Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Apr 2013

State of the Team: Atlanta Falcons

by Andy Benoit

The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that many units are listed with 12 starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.

Color Legend:

  • Star
  • Good
  • Adequate
  • Jury’s still out
  • Just a guy
  • Upgrade needed
  • No longer on the team

Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.

Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.

Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.

Click here for an archive of all State of the Team articles.

OFFENSE

OVERVIEW

The plan is working. Matt Ryan is living up to his high first-round status; even his harshest critics would have to agree that his postseason woes are over. The superstar receiving duo that GM Thomas Dimitroff brazenly traded a collection of draft picks to assemble is everything the Falcons hoped for – and still improving. Coordinator Dirk Koetter’s updated system proved to be an excellent fit in Year One. The Falcons, in fact, may have had the best-coached offense in football last season. All that’s left is for these pieces to keep gelling. Theoretically, this team only needs to be 10 yards better than it was in 2012.

BACKFIELD

QB: Matt Ryan, Dominique Davis; Lost: Luke McCown

RB: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Bradie Ewing (FB); Lost: Michael Turner

Ryan doesn’t quite have top-notch arm strength, but he understands his progressions, he’s very sound fundamentally and, most importantly, he has developed the poise and toughness to make throws from a muddied pocket. In short, you can win a Super Bowl with Ryan as your quarterback. At running back, the newly acquired Jackson has more in the tank than Turner had. He’ll give this offense better quickness on first and second down. Rodgers is a star in the making. He might not become the next Maurice Jones-Drew, but he’s of that mold and has the potential to become extremely valuable in a niche role. Right now, his niche consists primarily of third-down duties, though he’ll likely continue to see more and more action on regular downs. Rodgers is one of the best pass-blocking backs in the league and, though he’s not fast, he has the quickness and agility to make defenders miss in space. He’s also getting better as a traditional base set runner.

RECEIVERS

WR: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Drew Davis, Kerry Meier

TE: Tony Gonzalez, Chase Coffman, Tommy Gallarda

White is the Z receiver, meaning he’s the movable chess piece. Jones is the X receiver, meaning he’s the explosive straight-line threat. Gonzalez is the Y who capitalizes on constant mismatches inside. This is everything you could want in a receiving trio. The Falcons do not make much use of their ancillary weapons, though Douglas and Davis know how to take advantage when opportunities do come. It will be interesting to see if Koetter expands the route combination and option concepts for Jones this season. The third-year stud has shown gradual growth from a mental standpoint. The more he can handle, the more diverse this system will be.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: Sam Baker LG: Justin Blalock C: Peter Konz RG: Garrett Reynolds RT: Lamar Holmes

Backups: OT Mike Johnson, G Joe Hawley; Lost: C Todd McClure, Tyson Clabo, Will Svitek

Individually, this is not a very athletic front five. Hence, none of these guys are great pass-blockers. Collectively, though, they play well together and understand how to succeed in a system that usually works to their strengths (power blocking, five-step-timed pass-blocking, six-man protection concepts, etc.). The question is whether this continuity can be sustained now that stalwart veteran center McClure is retired and second-year man Konz is anchoring the middle. Konz’s lack of strength was a problem at guard; the hope is he can thrive as a help-blocker in his more fitting middle position. Another question is whether Holmes, a third-round pick a year ago, can fill Clabo’s spot at right tackle. Clabo was overrated but still one of the league’s better right tackles. Johnson is classified as a “good” backup because he plays a lot of meaningful snaps in the six- and seven-man O-line packages that Koetter likes.

DEFENSE

OVERVIEW

The Falcons were an evolving defense in their first season under coordinator Mike Nolan. Key players at all three levels saw their roles expand to include more flexibility and disguise elements. Nolan was able to venture into new designs because Atlanta’s safeties finally got sounder in coverage. (It’s somewhat of a chicken or egg case, as clearly part of the safeties’ improvements derived from the disguises that Nolan had them in.) Heading into 2013, the question is whether the Falcons have enough firepower going after the quarterback. Osi Umenyiora is replacing John Abraham, which is a wash if not a mild improvement. But even when Abraham was at full throttle, this pass rush was up-and-down last year. Another question – a bigger one, perhaps – is whether the Falcons are still good enough at cornerback.

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE: Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi; Lost: John Abraham, Lawrence Sidbury

DT: Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Travian Robertson; Lost: Vance Walker

Biermann might be the most underrated defensive lineman in the league. He’s a lithe, quick, versatile athlete who can play in traffic or space. He’s emerged as the lynchpin to a lot of Nolan’s front seven disguises. An equally underrated D-lineman is Babineaux. He’s an interior one-gap penetrator worth double-teaming regularly. Last season, he proved he can also be effective on the outside. Umenyiora is a nice addition; he still has a good first step and anticipates snap counts well. He’s been hot and cold as a run defender throughout his career, which is a mild concern. The Falcons need him to be hot because Matthews, a young player on the rise, is best suited for situational pass-rushing. If Umenyiora can’t hold his own on the ground, Babineaux will slide outside, which is fine but would also mean less depth at defensive tackle and less athleticism overall up front.

LINEBACKERS

OLB: Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas, Robert James, _____; Lost: Mike Peterson

ILB: Akeem Dent, Pat Schiller

Weatherspoon is both patient and explosive against the run. He’s also effective in coverage. Nicholas is a respectable run defender but not great against the pass. That’s a problem considering how often Nolan’s nickel schemes leave him one-on-one against tight ends. Dent’s subtle lack of burst is likely a product of him still acclimating to the pro game. The Falcons only need him to be a viable run-stopper on first and second downs. Depth at linebacker is questionable if not poor.

SECONDARY

CB: Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, Dominique Franks, Peyton Thompson; Lost: Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Chris Owens

S: William Moore, Thomas DeCoud, Shann Schillinger, Charles Mitchell; Lost: Chris Hope

Moore and DeCoud are both downhill hitters with newfound range in coverage. They’re very good as “attackers” but only average as “reactors.” Samuel is a preeminent off-coverage corner who jumps passing lanes but brings little else to the defense. That’s fine as long as the guys around him are solid. But are they? McClain emerged as a nickel slot corner in 2012; the Falcons are betting he can replace the sure-tackling Robinson outside. Even if he can, will Franks be able to handle the No. 3 duties fulltime?

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Matt Bryant, P: Matt Bosher

The most interesting thing about these guys may be that they have the same initials.

Follow @Andy_Benoit
e-mail andy@footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 14 Apr 2013

80 comments, Last at 26 Apr 2013, 9:33pm by fb29

Comments

1
by StanSellsBoats (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:07pm

I know this is yet another iteration of a popular nitpick, but it's hard to agree with Ryan as green when Flacco is blue. Would Flacco really go before Ryan in a 2008 redraft? Highly, highly doubtful.

4
by shah8 (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:43pm

First of all, Joe Flacco isn't that good as a QB. What Joe Flacco demonstrates is that good arm talent really gives your offense a chance to win tough games. So if the strong-armed QB has a hot post-season (with good targets), the team can win despite many of the issues of the strong-armed QB.

Matt Ryan has to be about the weakest high draft pick QB since Joey Harrington (Mark Sanchez, based on what he did in college, looked better) in terms of tools and what he brought to the college game. Of course the later copycat picks of high floor types have not done as well, notably in the 2011 draft. It is to his credit that Ryan panned out as well as he did. It is also to management's credit that they never thought Ryan could truly carry an offense, and kept it utterly stacked with talent. I don't really think he proved himself with 2 good quarters in the post-season, and the man tends to throw up big interception games when the pass rush consistently gets to him. I think that Matt Ryan without talent all around him is probably a liability.

7
by Nick L. (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 3:15pm

Matt Ryan is a better quarterback than Flacco by virtually every metric there is...AND he looks better on tape. If Flacco deserves to be labeled a star than so does Ryan.

26
by Silm (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:17pm

Ryan won exactly one freakin playoff game in 5 years. Give mea break. His playoff woes might have been reduced MARGINALLY but congratulations on winning one game after 5 years, and barely winning it at that. They looked anemic for half the SEA game and half the SF game.

Call me when he's got anything close to joe Flacco's performance history. Fantasy stats are meaningless and Ryan didn't register as a star there until this year.

Lots of Falcon apologists here. Face it, in a draft do-over, Flacco is a superior choice at #3 overall. Thats why he's blue. He has proved it in every real metric there is; not with fantasy nonsense

31
by KJ (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:55pm

You seem to have misspelled "espn.com"

32
by Guest789 :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:56pm

You're probably at the wrong website to pull the "stats are meaningless" argument. This is basically a "Flacco just wins!!!1" argument.

-----

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

34
by Insancipitory :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:11pm

No this is a great site for that, he just has to adhere to the zlions template.

39
by Nick L. (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:41pm

If you start to compare the stats of Ryan and Flacco you will see a significant difference. Ryan has outperformed Flacco in DYAR, DVOA, QBR and TD/Int ratio for every single season since they joined the league, in many years by a substantial amount. In fact there was only one year (2009) that Ryan wasn't among the top 7 in his position in each of the stat categories (other than TD/Int). Either the statistic methodology is significantly flawed in favor of Ryan or he is a vastly superior player to Flacco.

64
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 8:38pm

I don't really have an opinion on which of them is "better", but in any comparison I have a hard time getting past how much better ryan's receivers have been throughout his career. the ravens have never, in their franchise history, had anyone as good as roddy white, julio jones, or tony gonzalez. yet matt ryan gets to throw to all 3 of them at once.

67
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 10:13pm

Shannon Sharpe? I didn't think Bold in was incomparable to White when he first arrived.

19
by langsty :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:35pm

"It is also to management's credit that they never thought Ryan could truly carry an offense, and kept it utterly stacked with talent."

A front office trying to build a talented offense is proof of a QB's inadequacy? That is asinine.

77
by Lelouch vi Britannia (not verified) :: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 7:01pm

No, but said front office passed over re-stocking at positions on defense filled with aging veterans in favor of making sure the offense stayed stacked. The process by which they drafted Julio Jones is the most obvious manifestation of this philosophy.

38
by RickD :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:38pm

Flacco is blue because he just had an excellent post-season run. And he signed a huge contract. His team just beat the Colts, Broncos, Patriots, and 49ers in succession. And he played very well during those wins.

80
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 04/18/2013 - 11:54pm

An excellent post-season run does not make a player a star. See: Dilfer, Trent, or Delhomme, Jake.
A player is a star who consistently provides excellent play over several seasons, which Flacco has not, even in his 'star'season.

2
by theslothook :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:38pm

Yeah I too am baffled, just baffled by this. I like andy, but I have so many issues with his grades here. Ok, I might be on board with ryan being green. Even in comparison to the elites, hes pretty well up there and better than both Flacco and Luck at this point.

The other things to nitpick - this doesn't strike me as the best coached offense in football. To me, the best coached offenses are the ones that make the most of their talent. I would argue the saints are the best coached offense in football.

And finally - defensively - I think calling osi a green player is being charitable at this point. Also, Rogers being a green is also charitable.

8
by Perfundle :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 3:28pm

"but I have so many issues with his grades here"

I was waiting for you to spell them out, but they never came. I know you listed two at the end, but those seem fairly minor compared to your remonstrations earlier.

But the coaching point is a good one. The color grades here can't account for that.

9
by theslothook :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 3:44pm

I have a problem with Ryan's color(he should be blue). I have a problem with Sam Baker's color(he should be just a guy). I have a problem with Jacquizz rogers, I have problem with osi umenyiora. I also think william moore should be a star given the context of labeling. I think hes a vastly better player than whitner(or at least he performs the role hes intended to fill better than whitner).

27
by Silm (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:18pm

Ryan has done absolutely nothing to demonstrate being blue. he won a grand total of one playoff game. WTB unbiased commenters

33
by theslothook :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:01pm

I know, and mark sanchez has beaten TOM BRADY AND PEYTON MANNING. He went to not one, but 2!!!! afc champ games. I think its pretty clear what Mark Sanchez's color should be right?

41
by RickD :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:49pm

Fallacy of the converse?

44
by theslothook :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 11:01pm

If there was one mission I had as FO commentor, its that the qb position is so freaken difficult to measure. There are no conventional statistics that we posses(other than possibly sack rate) that really goes to show how good a qb is. Int percentage, td percentage, ypa, anya etc are too closely integrated into overall team stats. The demise of Phil Rivers only proves this latter point. Jay cutler's absence, brady's injury, manning's injury - they all give us conflicting ideas about who makes who and to what degree.

I guess the ultimate point is - about the worst thing you can do is start pointing to wins(especially PO wins) as your barometer. If Rahim Moore hadn't been so clueless at the most inopportune of moments, this discussion about flacco is over and we start debating about labeling him green versus black.

45
by jonnyblazin :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 11:14pm

Agreed on most points. But I don't know why Flacco detractors keep bringing up the Rahim Moore play. How many QBs can actually make that throw with that extremely high trajectory? Flacco, Cutler, maybe that's it. Tools matter, and no chance Brady or Manning could make that throw.

49
by theslothook :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:14am

The pt of bringing that up was to show how fortunate the circumstances beyond his control were. If rahim moore plays it well, theres a pretty decent chance that ball never gets caught or at the very least, it doesn't lead to a td. And which point, teh entire flacco legacy is changed.

Look, I have less of an issue with flacco than most. I think his scheme and receivers make his numbers look worse than they are. That said, I don't believe because of one great(and he was) postseason that he's automatically a great player. I actually thought he played terribly against the colts(interesting the worst defense he would face all post season). In the end, I was more upset at how people keep throwing qb dyar as a proof so and so is better. People really need to read the disclaimer about how dyar is really nothing more than a measurement of a qb in said offense.

65
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 9:00pm

everyone talks about raheem moore. how come nobody talks about those kickoff returns? 2 (TWO!) kickoff returns for touchdowns. if you took those 2 plays away, the ravens annihilated the broncos in that game. by dvoa it was a stomp. in denver, with the broncos coming off a first round bye. the ravens put up 28 points against the #5 dvoa ranked defense prior to raheem moore's blunder. peyton manning played ok, not great, threw a couple picks, so who knows what he would have done with those 2 possessions if the broncos had to drive.

I'm not saying flacco is great or anything, but that game looked like a blowout except for the scoreboard.

66
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 9:11pm

correction. 21 points. there was also an interception return for a touchdown. still. it was a stomp.

68
by theslothook :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 1:53am

The pt of rahim moore was to show how arbitrary something like your legacy can be. If rahim makes that play - regardless of what flacco did, he would've lost and no one would be calling him elite or clutch or anything.

That just shows why wins are stupid.

Btw - Bal did get lucky with that int that should have been called holding.

69
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 5:58am

If you take those two return TDs away, the Broncos drives don't disappear, as you note. And while Manning's lasting image from that game is his horrible OT INT, at the point of the Rahim Moore play, he had played a darn good game, so it is hard to say that the game is a blowout without the kickoff returns.

If Rahim Moore picks that off, the Broncos win 35-28, and I don't think anyone bats an eyelash.

Also, the Ravens scored one TD on a play that easily could have been called D-Holding or DPI on the pick-6, and then another TD on a short field set up after a really dubious Manning fumble that easily could have been called an incomplete pass.

70
by Perfundle :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 2:20pm

"I'm not saying flacco is great or anything, but that game looked like a blowout except for the scoreboard."

Denver had the ball longer, had 9 more first downs, and had only 80 less yards than Baltimore. That doesn't look like a blowout to me.

"by dvoa it was a stomp."

Well, yeah. Denver was so far ahead of Baltimore in DVOA that any kind of close game would generally mean that Baltimore performed far better than expected and Denver performed far worse than expected. Baltimore's wins against Cleveland and Kansas City were DVOA stomps by their opponents, but that doesn't mean that those two teams performed much better than Baltimore in those games, it only meant that they performed much better than expected.

72
by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 6:16pm

VOA:

BAL OF: 18%
DEN OF: -7%

BAL DEF: -16%
DEN DEF: 17%

BAL ST: -43%
DEN ST: 42%

So, BAL thoroughly outplayed DEN on offense and defense regardless of opponent adjustments.

74
by Perfundle :: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 3:14pm

The offensive and defensive numbers are a bit unexpected, but... if you're going to take out exceptional plays by the special teams you would also have to take out the disputed interception by Manning and Flacco's final touchdown. You can't only remove the plays you don't like and declare victory on the rest.

The total VOA looks like Baltimore -7% and Denver 18%, so I was right there, at least.

79
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Thu, 04/18/2013 - 12:59pm

right, you can't. that's exactly the point. most games could be changed by one big play one way or another. tom brady won 3 superbowls each decided by a field goal. picking on the rahim moore play is just as pointless as picking on those field goals or on the tuck rule. yes, obviously legacies are heavily affected by plays like that, but that's true of most legacies. and my comment about the two return TDs (aside from special teams) is merely an observation that the rahim moore play was just one of many baffling displays of incompetence that shifted the narrative of that game while obscuring the underlying good play of the ravens offense.

I think there's a story that joe flacco got paid megabucks because he won the superbowl. I also think that story is largely false. The ravens were going to pay joe flacco a fortune regardless. Maybe he made an extra 5-10 percent because of the playoffs, but they weren't going to let him leave. I also happen to think that joe flacco is a very valuable quarterback. he's not perfect -- nobody is -- but he does a lot with what he's given. I think if he were traded to the falcons that he might put up better numbers than ryan in that same offense.

71
by Christopher G (not verified) :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 4:14pm

I agree in part. The only QBs that I think could make that throw are Flacco and Cutler. Here's the difference: Flacco gets the ball to his own receiver, Jacoby Jones, Cutler throws it to... Rahim Moore! Matt Ryan certainly couldn't make that throw with his noodle arm.

73
by L_Crosby (not verified) :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 10:57pm

Speaking of grade issues...

There are a few players (Dominique Davis, Bradie Ewing, Pat Schiller) there are "Just A Guy" after their rookie year. Bradie was hurt in preseason and Davis was behind Matt Ryan, so neither of them played. Why wouldn't they be "Jury's Still Out"?

81
by fb29 :: Fri, 04/26/2013 - 9:33pm

I can live with Ryan being green. He does have to put a lot of loft under his long throws. I guess that's enough to not be blue even if you are one of the best QBs in the NFL at avoiding sacks and turnovers.

But Flacco being blue is still dumb.

I agree with everything theslothook says. Rodgers should be black. I sure hope Atlanta gets a green Osi this year.

3
by widderslainte :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:42pm

Brady Ewing is the 1%!

5
by mgoetze (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:47pm

"But even when Abraham was at full throttle, this pass rush was up-and-down last year."

Hm, and why would that be, with so many green and blue players involved?

6
by Theo :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 2:57pm

Is Jacquizz Rodgers in on 3rd down because he's an effective receiver out of the backfield, or because he's a good blocker??

11
by Karl Cuba :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:02pm

His receiving numbers last year were outstanding, a 90% catch rate. You'd think that was unsustainable but Snelling had an 89% catch rate, clearly Ryan and this scheme make for very high efficiency targeting the backs. However, Rodgers averaged less than four yards per carry, even id it's more than Turner I'd still say he has a lot to prove before he's a star.

10
by Johan (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 4:47pm

Sam Baker is green and Justin Blaylock is just adequate?? It should be the opposite with Blaylock green and Baker adequate or even just a guy.

12
by Christopher G (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:11pm

I agree with StanSellsBoats, it is hard to label Ryan green when Flacco's blue. There are however only a handful of blue quarterbacks in the league and Flacco nor Ryan belong in that group.

Flacco has an excellent arm, but has had some of the worst outings by a starting quarterback last season. Does anyone remember when @ Cincy last season Flacco wetn 4 from 8 for 34 yards with a total QBR of 6.7?

Ryan on the other hand puts up better numbers than Flacco by every advanced metric, but it would be naive to think that he does not benefit greatly from having the triumvirate of Jones, White and Gonzalez. Julio, Roddy and Tony make a good quarterback like Ryan look like a very good one. I am still not convinced Ryan is a star quarterback. His arm strength is still average at best. On certain occasions, he still has that absolute shocker where he throws 3 INTs.

14
by Perfundle :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:24pm

"Does anyone remember when @ Cincy last season Flacco wetn 4 from 8 for 34 yards with a total QBR of 6.7? "

Is this supposed to be a joke? That game didn't matter to Baltimore and they rested Flacco after the fist series.

16
by Christopher G (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:11pm

Fair cop, bad example. Flacco did have some stinkers last season, like the game against the Texans.

17
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:17pm

Exactly--if you want to nitpick a Flacco game, the Houston debacle would be a better example.

18
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:19pm

Oops, I didn't refresh before I replied to see if someone else had made the same point in the 6 minutes since I opened this. :)

28
by Silm (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:23pm

Flacco: super bowl MVP; playoff wins in 5 consecutive years.
Ryan: a one and done as #1 seed, nearly a one and done this year, cost his team the NFC championship with a half of utterly terrible play. scored 0 points against NYG in 2011 wild card.

What a joke. Keep judging them based on their draft status instead of the evidence.

40
by jonnyblazin :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:42pm

Maybe Ryan/Flacco can be the new Manning/Brady debate. Ryan/Flacco aren't as good, but after their first 5 years, Flacco is the clutch winner who wins playoff games every year and won a Super Bowl, while Ryan puts up gaudy stats and chokes in the playoffs time after time. Ryan definitely has had the better offensive weapons, while Flacco has played for a team with an elite defense.

42
by RickD :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:53pm

Ryan's stats are not now, nor will they ever be, at Peyton Manning's level. I wouldn't describe them as "gaudy".

I know you said that the debate isn't at the same level. But this whole discussion baffles me. This whole blue/green thing - does it really matter at all? These are fuzzy categories that represent the opinion of the author. If people want to look at the stats, they can click on the stats link!

For years and years, Flacco was a good-but-not-great QB. But then he just had a streak of great playoff games this winter. So if you're talking about where he is right now, you can look at his most recent work and say that's where he is.

Will we feel the same 6 months from now? Probably not.

46
by jonnyblazin :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 11:23pm

Agreed, I was maybe using some hyperbole to make the comparison seem more apt. But the principle contrast I think is valid. Plus Ryan is the high draft pick, the number 1 QB out of the draft, while Flacco was a project who nobody expected anything of the first year in the league.

But I must say, generally the debates about the colors are somewhat interesting to follow. I have pretty strong opinions about players on the teams I follow closely, but for other teams I don't have as much info. So the debates clue me in on the strengths and weaknesses of a given player whose value is questionable.

54
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:54am

Flacco's 2012 post-season was better than anything Brady has ever done. Brady's only even arguably comparable year was 2004.

Flacco's last year was basically Brees in 2010 or Manning the Younger in 2011. It was better than anything Peyton did.

58
by komakom (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 10:03am

Wrong. It was better than any single postseason either of them have put together, but both Brady and Manning have had multiple strings of 4 games which were superior to Flacco last year (far and away the greatest 4-game stretch of his career).

51
by JimboJones (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:41am

The Ravens would trade Flacco for Ryan in a heartbeat.

59
by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 10:14am

I don't agree with this at all.

52
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:47am

No self-respecting stat site even acknowledges ESPN-QBR-BS-POS.

78
by Lelouch vi Britannia (not verified) :: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 7:05pm

Except the ones that are owned by ESPN. Obviously the guys upstairs are going to meddle from time to time, but that doesn't decrease the value of their very legitimate stats and analysis.

13
by Theo :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:17pm

All this talk about a player's color. I feel like it's 1960 again.

36
by nat :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:27pm

+1
Deceptively funny.

15
by Southern Philly :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 5:59pm

Steven Jackson and Sam Baker should be adequate, not good. Baker is at best an average LT and Jackson is a 15 carry a game player now.

And yeah, if Joe Flacco is a star then Ryan is too.

23
by J (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 8:41pm

Maybe Southern Philly should do a little research before he says something stupid. Everyone who has actually watched film of Jackson says hes barely lost a step. he took the majority of the carries last year and still averaged over 4 yards a carry on an awful offense and defenses that stack 8 men in the box every down because they know they cant throw it. Jackson also has gone over 1,000 yards every season since his rookie year showing reliability and consistency. He is one of the better receiving backs in the league which Atlanta will love and also has one of the highest yards after contact. And he is hands down probably the best pass protector back in the league, he jacks up Patrick Willis like hes an old lady. If anything he should be Blue because as a life long Rams fan ive watched him suffer in St. Louis for years and now hes gonna explode in Atlanta on a team that has so many weapons they cant just pile on Jackson every play and he'll be getting at least 1,400 yards rushing and probably another 500 receiving. You'll never see a running back so hungry to win. Sick of you ignorant Atlanta fans talk shit about Jackson because you look at stats like a 10 year old and dont understand the game. Do your homework

24
by Karl Cuba :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 8:46pm

He has his moments in pass protection, but there are better backs, Gore for instance. I've seen Rams fans complain about it, though when he gets it right he does rather blow blitzers up.

30
by Guest789 :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:54pm

"Sick of you ignorant Atlanta fans talk shit about Jackson because you look at stats like a 10 year old and dont understand the game."

I'm not an Atlanta fan, but this line confused me. Are 10 year olds particularly renowned for their advanced statistical analysis?

-----

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

62
by Southern Philly :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:58pm

Maybe you should do your research. And read what people say. All I said was that Jackson is a 15 carry a game player now.

Steven Jackson carries per game
2012: 16
2011: 17

Replacing Michael Turner
2012: 13
2011: 18

"Sick of you ignorant Atlanta fans"

That's nice. I'm not a Falcons fan.

21
by Perfundle :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:58pm

Going through the ratings, I've noticed that players seem to be judged purely on their merits, with no positional curving (which results in 5 Star-grade LTs and no Star-grade RTs). That's generally fine for offensive lineman, but the grades for the skill positions seem to be a bit inflated.

For instance, if you number the grades 1 to 5 with red being 1 and blue being 5 (and ignoring orange), then QBs have an average grade of 3.56, RBs 3.75, and WRs 3.64. The guards, meanwhile, have an average of 2.85. This also means that almost all the RBs and WRs are considered adequate; indeed, only 8.3% of RBs and 10.3% of WRs are judged to be below adequate, compared to 41.2% of guards.

Now, one thing that could be going on is that the more visible nature of the skill positions means that bad performance on their part leads to them getting traded or cut, and their moving on to a new team is giving them a "Jury's Still Out" grade, whereas bad lineman generally doesn't get picked up. There does seem to be far more "Jury's Still Out" grades for RBs and WRs than for linemen.

37
by BigWoody (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:36pm

Jesus Andy, you sure do draw a tough crowd!

48
by Perfundle :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:12am

That post was entirely in response to this post by Andy, in the Seattle thread:

"Love the feedback, guys. Aaron and I have talked about next time separating the blue stars into a dark blue and light blue to reflect the difference in "superstar" and "star". Curious, what other changes would people like to see to the color coding system?"

Although, I suppose my observation was less about the color aspect of it and more about his assignment of grades in general.

63
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 1:01pm

I'm looking forward to multiple shades of blue, from a nice sky blue through turquoise and medium blue to navy. Green could be the same way, from a bright kelly green to a dark forest. You could even do this with black, but shades of gray would take this column into territory I'd rather not go.

20
by OmrothYes (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 6:56pm

Hey guys.

I'm an Atlanta fan, but I'm not going to give Andy a hard time over the colourings. I think Ryan is more green than blue (but yes: I do think he's better than Flacco). Andy's doing a pretty hard job here and I think he's doing it well.

I will say I think Jackson *right now* is clearly green. Anyone who watched him last year - especially in the SF games - will have seen an RB so clearly superior to Turner as to not even be in the same league. I think Andy's gone on a limb calling Rogers green to be honest, but it's not ludicrous.

Excited for this year to be honest.

Ian

22
by Perfundle :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 7:38pm

"I'm an Atlanta fan, but I'm not going to give Andy a hard time over the colourings."

Well... no, I would imagine not. Most of these grades err on the generous side, other than Ryan's.

43
by RickD :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:58pm

The Falcons did go 13-3, yes? Got the #1 seed?

50
by Perfundle :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:20am

Well this is Football Outsiders, where people look beyond the overall record. Atlanta was only 10th in DVOA, and their very easy schedule and 7-2 record in close games make them look better than they were. A team with that many good players on it shouldn't find it so difficult to put away mediocre teams, especially at home.

Besides, I think when Falcon fans themselves are chiming in with comments about the ratings generally being generous, that I'm not misjudging.

55
by Chattanooga Chuck (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 4:57am

As a fan, I wasn't offended by the objective analysis of the Falcons last season. What bothered me was the bitter tone of much of the commentary.

61
by Dean :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:28pm

Better than Turner does not make Jackson green. Better than Turner eliminates, well, not much at all actually.

25
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 8:54pm

So you guys dont like watching the superbowl or something?

There were many times during the game where Flacco danced away from pressure. He showed great agility and awareness in doing so, avoiding sure sacks. That on it's own is already a good play.

As he was rolling out he completed passes downfield. Without his ridiculous arm strength it wouldn't have even been possible. Also showing great awareness.
For example look at the completion to Anquan Boldin on the right sideline, 20 yards downfield.

Is there ANY chance that Ryan does anythere other than take a sack? No, there isn't. That's why Flacco is much better than Ryan. Going through your progressions is great and all... but that's not enough to be elite.

53
by JimboJones (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:48am

Flacco has been sacked 174 times to Ryans 113 since they entered the league

76
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 4:37pm

Maybe Matt Ryan doesn't make that throw, but that throw is exactly why people were excited about Kyle Boller and JaMarcus Russell once upon a time.

Anecdotal evidence proves whatever you want it to prove.

29
by Dice :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 9:28pm

Biermann strikes me as the epitome of just a guy.

60
by langsty :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 11:54am

Yeah, he sort of is. I love the guy and he's been a versatile player in Nolan's system, but he's not indispensable or even a guy with a lot of pass rush value. He plays hard and smart and has some quickness, but he's not a difference maker.

35
by Peregrine :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:17pm

Falcons season ticket holder checking in. (BTW, totally unfair to post the Falcons item on Masters Sunday!)

* I'd say Ryan is solidly in that blue-green or green-blue category. If it helps lower his contract demands, then I'll say he's definitely green. But he and his receiving amigos carried the team last year, with a shaky OL and a decrepit running game.

* From what I can tell, Jackson will be a massive upgrade on Turner, who I suspect will still be unemployed come opening day. And I would bet money the Falcons are taking a mid-round RB. I wish Jacquizz Rodgers had a touch more long speed. Does a lot of things really well, though.

* I'd put Blalock in green and Baker in black. The fanbase is crossing their fingers on Baker.

* Babineaux's a green, not a blue, and probably too generous with Biermann as well. Think that Moore would be a blue if he could stay on the field more.

* Matt Bryant and his massive cojones were definitely blue (no jokes!) for the Falcons in 2012. He went 3/3 in game-winning field goal attempts, including the 49 yard win-or-lose kick against the Seahawks. If he'd missed that, I'd still be in therapy.

* Finally, after every season I write up rankings of every player, from bottom to top. My top 10 Falcons for 2012 (from 10 to 1) were #10 RT Tyson Clabo, #9 S Thomas DeCoud, #8 DT Jonathan Babineaux, #7 LB Sean Weatherspoon, #6 TE Tony Gonzalez, #5 CB Asante Samuel, #4 QB Matt Ryan, #3 K Matt Bryant, #2 WR Roddy White and #1 Julio Jones. I put Julio above Roddy because of age, production, and potential.

56
by Lebo :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 5:08am

Another interesting thing about K Matt Bryant's name - it's the same as his quarterback's but with an extra BT.

Actually, maybe only I find that interesting...

57
by RDM (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 9:34am

For those that want to base who is the better quarterback off of postseason records, Trent Dilfer, full stop.

Playoff wins and losses are a combination of many factors, and the quarterback is only one of them.

75
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 3:45pm

Things I know about football:

1. Matt Ryan is the best quarterback to come out in 2008 draft, and it is not particularly close. If the jury is still out on Matt Flynn, I'm prepared to believe that he's the second best quarterback in that draft. Joe Flacco is possibly the single most overrated player in the history of the National Football League who has never been a member of a Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

2. As such, Flacco being blue while Matt Ryan is green is kind of crazy. Not "Antonio Brown is better than his stats" crazy - I buy that - but "Charles Rogers at the top of the first round" crazy.

3. I agree that Matt Ryan is green. He lacks elite arm strength and has trouble making throws that other quarterbacks in the NFL make habitually. In addition, his accuracy is merely good - not as good as Drew Brees - and his decision making is merely good - not as good as Tom Brady - to name the two other weak-armed quarterbacks in the NFL who are better than Ryan.

4. Flacco is, at best, a "solid" black. My actual suspicion from watching him play is that he is JAG propped up by a DVOA-friendly downfield passing system and an incredibly talented running back. The man can't hit a slant.

5. How crazy is it that Josh Sitton and Carl Nicks were #135 and #164...