The NFC West has a 50-50 split between the 4-3 (Seattle and St Louis) and 3-4 (Arizona and San Francisco).
The best unit in the division was close between the 49ers (average overall grade of +6.2) and Seahawks (+6.9), but edged by Seattle, mainly due to the play of David Hawthorne and the 49ers penchant for giving up penalties (22). Seattle’s superiority was also confirmed by the fact that Travis LaBoy (+10.1) was only a starter for one game. The difference in the two units is a clear indication of defensive schemes, where San Francisco has 3 out of 4 OLBs chart gradings over 10.0 for pass-rushing, while Seattle’s best was only +2.8 (Hawthorne). Of course the Seahawks trio was vastly superior against the run, averaging +8.3, compared to San Fran’s +1.0.
|Name||Team||Snaps||Overall||Rush||Cov.||Run||Pen.||# of Pen|
The Cardinals were unquestionable the worst unit in the division and arguably the worst starting unit in the league. In fact they were the worst two 3-4 outside linebackers. They were worst against the run and bad at rushing the passer. They also gave up penalties and the only positive attribute they showed, was Joey Porter’s play in coverage (+2.7), which was best in the division. I should add he was only thrown at 9 times all year!
St. Louis’ OLB corps was consistently average, apart from Larry Grant (-10.9). Their best attribute was the fact they only gave up 3 penalties between them all year. They can be summarized as solid, if somewhat unspectacular in all phases of the game.
|Name||Team||QB Sk||QB Ht||QB Pr||Tks||Ass||MT||St||% Ct||Int|
As already mentioned, the Cardinals unit is arguably the worst in the NFL. Joey Porter’s raw numbers don’t look dreadful though, with a division leading 5 sacks and 9 pressures, but lookinga round the league, eleven 3-4 OLBs had more sacks. Historically Porter has never been a PFF gradings favourite, but having seen his sack totals fall from 17, to 9, and now 5, it is time to consider him as IDP roster depth, rather than starter. Clark Haggans ranked 77th of 78 OLBs according to our ratings (only Scott Shanle was worse). For every 4.7 tackles made, he whiffed on another. He, like Porter, got 5 sacks, but that was basically all he did all year. He isn’t fantasy relevant in 2011. Will Davis made three starts in place of Haggans from weeks 7-9, but was mostly ineffective. The 6th rounder is heading into his third NFL season in 2011, but remains of little to any fantasy team.
The 49ers best OLB was in 2010 was undoubtedly Manny Lawson. Although he had the fewest sacks (3) compared to his teammates, he had more QB hits (8) and the most tackles (44) and stops (24). He also intercepted a pass. As with most outside linebackers though, unless they possess big play ability (see Ware, DeMarcus), they are only marginal fantasy prospect due to low tackle numbers. Parys Haralson was the other starter and he was pretty good at rushing the opposing QB, charting 4 sacks and a division leading 30 pressures. However, he was ineffective in other areas, allowing 88.9% pass completed, for 11.3 yards per catch. Like Lawson, he isn’t roster worth in any fantasy league. Both LaBoy and Brooks were used in rotation. Although they did show potential with their sack numbers, if a starting 3-4 OLB can’t make a roster, one used in rotation certainly can’t!
Whereas the other three NFC West franchises had underwhelming OLB performances, Hawthorne put up some impressive stats, with 105 total tackles. Only Chad Greenway and James Anderson had more, and they played 264 and 375 more snaps respectively. Hawthorne rarely rushed opposing QBs, but he did have a single interception. His consistency, as shown by only one negative PFF grade all season, shows why he is valuable depth on a fantasy roster as a spot starter. Aaron Curry was the “surest thing” of the 2009 draft class, but a difficult rookie season (-9.9) left questions to be answered. He responded with a respectable 2010(-0.6), and career bests for solo tackles, total tackles and sacks, but he’ll need to improve further to validate his #4 overall selection. He’ll need to cut back on penalties (7), but he should represent a fair amount of fantasy upside in 2011, but will need to show something more before he can be considered an IDP starter. Will Herring is not of value to any fantasy team as long as Hawthorne and Curry are on the Seattle roster!
None of the Rams unit really excelled this season and it’s clear that the front office will be looking to upgrade the unit in the offseason. They failed to find a reliable starter. Na’il Diggs played the most snaps (401) and started 12 games but averaged only 2.8 tackles a game, and failed to register a single sack or QB hit. In fact the Rams unit was certainly the worst at putting pressure on the opposition’s signal caller, but that might have been a scheme issue as the front 4 were effective (Chris Long and James Hall especially). None of the Rams outside ‘backers are worth even rostering in a fantasy league, let alone playing.