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Another look at that list of top 15 players in the NFC West

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When Matt Williamson from ESPN dropped his list of the top 15 players in the NFC West, he probably had no idea of the mileage he would get out of it. Actually, he probably did, or at least his editors did. And that's ok, thoughtful lists that provoke good debates are valuable unlike the flotsam and jetsam of random slideshows engineered for nothing more than page views.

Williamson's list sure did raise the hackles of St. Louis Rams fans, most notably for leaving RB Steven Jackson off the list. To try and paint another picture of the list, I went back and looked at the players on there using a could of statistical measures, giving us a way to compare the players with Jackson and other Rams with a flat, more objective view of things. 

The list and more evidence that maybe Jackson did in fact belong there, after the jump.

For this I used the "approximate value" stat from Pro Football Reference. From PFR:

...the Approximate Value (AV) method is an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year (since 1950).

Here's the methodology laid out for you from PFR

  1. Larry Fitzgerald - AV: 7; DVOA: -12.9 percent
  2. Patrick Willis - AV: 14 
  3. Justin Smith - AV: 11
  4. Vernon Davis - AV: 9; DVOA: 27.5 percent
  5. Chris Clemons - AV: 7
  6. Aubrayo Franklin - AV: 7
  7. Brandon Mebane - AV: 5
  8. Russell Okung - AV: 4
  9. James Laurinaitis - AV: 9
  10. Mike Iupati - AV: 0
  11. Chris Long - AV: 9
  12. Darnell Dockett - AV: 10
  13. Frank Gore - AV: 8; DVOA: -8.9 percent
  14. Calais Campbell - AV: 7
  15. David Hawthorne - AV: 7
I threw in DVOA from Football Outsiders for the offensive skill players, just for another level of comparison. So what kind of numbers did Steven Jackson have?

Jackson had an AV of 10, the second highest of his career, but far off the 19 he had in 2006. His DVOA was -12.1 percent. Among all NFC West running backs last year, Jackson had the third highest DVOA, behind Gore and...Justin Forsett (!?). Compare Jackson's stats to Fitzgeralds'. Nobody's predicting the demise of the Cardinals' receiver, but Jackson had a better season last year. Ok, sure, receivers are dependent on their QBs, and Fitz had nothing to work with. Of course, running backs are dependent on their offensive line, and Jackson didn't have much help on runs up the middle, where half of his runs went last year. 

It's a completely subjective list, which is understandable. My list of the 15 best players would look different than yours. However, it's tough to consider it without Jackson's name on there. 

And what about Bradford? He had an AV of 9 and a DVOA of -9.3 percent. That's the best AV of any NFC West quarterback. However, Alex Smith did have a better DVOA than Bradford. Smith had fewer INTs and a higher completion percentage...in fewer games. Does anyone think Alex Smith is a better QB than Bradford? Again...it's a subjective list, take it for what it's worth.