Commentary

Football Outsiders: 2011 All-Pros

Forget reputation; the numbers (and tape) say this roster is the NFL's best

Originally Published: January 13, 2012
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders
Jordy Nelson and Aaron RodgersJeff Hanisch/US PresswireThe numbers say Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers rate as true All-Pros.

Sure, you can pick an all-pro team based on reputation. If you're an insider, you can pick an all-pro team based on what you've heard from your sources around the league. If you're really an insider, you can pick an all-pro team based on watching all-22 game film. (Only Greg Cosell, producer of "NFL Matchup," qualifies for this category.)

Or, if you are an advanced stat analyst, you can pick an All-Pro team based on advanced stats. And when ESPN asked us to pick a Football Outsiders All-Pro team, that's exactly what we did. We also decided to structure our All-Pro team like a real NFL lineup, instead of an NFL lineup from 20 years ago. Since NFL teams now use three or more wide receivers on more plays than they use just two wide receivers, we've picked three receivers instead of a fullback.

But we start by settling an argument about who is the best under center.

Offense

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
The debate about Rodgers versus Drew Brees is a debate about efficiency vs. total value. We have two main metrics at Football Outsiders: DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which measures efficiency per play, and DYAR (Defense-adjusted Value Above Replacement), which measures total value. (You can read more about how we figure those metrics here.) Rodgers led the league with 52.6 percent DVOA, the fourth-highest figure of the last 20 years. Brees had more value, however, in part because he was involved in 138 more pass plays. So he finished with 2,544 DYAR, the second-highest figure of the last 20 years. So which do you prefer, efficiency versus total value? Well, if this was an issue in which Rodgers threw fewer passes because the Green Bay passing game was set up by a great rushing attack, I might say total value and thus Brees. But the main reason Brees threw so many more passes is because the Saints simply played at a faster pace than Green Bay, and thus ran more plays overall. The additional value from throwing so many passes didn't really do more to help New Orleans win more games. In that case, it makes sense to go with the man who was the better passer on a pure play-by-play basis, and that's Rodgers.