I was stopping by Football Outsiders as I often do and came upon this link to Robert Weintraub's story about the most valuable positions in the NFL. The problem here is that it's too absolutist. The most valuable position on one team can be considerably less valuable on another. With so many different strategies at play, how can one assume that a single standard can be given for the value of all positions in all schemes?
It's a fun idea to work with, though. I thought I would try my hand at defining the most valuable positions for Seattle in both Mike Holmgren's offense and John Marshall's defense.
Mike Holmgren's Offense
Under Holmgren's offense, and in fact most Walsh derived offenses, the passing game seeks to hack up defenses with lots of short patterns. One of the results of this style of play is that additional blockers are rarely kept behind. Therefore the front five must do the heavy lifting on pass protection. Further, Holmgren's system favors a power rushing game that requires a tackle that can both protect the passer and be a force run blocking, especially in the second level. Walter Jones is the foremost player Seattle can not afford to lose.
This is sort of self explanatory. One of the biggest reasons quarterback's are so valuable is not just that they are the engine of an offense but that they are incredibly scarce. I submit that they're more, perhaps even double, #1 or Ace type pitchers in the MLB than even competent quarterbacks in the NFL.
3. Left Guard
Same basic responsibilities as the left tackle, but with more emphasis on the run game and far less scarcity.
4. Right Tackle
Again, this falls back to the need for the front five to be able to handle blocking duties with almost no additional help.
5. Running Back
A prototypical rushing back in a Walsh style offense should be able to convert first downs and touchdowns, get big gains, occasionally pass block and receive out of the backfield. People underestimate how hamstrung Alexander's inadequacies in the receiving game have left Holmgren's preferred playbook.
Line calling, combo blocking, the center is crucial to both the passing attack and the running game. The value here is held down only because quality centers are relatively plentiful.
7. Tight End
The tight end must be able to block, run solid routes but most crucially, stretch the seam. His work downfield and ability to threaten safeties on the deep post allow for Holmgren's bevy of underneath routes to work.
8. Full Back
Important and scarce because in this offense they must be able to lead block on the power rushing game and receive out of the backfield.
9. Wide Receiver #1
In reality, the Walsh is designed to allow for undersized, quick and disciplined receivers who have little value in a downfield passing attack to be valuable. It is, in a sense, a deemphasis of the position.
10. Right Guard
The least demanding of the line spots, still must be able in pass pro.
11. Wide Receiver #2, etc
Another position that is deemphasized. Players who would not be valuable in most offenses can succeed.
John Marhsall's Defense
This is Rocky Bernard, the unheralded linchpin of Seattle's pass rush. Few offenses expect their defensive lineman to be able to penetrate, collapse and/or sack the way Marshall's defense does. Without a healthy Bernard the Hawks' pass rush collapsed last season and with it their defense.
1b. Right Defensive Tackle
The run stopper. What Bernard does for the pass rush, Marcus Tubbs did for the run defense. This position must have two abilities rarely found in combination for a tackle: the ability to occupy blockers and the ability to shoot gaps. Best filled by the near-nonexistent true three technique defensive tackle.
3. Right Defensive End
Must not only create pass rush but contain the outside rushing game. Has a slight edge on the left defensive end because the competition on the right is generally stiffer (facing the offenses left tackle) and because they rush from the QB's blind side.
4. Left Defensive End
5. Middle Linebacker
The MLB is less important than the pass rush, but hugely valuable nonetheless. That doesn't mean that Lofa Tatupu is less important to the current Hawks than Darryl Tapp, just that the position itself is less crucial. The MLB has three primary responsibilities, and finding one who can do all three can be dicey. The first is line calls, you'll see Tatupu call for stunts or tap someone on the hip to have them move left or right--this is all in an effort to create the proper spacing necessary to clog rush lanes or create pass rush. The second is run support, that's true of every defense. The final is to man the deep middle zone. This is one more way that Marshall's defensive philosophy mirrors the Tampa 2.
6. Free Safety
Marshall employs a lot of zones, the upside is that with a proper pass rush turnovers are forced, the downside is that when the pass rush fails receivers are prone to break free down the field. The free safety must be able to contain the deep passing game.
7. Strong Side Linebacker
The primary pass rusher in the linebacking corps.
8. #1 Cornerback
Marcus Trufant is expected to work from an island quite a bit, his man coverage allows Seattle to deploy zone coverage with their other DBs and LBs.
9. Strong Safety
Used both in the mid-deep zone and in run support. The safety must be able to account for the not infrequent possibility that a running back will break into the second level (thanks to our undersized front 7) and be able to fill rushing lanes and make open field tackles.
10. Weak Side linebacker
Run support, pass rush--Not a demanding position and one that helps players with clear weaknesses like Leroy Hill be valuable.
11. #2 Cornerback
Some zone, some man, deemphasized because the emphasis on pass rush.
I'm interested in everyone's opinions.