One of the things we wanted to do with the 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 until at least 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 fifth division up; the NFC South.
– Considering that he graded at +5.0 with the New York Giants last year, with his run blocking a particular strength, “Below Average” didn’t feel right for tight end Bear Pascoe. Since entering the league he has yet to grade any worse than -3.4 over a full season, so “Average Starter” felt about right.
– When looking at the AFC South yesterday, we felt that Arthur Jones and Atlanta’s Tyson Jackson were fairly comparable players and, while he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, Jackson is good enough against the run (+6.7 in 2013) to bump up to “Good Starter”.
– While I disagree with the person who commented to suggest that Desmond Trufant is already an elite corner, to suggest he was only a “Good Starter” was a bit harsh. His +11.0 grade in coverage was bettered by only seven cornerbacks in 2013 and he looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
See the updated depth chart: Atlanta Falcons
– We were conflicted on running back Jonathan Stewart, who last played a full season in 2011. He impressed that year, but has been limited in each of the past two seasons and posted a negative grade as a runner in both. That was enough for us to drop him down to “Average Starter” for now.
– Adding defensive Drake Nevis to the mix, we opted to have him as an “Average Starter”. His lowest grade since entering the league in 2011 is -2.2, so that seemed fair.
– In the secondary we felt that we were a bit harsh on cornerback Josh Norman. Heading into his third season in the league, his coverage grade of -6.0 in 2012 and -2.3 before getting hurt last year just wasn’t low enough to label him a “Bad Starter”
See the updated depth chart: Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
– Though he wasn’t an every-down player for the Saints last year, we felt that tight end Ben Watson was good enough to bump up to “Good Starter”. Grading positively both as a receiver and as a run blocker, and with a +11.0 grade overall, it was clear “Average Starter” wasn’t giving him the credit he deserves.
– Though he was only a rookie year ago, Kenny Stills wasn’t really good enough to call an “Average Starter”. He had some strong games in the first half of the season, but a fairly lacklustre second half of the season saw him finish with a grade of -6.4 as a receiver.
– He only started four games, but Terron Armstead played enough snaps for us to form at least some opinion of where he is as a player. We didn’t want to get too carried away with the three strong performances to end the season, where he graded at +8.4, so went with “Average Starter” for now, but it’s clear that he has the potential to be a very good player for the Saints.
See the updated depth chart: New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– He only played 158 snaps before his rookie season was cut short by injury, running back Mike James impressed us enough to put him in the “Good Starter” bracket. Grading at +6.9 as a runner, he forced seven missed tackles from 60 carries while averaging 3.1 yards after contact.
– Considering he was our seventh highest graded center a year ago, having Evan Dietrich-Smith as an “Average Starter” didn’t feel right. His only full season as a starter, he finished the year with a grade of +17.1.
– Considering his strong end to the season, we opted to up defensive end William Gholston to “Average Starter”. He struggled when he initially saw the field but finished the year strong, grading at +5.6 over the final four games. Likewise we felt that Da’Quan Bowers, who has graded out at +0.1 over the past two seasons, hadn’t been poor enough to label as “Below Average”.
See the updated depth chart: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon