The 2010 ProFootballFocus.com All-Pro Team: Offense

| January 12, 2011

Here at Pro Football Focus, we are in the business of putting the “I” back in team.

Our player ratings, designed around the idea that detailed game reviews can produce individual pictures of all 22 players on the field at any given time, aren’t perfect, but they are certainly a better starting point for analysis than raw numbers or highlight reels. In selecting our All-Pro teams for 2010, we’ve looked beyond our raw grades and put them into context. How consistent was a player? What did he do against top opposition? What impact did he have? How many snaps did he play?

In the end, we came up with a team we’re satisfied with — although many of our readers surely won’t be. The main talking point will surely be that there isn’t a single Patriot on offense (or defense, for that matter), although Logan Mankins would have made it if he played more snaps. They had have a number of players who got into the discussion, and guys that will make our AFC Pro Bowl team, but with limited selections there were just better guys at individual positions.

We’re sure the Patriots will understand, since they know it’s about the sum of the parts — and in that regard they’re an All-Pro franchise. Without any further buildup, the offensive All-PFFers.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
Backup: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)

Not an easy selection. We have a system that works on the basis that quarterbacks should make good decisions, so while we punish bad ones we don’t reward the good ones. Instead we focus more on what we can see, and that’s making good throws and not making mistakes. Ryan grades out the strongest, and if you watch him on third down or in crunch situations you’ll see why. It’s not always about throwing bombs either, Ryan does a lot of his work throwing sideline balls that only show up for 7 yards on the stat sheet, but are perfect, drive building throws into tight coverage. We’ve written about it many times this year, but for us Tom Brady’s great 2010 season owes much to the system and the play of his receivers — enough that when ranking individual players on what they did at their position, he is more top-five than top-two. Patriots fans, please remember to spell all your curse words right when assailing our sanity.

Running Back: Jamaal Charles (Kansas City)
Backup:
Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)

We admired what Charles did in half a season last year, and it was truly a case that the only thing that slowed him down this year was his head coach. It might be a good, sensible plan to keep Charles fresh, but it’s a shame that we as fans don’t get a chance to see just how many yards he can pile up. Charles is the kind of back that makes the most out of any space, and he’s good enough to make yards after contact (only five guys finished with a higher average). Could you want any more? Perhaps the only thing is he doesn’t break as many tackles as our No. 2 choice, Peterson, who continues to overcome substandard blocking.

Fullback: Ovie Mughelli (Atlanta)
Backup: Greg Jones (Jacksonville)

While members of the PFF team lost interest in this debate after the first 10 minutes of a filibuster, there were good arguments for either man. Eventually Mughelli got the nod on the back of a more consistent season and his bigger impact with the ball in his hands.

Tight End: Jason Witten (Dallas)
Backup:
Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville)

I admit it. I have a problem. And that is when I talk about Jason Witten I am addicted to referring to him as the prototypical tight end. It feel good to get that off my chest. Witten never gets enough press, but he’s the only truly elite pass catcher and run blocker at the tight end spot. You would struggle to make a tight end better than this guy. He was thrown to more than any other TE in the league (123 targets), and still managed to be our best-graded run blocker. Lewis deserves recognition but until he is more consistent, he’ll remain a long way behind Witten (like the rest).

Wide Receivers: Brandon Lloyd (Denver) and Andre Johnson (Houston)
Backup: Calvin Johnson (Detroit) and Roddy White (Atlanta)

We’d be surprised if even the family members of Brandon Lloyd saw this season coming. But he made play after play, and tough catch after tough catch as he led the league in yards and finished with the season with 18.8 yards per reception. There was some talk that he did most of his damage in garbage time, padding the stats, but really there was little of it happening. He had a four game slump in November that seemed to point to a coming-back-to-earth phase, but he closed the season strong. In his three weeks with Tim Tebow, he averaged more than 10 yards per target.

Andre Johnson’s season ended early but even battling through injury he was still superb. Even the best Receivers tend to see their charts fluctuate between positive and negative grades, but Johnson has only had two grades “in the red” (-1.1 or worse) in our three years of grading. He just keeps out a strong group of guys behind him with Roddy White letting himself down with penalties and Calvin Johnson just too inconsistent.

Left Tackle: Jake Long (Miami)
Backup: Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)

We didn’t see the kind of All-Universe  tackle play that Joe Thomas produced in 2009 here in 2010 as defensive lines got the better of their offensive counterparts league-wide. But with both Thomas and our eventual top selection Jake Long playing hurt for much of the season, that’s somewhat understandable. Long hadn’t allowed a sack until he started playing hurt, where he had a couple of bad games playing through pain before figuring out how to work around it and finishing strong. A remarkable effort from a player who’s proven every bit worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals very nearly beat him out, but was a bit too up-and-down to get past Long.

Left Guard: Carl Nicks (New Orleans)
Backup: Wade Smith (Houston)

As we mentioned in the intro, Logan Mankins would have made this team but for missing nearly half the season. We simply couldn’t ignore that, despite one of the best periods of play we’ve ever seen from a guard. Instead Nicks gets the nod, as our highest rated guard. Ten of his games got him a green rating, and he was consistently dominant. Smith may have been the best offseason acquisition by any team and was exceptional in pass blocking situations. He and his offensive mates in Houston certainly did their jobs, but were let down by the struggles in the defensive back seven.

Center: Matt Birk (Baltimore)
Backup: Nick Mangold (New York Jets)

We could really have gone either way, and this was one of the more contentious selections during our final discussion. Ultimately, while we recognize Mangold as the greater talent, playing hurt cost him as Birk graded out the slightly better player. Both were comfortably better than any other center in the league. They have graded 1-2 at the position the last two seasons.

Right Guard: Josh Sitton (Green Bay)
Backup: Harvey Dahl (Atlanta)

We do like us some Josh Sitton, even if his talent remains one of the leagues’ best kept secrets. Comfortably our best-graded right guard, Sitton didn’t allow a single sack all year. Dahl is more than just a nasty player with a rep, he’s a guy who played more snaps than any other guard and grade out well in all regards. It’ll be fun to watch them do their dirty work this weekend for the Falcons-Packers playoff matchup.

Right Tackle: Kareem McKenzie (New York Giants)
Backup: Marshall Yanda (Baltimore Ravens)

You want your right tackle to be dominant with his run blocking and more than serviceable with his pass blocking. McKenzie wasn’t quite as dominant as the season closed, but he was plenty good throughout and really walked away with this selection. Yanda may not be a natural tackle, but he didn’t miss a beat when he made the move outside. He would have had a fight for the No. 2 spot from the other Big Apple RT, Damien Woody, but injuries down the stretch took their toll on the veteran.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Jonathan Comey

    Over the course of the season you’ve won me over on the Brady debate, and in reading the Patriots grades each week I’m astounded by how good-not-great every player is. With the exception of Mankins (and Brady, who is still awesome even if his raw stats don’t paint a complete picture), this is a team full of B+ players that add up to an A+ team.

    Some other offensive guys I think were worthy of mention: Mike Wallace, Philip Rivers, Arian Foster — I think I would have had them in place of Roddy White, Matt Ryan and Peterson. Sorry, Falcon fans.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

    I’m loving the graphic for this btw, fine work sir!

  • tom

    You are correct sir, labeling Brady’s work as simply system good-that is a system predicated on the QB making pre snap reads, moving into many possible formation and play adjustments, naming the focal point of the opponents defense, making instantaneous post snap reads, avoiding the rush, finding and hitting the open man. Yes, he is a product of this system, as opposed to say Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers who just draw a play in the dirt and ad lib after the snap. Oh, by the way the “system” has 3 super bowls and this year a ridiculous 36-4 TD/Int ratio that dwarfs his 2007 50-8 ratio and a little 14-2 record, which I guess does not factor into YOUR system.

    Also, there seems to be quite a few Falcons on this list, yet one mention of a RG? for the Pats who played 7 games.

  • jlswisc

    Alright so for the first time this year you are willing to make a list where you go beyond your numbers. You say:

    “we’ve looked beyond our raw grades and put them into context. How consistent was a player? What did he do against top opposition? What impact did he have? How many snaps did he play?”

    With that taken into considering I do not see how Brady is not on this list. I get that for your ratings, you dont take decision making, winning, and context into consideration, but now you say you are.

    Taking the road games against the steelers and bears in context, should greatly elevate brady. Both are playoff teams with good defenses. One was in the snow.

    Also now looking at context you can finally take into account decision making (which as a side note, is THE most important aspect from the qb).

    Further context is the wins the team has because lets be honest performance (in context) means nothing if the team is not winning (especially for the QB).

    I do not see how Brady, when taking everything you usually omit, into consideration is not a top 2 qb.

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Jonathan Comey

      We’ve never said that Brady didn’t have a great impact on a great football team, or that he wasn’t a very good QB this year. He just didn’t grade as well as other top QBs.The Patriots, to our eyes, have won on the strength of good performances across the board, and a great system. He had a very strong second half of the season, a so-so first half, and a very strong supporting cast. Again, we’re not making these decisions based on production or wins, but by how the players actually performed, and Brady was just a bit behind the top guys.

      • jlswisc

        Jonathan,

        I get that in your ratings are brady preformed a bit behind. but as i quoted, this post is more than just your ratings, it includes context that does not go into your ratings. You ratings do not include decision making, defenses, weather, home or away (the first being extremely important). Your ratings dont include plays leading to wins or loss. But all of this is context as cited at the start of this article. An explanation that Brady is just a bit behind in your ratings, would be ok if they included context, but they admittedly do not and this ranking has admitted to include context not included in your rankings. Your rational was circular.

        • http://www.profootballfocus.com Jonathan Comey

          Well, I think that the context was more about differentiating between players with similar ratings and success (in our book). We all admitted that Brady probably didn’t grade highly enough, but he was clearly behind the top echelon of Rivers/Rodgers/Ryan and yes, Peyton Manning. As to consistency, he only had two grades of 5.0 or higher compared to Rivers (5), Rodgers (4) and Ryan (6), with none of the top QBs having many stinkers in the bunch.

          • jlswisc

            The only reason Brady does not have grades at 5.0 or high consistently is because making the correct read/decision making is a context based factor that is not ordinarily considered in your QB grades.

            I have read all the comments on Brady concerning’short easy throws’ to ‘wide open’ players and such. What amazes me is that the throws can be so easy or the players so consistently open, and yet the pass catchers are not rated as some of the best of all time. To this i mean, their job on passing plays is to get open and catch the ball, and if Brady’s rating is discounted because his targets are so open so consistently, to the point where any or most professional quarterbacks could do what Brady has done, then the pass catchers must be the top of the top.

            Since the pass catchers are not graded as some of the greatest route runners of all time, then there must be further rationale to explain the discrepancy. The answer sometimes given is that the Patriots are ‘greater than the sum of their parts.’ However, this explanation is a logical fallacy and actually means that there is a missing or undiscovered variable(s) from the grading equation.

            At the professional level, especially at the high end of said level, the difference in accuracy of quarterbacks is small and the difference in arm strength even smaller. It is not unreasonable to say that most professional quarterbacks, especially those playing at the top end, all have the physical ability to play the game, this fact should actually be obvious. At the highest level, where everyone is physically gifted (offensive and defensive players),the pure physically ability of a quarterback does not lead to dominance as it does at lower levels. There must therefore be some other factor that separates the position and it is possible (and likely) that this factor is also the missing variable described in the preceding paragraph.

            At the highest level the very essence of the QB position is making the correct decision. On almost every play, in every game, for every team, there is going to be a player who is more open than anyone else. Knowing who this player is, where he will be the most open, and getting him the ball on time, is the essence of the QB position. It will lead to consistent offensive success, first downs, time of possession, and points, far more often than any other factor of a quarterback’s play such as arm strength, speed, & mobility. If offensive success (first downs, t.o.p, points) is the goal of the offensive unit, and thus the goal of the QB, then decision making must be the most important or primary factor in distinguishing quarterbacks at the professional level. To exclude or diminish this governing factor from a systematic grading metric, would render the grades almost entirely void.

            If the goal is to truly evaluate the play of each player, on each play, the intentionally ignoring the single most important factor of the quarterback position, will lead to utter failure of that goal. The resulting grade will be more like a grade of pure physically ability, which if fine, if that is the goal. But as stated if the goal is evaluate the play of each player, and not just their physical tools, then ignoring this factor may actually lead to inverse results.

            For example: a ball thrown 20 yards into double coverage but with enough velocity to just barely squeeze through the two defenders, will render a positive grade in your current system. Yet it is highly possible that this throw was a bad decision and the ball should not have been thrown there. A check down to a more open receiver, is a high % play, with less chance of a turnover, and still a large upside. Most coaches would term the former throw a ‘disaster throw,’ one that regardless of result, should not be made, because over the long run the high chance of turnover will play out. Of course context (down + distance, score, time of the game) all come into play and I do not mean to assert that the riskier throw will always be incorrect. That said, usually the latter throw would be celebrated by a coach as it will lead to constant success and may eventually open up the field for bigger (but now safer) plays. Yet, your grading system would never correctly grade these two types of throws because the first gets positive points if completed, but the latter if completed multiple times will still be view as shot and ea

  • jenne71

    Glad to see you guys giving Josh Sitton his just dues. He is by far the best right guard in the NFL, not giving up a sack all year and being tough as a railroad spike. He should have made All-Pro. Maybe next year.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

    @jlswisc: First off, excellent post – Its a pleasure to reply to arguments set out like that and looked at rationally.

    First point I want to make is that it’s entirely possible for a QB to be making ‘easy’ throws and for the receivers to not be doing anything that would make them All-Pros to get them that wide open. That’s the thing about football, there are so many factors that go into any one play it’s very tough to narrow credit/blame to just one either or situation.

    Consider as an example a play design that calls for a pick between crossing receivers. Leaving aside for a moment the gray area in legality of receiver picks, it’s perfectly possible that the play in question results in a WR coming across the formation completely open, and the QB making a simple pitch and catch throw, and that play gaining 20 yards and a 1st down. Hell, maybe it even happens on 3rd down and gains a TD – doesn’t make the job done by the QB or WR particularly impressive – agreed? Now obviously we’re not saying that every throw that Brady makes is like this, and what gets lost in a lot of our explanation is that we’ve graded Brady very well, he’s had an excellent season, but the Patriots generate more of those plays than other teams. We feel that Brady completes more passes of this nature than the other MVP/All-Pro candidate players, which is why he doesn’t grade as well. Now in terms of team result, that play is still a winner, but we’re not analyzing this on a team level, we’re talking about individual player performance.

    You’re correct that ‘greater than the sum of their parts’ is a pretty vague and inexact term, and an easy out of what we’re trying to say. But it’s not entirely invalid. An O-line for example can be amongst the best units in the league without having any one star on it, if all of those players play above average, the resulting 5-man unit ends up superior than a unit with 4 All-Pros and one disaster liability on the edge that allows the QB to get hit every 5 snaps. The Patriots line is one example. Only really Mankins plays at that high a level, and he only did so for half the season, but the unit as a whole is a good one, better than you might expect just looking at the players individually. If we’re looking for a place to dole out credit though, schematically and Xs and Os playcalling would get a lot of it. Plays as described earlier result in open receivers, easier throws and high percentage offense. Being able to minimize the play needed for success is a huge credit that would go to the staff off the field and make up for a lot of credit that goes elsewhere on teams with inferior coaching.

    I would argue however that your example of the ball squeezed into a tight hole 20 yards downfield doesn’t quite hold. For a start, if it was a makeable throw, albeit into a tight window, I doubt most coaches go nuts, unless it wasn’t the intended read or some other unstated factor is at work. If it’s a genuinely lucky throw – ie the throw isn’t there, it requires a bad play by a DB to miss the ball or a deflection takes it to the receiver, it won’t get a positive grade necessarily from us anyway. Secondly if it is in fact a poor decision and as you say, over the long run it will result in bad picks and turnovers, then over time our system will penalize the QB heavily for those throws, but not for the one where he actually made the play – If it’s that bad a decision, over time it will hurt. We also don’t discount all short throws – plenty of short throws get positive grades from us. Check downs too can earn positive grades, so I think there’s a bit of a mis-assumption that ALL short throws get nothing from us.

    Again I would just reiterate that we believe Brady has had an excellent season even on an individual level as we analyze players, we’re not saying these are all reasons he is average, we have him graded far above that. What we ARE saying is that we don’t believe that he was amongst the best TWO performing QBs this season on an individual level, despite the raw statistics, and despite the number 1 seed. I guess what we’d ask you to do if you were so inclined is to pick a game where we haven’t given him a great grade – if he had good raw stats then even better – and watch it through, then ask yourself how many of the throws he made would you consider impressive, how much of it was Brady going above and beyond, and how much was he just taking what was there (Which in itself is an achievement, and certainly a positive, but falls short of the standard of the top 2 guys in the NFL this season that did more than that.)

    • jlswisc

      Sam,

      Thanks for the reply and taking what i wrote seriously and not just as a dig or troll on your website. I know you guys put alot of work into it.

      Now after this playoff game of course Brady doesnt look as good as he did all year (but neither did matty ice, so ill just continue to focus on the regular season). I will try to go point by point in the same order as your reply.

      On the pick play example, i understand what you are saying. However, I think the timing on the throw, knowing when to check into/out of that play, and the touch pass are going very underrated. (same with the WR having to sell the pick and not get called). If the execution was as easy as it seems youd like me to believe, more teams could run these (not just pick plays but short open plays) and have just as much success if it didnt depend on very detailed execution.

      To this same point, the goal of every offense is points, first downs etc. Some coaches may favor the big play, but if it were easier to score another way, then they would begin to prefer that. The fact that other teams cannot score as much as the Pats, seems to indicate that the plays are not as easy. Again touch passing and timing are very good skills. Further as i said, chekcing into and out of a screen or short pass can be the difference between 6 one way and 6 another.

      As to the offensive line point, you obviously have a point with that unit. Clearly having 1 member be horrible is going to lead to massive problems for the entire team. I think that is because they must play as a unit and have a direct impact on each other. Whereas it is very possible for the X wr to have little impact on the Y wr (i am not claiming no impact, obviously if X draws more attention, opens it up etc) just highlighting that the OL is a different animal than other units.

      As to the tight ball scenario. I obviously had to make assumptions because I dont have your grading system lol. But I knew the counter would be that over time INTs would occur and lead to a lower grade. I would need your exact grading system (which you are not going to give me, and rightfully so) in order to check/elaborate more on the point. It would depends on the exact numbers of everything. I was just trying to highlight that the system seems to reward riskier play, because short open throws might result in a 0 instead of a positive. (and 0+0+0…)

      Unfortunately I do not have time to go back and watch more football than i already do, with my current schedule. I can however point to the much discussed ‘Detroit throw’ where Brady was not given a positive score for his long ball to Branch b/c the ball hung up in the air and forced Branch to come back to it.

      After the game coach BB said that play embodied what made Tom special. How Branch was one of the last reads on the play and that no matter how many times they run it, it is extremely rare for Branch to get the ball. BB was insistent that it was very hard for a QB to find that read as it was the last read on the opposite side of the field from the called play. Thats the type of skill that sets top level guys apart from the rest. The ability to make the correct decision. Brady didnt lock onto his 1 read, he didnt force the ball, he didnt give up on the play, he went through all his progressions and made a throw that was good enough, after the play was totally screwed up.

      Another game would be the steelers game. I dont know the grade you gave brady, it was prob pretty high, but all things considered it should be very high. He was nearly flawless agaisnt one of the more QB terrorizing Ds in the game. The ability to know which of the 4 lbs are coming and where to get the ball is not easy against that team and should be rewarded with a positive.

      I think you guys do a good job here at PFF and especially with the defensive guys and players that are hard to watch. But i think you are really missing the key to the QB position, the ability to go through progressions, read defenses, and make the correct throw. I know this is hard and might seem subjective, but hear me out.

      Mike Vick struggled in the vikings game because he couldnt read the D presnap. He failed to identify blitzes and took a beating. This might seem like the Oline messed up or didnt give him time to throw. But that was really all on Vick. He has to read the play as hot, make a check, and get it out.

      How many times has a football fan seen an average QB force the ball to his favorite target while another guy is waiving his hand wide open elsewhere? Alot. Especially if you attend games live, you can really see the field from the mid or upper deck. Knowing the defense and where the open man will be is essential and it is usually the biggest area of growth for rookies. Sure some rookie QBs have to work on release point or what not, but most of them have to work on knowing where the open man will be and what the defense is doing.

      The grading might be hard, but i think it is needed if you really want to give a fair breakdown of the QB spot. How to go about it? Thats for you haha. But I think if you review enough game tape it shouldnt be that hard to figure out, or maybe start by awarding some kind of incremental positive when the ball is thrown to an open player or a guy with 1 on 1 coverage. This would help incorporate decision making. Or if the QB changes the play presnap and it turns into a positive.

  • visible

    There cannot even be an argument made of Matt Ryan being a top 5 QB. When you look at QB’s like Brady, Manning, Brees, Big Ben, Rodgers, they can take a game over without a running game. Ryan simply cannot. I think Ryan “might” be a top ten QB, but there is no argument there for being a top 5. He does not know how to make defenses pay for their mistakes. If you look at Brady, he will turn the offense into a hurry up if he sees the defense has the wrong package out there, which won’t allow them to make the needed substitutions. Ryan just simply isn’t at the point in his career where he can make teams pay dearly for their mistakes (its actually the opposite, defenses make him pay for his mistakes, as proven by GB). I see that this website likes to try to think outside the box, but sometimes it is what it is and there is no need to overthink things. Calling Matt Ryan the #1 QB will make this website lose any credibility it has in a flash.