One of the reasons that so many people value Pro Football Focus is how easy it is to translate the data. Someone with a green positive score must be having a good season. Red. Negative. Bad. Easy. Other organizations offer in-depth analysis but sometimes the translation of that data can be complicated.
Football Outsiders is one of my favorites, but translating and explaining the information is cumbersome, especially to people that just want easy answers that confirm their own talking points.
For example, two of their widely used rankings are DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) aren't just grades. There's a formula behind each that accounts for a value of a player, factoring the situation of the play, the opponent and how good they are over a replacement level player.
Here's DVOA broken down simply, per FO explanation:
One running back runs for three yards. Another running back runs for three yards. Which is the better run? This sounds like a stupid question, but it isn’t. In fact, this question is at the heart of nearly all of the analysis on Football Outsiders. Several factors can differentiate one three-yard run from another. What is the down and distance? Is it third-and-2 or second-and-15? Where on the field is the ball? Does the player get only three yards because he hits the goal line and scores? Is the player’s team up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and thus running out the clock; or down by two touchdowns, and thus facing a defense that is playing purely against the pass? Is the running back playing against the porous defense of the Raiders, or the stalwart defense of the Bears?
You're thinking, alright. So what.
What if I were to tell you that Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones gets the most value out a single play than any receiver in the NFL this year? Four-touchdown performances tend to have that rippling affect.
But now you're awake.
Jones has a DVOA of 54.7 percent -- meaning that the value of his plays are that much higher than a replacement-level player. No wide receiver had a higher value than Jones in the NFL.
It's not just the value, but Jones also ranked fifth with a 207 DYAR.
What's that? FO explains:
Let’s say you have a running back who carries the ball 300 times in a season. What would happen if you were to remove this player from his team’s offense? What would happen to those 300 plays? Those plays don’t disappear with the player, though some might be lost to the defense because of the associated loss of first downs. Rather those plays would have to be distributed among the remaining players in the offense, with the bulk of them being given to a replacement running back. This is where we arrive at the concept of replacement level, borrowed from our partners at Baseball Prospectus. When a player is removed from an offense, he is usually not replaced by a player of similar ability. Nearly every starting player in the NFL is a starter because he is better than the alternative. Those 300 plays will typically be given to a significantly worse player, someone who is the backup because he doesn’t have as much experience and/or talent. A player’s true value can then be measured by the level of performance he provides above that replacement level baseline, totaled over all of his run or pass attempts.
Jordie Nelson, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson were the only receivers that ranked higher. That's impressive company. A.J. Green had a 104 DYAR, which ranked 25th in the league.
It's a complicated explanation but reads with extreme familiarity.
But if you need something simple, Pro Football Focus ranks Jones as the seventh-best receiver in the NFL. And if you're questioning the credibility of the analysis regarding Green's DYAR by Football Outsiders, then consider that he's the 16th best receiving in the NFL... according to Pro Football Focus.