Posted: 8:05 am Friday, June 6th, 2014

Do the Falcons have the NFL’s third-worst roster? 

By Mark Bradley

"We're No. 30! We're No. 30!" (Kent D. Johnson/AJC)

“We’re No. 30! We’re No. 30!” (Kent D. Johnson/AJC)

Pro Football Focus is a numbers-driven Web site that serves a different function than Football Outsiders, a numbers-driven Web site often referenced here. Football Outsiders mostly takes a macro view of advanced analytics; Pro Football Focus goes micro. PFF’s analysts attempt to do as coaches do, reviewing tape — or video, this being the 21st Century — and assigning grades to players.

As we know, football is less a game of individual statistics than baseball, which is almost entirely a game of individual stats. But PFF makes the brave attempt to rate every player at every position, offensive linemen included. Earlier in the week PFF’s Sam Monson caused a ripple when, writing for ESPN Insider, he averred that Tom Brady is no longer one of the NFL’s five best quarterbacks.

On the face of it, I’d disagree. I’d note that Brady, working with what appeared to be a moderately gifted group of receivers, just led New England to a 12-4 regular season. But if you’re asking, “Have you, Mark Bradley, gone back and reviewed every play of Tom Brady’s 2013 season?”, the answer would be a resounding no. And PFF’s Monson has, which means attention must be paid to his finding.

Comes now a PFF finding I consider even more stunning and, for the local NFL franchise, roundly sobering. The same Monson, again writing for ESPN Insider, has ranked the starters of the league’s 32 teams. He rates the Atlanta Falcons as the 30th-best. Or, put another way, the third-worst, ahead of the St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Once more, my instinct is to object. Seattle and San Francisco are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 by Monson, and only 17 months ago the Falcons beat the former, if just, and led the latter 17-0 in playoff games. Granted, 17 months can be a long time, and Tony Gonzalez and John Abraham and Tyson Clabo and Asante Samuel and Todd McClure and Dunta Robinson and Thomas DeCoud are gone from that team. But could the Falcons, who were 13-3 and the NFC’s top seed in 2012, really have fallen so far so fast?

Of the Falcons’ 24 starters, PFF rates only seven — Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jon Asamoah, Paul Soliai, Sean Weatherspoon and Desmond Trufant — as above average. (Two of those seven just arrived via free agency; being a rookie, Jake Matthews is given an incomplete.) Four — Levine Toilolo, Sam Baker, Kroy Biermann and Paul Worrilow — are graded below average. As an overview, Monson offers this chilling note:

Atlanta has been in “win-now” mode for a while, but every move the team has made to try to get closer to that aim seems only to have brought it further away from it. This offseason the Falcons spent big retooling their offensive and defensive lines, but seem to have added a series of one-dimensional players: run specialists in a league that is getting more pass-oriented.

Again, the impulse is to quibble and say, “Hey, it’s not that bad.” But again, I don’t grade tape/video. And if Pro Football Focus is anywhere near accurate in its assessment, the Falcons had best hope their whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

118 comments
birdrow
birdrow

My God.  How long can you run one dead tired story?  This thing has been on the sports page for like 5 days now, and there are 117 comments. Uncle!  Uncle!  

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I think the Falcons season last year WITH the franchise quarterback healthy all year confirms this assessment of their talent is probably about right. Smith is a good coach - if he can only win 4 with this team that is entirely TD's fault.

Lack of talent is TD's domain - not Smith's or Arthur's!

Marmoset
Marmoset

AtL should win 8-9 games next year---hopefully, new orleans and carolina aren't that good so atl can sneak into the playoffs somehow

Esquire
Esquire

I don't think it matters what they think..............much ado about nothing.

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

DawgNole you are right about Joe Tess.  He is a liar and a coward.  He also said he was finished with the Falcons when they would not sign T O.  He also made a joke about a baby that died in a swimming pool accident in Aug '13.  Why the AJC has not barred this scum is amazing to me.

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

Someone please remind me why the city is spending a billion dollars on these overpaid clowns.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Bradley, you're paid to forget, not notice, and/or pretend like you don't understand how pathetic Atlanta pro sports teams are when the big prize is on the line. Most of us have (fortunately for our consciences) much more honest occupations. The 2 games you mention as indication the Falcons were near the top a short time ago, showed exactly the opposite. In the 2nd half-- when it counted-- in both of those games the Falcons got absolutely stomped, and won the Seattle game only by blind dumb luck. And the most important player on the team, the guy you again mentions evidence of top tier talent was the quintessential wet-your-pants Atlanta postseason loser in both second halves. He meekly danced around on little pitter patter happy feet, threw interceptions, fumbled, made weak throws, 3 & outed...


Stone cold talent -- run fast, jump high, push past peeps in your way -- can be a big thing. Heart can be everything, and when you lose heart as Atlanta teams always do come postseason, then whatever little raw talent edges you may have had evaporate quickly.


Atlanta teams stink. Atlanta writers as well.

DisgustedFan
DisgustedFan

The offensive line might be one of the 3 worst in the league but the rest of the team is quite average except for a good QB in Ryan and when healthy exceptional WRS in Julio & Roddy.


Sam Baker is there cause he was given a Dan Uggla type of contract last yr and they cannot cut him now. 


He is the worst player in the NFL. 

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

I can't believe they think we are that GOOD.  30th is 2 spots higher than I have this team.

Birmingham__Jacket
Birmingham__Jacket

As a Tech fan , I hate The Falcons. Tech football would be better off and better supported if it did not have to compete with the Falcons for local. $.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Who cares? I get sick of these preseason prognostications, rankings, and ratings.

It can be flattering or insulting, but it DOESN'T matter at all.

Just let them play the games on the field.

RodfromCollegePark
RodfromCollegePark

" Ryan is a GREAT QB.... We are lucky to have him and he will do great things in upcoming years."

Great quarterbacks don't choke every year in the playoffs.  They don't fumble snaps, throw interceptions and lead powerful offenses to 3, 6 and 0 points in the second quarter of playoff games with big leads.  They don't go to New York and get blanked.   Great quarterbacks don't need great talent to be great, they make average talent great.  Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Micheal Turner made Matt Ryan above average not the other way around.


"And this tells you precisely what I have been telling you for 6 seasons...Matt Ryan makes this average to below average collection of talent look a whole lot better than it really was/is. "

Besides last year, Matt Ryan has had the best offensive weapons in the league and  has barely been able to win a playoff game.  Roddy White has been a top 3 receiver in the league (excluding last year) for the past 5 years, Julio Jones is top 10.  Tony Gonzalez has been the top tight end in the league, and Michael Turner was a top 5 running back.  Harry Douglas is a top notch slot receiver.  The problem has been Matt Ryan dinking and dunking, and not being able to get the ball down the field  Spoke to someone on that Giants team the won the superbowl that blanked the Falcons in the playoffs, and they said the gameplan against the Falcons was to stack the line to stop Turner, press the receivers, because they had nor fear of him throwing the ball deep, because of their pass rush and his arm strength.  The same strategy still applies.  Do you think teams would press the falcons man to man with Tom Brady of Drew Bress back there.  Those quarterbacks would lead the league in deep completions if that happened.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Can't argue with numbers.  In the name of player safety, everyone on the Falcons team should be allowed to go home and the organization should forfeit all games in the upcoming season, simply based on the numbers.  Mark Bradley will have his hands fulls this coming season reporting how many other teams also forfeited games, leaving the one true champion to play with itself.  Mark, I am sure you look forward to getting a ticket to that game.

WilliamCoit
WilliamCoit

I gave up my birthright team and who I grew up supporting (New Orleans Saints) to be an Atlanta Falcons. I have to hear the constant hating by my high school and college mates for this BS. I'm tired of making excuses for the Falcons not winning a superbowl. I should have stayed a SAINTS fan if I new this road was paved with mediocrity. 

WilliamCoit
WilliamCoit

One more year left of this management team. They can't draft players in round 3 - 7.

gobige
gobige

It is hard to care after last year's effort.

HBLWWClyde
HBLWWClyde

Our linebacker group is the worst in the league


Woody10
Woody10

Really?  The Rams?  They're good enough to make a run in the toughest division in football.  Between that and the analysis of the Falcons,  I lost interest in reading any further. 

HarveyPooka
HarveyPooka

Third worst may be going a little too far (down).  But, certainly there is nothing there to make anybody think it could be in top 40%.

ElephantintheRoom
ElephantintheRoom

We have relied on Mr2's ability as a QB over the past few years. If he loses any of that ability as he gets older and keeps getting slammed to the turf because of inferior O linemen, we're going to be in serious trouble. Face it ! The Falcons have ONE offensive playmaker (difference maker) on the team and that is Matt Ryan. Without him at his absolute best we're toast.

Blankisapig
Blankisapig

An Atlanta native thinks the Falcon's Achilles heel has always been the front office.

Dman
Dman

Without all of the injuries, we have already proven on the field that we are above average. Rise up Atlanta...

PhillipClark
PhillipClark

going to be a real interesting year. if the falcons underachieve this year there will be major changes, and sacred cows like matt ryan could be booted.

Marmoset
Marmoset

Relax---Thomas knows his stuff.  He used to be in new england and learned some tricks from belicheck. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I just want the season to play out, I don't need a stat to tell me how good a team is. At the end of the day it comes down to a lot of variables. If Seattle or the 49ers and the Bronco's have injuries we know what that can do to a team. You just have to have a team that's fundamentally sound and hope some luck is on your side.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

30th may be a bit harsh but bottom third is certainly possible. It all started with the ill conceived picks of Rich McKay and eventually led to equally bad picks from Dimitroff. Until this organization decides what it wants to be , the team will continue to reflect the misfit knee jerk decisions made each and every offseason.

seminoleking
seminoleking

football is NOT hard to figure out. you run the ball, you play SMASH mouth defense. you instill FEAR in your opponents receivers, and i dont care if you have peyton manning at quarterback, you will fold. ( funny how seattle proved that in the superbowl). which brings me to the falcons. they STILL on that character and soft player crap. everybody likes the jake matthews pick, but its ANOTHER example of the soft approach the falcons take. taylor lewan is KNOWN for being mean. thats what you want. you want a proven run blocker. its no coincidence that the falcons offensive line was feared and they had a excellent running attack when they had harvey dahl. they let him go, which is a example of what pro football talk is talking about. matt ryan is more effective when he has a running game around him, like ANY quarterback. on defense, you let your only pass rusher leave, ( abraham) your only defensive back who instilled fear (robinson), add osi, but have NOBODY around osi to make him effective. then your free safety has been a joke and will be again. you have nobody at middle linebacker. you build UP THE MIDDLE. you instill fear up the middle. the falcons got caught up in the fluff of the passing game after green bay dismantled them in that playoff game. all they had to do was ADD pieces to the defense, and they wouldve been fine, but they dismantled the roster and brought in soft, finesse players on both sides of the ball......

JAS0N
JAS0N

"And PFF’s Monson has, which means attention must be paid to his finding"


Anyone who casually followed football last season realizes brady is no longer top 5.  So, you know, way to go.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

PFF may be right, but in a league with as much parity as the NFL, the talent difference between the 3rd most talented team and the 3rd least talented team isn't that great. It isn't like it's that inconceivable for a team to go from the top of the heap to the bottom quickly, or vice versa.


That being said, Dimitroff's overall track record with the Falcons is average at best, and that may be too kind. So it doesn't surprise me that PFF has the Falcons rated so low. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

MB: ". . . could the Falcons, who were 13-3 and the NFC’s top seed in 2012, really have fallen so far so fast?"

________________________

Absolutely--and based on their record last season (4-12), they have indeed "fallen so far so fast."

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Were do I strat?


Week arm Rayan

Injruy prone Witherspoon Baker Juliet Jones 

Over the hill Jaxson

Fist round busts Perrier Jerry & roddy

Dummy GM


Need I say more?

EricEllis
EricEllis

@TreeRollins


You do realize that Matt Ryan was about the only starter that wasn't hurt last year, right?  The reason for the 4-12 in 2013 was a team that was absolutely decimated by injuries and which is admittedly not very deep.  If they stay reasonably healthy this year I expect something much closer to the 2012 team than the 2013 one this year...

Marmoset
Marmoset

@Wilbo what is worse:  atl sports teams, atl "sports" radio or atl writers? they are all bad.

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

@HotDawg U must be new here. We all no deep dwon the Flacons R domed 2 anoter loosing season. 

BigHittas
BigHittas

@RodfromCollegePark I'm a Ryan fan because I've seen him grow as a Q B, but I do agree with some of what you said.
Case in point: The Falcons real last chance vs SF in the NFC Championship, Ryan elected to throw to White on about the five instead of Gonzalez in the end zone. That was the overall the poorest decision I've seen him make and he's made plenty. 

I do hope that was a learning experience for him because he won't be going anywhere soon due to his contract.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

@WilliamCoit Should never turn your back on the team you grew up supporting.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Dude, they haven't played a game yet....

CHILL OUT.

WilliamCoit
WilliamCoit

@Woody10 The Rams have a defense front which the Falcons lack. Quarterback play for the Rams is the problem.

Dman
Dman

@PhillipClark

"Matt Ryan could be booted" compare Matt's stats to all other QB's through their first 6 years in the league and see if you still feel that way. Ryan is a GREAT QB.... We are lucky to have him and he will do great things in upcoming years.

UGA76
UGA76

@BoomTown  I think he ran the fantasy football team for him.  New England traded down to stockpile mid round picks and turned those picks into very productive players.  Dimitroff hasn't shown any ability to do so.  In fact he usually foolishly gives away multiple picks.   

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Barves_Loss_Agian  Who is Barves?  Who is Agian?  Did Barves ever find Agian?  Did Barves call police to help look for Agian?  Hope they find Agian.



DawgNole
DawgNole

@Barves_Loss_Agian

You "strat" by getting off of Falcons blogs, like you said you would if they didn't draft Manziel. Liar.

And NO, you needn't say more. You've said far too much already.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

@Esquire @TreeRollins  Agree with both of you !  75% of us in the survey say the Falcon's roster is below average or average at best.  The team has many holes, and I like Smith, too.  This concept of a roster is not good of all offense and no defense, and the assessment of the talent sought is poor.  We are not a top team.  Not close.  Top NFL teams play other top NFL teams, which is the manner the NFL sets up schedules; and we are unable to compete when playing such a schedule.


What does that mean ?


That our talent on our roster is not good, and it is not because the owner does not want to win, like with Rankin Smith, and it is not because the coach is no good like all the bums we've run through here with Rankin Smith either.


Thomas does a poor job of getting us talent, and his decisions have ruined an otherwise better franchise right now than it would be otherwise.


Thomas George Dimitroff, Jr. does not evaluate NFL talent well and has no experience to determine talent as NFL ready or not in his poor assessments.  Moreover, Thomas George Dimitroff, Jr. does not have an overall vision for an NFL football team thinking he can get butts in the seats with all efforts on offense and no concept of talent on Defense.  I'd give Mike Smith all the NFL Draft Picks to choose, and I know we'd be better off doing that, than Thomas George Dimitroff, Jr. has done overall.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@BoomTown @Wilbo All about equal. I have moved to a quieter mountain life, but in my 1/4 century in Atlanta I thought some of Atlanta sports radio was okay... I realize he was a bonehead jerk, but I miss Steaky. And Bo.

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  1. […] comes on the heels of Pro Football Focus’ ranking of NFL starting lineups, which slotted the Falcons at a shocking — to me, and surely to Thomas Dimitroff — […]