Making the Case for Alex Smith

By Tyler Oberly
March 27, 2013

Photo: davidgonzalez

Many fans, writers, and NFL analysts do not believe Alex Smith is a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. This is a highly debatable topic that has increased with the recent success of Colin Kaepernick for the 49ers this season.  

Football front offices and an increasing number of fans want answers to questions such as:  How much is each player worth (on a balanced scale throughout the league)? How much is each player worth (on a balanced scale throughout the league)? Does my quarterback contain the critical elements required to win a Super Bowl? The answers to these types of questions hold obvious strategic advantages, but to this point few known analytical techniques provide them.

To answer those questions and many others, I created the Elitics Model.  The Elitics Model integrates database science to reveal players’ and teams’ unique rankings; in turn, these rankings expose important patterns and anomalies in performance that are considerably less evident using conventional evaluative approaches.  The results facilitate efficient answers to important questions like the ones we asked above.

Many of the arguments against Smith may be warranted, but when analyzing his statistics over the past two seasons, he has ranked in the top 10 among the league, with his Elitic Score rating well above the 1.75 baseline.

The Elitics Model

Editor's Note: The link below is the paper detailing the Elitics Model as presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, written by the author. Elitics is a statistical model that proves the most consistent NFL teams since the start of the Super Bowl era can be detailed quantitatively, by position, and can help establish why these teams are dominant. "The Elitics Model is designed to reveal, quantify, and communicate performance in guiding an organization to separate themselves apart from the rest of the league," Oberly's report states.

You can read the piece in full screen here.

Top 10 Players by Elitic Score (2012)*

  Player TD%/INT% Elitic Score Value/Elitic Score
1 Aaron Rodgers 7.1/1.4 2.51 $4,316,068.92
2 Peyton Manning 6.3/1.9 2.39 $8,033,472.80
3 Matt Ryan 5.2/2.3 2.33 $4,721,030.04
4 Russell Wilson 6.6/2.5 2.23 $335,201.79
5 Tom Brady 5.3/1.3 2.19 $7,168,949.77
6 Drew Brees 6.4/2.8 2.16 $9,259,259.26
7 Ben Roethlisberger 5.8/1.8 2.12 $6,014,150.94
8 Robert Griffin III 5.1/1.3 2.11 $2,502,263.03
9 Tony Romo 4.3/2.9 2.02 $5,561,055.94
10 Alex Smith 6.0/2.3 1.94 $4,123,711.34

Top 10 Players by Elitic Score (2011)*

  Player TD%/INT% Elitic Score Value/Elitic Score
1 Aaron Rodgers 9.0/1.2 2.74 $3,953,771.17
2 Drew Brees 7.0/2.1 2.62 $7,633,587.79
3 Tom Brady 6.4/2.0 2.32 $6,767,241.38
4 Tony Romo 5.9/1.9 2.30 $4,884,057.83
5 Matt Stafford 6.2/2.4 2.29 $5,240,174.67
6 Eli Manning 4.9/2.7 2.10 $7,272,109.05
7 Alex Smith 3.8/1.1 2.02 $3,960,396.04
8 Matt Ryan 5.1/2.1 2.02 $5,445,544.55
9 Matt Schaub 5.1/2.1 1.82 $7,269,230.77
10 Andy Dalton 3.9/2.5 1.73 $753,497.11

* with calculated $ value

Among all veterans (excluding rookies) ranked in the top 10 over the past two seasons, Alex Smith is also the lowest valued quarterback, next to Aaron Rodgers. One of the main reasons to explain Smith’s low value may be because he is not paid at the same level as a Tom Brady or Drew Brees, and we are not suggesting he should be.

However, with the high demand for a consistent quarterback in the NFL, Alex Smith has proven to be one of the most under-valued quarterbacks in the league over the past two seasons.

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