FanPost

Framing the Chiefs' offseason

Tom Szczerbowski

From the FanPosts -Joel

I’m the kind of person that loves it when things can be broken down into simple little numbers that tell the story. While I certainly appreciate and never discount the value of the "intangible," I’d much rather be looking at say, a presidential election through the eyes of FiveThirtyEight than how I (or any of the millions of political pundits) "feel" about how various ridiculous factors might affect the outcome. It’s one of the things I love about baseball. It’s also one of the things that’s maddening to me about hockey- advanced statistics like Fenwick or Corsi only brush the tip of what could be a statistical iceberg. If framed in the right perspective, advanced statistics can tell the story of a sport perfectly.

However, there are times when advanced statistics can be overwhelming. I like to pretend that I know what I’m talking about in baseball, but I honestly have no idea what half of the advanced statistic acronyms even mean. Sometimes all the extra statistics blur out the important data and you interpret the problem in a way that is completely wrong. And as much as I’d love to make a post about the offseason detailing every single step the Chiefs should take and then back it up with advanced statistical analysis, I can’t do that.

I wish it were as simple as saying "Kendrick Lewis had a BABIP of .247, he’s going to rebound next year*" but it’s not. Baseball can be that way because when you hit the ball you’re either out or you’re not and over hundreds of at-bats in a season the data can really begin to tell a story. Football is different. Every player plays some role in every play. There’s as much going on mentally as there is physically. So it’s not enough to say that Kendrick Lewis successfully covers his receiver x out of y times. You also have to ask why he is being thrown at, whether he gets help from teammates in the secondary, who he’s getting matched up with in man coverage situations. My point is- football is complicated, and we don’t necessarily have the statistics to reflect that.

*Statistically, Kendrick Lewis was actually the third-best second baseman for the Royals last year.

* * *

Ok, I’m going to stop here and reaffirm that this fanpost is not a defense of Kendrick Lewis, because, wow, 350 words in and that’s exactly what it’s sounding like. Believe me, we’ll get back to Mr. Lewis.

I’m not going to solve all of the Chiefs’ problems in this fanpost. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can go read practically any other post written in the past couple weeks. All I want to do is provide a different way to frame the offseason- one that, to me, is the simplest and makes the most sense.

* * *

Let’s talk about fantasy football for a moment (I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of you have played it at some point). While managing a fantasy team isn’t even close to managing an actual NFL team, we can take some theories and practices that we use to improve our fantasy team and apply them to hypothetically improving our real-life football team.

In his draft day manifesto this year, Matthew Berry (or the "Talented Mr. Roto" or whatever other obsequious and/or demeaning nickname you call him) wrote a sentence that really stuck with me:

"At its fundamental level, fantasy football is all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win."

Doesn’t that also ring true for the actual football that plays itself out on the field every Sunday from September to February? That’s why teams kneel down when they have the lead and the ball and a minute left on the clock instead of chucking bombs downfield. But that can also mean dumping off a two-yard pass to Ray Rice on 4th and 29 and letting him work magic in the open field instead of heaving an ill-fated pass thirty yards downfield where it will probably be tipped or intercepted.

(via Big Craig)

All of those principles can similarly apply to player personnel. Let’s go back to fantasy football, which has a more direct correlation to roster management. Berry had an interesting way of quantifying his strategy of "giving yourself the best odds to win". He theorized that, in most standard leagues, you needed 8 wins to make the playoffs, and on average you needed to score about 94 points per week to get those 8 wins (It doesn’t work every time- I averaged 97 a week and still missed the playoffs).

The question on draft day becomes: How do I get those 94 points? What if we laid it out into an equation?

QB + RB + RB + WR + WR + FLEX + TE + D/ST + K ≥ 94

Berry gives this example:

QB RB RB WR WR FLEX TE D/ST K TOTAL
17 13 10 11 10 10 7 8 8 94

But if you had a better quarterback and a weaker running back it could look like:

QB RB RB WR WR FLEX TE D/ST K TOTAL
20 10 10 11 10 10 7 8 8 94

Or if you had two solid running backs and a lesser quarterback:

QB RB RB WR WR FLEX TE D/ST K TOTAL
10 14 14 11 10 11 7 9 8 94

And so on, you get the idea. This works great in fantasy football where there’s only a few positions to keep track of and every player’s value is quantified on a fairly simple scale. It’s tougher to apply to real football, but it can still be done.

Let’s assign every player on the Chiefs’ roster a number from 10 (good) down to 1 (not-so-good). For example, you’d give Jamaal Charles a 10, of course. You might give Alex Smith a 7. Kendrick Lewis? Maybe a 2 or 3. When you add up the scores of the players who see the most snaps (let’s call this the Total Roster Value or TRV) you want that to be as high as possible. Theoretically, the team with the highest TRV should win the Super Bowl. In other words, we just quantified the idea that the team with the best players wins championships.

Every offseason, all 32 NFL teams are working (well, should be working) to improve their Total Roster Value. If you have a linebacker valued at a 4, and there’s a 6 on the free agency market for a similar price, you should pull the trigger and make a deal with the 6. That’s two more points added to their TRV and every point counts.

* * *

Unfortunately, each team has a finite amount of money to use to bring in players. This means that you could land a 9 or a 10 in one position in free agency, but that would mean sacrificing improvements at other positions. The fundamental question becomes- is it better to improve one position by six points, or six positions by one point?

Let’s put this question in concept. You’re John Dorsey. You want to pick up a free safety, a wide receiver, maybe a tight end and a cornerback, maybe a few more positions here or there. You have the opportunity to sign Jairus Byrd, who would be a huge upgrade over Kendrick Lewis, but that would take up nearly all of your money for free agency and you’d have to take risks in the draft for the other positions. With the exception of maybe your first round pick, no other position would see any real improvement besides free safety.

OR, you could sign a more moderately-priced free safety (going off of citadelchief’s list, maybe a Nate Allen type) along with a reasonably-priced wide receiver and/or corner and still have a little bit of money left to look at maybe a tight end or lineman. You improved most of your positions of need, but none of them improved by an enormous amount.

I’m going to stop with the hypotheticals before you realize that I’m basically just saying that talent costs money and leave you with a few thoughts. First of all, every single thing that the Chiefs do in the offseason should do one of two things: It should increase their Total Roster Value in some way or it should free up the capital to improve their TRV later.

Secondly, we can also use this idea to put a monetary value on skill and the 1-10 scale we made earlier. Let’s say we want the 11 guys on the field to average at least a 7. 7 * 11 = 77 total points. You can figure how much you want to spend on those 11 guys, divide it by 77, and that’s how much one single point on the scale is worth. For one point of improvement, you should pay no more than that amount. (I’m not going to give you an example because I haven’t looked at any financial numbers at all yet and I’d rather not make a fool of myself. Sorry.)

* * *

I haven’t really told you anything you don’t already know in this post. Talent costs money and every dollar the Chiefs spend this season should improve the team. You knew that already. What I hope I provided was a simple way to frame the offseason and analyze the moves the Chiefs make. If you have the free time that I don’t, you can run down every player on the Chiefs’ roster now and figure out their Total Roster Value and keep an eye on it over the offseason. Or, you can use these ideas to analyze the individual moves themselves: If the old guy was a 5, and the new guy is a 6, but we’re paying the new guy $2.5 million more this year, is it really a good move?

If football ever delves deep into advanced statistics like baseball, it probably won’t be for a long while. But that’s completely okay, because the simple ones can work just as well. Sometimes, the best idea is to take a step back, clearly define the problem, and find the simplest solution.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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