Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) celebrates after scoring the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Kansas City 45-44. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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.