Approximate value is one of those things that’s hard to quantify just like guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or counting delegates in the Iowa caucus. But Pro Football Reference has used their metric for years to try to offer a value to every player, regardless of position, which is especially helpful for linemen who can be difficult to measure.
Here’s how the website defines the stat.
“Essentially, AV is a substitute for — and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion — metrics like ‘number of seasons as a starter’ or ‘number of times making the pro bowl’ or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between.”
And Cam Heyward blew the doors off the metric in 2019.
With an AV of 17, he finished tied for the 8th best number for anyone in the NFL, tied for 5th best for any defender, and the top mark for any defensive linemen.
In fact, that figure is the highest for any defensive linemen in Steelers’ history, surpassing Joe Greene’s 16 in 1972. Here are the top five DL AV’s in franchise history:
1. Cam Heyward – 17 (2019)
2. Joe Greene – 16 (1972)
3. LC Greenwood – 15 (1975)
4. Joe Greene – 15 (1974)
5. Cam Heyward – (2017)
Elite company, clearly, and Heyward even broke his 2017 mark. That’s despite having slightly lower sack totals than two years ago, finishing this season with *just* nine.
The bottom line? Heyward had his best season ever, one of the best in football, and AV helps measure that.
For the Steelers, he even narrowly edged out TJ Watt, who finished with an AV of 14. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick technically finished with the highest AV overall at 19 but only 14 with Pittsburgh. The rest came as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
Here are the Steelers’ leaders in AV this year.
1. Cam Heyward – 17
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick – 14
3. TJ Watt – 14
4. Joe Haden – 11
5. Bud Dupree – 10
No surprise this list is comprised entirely of defensive players. The first offensive player doesn’t appear until David DeCastro with an AV value of 7.
I know this is a little wonky and far from a traditional stat and even stat nerds debate the value/effectiveness of approximate value but I wanted to give a shout to Heyward for an insanely good season and the historic value of his AV.