The 2019-20 NFL season is in the books, and general managers are already making preparations for the 2020 draft that is fast approaching.
The contracts that are handed out during this period could make or break a team’s fortune – the trick is in handing out the right money to the right player for the right amount of years. Essentially, finding a player who provides a higher production against their average salary.
So, who were the top five value players in the NFL last season?
Salary and total value rating provided by spotrac.com
5. Ronnie Stanley, LT, Baltimore Ravens
Average Salary: $5,121,083
True Value Rating: 97.33
Left Tackle is arguably the most important position in football, especially when your job as said LT is protecting generational talent Lamar Jackson’s blind side.
Thankfully, the Ravens can rely on Stanley, who was part of an offensive line unit that gave up just 1.9 sacks per game in 2019 – seventh-lowest in the league. He also only gave up five penalties, surrendered six total pressures in 16 games and recorded a 98.7 percent win rate in pass protection. He was named as the best pass blocker in 2019 by Pro Football Focus and was selected to his first Pro Bowl as a First-Team All-Pro. Not bad for a 25-year-old in just his fourth season in the league!
The fact that Stanley accomplished all of the above whilst still on his rookie contract – he’s slated to earn the fifth-year option salary of $12 million in 2020 – is reason enough to include him in the top 5.
4. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Average Salary: $674,752
True Value Rating: 99.75
George Kittle introduced himself to the league in 2018, receiving a Pro Bowl nod and being named to the All-Pro Second Team. But in 2019, he made a statement.
Kittle was second among all tight ends in receiving yards last season with 1,053, also chipping in with five touchdowns. But those stats don’t tell the whole picture, as anyone who saw him play last season can point to just how tough the 6’4”, 250lb Kittle was to bring down. He also served as an elite blocker for his position, and came up big in a number of games for the 49ers – including a dominant catch and run in the 48-46 win over the Saints that put San Francisco in position for the game-winning field goal.
Kittle was selected to the Pro Bowl and named to the All-Pro First Team, all while making well under $1m for the season. For the production he gave, it’s no wonder he’s rumoured to be in-line for a record-setting contract extension.
3. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay
Average Salary: $821,041
True Value Rating: 99.81
The Buccaneers have struggled for a number of years now, but they do have a few bright spots on their roster, including third-year wide receiver Chris Godwin.
Godwin posted 1,333 receiving yards in 2019 (third overall) and nine touchdowns (joint-fourth overall), as well as 15.5 yards per catch, which put him in the top 15 among all eligible receivers.
So while Godwin didn’t win any single category, he’s near the top in almost all of them, and costing just $875,041 against the cap in 2019, that’s incredible value for money.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Average Salary: $4,310,326
True Value Rating: 98.17
McCaffrey was a Fantasy Football owner’s wet dream in 2019, racking up 2,920 rushing yards and 2,523 yards (as well as 19 total touchdowns), becoming just the third player in history to join the 1,000 – 1,000 club. Here are some other mind-bending stats from his season:
- 116 receptions, beating his own record for most receptions by a running back
- Finished first in the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,392), third in rushing yards (1,361), first in receiving yards by a running back (1,005), and tied for first in total touchdowns (19)
- First-Team All-Pro, selected to Pro Bowl
That’s a whole lot of beefy numbers for a running back making just $4.3 million per year, especially when you consider his production versus some of the more, shall we say, ‘expensive’ players at his position (Todd Gurley at $14.3 million average annual salary springs to mind…).
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Average Salary: $2,367,912
True Value Rating: 99.86
When you have a league MVP averaging close to $2 million per year in salary, it’s fairly obvious he will represent the best value of any player in the NFL.
To do it in just your second year in the league is pretty ridiculous, but that’s just how good a season Lamar Jackson had. He wasn’t able to get it done in the playoffs, but in the regular season, he threw for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns, and churned up 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. As a reminder, that’s coming from a quarterback – in fact, he became the only player in history with at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. Oh, and he also led the league with most total touchdowns (44), and still has two years remaining on his four-year, $9 million contract with the Ravens.