Another round of the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs is over, and four teams are still alive competing for the Lombardi Trophy. The Divisional Round saw brilliant performances from top offensive players such as WR Stefon Diggs. Other players, such as QB Jared Goff, had more understated (but still excellent) games. Let’s examine those performances and others using the Offensive Value Metric (OVM).
Why we are using the OVM to evaluate the top offensive players from the Divisional Round
Let’s start by explaining why we are using the OVM, as many readers are likely unfamiliar with it. The OVM was created by the (Bx) Movement to measure players based on how impactful they were on their offense. It uses the NFL’s advanced statistics to determine how much a player influenced their own statistics.
Much like last week, many of the OVM’s top players didn’t perform particularly well according to their traditional statistics (although there is one notable exception). Once again, however, remember that the OVM is based on the amount of value provided given the player’s situation, not merely the statistics they accumulated. Therefore, it is possible to receive a high grade even if your statistics are somewhat underwhelming.
Top offensive players from the Divisional Round: QB
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams: 29.54 (174 YDS, 1 TD)
The 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs got off to a challenging start for Goff. After suffering a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand in Week 16, Goff was forced into action early when a head injury sent backup John Wolford to the hospital during the Wild Card Weekend. Despite those difficult circumstances, Goff led the Rams to a victory over the rival Seattle Seahawks.
Over the weekend, Goff was healthy enough to start. His box score statistics were unimpressive, but he quietly had a highly efficient performance.
Many of his advanced metrics are somewhat underwhelming. He threw into tight windows just 3.7% of the time. That percentage was only higher than that of Patrick Mahomes. Goff also generally threw shorter passes than his counterparts on other teams. They traveled just 5.8 yards through the air on average.
Goff had stellar completion statistics
Although he struggled in other areas, Goff’s completion statistics blew every other QB out of the water. As a baseline, his 77.8% completion percentage was the highest of the weekend. You might suggest that he was aided by the fact that he attempted easier passes than other quarterbacks. That criticism isn’t entirely untrue. However, there is more to the story.
The NFL calculates the expected completion percentage of each QB. During the Divisional Round, only three of the eight QBs exceeded expectations, Goff being one of them. More impressively, he did so by 9.9%, which was 7.7% higher than the next-best differential.
In short, while Goff attempted relatively simple passes, he completed them at a much higher rate than expected. It was a quietly efficient performance from Goff, though it likely wasn’t enough to silence his many doubters.
That said, barring a trade, Goff’s enormous contract will likely keep him in Los Angeles for a while. As such, Rams fans should take comfort in the fact that he wasn’t awful against the Packers, even if he wasn’t particularly inspiring to watch.
Top RB from the Divisional Round
Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs: 13.5 (78 YDS, 0 TD)
Compared to the other players on this list, Williams’ grade looks abysmally low. To be fair, running back grades tend to be lower than those received by the other offensive skill positions. That said, there is generally at least one running back each week who has a grade above that standard.
That didn’t happen in the Divisional Round. Compared to last week’s leader, Derrick Henry, who earned a grade of 21.21, Williams had significantly less impact. However, his advanced metrics show that he was still the most valuable running back of the week.
Williams was reasonably efficient as a runner on Sunday. He ran an average of 2.92 yards for each yard he gained on the field and averaged 1.29 yards more than expected on each rush. Those statistics ranked third and second among qualifying running backs last weekend, respectively.
More impressively, Williams faced eight or more defenders in the box 30.77% of the time. That was the highest percentage among the qualifying running backs.
Unfortunately, while Williams’ numbers rank well among last weekend’s cast of running backs, they aren’t especially noteworthy compared to some of the better performances at the position this season. We’ll see if the Conference Championships bring better performances from Williams and the other running backs still in the playoffs.
Top TE from the Divisional Round
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints: 37.04 (28 YDS, 0 TD)
From the Saints’ perspective, Sunday’s game will be primarily remembered as future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees’ last game in the NFL. If Cook’s role in it comes up at all, it will be for a crippling fumble. That turnover cut short a promising New Orleans drive and ultimately led to the Buccaneers tying the game at 20 points apiece. However, there was more to Cook’s performance than just that one play.
As with Goff, many of Cook’s advanced metrics were mediocre. His catch percent of 71.43% ranked fourth among the six qualifying tight ends from last weekend, and his average 2.2 yards after the catch ranked fifth.
However, Cook was given the lowest amount of cushion of any tight end, at just four yards on average. Even with that low amount of space, Cook was still able to average 2.3 yards of separation. That isn’t particularly impressive, but it was still higher than three of the other five qualifying tight ends.
In other words, Cook was given less room to work with than any of his counterparts at his position but still managed to give his QB a larger window than most of them. In that sense, it was an excellent performance from Cook. Unfortunately, though perhaps not unfairly, the nuances of it will inevitably be overshadowed by one disastrous play.
Top offensive players from the Divisional Round: WR
Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills: 42.86 (106 YDS, 1 TD)
For those who didn’t catch many Bills games this season, Diggs has been lighting the NFL on fire all year long. He led the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards during the regular season. Additionally, his overall OVM grade of 36.41 currently ranks fifth among all qualifying wide receivers.
Diggs actually had an off game during Wild Card Weekend, earning his second-lowest OVM of the season, although 24.21 still represents a solid performance. However, he bounced back in a big way last weekend, receiving his seventh grade of 40 or higher since joining the Bills.
Diving further into Diggs’ numbers
Diggs’ metrics essentially follow the same pattern as Jared Cook’s, although Diggs outperformed the TE in most areas. His catch percentage of 72.73% and his average yards after the catch of 4.9 were both merely average. However, Diggs excelled at creating separation in tight coverage.
He was given the second-lowest amount of cushion among the Divisional Round’s qualifying wide receivers at 3.5 yards. Despite that, he was able to average 2.9 yards of separation. That was the lowest differential between cushion received and separation created of any player last week. In other words, Diggs did a better job of maximizing the space he was given than anyone else during the Divisional Round.
Diggs’ success in that area earned him the week’s highest OVM grade regardless of position. He is also the only player on this list who will be playing in a Conference Championship. On Sunday, Buffalo will face a difficult test — the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of last year’s Super Bowl. If the Bills are going to win, they will need Diggs to continue to play at an elite level. Fortunately, he hasn’t let them down yet.
Lucas Ellinas is a writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Ellinas.