Neil’s NFL Daily: July 22, 2013

Neil Hornsby today wraps up his series grading the league's likely 2013 starting line-ups by offering you the chance to critique his chosen "elite" and win a subscription.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: July 22, 2013

So, as promised, with my series grading the NFL’s starting line-ups at an end, you get the chance to have your say. I’ve revisited all the charts over the weekend and made minor changes to many. As training camp wears on I’ll continue this process as more information becomes available on who’s likely to start etc., and I’ll amend every team I visit during my camp tour starting on Thursday.

You can find all the updated charts here:



Monday, July 22nd

The “Blue-Chip” Players

Most of the discussion so far has focused on the “elites”, so that’s where we’ll start. After looking back and checking for consistency I’ve added one and let a couple go to produce a final list. I’ve also included a comment and a “trend” symbol for performance based on the criteria below:

 Likely to get even better
 Will probably carry on at a similar level of performance (i.e. Elite)
 Could be the last year in this category as may be in decline

There are 50 players in this category at the moment, but that round number is just coincidence. This is about performance, not numbers. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to consider the list and if you feel a player has been wrongly omitted (or included) give your reasoned argument in the comments section below, and the most compelling (to us at PFF at least) will win a year’s free subscription, which will be awarded after Friday 26th. No more than 100 well-chosen words, and try to remember calling me names is not going to be very persuasive — well, not in your favor anyway.

Name Pos. Team Trend Comment
Geno Atkins DT CIN How can you top the best season we’ve ever seen from a defensive tackle
Tom Brady QB NE There were signs of decline in the playoff loss. The receiver turnover will make 2013 perhaps his biggest test.
Drew Brees QB NO So how much does he need Sean Payton? Maybe 2012 was simply a performance blip.
Duane Brown T HOU The best all-around tackle in 2012; our eighth-ranked pass protector and third-ranked run blocker
Jairus Byrd S BUF Probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he plays deep so frequently. Always delivers when called upon, though.
Calais Campbell DE ARZ In 2011 played very well without being a real threat against the run. In 2012 became a complete player
Jamaal Charles HB KC Last season was not his best with fumbles & limited receiving opportunities. Expect 2013 to be a resumption of normal service
Antonio Cromartie CB NYJ Taking over from Revis he tracked the opposition’s top WR too and held quarterbacks targeting him to a rating of 69.7
Larry Fitzgerald WR ARZ Poor QBs eventually took a toll in 2012 but Carson Palmer should reverse trend
Brandon Flowers CB KC His lowest pass coverage grade since 2008 has been +9.8. An ultra consistent player who rarely gets praise he deserves
Tony Gonzalez TE ATL The best receiving TE in the NFL is also among the worst blockers, but so good at the former who cares?
A.J. Green WR CIN Getting better year on year. Dalton needs to improve to allow the upward trend to continue
Rob Gronkowski TE NE Injury continues to inhibit the best all-around player at his position since Jason Witten was at his peak.
Mike Iupati G SF A truly dominating run blocker who struggled with pass protection and penalties on occasion
Vincent Jackson WR TB Makes Josh Freeman look better than he is. Never graded in the red in any individual game
Andre Johnson WR HOU Rumors of him losing a step seem premature as he pulled in our highest WR grade last season
Calvin Johnson WR DET More drops than usual last year but still thriving despite all the extravagant coverages thrown at him
Nick Mangold C NYJ The gold standard by which all recent centers should be measured now has a couple of bad games a year
Peyton Manning QB DEN Once he got his new skill set locked into muscle memory it was business as usual for him
Brandon Marshall WR CHI Went on a tear to start 2012 and then fell away a tad. +15.1 in first half and “only” +6.1 in second
Evan Mathis G PHI Graded positively in every single game. His unremarked genius highlights a media weakness regarding interior OL
Clay Matthews OLB GB Gets it done, year in, year out, with little help. What happens when he has support?
Devin McCourty S NE Elite in two roles; graded +10 in 10 games as a FS and +12.7 as a CB. Extrapolated out he’d be our third-rated S & fifth-rated CB
Gerald McCoy DT TB Not only did McCoy get our second-best overall grade at DT, he did it playing a mammoth 87% of snaps.
Von Miller OLB DEN Has a mild habit of not playing his best at the season’s end, but still probably the best pass rusher in the game today
Chris Myers C HOU Not as dominant as in 2011 when he was the best in the league; he’s never been outside our Top 10 centers
Carl Nicks G TB Given how well he was playing when a toe injury put him on IR everyone should feel cheated by the loss
Russell Okung T SEA Graded -8.8 the first two games of the season. Only gave up 12 QB disruptions total in 16 games thereafter
Adrian Peterson HB MIN An upward trend? Is that possible? Well isn’t it supposed to take two years after surgery to get back to your best?
Jason Pierre-Paul DE NYG The best run-defending 4-3 end still got enough pressure (54 QB disruptions) to justify his inclusion here
Darrelle Revis CB TB Will Revis return to his old form? Who knows… but so good was he that he’d have to fall a long way not to grade elite.
Aaron Rodgers QB GB Most people’s choice as the current best quarterback in football still looks to have a lot in the tank
Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT After being handed one Super Bowl he won another and makes a declining team constantly dangerous
Richard Sherman CB SEA He likes to talk but has the ability to back it up. Throwing at him quarterbacks managed a 44.9 rating.
Joe Staley T SF The best run blocking tackle in the NFL by a country mile and still our ninth-ranked pass protector
John Sullivan C MIN A continuation of his upward trend would put next season off the scale. Will he flatten off?
Joe Thomas T CLE Still the best pass protector in the game but his run blocking remains in decline
Charles Tillman CB CHI As our own Sam Monson describes, could be even better out of Cover 2
Max Unger C SEA Got some of the notoriety his performances deserved last year. Another man on an upward trajectory
Sebastian Vollmer T NE If not for coming back a week early from injury (and suffering at hands of Wake) would have been third-ranked T
Cameron Wake DE MIA I felt the move inside would negatively impact his performance. Our best ever grade for 4-3 end (+53.8) says you are wrong again Hornsby
DeMarcus Ware OLB DAL Looked out of sorts while still playing well enough. A great player falling away or a blip?
J.J. Watt DE HOU The best season we’ve ever seen from any player, any position came in 2012. It’s not possible he could get better is it?
Eric Weddle S SD May be even better if he was asked to play in the box more often but still looks the NFL’s best all-round safety
Roddy White WR ATL Probably the premier sideline receiver in the NFL. Reduced drops from 17 to four to take play to next level
Muhammad Wilkerson DE NYJ He show signs in ’11 before bursting out in ’12. His position is a black hole for running plays & he still gets pressure vs. the pass
Kyle Williams DT BUF Two very bad games against the 49ers and at Miami was all that stood between Williams and a perfect return from injury
Patrick Willis ILB SF The best-graded ILB in coverage and the second-best (after Brandon Spikes) vs the run. A step change better than the rest
Antoine Winfield CB SEA Controversial? Maybe, but still a Top-20 coverage corner. Never gives up penalties and makes screens to his side an act of blatant stupidity
Marshal Yanda G BAL The best right guard in the game still played brilliantly after getting paid thanks to his new contract before the season began

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.

  • bz2

    I’d like to nominate Neil Hornsby for an “Average” rating based on the attrocious image quality of that table, with a chance to go up to “High Quality” if he manages to bring us an HTML version :)

    • RickDrummond

      Upward green arrow for Neil now? 😉

    • PFF_Neil

      I think you are generous in the extreme. I would have gone “poor” and considered myself lucky to get that.

  • Joey

    Eugene Monroe. The only competent player on the offensive for the Jags. Played next to a combination of terrible players, the worst in the league, at left guard. Had two QBs with poor pocket presence and still managed to shine. Overlooked because he plays for Jacksonville, but he’s gotten better every year.

  • Connor

    Gotta say Jimmy Graham needs to be in here. With Hernandez in jail and Gronkowski iffy due to injury there is really no other tight end on his level. You have Brees in here as a “blip season” without Sean Payton, so Graham should have the same treatment. I expect 90+ receptions 1000+ yards 10 TDs from him this year like his 2011 season, making him elite if he isn’t already.

  • Dessedrengen

    Jamaal Charles shouldn’t be on the list if CJ Spiller isn’t. Yeah, Charles had a great year before his injury, but they have been playing almost equal the snaps since the injury and Spiller has outplayed him.

  • Alex

    Matt Ryan (17) and CJ Spiller (18) are the only two players from the first fifth of your Top 101 Players of 2012 list to not make ‘Blue Chip’ status. You ranked Matt Ryan at 74 in 2011, so it’s not as though he’s new to high performances. For Spiller, you noted that you want to see him in a conventional offense before signing off, but why would Doug Marrone use your most elusive running back with 5.2 (2011) and 6.0 (2012) yards per carry in a conventional manner? I want both of these guys wearing blue!

  • Hagai

    Let’s talk performance, not numbers. Justin Smith is the Niners defense. Grant him with all Aldon Smith sacks and all of those sacks he couldn’t manage in Justin’s absence. SF defense was not the same after his injury. Defanatly ELITE.

  • Jesse

    I don’t think Jamaal Charles deserves to be on that list. IMO, he’s Chris Johnson with better blocking. He doesn’t break tackles or make people miss at anything better than an average rate. Give him a hole and he’ll eat up ground in a hurry, but is that an elite quality? When he runs into disciplined stout run defenses and his OL is stymied, he’s basically done. Not going to create a lot of yards after contact. And as mentioned, his 2012 season was marked by fumbles and poor performance as a receiver.

  • Dr__P

    Dez Bryant has matured and started to break out during the second half of last season. His first half was -4.5 and his second half was 9.9. He should only get better.

  • Dr__P

    Jason Witten started the season with a lacerated spleen. Just like long play he made without a helmet [prior to the rules changes], he is a warrior of the first class.

  • bobrulz

    I don’t think Tony Gonzalez particularly deserves to be on the Blue Chip list. It’s a little bit disappointing that PFF, who champions all-around play so highly, would place such a one-dimensional player on this list, no matter how good he is at that one dimension. As far as I can tell, every other player here is multi-dimensional. Even Antoine Winfield, who gets praise for his exceptional run defense, is still above average in coverage.

    Also, I’m surprised not to find Justin Smith on here. Justin Smith missing time to injury last year clearly showed that he makes everyone around him better, and while his 2012 wasn’t as good as his previous few years, he was still one of the best defensive linemen in the league. I find it odd that you mentioned in Darrelle Revis’ write-up that he would have to fall a long ways to lose his elite status even after the injury, and yet Justin Smith is apparently no longer elite simply because he fell from being the best defensive player in the league over the course of several years, to “only” a top 5 or so defensive player in the league last year.

    • PFF_Neil

      I have a lot of sympathy for every point made by bobrulz [shame the name isn’t as good as the breakdown ;-)]

      He’s taken great pains to point out the idiosyncrasies in my process and while it will always come back to “my game, my rules” I have to agree some don’t stand up too well to scrutiny.

      I’m at 49ers camp today so will get a view on just where Smith is.

      Can you please send me your details bob ([email protected]) and we’ll sort you out a subscription. Thank you and well done.

  • jtruff

    Adrian Peterson earned a +30.1 grade on 786 snaps. CJ Spiller earned +25.4 grade on 200 fewer snaps. Spiller graded out better per run attempt and better per pass caught than Peterson did in an MVP season. He was similarly productive (per play) in 2011, so he can’t be dismissed as a fluke. By your own grading he destroyed Jamaal Charles in 2012. If you’re grading on quality of play, ability, and production then he’s a Blue-chipper. Since he’s not, I must ask, what exactly are you grading?

  • joof

    The next time you switch their grades can somehow mark it with maybe a black dot in the middle or an asterisk next to their name. Im looking through all 32 teams trying to figure out which players were switched

    • joof

      Or wait, maybe you only adjusted the elite grades

      can you clarify whether or not you edited all of the grades or just the elite ones

      • PFF_Neil

        Mostly the elite but did do some others too – two or three

  • LightsOut85

    Percy Harvin needs to appear. Before injury he was a legit
    MVP candidate & has always been a game-changer. He has the physical tools
    to get open quick or take it deep. He has consistently been graded well by PFF
    & is perhaps the king of YAC & forced-MT%. He is a versatile player who
    can line up almost anywhere & is very tough/strong for a person his size.
    With a better surrounding offensive cast in SEA, he should only improve further. He’s a constant offensive threat that no
    D-cord. can ignore, aka: as ELITE as they come.

    • LightsOut85

      Not sure of my word count, but he also has a fantastically-low drop% :)

  • john

    Ben was handed a SB? So having 7 TDs, 1 int and 1 rushing TD in playoffs getting his team doesnt count? Really on what planet? I hate this meme, it is boring, if Ben was handed a SB then Manning and Brady in their first (and only for Peyton) received even bigger gifts. Manning had 3Tds, and 7, I repeat 7 Ints. Brady didnt exactly light it up either, he needed Bledsoe to resuce him off the bench, his D and kicker, STs playing lights out. Yes Ben had a bad Sb, but he definitely wasnt handed the Sb, in fact he made by far the biggest play of that postseason, perhaps you remember it? I’ll give you a hint it wasnt a TD pass and saved a certain well known RB from sharing a throne with Bill Buckner. For a site that wants to be known for attention to detail and accuracy at times you sure have a funny way of showing it.

    • john

      Sorry 7 TDs and 1 int, 1 rush TD prior to SB.

  • Kyle Winslow

    Reggie Wayne and/or Dwayne Allen should be made (or returned to) blue chip status. Dwayne Allen’s rookie season was the 12th best in PFF rankings history, better than all of Tony Gonzalez’s seasons since 2008. The other 7 teams with 11 wins or more in 2012 average 3 blue chip players per team, the Colts being the only team with less than 2 (after Wayne’s relegation they have none). Their 2012 success cannot be attributed to an abundance of above average players (10 players are projected to be new starters on the 2013 squad, 11 if you count T.Y. Hilton, and none of these “upgrades” are even considered High Quality). Other ways to normalize this discrepancy would be to attribute the Colts season to luck and/or Luck and/or add Bruce Arians to the Cardinals roster as a blue chip player.

  • jtruff

    I’ll throw out a second nomination for “guy you should have included as a blue-chip player.”

    Troy Polamalu has two of the top 5 best seasons you’ve ever graded at the safety position including being the top rated safety as recently as 2011. He has graded positively in coverage and run support every single year. His health is the only reason I can see for not including him. But that seems a bit unfair. You give guys like Peyton Manning, Gerald McCoy, Darrelle Revis, Jamaal Charles, et al. plenty of slack for missing significant playing time, including full seasons. Does missing two half-seasons somehow make you a worse player than missing one full one?

  • Mike Massaro

    Reshad Jones on the Dolphins deserves to be elite. He’s a young up and coming safety who will be a household name next year. Has elite cover skills he can cover slot receivers and tight ends. Allowed a passer rating of just 38 last season. Also, great against the run. He has an elite all around game with an upward trend. Deserves to be in same conversation as Weddle/Byrd/McCourty.

  • jdb1972

    Calais Campbell is here and Charles Johnson isn’t? Four centers and no Ryan Kalil? (Injury doesn’t work here as you’re including other players that were hurt last year.) No Luke Keuchly?

    I understand. Panthers were a small market team. But I expect better from PFF than excluding the teams with the smallest fan bases just for the sake of eyeballs.