2 Who Missed the List: Abraham & Ferguson
Every year the PFF Analysis staff gets together and assembles our combined Top 101 list for the prior season. Believe it or not we’re not all robots and we don’t come with exactly the same lists in exactly the same order. It often turns into an intense debate, particularly toward the beginning points of the list and for the players making the final 10, which almost always takes more discussion than the order for those at the top.
Nobody gets all of their players on the list and everyone has at least one or two players that they were “banging the table for” (to steal a draft term) but just can’t convince enough of the rest of the staff to include them. Last season guys like Tony Romo, Jonathan Stewart, and Eugene Monroe were on the just-missed lists that we posted before the Top 101 was revealed.
This year we’re going in reverse and you already know who made the list, so now find out who I wanted in the final cut but couldn’t convince the rest of the guys on their merits.
There was no love for John Abraham in the meeting room at PFF Towers, but I fought for him as best I could. Among our various criteria, we frown slightly upon role players and that was part of Abraham’s undoing in the process. But it’s not as if we ignore part-timers entirely and Aldon Smith’s 2011 inclusion on the list, as well as Casey Hayward’s this year proves as much. Abraham spent most of his time as a pass rusher in Atlanta’s nickel package, but he wasn’t allergic to early-down work as he played 69.2 percent of the Falcons’ snaps (including the playoffs).
It was likely Abraham’s run defense that kept him off the list, though he did pull a respectable +0.8 grade. However, fellow 4-3 defensive end Charles Johnson came in at No. 69 on the strength of his +28.7 pass rush grade despite his -6.9 grade against the run. Even defensive tackle Jurrell Casey made the Top 101 at No. 95 with his +18.1 run stopping grade, as we ignored his being a non-factor as a pass rusher at -4.0.
So with similar part-timers and one-dimensional players on the list, Abraham should have been right there with them as his +22.8 pass rush grade ranked fifth at the position while his 10.7 Pass Rushing Productivity ranked sixth. Sure, he took advantage of the likes of Nate Potter, Michael Harris, and a surprisingly ineffective Jermon Bushrod, but Abraham still ranked among the best pass rushers in the league and was certainly comparable to some of his colleagues who made the Top 101.
Perhaps his playoff ineffectiveness was his final undoing as he failed to notch a pressure in Atlanta’s two games, but his overall body of work was enough for me to go to bat in his favor – to no avail.
In a year where 10 offensive tackles made the list including eight left tackles, it’s tough to see D’Brickashaw Ferguson among the final cuts. Like Abraham, the case can certainly be made in his favor when compared to his peers, particularly those who snuck into the bottom half of the list. Ferguson was our No. 7 offensive tackle at +23.5 and our No. 10 pass blocker at +16.9. He also ranked ninth in Pass Blocking Efficiency at 96.4.
Where Ferguson differed from some of the other names who made the list was his average performance as a run blocker. He came in right around average at +0.1 while the other Top 101 offensive tackles generally had a nice blend of pass and run blocking success. Ferguson took back the upper hand, however, when discipline was taken into account as his +5.5 penalty grade ranked fifth at the position and would have been the highest mark of any tackle on the list. Perhaps his steady play was overshadowed by players such as Russell Okung and Will Beatty who played a more balanced game with regard to pass and run blocking, but graded at -5.7 and -4.0 respectively in the penalty department.
Slow and steady didn’t win the race this time for Ferguson as his flashier peers got the nod, but his ability to avoid mistakes while providing stellar pass protection should have had him ranked among the likes of Jared Veldheer (No. 94) and the aforementioned Beatty (No. 85).
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