draft selected: the Rams ten players rank “most valuable”

draft selected: the Rams ten players rank “most valuable”

There isn’t and never will be a single accurate method for determining a football player’s genuine worth over a game, a season, or their entire career. There never was and never will be. In these situations, value is an illusive term for which there are no precise guidelines on how to compare one player to another.

Is Van Jefferson less useful than Aaron Donald? Yes, in an objective sense. That is beyond question.

Is Tutu Atwell, however, worth more than A.J. Jackson? Is Cooper Kupp less useful than Puka Nacua in the upcoming season? Was James Laurinaitis’s career more valuable than Janoris Jenkins’?

Everyone of you is free to hold an opinion and think that it is factual. However, when I inquire further and say, “All right, then, tell me how valuable each player is in POINTS,” What could you say that wasn’t just two arbitrary, random numbers we conjured up? I am aware of what a yard is. It’s unclear to me if Deacon Jones and Aaron Donald were equally valued, or even how much more valuable Aaron Donald was than Jones.

In any case, Pro-Football-Reference—the premier resource for any NFL writer who occasionally dips into the past—makes such a number. Not that I’m saying this is the figure to use when evaluating value—there isn’t one!—but I will tell you what PFR has to say about Adjusted Value and list the top 10 players the Rams have ever selected based on AV.

And no, even PFR wouldn’t claim that AV represents player worth in its whole. The first line of Pro-Football-Reference’s AV explainer reads, “AV is not meant to be a be-all, end-all metric.” Football stat lines just cannot fully convey a player’s efforts, unlike those in baseball and basketball.

So please, feel free to doubt the results just as much as the person who produced them.

Because of the era he played in, nine-time Pro Bowl Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin only has 17 AV, and those numbers don’t add up in the Super Bowl era. It’s simply a thing, much as how DVOA and EPA’s passer ratings are made-up figures based on facts like yards, touchdowns, fumbles, and sacks. But for now, I’m using AV because it’s a good starting point.

Once more, it is NOT DIFFERENT from highly prized artificially constructed analytical metrics like EPA, which are fundamentally predicated on yards gained, yards lost, scores, turnovers, etc.

The top-10 AV of players that the Rams have ever drafted:
1. Aaron Donald, 124 wAV, 2014–2023
Weighted AV, or “w” for weighted AV, aims to adjust the score based on the era. Evidently, there’s a reason why this doesn’t work with Van Brocklin.

Donald, the player with the highest draft pick in Rams history, has no such problems. By a great distance.

2. Merlin Olsen, 116 wAV, 1962–1976
Would the NFL’s all-time best defensive line be the Rams’? In 15 seasons, Olsen was a member of 14 Pro Bowls. In fact, he was nominated twice in his career for MVP: in 1970 and 1972.

3. Jack Youngblood (112 wAV), 1971–1984.
Youngblood was a five-time first-team All-Pro and unofficially led the NFL in sacks in both 1974 and 1979.

4. Orlando Pace (104 wAV), 1997-2009
For offensive lineman, average value is determined by positional value, games played, starts, and All-Pro honors. At a time when he was competing with tackles like Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones, Pace played in 169 games and was named to three first-team All-Pro lists.

5. Deacon Jones (103 wAV), 1961–1974.
Olsen, Youngblood, and Jones were on the 1971 Rams defensive line. The next player up is the linebacker. Wikipedia has a better summary of Jones than I could:

6. Isiah Robertson (103 wAV) 1971–1982.
In the first round of the 1971 draft, Robertson and Youngblood were selected by the Rams. One is a Hall of Famer, and the other is a two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl player who, in my opinion, may have been the most underappreciated player on the 1970s squad. Deacon Jones was transferred in 1972, thus the Rams were never quite fortunate enough to assemble this elite group of defensive players in their prime.

7. Isaac Bruce (101 wAV), 1994-2009
His 1995 season—just his second in the NFL—saw 119 catches for 1,791 yards—way ahead of its time. Surprisingly, in a loaded receiving class, Bruce was second in yards and fourth in catches. His yardage ranks him fifth all-time.

8. Torry Holt (99 wAV), 1999-2009
Torry Holt nearly caught him in AV, a player who has had a far tougher time being inducted into the Hall of Fame than Bruce. Bruce only led the NFL in yards once, but he is 17th all-time in receiving yards and has led the league twice. I know that becoming a Hall of Fame wide receiver is harder than making it to virtually any other position due to the intense competition, but I’m not sure what Holt did incorrectly to be left off of his first ten nominations.

9. Roman Gabriel (98 wAV), 1962–1977
The Rams did not draft Kurt Warner. His career total was 113 AV. Jared Goff hasn’t yet caught up to Gabriel, with 95 career AV.

10. Henry Ellard, 97 wAV, 1983–1998
Are the Rams’ receiving room and defensive line the best in the Hall of Fame?

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