2014 Depth Charts Update: NFC North
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 fourth division up; the NFC North.
– Considering his play in recent years, we opted to up new addition Brian De La Puente up to “Good Starter”. Adding in the playoffs his overall grade last year was +8.3, and considering he was our fourth-highest-graded center in 2012 it only seemed right to move him up. An interesting battle with Roberto Garza awaits.
– We removed Domenik Hixon and Israel Idonije from the roster following their recent releases, and added Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock who’ll compete for time at the back end of the receiving group.
– After comments received below the Bears’ original depth chart, we moved Marquess Wilson into the third receiver spot, something which was made even more obvious after Hixon’s injury and release.
See the updated depth chart: Chicago Bears
– One of the more interesting debates we had was around new wide receiver Golden Tate. The feeling was that he has played well enough to be moved to “High Quality” but that unlike some of the guys in that category, he’s not knocking on the door of “Elite”. Good with the ball in his hands, as highlighted by his 24 missed tackles forced last season, he finally gives the Lions a viable option along with Calvin Johnson.
– As someone correctly pointed out in the comments section, “Below Average” was harsh to Rob Sims. An average grade (+0.2) last year would have warranted it on his own, but when you consider that’s the lowest he has graded since 2008, it was clear that we had to move him up.
See the updated depth chart: Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
– With injury forcing him to retire last month, we removed Johnathan Franklin from the roster. A shame, too, as he flashed some serious potential in his first game in the league, forcing five missed tackles as a runner.
– As was pointed out in the comments, having Casey Hayward as “Good Starter” as opposed to “High Quality” was probably a little unfair. Injury limited him last year, but that 2012 season, with a coverage grade of +20.7 was something to behold.
– We felt that Tramon Williams and Sam Shields were too similar to have in different categories. That, coupled with the fact that Williams has had a positive grade in coverage every year since we began grading, prompted us to bump him up to “Good Starter”.
See the updated depth chart: Green Bay Packers
– The feeling seems to be that Matt Cassel will start the year as the team’s starting quarterback so, while it’s only a matter of time before Teddy Bridgewater takes the helm, we’ve switched them about for now.
– Considering how they played in coverage in their last time as starters, we opted to switch Mistral Raymond (-2.1 last year) and Kurt Coleman (-7.7 in 2012) around. While neither are great players, there does seem to be a bit of a gap between the two.
– With just one missed field goal inside 50 yards last year, and a booming leg on kickoffs, we decided to move Blair Walsh up to “High Quality”, which seemed perfectly fair given his impressive rookie season in 2012 too.
See the updated depth chart: Minnesota Vikings
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon