2 Who Missed the List: Jennings & Monroe

Neil Hornsby gives his point of view on two players he feels were wrongly omitted on the PFF Top 101 of 2012.

| 4 years ago

2 Who Missed the List: Jennings & Monroe

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.

As much as you ever can be, I was happy with our Top 101 for 2012. All positions created equal is a novel concept, particularly coming from someone who doesn’t think you should pay any guard more than $5 million a year. Yet it gives us an opportunity to say, in our opinion at least, last year Evan Mathis played his position better than Aaron Rodgers played his.

So the two guys I’m going to talk about below I’m doing so in a context of players whose performance during 2012 put them in the same rarefied air as the guys we’ve already listed — I’m not saying they absolutely should have been in our 101, but they certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in that company.

Tim Jennings 

Pro Football Focus has been on the Jennings bandwagon for some time. In fact, ever since he was signed as a UFA from Indianapolis we felt he was a perfect fit for what the Bears do on defense. He’s a great scheme match as a player who in the Cover 2 will allow his share of completions, though not give up anything deep and bring the hammer in run defense. It’s a shame that on occasion the Bears have made him feel like a player on the bubble. For example, when he did allow a couple of long balls against Seattle in week 15 of 2011 he was prematurely yanked, with the coaching staff showing the zealousness more appropriate to an embattled rookie than a player not giving up a passer rating above 68.1 the previous three weeks and no touchdowns all year.

This year he took his displays to a level that ensured only injury would take him off the field (a dislocated shoulder saw him miss weeks 14 and 15), and luckily enough made such a volume of interceptions (nine) that even Pro Bowl voters had to take notice — he was selected as a starter to the NFC squad.

The quarterback rating allowed into his coverage (53.3) was second among full-time starters to only Richard Sherman (40.5), and that wasn’t some fluke brought on by those interceptions. The completion percentage of balls targeting him was only 52.9, 11th-best among starters and remarkable for a Cover 2 corner who usually concentrates on limiting YAC as opposed to receptions. Add to this his 12th-ranked Run Stop Percentage when asked to come up and play force and you have one of the premier all-around players at the position in the NFL for 2012.

Eugene Monroe

I must have something about good players on bad teams because for this article last year I selected the Colts Robert Mathis. If ever there was a player fitting that category it would be Eugene Monroe — we graded only three starters on the team above +5.0 in 2012, and of those Monroe was by far the highest.

It’s incredibly difficult to play left tackle at the best of times, but when the guy next to you is arguably the worst at his position in the entire league it makes your job doubly hard. Across the season a combination of four left guards combined to register a mind-blowingly bad -39.8 rating. To put that into perspective, the worst full-time left guard, rookie Amini Silatolu of the Panthers, put up –16.8.

In a game where teams regularly slide left guards across to support the exposed left tackle, trying to survive with this level of incompetence on your inside would be hard, but to flourish and play well is the sign of a very high quality player.

Despite these issues, Monroe was still our 10th-ranked LT in the NFL last year and, unlike a number of the guys above him, played well as both a run and pass blocker without giving up an inordinate amount of penalties in doing so (six). When your worst game of the year (-3.2) comes against J.J. Watt as you try to take the pressure off your struggling colleague, that’s not quite the negative it may first appear. I also have a view that given even an average player next to him Monroe would have made the Top 101 with room to spare. It’s a shame the Jaguars did nothing to address the left guard position in the draft or free agency, but of the players they did use last year by far the best was the last, Austin Pasztor (-0.2 in 219 snaps), so perhaps they have a view that he will be able to give Monroe that chance to really show what he can do.


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| 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.

  • Josh

    This year’s list has made me disregard most of your analysis.

    • Randy Kroger

      oh no, these admittedly flawed stats didn’t perfectly back up your preconceived notions about players based on even more flawed stats such as YPC?! Tell me more!

      These stats tell us much more than just using traditional statistics. In certain cases, we notice that there are discrepancies between our expected results and the actual ones. In some cases, it shows us that certain players may not be as good as we perceive them to be in this given year (Demarcus Ware for example). In other cases, it shows us that the stats may be biased towards or against certain types of players. In these cases, we can use logic to know that stats are not the end-all be-all for analysis. For example, the currently used statistics are the best they could come up with to separate running back play from offensive line play. These stats may be biased slightly against certain type of players (those good at “finding the hole”, avoiding being even close enough to warrant a missed tackle, those with a one dimensional offense, etc.)

      In the end, stats should not be used as a spot number but as a range. The 101st player is probably not all that different than the 80th player or the 120th player ( at least you cannot conclude that based on these stats). Instead these stats should be interpreted as a likelihood that he is around that spot.

      Assume that the deviations from reality of these rankings are normally distributed. If PFF has JC as the #102 player on its rankings you could estimate the percentage chance that he is in reality the 80th best player. Even the results of this analysis allow us to infer a slightly less than 50% chance that JC is one of the top 101 players in football.

      • ChunkyChief


        If you were trying to be clever with this little diatribe you clearly failed and a word of advice, when you do your exams in a few years, try and read the question first – It may be helpful. You probably didn’t notice in your righteous haste but this article was actually about Eugene Monroe and Tim Jennings.

        If you actually tried to understood most of what PFF do, rather than turn turning up like some disgruntled gate-crasher at a party you didn’t want to be at, you’d find they are not really that much into stats; they do something no one else does (including NFL teams) and grade every player on every play of every game. Sometimes they do use stats to put these gradings into context for those who like such things. It’s almost anti-sabermetrics and unsurprisingly a bit foreign to people like yourself who have an agenda and attempt to squeeze your little square pegs into whichever round holes you don’t like.

        Look, I understand, you’re a little put out they didn’t have your boy Charles in their top 101. I may even see your point if you weren’t so trite about the whole thing but who am I going to trust?

        A group of people that spend 1000’s of hours watching and analyzing every player in every game or you; fresh out of nappies, full of youthful enthusiasm for your team and without the worldly experience to realize it’s really not that big of a deal?

        Look, if you read the site without blinkers, you may not always agree with it but you may learn something interesting about football.

        However, if you insist on operating from within “the bubble” you may be better off looking to Fox News for your information as it will come exactly the way you like it – genetically modified, calorie-packed, almost certainly bad for you in large quantities, but non the less incredibly filling and tasty – if you haven’t fully developed your taste buds yet that is!