Neil’s NFL Daily: July 16, 2013

Our assessment of the NFL's likely 2013 starting squads hits the three-quarter mark today, as Neil Hornsby looks at the Steelers and Rams.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: July 16, 2013

Just 25% of teams still to do, and if you include the Steelers and Rams today, even less than that.

I’ve really enjoyed doing this series as it’s prompted a lot of debate both on Twitter and in the comment sections below each article. Please be aware I do read each comment and have already amended a few grades on the back of some very well-reasoned arguments — thanks so much to all those who have made this a lot of fun to do. Over the coming weekend I’ll take every grade and make my final changes and summarize everything on Monday 22nd.

One excellent question came up which may be obvious to some but is certainly worth making clear to all. I was asked why there were so many higher grades than lower grades if we normalize our data? The reason is that these are the starting line-ups. If we graded the entire roster then there would be a significant amount more oranges and reds — hope this helps.

For those new to the series and wanting to catch up, you can find the other teams covered to date with this handy set of links.

Charts by team:



Tuesday, July 16th

Pittsburgh Steelers (Click to enlarge)


— How to grade Big Ben? As we explained last week he can do things no other QB can, but still makes his share of errors. In the end, the way he’s won out in difficult circumstances, and never graded outside our Top 7 QBs since 2008, carried the day.

— This has the potential to be the best Steelers offensive line for a few years, but unfortunately that might be damning with faint praise. Obviously the player most Steeler fans will call “foul” is Pouncey, but the truth is, while he may look like the real deal he rarely delivers as such. Compared to players like John Sullivan, Nick Mangold, Chris Myers (or even guys like Brian De La Puente or Ryan Wendell) his actual production is only average. His grades since 2010 have been -2.9, -0.2, and last year +5.4, but when a hype machine is in motion, on a position no one but us watches on every snap, it’s difficult to explain the emperor is only wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

— I gave Lamarr Woodley a big pass on last season. If we were taking that as the rule, as opposed to an exception, he would have graded average at best.

— What on earth is going on with Ziggy Hood? If there was no-one else to turn to you may understand the Steelers reluctance to bench him, but Cameron Heyward looks like he has the ability to be a high quality end. At least his run defense was a little better down the stretch, but this looks almost like a team hoping a clear first-round bust can be disguised by playing time.


St. Louis Rams (Click to enlarge)



— This is a team filled with question marks that can go any number of ways. Those players who last year were injured (Long, Wells), or played poorly (Langford, Finnegan), may go back to their best or may have found a new level. Can Bradford actually move to the next tier of quarterbacks (or beyond) or was he simply over drafted and one of the worst value selections of recent years? In order to not fall any further behind the 49ers and Seahawks a lot needs to improve, but at least there is hope.

— Jenkins was the archetypal “highlight player”. His interceptions returned for touchdowns made believers out of those who revel in such things, as they decided to ignore three completely abysmal performances. However, much as we may mock those who tried to compare him to Casey Hayward he did show flashes of brilliance. While he was our second-lowest-rated corner in coverage, and probably deserved a worse than average grade, he really does have the potential to kick on and flourish. However, it’s also possible that Trumaine Johnson (who we really liked in limited playing time) goes to be the better pro.

— Robert Quinn is another boom or bust player to watch. He was outstandingly brilliant in two games and then couldn’t put together another decent performance. Is one or the other reality, or will two good games a year be Quinn’s limit?


Other editions of Neil’s NFL Daily can be found HERE


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • sgtrobo

    pretty much spot on with the Steelers. Nice of you to give Woodley a mulligan, hopefully he’ll come back. As for Ziggy, the dude is the hardest worker on the face of the planet and he has a great attitude, but he is so woefully miscast as an Aaron Smith when he should be playing in a Henry Melton-type role. That’s what he did in college, that is what he does well (on the rare occasion he gets the chance to do so). In the 3WR set, the Steelers have shown the propensity to put the young guy in at WR. Here’s to hoping it’s Markus Wheaton. *raises a glass*

  • sgtrobo

    so what does Chris Long need to do to be a blue-chipper? I assume it’s his run D, but I think his “incompetence” level is a bit exaggerated in the ratings. The 3rd worst in run defense of ALL 4-3 DEs in the NFL? C’mahn…

    • WitnessKipnis

      No need to assume, its absolutely his run D. Its awful.

      • Toby May

        It might be that Long’s run D is weak b/c everyone they play game-plan’s him as a double-team or more defender and he simply can’t outplay the 2+ offensive guys assigned to neutralize him.

        If the other end of Long’s D-line is hi-performing in run D that might be what’s happening. Chris Long is NOT the type of player to be lazy, have poor technique or low effort. If he were he wouldn’t have such consistency at the pass rush.

        Also, Long might not be getting support from his OLB on runs..

  • Chris B

    Interesting about Polamalu- are you grading on all grades from past years (plural)? Because he didn’t play significant time last year. Wasn’t Finnegan highly rated in ’11? Slip in play caused a potential down grade?
    Curious to see the best team “on paper” and the worst team “on paper”. See if that translates to wins-losses.

  • Chris B

    Interesting about Polamalu- are you grading on all grades from past years (plural)? Because he didn’t play significant time last year. Wasn’t Finnegan highly rated in ’11? Slip in play caused a potential down grade?
    Curious to see the best team “on paper” and the worst team “on paper”. See if that translates to wins-losses.

    • PFF_Neil

      With all players I’m looking at last year primarily with some reference to previous campaigns. However if 2012 was injury marred, “out of character” etc. I’m paying more attention to ’11 then ’10 and so on.

      Finnegan was actually really good in 2012 up until week 6 and was terrible thereafter – it’s possible he may have picked up an injury.

      As for the best/worst teams – watch this space!

  • Brooks

    I think Laurinaitis should be at least above average. The rest of the Rams is spot on. I think if you do this again next year, you would see huge improvement (Quinn, Brockers, Jenkins, Johnson, Cook, Pettis, Bradford, and Richardson could all be rated much higher).

  • Carlos

    Would you consider Chris Long a blue chipper if he had just average run defense? He is definitely one of the best pass rushers in the league, playing a position designed to be the defense’s main pass rusher. How much do you weight run defense vs pass rush for 4-3 DEs?

  • joof

    It seems like Polumalea is on his last leg.

    I hope Adams at RT pans out

    • Toby May

      I think(or maybe hope) that Troy has been hampered by lingering issues that will be much improved thanks to his lack of playing time last year. I think, too, that he needs to give himself more recovery time in the off-season instead of constantly training like he’s still 22.

      Mike Adams HAS played very, very well so far. The Steelers got a steal on him in that b/c of his off-field issues he didn’t go in the top 5 of the draft as he likely would have. With him starting the Steelers have Pouncey, DeCastro, Adams as 1st rd quality players and Beachum as a high-performing sleeper with Foster as a stalwart mid-level lunch-box working player.

      I pray they play anywhere near that potential this year.

      • joof

        I didnt know mike adams was supposed to go so high but had off the field issues

  • Buddha

    Pretty spot on, in my opinion, regarding the Steelers. The only disagreement I have with you is your grade on Ike Taylor. What is it about him that does not warrant a High Quality rating? He never gets picks, but in every other phase he is outstanding. Very few big plays given up, shuts down #1 receivers and supports the run. I remember when he ended Pat White’s experiment as an NFL quarterback with a sideline KO. Steelers pass rush has been abysmal the last 2 years, making him stay with guys for longer down the field. Also, the Steelers have definitely been playing more man coverage lately, but they still play off the line of scrimmage quite a bit. Part of their defensive philosophy is to give up the 5yd out and make the tackle. I would like to see how his number of catches given up for 1st downs and tds compare with the other High Quality or Elite rated corners.

  • joof

    Brian quick is not in the starting lineup? and did you switch givens from above average to average?