a very good run blocker and a more than passable pass protector throughout the last two years. I'd say he's a top-25 tackle, and he'll only look better with Donald Thomas back healthy at left guard in 2014.

 

6. Joe Reitz

2013 Cap Hit: $555,000

AV: 3

PFF Grade: +5.1

Production Points (PP): 2.23

Dollars Per PP: $248,374.52

I like Joe Reitz a lot, so him coming in at sixth on this list pleases me. Reitz is an athletic guard who got buried on the bench this year due to lingering injuries and the Colts' stubbornness regarding Mike McGlynn, but he was a very good extra lineman and totaled a PFF grade of +4.8 in his three starts. I love his chemistry with Castonzo, and would love to see him stick around as a depth guard. ANYWAY, he was an efficient use of money in 2013.

 

5. Josh McNary

2013 Cap Hit: $119,117

AV: 1

PFF Grade: +2.0

Production Points (PP): 0.60

Dollars Per PP: $197,913.34

McNary seems to be another one of Ryan Grigson's "diamond in the rough" finds, playing very well down the stretch as a rotational linebacker. Obvioiusly he was cheap, but he also flashed versatility to stick in the lineup in 2014.

 

4. Da'Rick Rogers

2013 Cap Hit: $166,764

AV: 2

PFF Grade: -1.1

Production Points (PP): 0.89

Dollars Per PP: $187,991.52

While Rogers wasn't great in his rookie season in Indianapolis (he still needs so, so much work in route-running and general coverage reading/awareness), he flashed some talent and made some big catches that were well worth his $167k cap hit. Remember, the comeback against Kansas City in the playoffs likely doesn't come without Rogers' momentum-shifting catch down the middle.

 

3. Jerrell Freeman

2013 Cap Hit: $486,666

AV: 9

PFF Grade: -0.3

Production Points (PP): 4.36

Dollars Per PP: $111,595.34

The poster boy for Grigson's ability to find talent anywhere, Freeman has been a key part of the Colts defense since arriving in 2012. Freeman is often overrated by Colts fans, but to get the kind of production they have for less than $500k is fantastic. Now if they could only pair him with some actual talent…

 

2. T.Y. Hilton

2013 Cap Hit: $616,850

AV: 10

PFF Grade: +8.3

Production Points (PP): 8.58

Dollars Per PP: $71,892.94

T-Y! T-Y!

I love T.Y. So, so much. He's been one of the most productive rookie-sophomore receivers in NFL history, becoming just the 16th receiver to catch over 130 passes and over 1900 yards in his first two seasons. And that's not even including his record-breaking postseason. All that for a little over $600k? Yes please and thank you. 

 

1. Griff Whalen

2013 Cap Hit: $71,470

AV: 2

PFF Grade: +5.0

Production Points (PP): 1.48

Dollars Per PP: $48,246.28

I'll admit, I still don't think "The Griff" has the most potential to be a long-term option for Indianapolis, but it's hard to ignore how he stepped up in 2013. "Griffer" had the lowest cap hit of every player not named Jeris Pendleton, but gave the Colts 31 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns. 

"Van Whalen" was dependable, dropping just two passes, and surprised by forcing a few missed tackles to gain extra yards late in the season. When throwing at Whalen, Luck had a 98.0 passer rating, second on the team only to Da'Rick Rogers' 102.8.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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