2014 Depth Charts Update: AFC East

The PFF team revisits each depth chart division-by-division, starting here with the AFC East.

| 3 years ago

2014 Depth Charts Update: AFC East

2014-depth-charts-update-AFCEOne of the things we wanted to do with the 2014 depth chart series was keep them updated and in most respects this article is about that – reminding you that we’ll be keeping things relevant at least until the season starts.

However, as we published the series and listened to your comments, something else became apparent. Beyond the section of fans who think half their starters are “elite” and for whom there is very little hope of cure, there were other groups too.

Firstly, there are those who felt we see our own grades as absolutely definitive – that we believe they are carved on tablets of stone and the last word in player performance. Now while we are certainly proud of our work and think they are the most accurate view available (as the only people anywhere to watch and grade every player on every facet of play they really should be) they are far from perfect.

So on another level we wanted to let readers know that not only may you disagree with our ratings, but internally we have a lot of debates too. If there are 20 players in a particular category, by its very nature, some are at the top and some the bottom and as such are also often a hair away from being in the adjacent group/s. We wanted everyone to understand from the debate points below just how narrow some of these bands are.

Finally, these updates are also for another set of people; those who took the time to make well-argued points in the comments section for each team. I read every single one and found myself agreeing with many. This is also about addressing those concerns; those of the readers who like us have no vested interest other than in getting it “right”.

Our process now will be to take one division at a time and debate among our analysts where we need change. Below are the results for the first of them; the AFC East.


32-lineups-BUFBuffalo Bills

– After a bit of back and forth debate, we opted to go with “below average” for E.J. Manuel as opposed to red. The thinking here was that although he gave little cause for optimism (no particular stand-out games, for example) he did have to deal with injuries throughout his rookie year and he was never truly dreadful – just consistently poor.

– With C.J. Spiller, Neil and I felt like we may have been putting too much stock into his impressive 2012 season. A player who is at his best in space, Spiller forced 53 missed tackles from 207 carries in 2012, with that number dropping to 32 from 202 carries last year. He has showed he can be an exceptional runner, but in the end, one fantastic season was not enough to stick with “high quality”.

– Ben successfully argued that we had been too harsh on Scott Chandler initially. A solid receiver who is a decent outlet for Manuel, anything lower than “average” doesn’t seem right.

– Though we haven’t seen enough of him, we were impressed by Stefan Charles last season. He looked to be a sound run defender on just 55 snaps in that facet of play and should push Corbin Bryant for playing time in 2014.

See the updated depth chart: Buffalo Bills


32-lineups-MIAMiami Dolphins

– With the news coming out of OTA’s in Miami, we pushed Knowshon Moreno down the depth chart, with Lamar Miller jumping ahead of him. However, dropping Moreno down to “average” wasn’t based on this, just a view among us all this better reflects his career body of work.

– We debated if we were perhaps too generous to Charles Clay, but with 2013 being the first year where he was really used correctly, and him performing so well in that role, so we opted to keep him as a good starter.

– Comparing him with other left tackles in the league, we opted to drop Branden Albert from the “high quality” bracket. A very good pass blocker, his run blocking lets him down somewhat and keeps him from being a better player.

– We went back and forth on where to have Jimmy Wilson on the depth chart, with the belief that he is the top backup both at safety and in the slot. Based on what we have seen we think he’s a better player in the slot, but it remains to be seen if Miami will utilize him there in 2014.

– Both Ben and Neil made the case that Cameron Wake is still an elite player. While his 2013 season wasn’t as impressive as 2012, he was still our second-highest-graded 4-3 defensive end from a pass rushing stand point last year despite struggling with injuries throughout.

See the updated depth chart: Miami Dolphins


32-lineups-NENew England Patriots

– Though he hasn’t played much so far in his career, we opted to up Sealver Siliga to “above average”. Getting his chance to play in the second half of 2013, he did very well indeed against the run and showed he is more than deserving of additional playing time.

– Similarly, we moved Ryan Allen up to “average” as a punter. Sure he hardly set the league on fire in 2013, but on looking at him in comparison to others, he was still good enough to have in the next bracket up.

– One player we did drop down, though, was James Anderson. He’s struggled in the past couple of seasons, with his last season in Chicago being really poor. His last good season came in 2011 and at this point it’s fair to question if he can ever get back to that level.

– During the debate we decided that Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson should be in the same bracket, so we discussed whether to move Dobson up or drop Thompkins down. On the balance of the full season we felt that below average was fair, though both definitely showed flashes in 2013 that indicated they can be better players. It wouldn’t surprise us at all if one or both make real strides this year.

See the updated depth chart: New England Patriots


32-lineups-NYJNew York Jets

– The decision was made to drop Michael Vick down to “below average” with his last good season coming in 2011. Since then there have been far too many poor performances to class him as “average” at this stage.

– A similar decision was made with regards to Bilal Powell, who has failed to do much beyond take whatever the offensive line has given him in his time in New York so far.

– One player we felt we were a little too harsh on initially was fullback Tommy Bohanon. A rookie in 2013, he had a few bad games as opposed to being consistently bad all year.

– We also bumped Nick Folk up to high quality, where he should have been all along, after a very good year as a kicker in 2013, missing just three field goals all season. Our apologies to him.

See the updated depth chart: New York Jets


Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Chris from the Cape

    All sound like reasonable decisions to me: nice job PFF

  • Ole Einar Bjørndalen

    Grimes should still be elite, especially by PFF’s standards.

    • NAJ

      Patrick Peterson wasn’t even classed as elite and neither was Haden. No chance Grimes is considerably better than them

      • Joe

        Either way, I’m surprised there was no comment on it in this update given the debate on it in the comments of the original page.

  • GESBoulder

    Your work here is greatly appreciated. I have been using PFF data for years in a fashion similar to what you have done here, building models that solve for point spreads as well as in designs for GM level dynasty games.

    I read your comments on use of PFF ratings as opposed to the category system you use here. For reasons you have touched on as well as others, PFF ratings are only the basis (albeit a significant one) of a player rating. One factor is time frame, for point spread analysis … the time reference is now, a player’s reputation or past laurels are irrelevant, all that matters is the best predictors of their next
    performance. Injuries matter too; a player gutting it out at 90% with a bum
    ankle may deserve an “x” rating but they are a .9x player that week.

    Also snaps matter more than broad positional categories given that sub-packages
    are ubiquitous. It doesn’t matter what formation and personnel grouping an
    offense opens the game with. Then there are meta game factors, such as
    sacrificing points for time in game ending strategies – I’ll invite you to run
    all over me in the middle of the field, if there are 3 minutes left and I am up
    10. These end of game tactics compress point spreads as teams give points in exchange for win certainty.

    Save for Quarterback, not too much team level accuracy is lost in the predictive value of what you’ve done with broad player rating categories versus modeling PFF ratings into a more precise 60-100 scale longitudinal player rating. Also not too much accuracy is lost with your rough positional definitions. (If I’m using this model to find the gap between Vegas lines that seek to even money on both sides versus a predicted outcome then both of these do matter).

    The next evolution for you depth chart is to assign positional value weights based on PFF analysis of team schemes. Even with a limited number of traditonal and non-traditional “positions”, the fact that you have a few specialized positions like WR3, TE-H and SCB captures a good bit of subpackage and scheme differences. Do a little more math and you can get to a PFF based team power rating calibrated to the conventional NFL mean = 20 team power ratings. A little more math gets the variance to calibrate to Vegas spreads on average. For example, as we sit right now using just your charts’ values plugged into my power rating model (with an estimated rating for week 1 starting rookies based on draft position and a PFF based estimate for too little data players), Denver would be a neutral field 12.3 point favorite over Oakland. That passes the reasonableness test and suggests to me that your work is on pretty solid ground. Write me at [email protected] if you (PFF) would like to see some of my work with your wonderful work.

  • GESBoulder

    Using the charts’ player categories (quantified) as the inputs into my point spread model, NE v Buffalo is a 9 point spread on a neutral field. At 26.9 power rating, NE projects as an 11-5 team against an NFL mean schedule and Buffalo at 18.0 is a strong 7-9 (your decision to bump up E.J. Manuel one notch being worth an increase from 6-10). Again, all very reasonable; suggesting your charts are, at a team level at least, accurate. Question for Gordon, at least for QBs, could you post your actual ratings rather than or in addition to rating categories? FYI, PFF, your image upload feature here in comments does not work.

  • Anonymous Broward

    “If there are 20 players in a particular category, by its very nature, some are at the top and some the bottom and as such are also often a hair away from being in the adjacent group/s.”

    That statistics reflect improperly of a player’s skill is in part due to the skill of other players. This is outside the control of everyone involved.

    Additionally, the complexity of judging 11 players for each snap is a better frame of reference. We see the opportunity for a player to well before the snap, and each ball carrier has a separate probability because of play type – all before considering derivative plays of that type, on a given play.

    Some fantasy leagues still see no problem awarding 6 points for a passing touchdown. It’s all relative.

    I think you do a freaking fantastic job, frankly.

  • moe

    dobson has been really disappointing so far…..at least thompkins has the saints win to his name with the last td….dobson is butter fingers, you are getting paid millions of dollars to play wide receiver to a start qb in Brady, who is throwing the ball right at your chest, inexcusable!