PFF is Out of Focus

Lombardi's Way PFF is Out of Focus

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I once asked a member of the Ravens organization if the team gives any credence to the player grades published by Pro Football Focus, aka PFF. I was told that they do read them but the system, through no fault of PFF’s, is flawed because they don’t have any way to understand the assignments of the players on any particular play.

A player could be dinged for a missed block for example, when in fact the perceived whiff was really a player’s attempt to cover a teammate’s blown assignment. Consequently, a coach’s grade is more highly valued because they are fully aware of the responsibilities of all assignments on every play.

So in a way, this insight taints my view of what PFF does. But it doesn’t stop there.

When I study the grades from a game, they sometimes don’t marry up to the eyeball test. I’ve seen cornerbacks for example, receive grades that aren’t indicative of their contributions in a specific game. Maybe they were matched up against an All Pro receiver. Or maybe the opposing quarterback was given an inordinate amount of time to set and throw, thus reducing the chance of success. I’ve seen games where all of the above was true, the corner successfully defended passes on key third-down conversion attempts, yet the grades still didn’t reflect the clutch plays that greatly contributed to a win.

Conversely, I’ve seen high grades given to players who made little to no impact plays that help determine the outcome of a game.

[Related Article: Analyzing The Ravens 2021 Schedule]

Recently I noticed on Twitter, projected rankings of NFL running backs. J.K. Dobbins’ ranking was a very pedestrian No. 26. Twenty. Six.


Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

In 2020 Dobbins:

• Ranked 18th in rushing yards with 805
• Ranked 35th in rushing attempts with 134, ten less than Gus Edwards
• Ranked 11th in rushing TD’s with 9
• Ranked 5th in runs of 20+ yards with 8
• Ranked 1st among running backs in yards/attempt with 6.0

Now consider the above and then let’s fast forward to the 2021 season, when Dobbins will be the featured back in the Ravens league-leading rushing attack behind an improved offensive line, yet in PFF’s questionable wisdom they project J.K. at 26?

I’m not feeling you PFF!

Just because you’re owned by Cris Collinsworth and NBC practices nepotism with their Sunday Night Football stats provided by PFF, it doesn’t make you a defacto benchmark for player grades.

And if asked to grade PFF, I’d give it a C on a curve.

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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