2014 Depth Charts Update: NFC West

Wrapping up this round of depth chart updates, Gordon McGuinness and the PFF team offer tweaks for the NFC West.

| 3 years ago

2014 Depth Charts Update: NFC West


One 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 eighth and final division: the NFC West.


Arizona Cardinals

32-lineups-ARZ– At this stage in his career, we felt that “High Quality” was being a touch generous to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, he was our 11th-highest-graded receiver last year, but when you break down his grade you’ll see that a large portion of that game from his work as a blocker. When looking purely at his grade as a receiver he was tied for 25th, so the drop to “Good Starter” seems fair.

– It looks like Bobbie Massie is winning the battle to be the team’s starting right tackle, a move we are big fans of. Massie struggled heavily in the first half of his rookie season in 2012, but in the second half of the year only two offensive tackles had better Pass Blocking Efficiency Ratings.

– With a -4.6 grade last year, and negative grades as a pass rusher and against the run, we opted to drop Darnell Dockett down to “Below Average”. 2011 was the last time he finished a season with a positive grade and, with the exception of a few big performances in the past two seasons, he’s been really poor.

See the updated depth chart: Arizona Cardinals


San Francisco 49ers

32-lineups-SF– He hasn’t seen a huge snap count in his three seasons in the league, but running back Kendall Hunter has yet to finish a season with a grade below -0.9. That wasn’t low enough to justify a “Below Average” grade, so we moved him up.

– A big debate from the 49ers’ depth chart was whether or not to move defensive end Justin Smith up to “High Quality”. Sure, he wasn’t as impressive in 2013, but he did still produce a grade of +16.3 as a pass rusher and has a fantastic career to back that up. With that in mind, we opted to move him up.

– One of the debates to come from the comments section was how we could have Clay Matthews as “Elite” but not Aldon Smith. The difficult thing here was how much stock to put in the concerns that Smith could miss significant time again but, in the end, we decided to move him to “Elite” based on his high level of work on the field — a pass rushing grade of +21.4 or better every season he has been in the league.

See the updated depth chart: San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

– The Seahawks were the one team in the series that we actually didn’t disagree with any of our original assessments, with the only change being adding Ricardo Lockette to the depth chart.

See the updated depth chart: Seattle Seahawks


St. Louis Rams

32-lineups-STL– With a grade of 1.3 in five games last year, we felt that “Below Average” was too harsh to backup center Tim Barnes. That’s the most we’ve seen of him in his three-year career and he certainly didn’t look anything worse than “Average”.

– Similarly, we didn’t think Rodney McLeod was poor enough to be lower than “Below Average” after originally having him down as a “Poor Starter”. A grade of -3.1 in coverage isn’t terrible, and -2.6 of that came in his first two starts.

See the updated depth chart: St Louis Rams


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.

  • Arthuro

    The Seahawks look like they have absolutely no depth across the board. Scary.

    • Peter

      No, just unproven depth. As a Seahawk fan, I’m not too worried about it

      • Arthuro

        Yup, winning a SB will do that to you.
        I’m a jints fan, I should know.

      • Chris

        Of course it doesn’t worry you. If you were an impartial observer, having no proven depth would scare the crap out of you.

        Fans of their own team are always satisfied with no proven depth because all of their unproven players will develop into Pro Bowlers.

        • [email protected]

          Show me a team that has proven high quality depth and i’ll be worried. Every team looks like that. The Seahawks depth is talented and well coached.

          • Arthuro

            No team has proven high quality depth. They’d be starters somewhere else.

          • Chris

            No one said anything about high quality. But proven average vets who know the system are everywhere. These guys are much better reserves than hit or miss, boom or bust, untested players. Which is all the Seahawks have. It’s great to have guys like that, but you also need some stable vets who have been there and know the system in case of injuries. You don’t want to hand off your MLB spot to some random guy with 23 career snaps.

            There are plenty of teams with guys who are proven average players who can be decent stop gaps if called upon. The Seahawks do not have much of this anywhere.

          • Peter Smith

            What you don’t see or understand is that many of the “unknown quantities” are not rookies with no knowledge of our system and coaching… the purples ones are the new guys, the grey ones have been in the system at least a year…a year’s worth, or more, of quality coaching. Unless you also want to say our coach doesn’t know what he’s doing. Go ahead and claim that as well. Dig a hole. These guys may be late round picks, and therefore unproven nobodies in your eyes, but so far all Carroll has done is show that he can find diamonds in the rough, late in drafts, or even as undrafted free agents. Its hard for non-Seahawks fans to imagine… to believe it can happen more than once, or even twice. But its because we target a different kind of player. You look at scouting combine numbers, and some college stats… that’s how you, and your team, grade players. We grade on a different curve… desire, drive, will, chip-on-the-shoulder… people talk about guys having talent, but not playing up to their talent… that’s not a problem in Seahawks training camps, or position battles. We target guys that play their talent up, because of the thing above their shoulders. No motivational problems with anyone who makes our 53-man roster. Its a different way of thinking. A different way of drafting. A different way of deciding who makes the 53-man roster.

            So when you see a grey name on this list, believe me that they have earned that roster spot. No one is crossing their fingers (coaches or fans) that they can live up to their projected ESPN draft grade. Such an idea makes Seahawks fans laugh… drafting based on what the consensus thinks of a players… really it IS laughable!! Before Brandon browner went down with an injury last year, Byron Maxwell had a grey name color (i.e. unknown talent)… and comes out better than Browner. Yeah, “unknown” talent to you, but he earned that roster spot in our coaches eyes. We have depth beyond what this chart shows… that’s no joke! :)

          • Tony Brock

            We were fine…

        • David Stinnett

          oh, but he’s an experienced observer, having watched the management make foot eaters out of those that question their roster-building

  • NAJ

    Too right Aldon Smith is classed as Elite. I’m not a fan of 49ers but you can’t judge how good a player he is by his off field actions

  • ChickenHunter

    Navorro Bowman and KJ Wright on same level? I guess numbers do lie. LOL.

    • Wyzel

      They dont play the same position. Nor do the play the same type of defense. So I’m not sure what you are getting at, also they explained why Bowman isnt elite in the depth chart article. If anything one is higher than the other in the tier of High Quality, but still both are high quality players.

    • Peter Smith

      Where are the numbers……?

  • Bill Doerr

    I dont see why they downgraded Larry Fitzgerald. He was playing in a brand new offense last season, a very complex offense, with a new QB, while learning to play 2 new receiver positions. Particulary learning how to play inside, and he was playing from weeks 2 thru 14 with one torn hamstring, and one severely pulled hamstring. He finished with 82 receptions while dealing with all that and 950+ yards and 10TDs. During the 2012 season Fitz was dealing with a different 2nd or 3rd string QB every week, at one point actually catching passes from inaccurate, rookie 6th round pick very inaccuract 3rd string QB Ryan Lindley & Arizona had a injury riddled league worstO-line. Not many QBs could of caught 71 passes like Fitz did for 800 yard under those circumstances n 2012. He hast lost anything, he just had a 1,400 10TD season in 2011 last time everything was stable or he wasnt playing injured.

    I am positive Fitzgerald will get back to Fitz caliber seasons this season now that he is 100% healthy, and he now is 100% comfortable in Bruce Arians newly installed system, and is now very comfortable playing inside in the slot a lot n then moving back outside, with EXCELLENT timing and chemistry with QB Carson Palmer with whom Fitzgerald has worked with a ton, along with Mike Floyd n Ginn/ rookie John Brown all working together on their own time with Palmer. With no offensive growing pains this season to have deal with now that he knows it, I will bet money Fitzgerald catchs between 85-95 passes, for 1,300 yards or more and 10-12TDs or more.

    • ChickenHunter

      Fitz is Top Tier. Whoever this guy making the picks is, he fails to account that he plays against 3 Top 10 defenses in his own division and having a retread QB throwing to him.

      • Peter Smith

        Or he realizes that Fitz is getting older, like the rest of the NFL realizes. The older you get, the more injuries just “happen”. Fitz will be 31 at the start of the season. He’s not getting any younger. Not saying he’s washed up and done, but its laughable to expect him to return to any of his elite levels of the past, especially after tearing a leg muscle (nonetheless his hamstring, which is crucial to any “power” out of your leg). Strains can be overcome, tears have lasting effects. When you look at his ’12 stats, you can assume ’13 is about as good as it gets going forward, and likely only worse. The question is how much worse. And this doesn’t account for competition for touches amongst his fellow receivers.

  • David Stinnett

    I wish to coin the NFC West as the “Region of Doom”. Pass it on and see if it catches on

    • Peter Smith

      I like it, but as a Seahawks fan I still kind of want that kind of term as our own… Legion of Boom is us… its a Seahawks thing… so Region of Doom is kind of sharing our thing, and I’m not really cool with that. They can come up with their own little slogans, if they earn one, nonetheless two.

      • David Stinnett

        I am a Seahawks fan, right here in Seattle. I would like the division to bear our mark forever, as if we own it.

        • Peter Smith

          I hear you, but pushing the term Region of Doom makes it less Seahawks, and more NFC West… it takes the emphasis away from us. The only thing I want to share with the Niners, Cards and Rams is the fact we play two games a year, respectively, and we win all six… if possible. Other than that, I don’t want to share anything else with them. Think of the 1985 Bears… do you remember their division rivals records? I hope not. And I want people to remember the Seahawks, and not our division rivals during OUR good times. Sure, I want people to remember that we were the best of the best division, but that’s all… I want the Niners name to be a minimal aspect of that memory, and especially even lesser teams like the Rams or Cards. Why share the glory? We earned the right not to share it.

          • 8ArIvd5

            “I hear you, but pushing the term Region of Doom makes it less Seahawks, and more NFC West… it takes the emphasis away from us.”
            The point is to emphasize the region and not the team. If I were a Seahawks fan I’d be proud that my division’s slogan takes after my team’s slogan; and that the attitude in my division’s slogan takes after the attitude in my team’s slogan.

  • Holy 9er

    What a bust article-PFF has the bead on stats, but doesn’t know how to interpret them. What A Joke..