There are benefits to sites like Pro Football Focus. They can offer insights on things basic statistics cannot. Splitting statistics into categories such as QB passing under pressure or on-target drops. The opposite is true if you take their player grades at face value. That’s what ESPN did this week with some ridiculous and ultimately useless results.
In a piece this week on ESPN.com, they set about ranking all 32 teams’ rosters.
“We dove into the Pro Football Focus database and ranked every roster as it stands right now, focusing on the expected starters. PFF grades every player on every play of every game of the NFL season, allowing us a comprehensive look at what each player has to offer for the upcoming season. Projected starting lineups on offense and defense are provided, including our player grades from the 2018 season.”
Essentially, they plugged numbers into a computer with no actual thought involved. What it led to is most certainly an inaccurate view of the talent levels of players across the league.
Friday we noted that this approach yielded the result of the Raiders roster being ranked 28th in the league. I can’t entirely argue with the ranking on its face, but where it gets highly questionable is looking at the grades of individual players.
First and foremost, they don’t grade a single player on the Raiders roster as anything better than ‘Average.’ Players with grades of 90 or better are deemed ‘Elite’ and 80 to 89.9 are ‘Good/High quality’. No Raiders were graded at those levels.
So, that means 7-time Pro Bowler and 4-time All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown is ‘Average’. Two-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson is ‘Average’.
In whose universe are two of clearly the top players at their position in the league ‘Average’? In ‘We entered the numbers into our computer and it gave us a number and we are too lazy to care if it’s inaccurate’ universe.
Another serious flaw in the PFF grades which ESPN doesn’t take into account is that they make no delineation from sample sizes. For instance, Darren Waller, who was active just four games last season, is given the same ‘Average’ status as the likes of AB, Hudson, and Lamarcus Joyner. While a proven guard like Gabe Jackson is actually deemed as below average.
This is a reminder that you can’t eliminate the human element from these things. Or you end up looking like a fool.