Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Jul 2010

ESPN: Organizational Rankings

And, to go along with the Top 25 Prospects list re-publish, something brand new is our Organizational Rankings of talent. This list considers all players on a team that are 25-and-under as of September 1.

Without giving the entire listing away, I'll say that our number-one team would be the Houston Texans.

I'll be chatting about the Prospects List and the Organizational Rankings today at ESPN at 2 PM ET.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 14 Jul 2010

29 comments, Last at 17 Jul 2010, 1:53am by Bill Barnwell


by dmb :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 12:36pm

I have absolutely no quibbles with the Redskins being ranked last. However, it's odd that Justin Tryon is your #5 prospect, and the Redskins' write-up states "the only notable young [non-starters] are tight end Fred Davis and backup linebacker H.B. Blades." Similarly, neither of the Cowboys that were ranked as top-10 prospects received a mention in the organizational rankings.

I do realize that the organizational rankings were taking a broader look than how FO "prospects" are defined, but I'd think that top-5 prospects would warrant some sort of mention...

by dmb :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 12:45pm

To be clear, I'm not particularly excited about Tryon, though that may be that I'm putting too much weight on his inability to do anything right during his rookie season.

by dmb :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 12:58pm

Actually, I just noticed that four of the top-10 prospects (specifically 4-7) aren't mentioned in the organizational rankings ... and those four are the ones that play in the NFC East. Prospects 1-3 and 8-12 are mentioned. To be clear, I don't think this is some sort of bias, but it is a bit of a funny coincidence.

Alright, I'll stop commenting now...

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 3:05pm

Just because a player wasn't mentioned doesn't mean that he wasn't considered as part of the group. Tryon is an exception, though; he's 26, so while he was eligible for our Prospects list, he's not eligible for our Organizational Rankings.

by dmb :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 3:21pm

Right, I know that you weren't going to name every player that was factored into each team's ranking; I just thought it odd that prospects rated that highly "in-house" weren't considered sufficiently notable to mention. The fact that Tryon is 26 certainly explains that one (insert scorn for my oversight on that here), though the others are young enough to qualify, and considering their teams' mediocre rankings, are some of the major bright spots.

by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 3:44pm

Sure, but two of those guys were on the same team and I wanted to talk about other aspects of that team's talent pool (as well as the Giants), specifically because their ratings were so low relative to having guys so high on the Prospects list.

by dmb :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 9:45am

Again, it wasn't to say that it was a flaw in the article; it was just an odd observation.

by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 12:52pm

No, it's fine -- I just wanted to explain why I did that. I could see why it would come off as odd.

by dmb :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 4:47pm

Fair enough. :)

by ParaPunk :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 1:05pm

#29 - Calias Campbell was a monster in Arizona last year, I really don't think of him as unproven at all.

Also, the lone comment on ESPN is gold.

by UTchamps (not verified) :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 1:43pm

I don't have Insider. Is this list included in FOA 2010? After reading the Texans chapter in the aforementioned Almanac, listing them at number 1 for the most talent seems like a cruel joke. I have been operating under the assumption that the Texans need to acquire more talent to compete. If that's not the case, whats the problem? Coaching, schemes, experience, luck, tough division?

by dmb :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 1:51pm

From the four-sentence blurb at the top of this page:

"This list considers all players on a team that are 25-and-under as of September 1."

So presumably the issue is with talent that will be older than 25 as of September 1.

by UTchamps (not verified) :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 1:52pm

Ah obviously the key caveat here is 25 and under. Reading comprehension not my strong suit.

by jeremyb91 (not verified) :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 2:50pm

Obviously the writer has some bias with how this article was wrote by listing Oakland 26th and the KC Chiefs #3.

Here are some players for you:

Louis Murphy
Matt Shaughnessey
Tyvon Branch
Desmond Bryant (Undrafted FA from 2009 who is playing as well as Dorsey or Tyson Jackson (Jackson by the way is a major bust and just as big of a reach as DHB was) has)
Chaz Schilens
Trevor Scott
Zach Miller

If rookies count as you included Dexter McCluster, then you should also include Rolando McClain & Lamarr Houston (whom Mel Kiper is now claiming Oakland stole in the draft).

The Raiders deserve to be ranked much higher on your list.

The Raiders have a lot of young talent, but for some reason some writers can't look past Al Davis therefore everything Raiders must suck and be old because that's a typical Al Davis type team. This roster is loaded with players under 30.

by Eddo :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 3:56pm

Yeah, what's with this site and the flyover country bias!

by JMN (not verified) :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 3:38pm

I have no issue with the Chiefs being ranked #3, but you have a point about the Raiders being so low. The rankings do tend to focus on premium drafted players.

OTOH saying that Desmond Bryant is playing as well as Glen Dorsey is simply wrong. for that matter, Tyson Jackson is far from a bust. I would consider DHB a bit better as well.

by pulvermacher111 :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 7:22pm

This should be called "teams with most players under 25." The title implies that it is evaluating the quality of organizational structure of each franchise, which it is absolutely not. On eye test alone, a system that ranks the Browns ahead of the Saints is deeply, deeply flawed. Better teams pose a greater challenge for younger players to make, and actually contribute to; which is why the Raiders have two wr starters under 25 and the Patriots have half of one. Given that this is brought up within the context of the article, I question what, precisely, is the point of this.

by Hank (not verified) :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 8:11pm

Too bad ESPN Insider is an absurd ripoff. Most will never see this. At least, not anytime soon.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 10:05pm

$15 a year on Amazon for 1-year ESPN the Mag subscription, which includes Insider.

by are-tee :: Wed, 07/14/2010 - 9:16pm

Of course, the big flaw with this analysis is the arbitrary age cutoff. If you moved the cutoff to 26, the Jets who have 26-year-olds like D'Brick, Mangold, Santonio Homes, A. Cromartie, David Harris, etc. would probably place a lot higher than 23rd.

by MM (not verified) :: Thu, 07/15/2010 - 3:58pm

Tom, you've finally sold me on getting Insider. I can't access a lot of FO content on ESPN, and I think John Hollinger is the top basketball stat analyst not affiliated with Basketball Prospectus or 82games.com - his good stuff is always ESPN Insider. Maybe "The Mouse" can give you guys a pat on the back and some cheese nibbles for finally convincing me to shell money out to ESPN.

by dmb :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 9:43am

I feel dirty shelling for ESPN, to the extent that I'd actually say that there's rarely analysis worth reading that comes from the Worldwide Leader and is not Insider material. (There's sometimes decent reporting, the occasional interesting Outside the Lines feature, and Bill Simmons, but I wouldn't call any of those "analysis.") But I'm right with you: Insider is worth it for Hollinger and the FO content.* As a disclaimer, I don't follow baseball much, so there may be some good contributors (Insider or not) in that area. Insider has no real benefit to hockey fans; the only thing I value access to are Puck Prospectus articles, which are generally available in full on their website a day or two after it appears at ESPN.

Obviously, as a longtime reader and commenter, I'm a fan of FO. However, Hollinger is probably the main reason I purchase Insider: although FO certainly provides some interesting content there, the very best material almost always appears here, something I greatly appreciate. I hope it can stay that way, and think there's reason to believe it will: FO is writing for a slightly different audience at ESPN, an audience that I don't fit into quite as neatly. Furthermore, it seems like there are definitely times when the ESPN editors place attach overly dramatic headlines, etc. to those articles, which automatically turns any discussion into one about how the article doesn't prove what it claims to.

As for Hollinger ... his primary metric might not be quite as strong as others out there, but he is ALWAYS putting his numbers in context when discussing a player, and his ability to keep his numbers up-to-date while having very good qualitative knowledge of players is just astounding. Hollinger not only has his numbers, but a couple paragraphs of narrative -- and sometimes more -- on the profile page for every player in the league. I don't understand how he does it, unless he has an army of minions working for him.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 11:27am

If people don't mind me shilling for ESPN, don't forget that an Insider subscription also means you get to read K.C. Joyner, Scouts Inc., and Mel Kiper, plus Rob Neyer on baseball. I'm sure people around here will have differing opinions on K.C. as well as Scouts Inc., and we all make fun of Kiper's hair -- the FO staff is the same way -- but that's a lot of added value.

I hope people who complain about ESPN understand that if we were to end our relationship with them, we would need to bring almost all FO content into a subscription model. An FO content subscription would cost more than an ESPN Insider subscription and, if you add in all the FO content you currently get free, would give you less content as well as no content in other sports besides football. And, we would likely make less money. Trust me, this setup works best for everyone, and they are REALLY good to us. The only downside is that occasionally our articles need to be simplified for the wider ESPN audience, but we often try to publish longer explanations over here when an ESPN article has to be simplified or shortened.

by GhettoBear04 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 5:44pm

I agree. I hate what they do on TV a lot of the time, but the aspects you mentioned plus their fantasy football analysis (Mathew Berry, thanks again!) really make it worth while if you are interested in multiple aspects of the NFL or in multiple sports.

by Dice :: Thu, 07/15/2010 - 4:22pm

I got my ESPN subscription for $5 when somebody mentioned it in December. Even if the magazine goes straight in the garbage and all I really look at is the Insider articles, $5 well spent.

by DFJinPgh (not verified) :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 2:23pm

Due to my, ah, youthful naivete, I have been an espnmag subscriber since issue #2 (I missed #1). The first few years had one dependable article per issue (Do the Math, I think it was by Steve Hirdt) and fluff pieces.

When they dropped that column, I became pretty disgusted with them, and wished to cancel. Unfortunately, I had just beforehand resubscribed for some ungodly number of years with a third party company for like 30ยข and issue, so I was stuck reading it every day on the toilet.

Sometime recently, something must have changed, because I started seeing an article every 2 or 3 issues that didn't totally suck (I hate fluff pieces and generally don't care about any athlete off the field/court/diamond/ice/etc). I first noticed it in an investigative article on steroids that really felt like journalism (I'm an amateur press critic, in the would-you-please-try-to-understand-what-you're-talking-about sense, not the I-hate-their-bias sense).

I'll probably let my subscription slide when it ends (in 2046 or something), but it has truly improved lately, even if that is damning with faint praise.

That said, I long ago cancelled cable and miss ESPN-the-channel(s) not one whit (live sports excepted).

by GhettoBear04 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 5:53pm

I understand that one of the biases we have as fans is that we tend to overrate 'stars' or just players we have heard of, which means we tend to like older players who may (likely) have passed their peak.

But I think there is a bias in this article the other way. Carolina and Detroit have a large number of young players, sure. But why is that necessarily a good thing, or why does it reflect so positively on a front office? I feel like this says more about the the quality and quantity of veteran players who were on the team 2-3 years ago. When a new regime is brought in, they often churn the rosters and bring in new talent, but it doesn't always work.

It seems like you're trying to make a comparison to a young exciting baseball team like the Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers who are made up of lots of high-ceiling, highly rated prospects. It works in that case because there's a much better system for evaluating minor league talent and projecting out how the top prospects will do. But just like the baseball teams who flop in the first part of the season, trade off their expensive 'stars' and then call up the kids to play them, I think it's more likely that a team like Detroit or Cleveland have young players because they're just churning the roster because what they had sucked; not every one of these teams is burgeoning with young talent, they seem to be made up of just young players.

There's just some nebulousness over the method here and, considering the unexpected results, I would think there would be a greater onus to explain/prove how the conclusion was reached. Perhaps it's because there wasn't enough space to list out the players and their ratings, but this is hard to rationalize and seems to open FO up to even more attacks from the average 'stats suck' fans.

by Anonymous123 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/16/2010 - 11:28pm

>but we often try to publish longer explanations over here when an ESPN article has to be simplified or shortened

Often? Really? When? I haven't noticed this myself.

In fact, I remember a few egregious examples from last year (I can't remember the column name, but the one where they break down some plays from one game). FO on ESPN has been for the most part equivalent to general ESPN dumbed-down 100-words-or-less pablum. Do you have any examples of where after providing generic milquetoast to ESPN you produced real analysis here?

I actually bought ESPN insider so I could read FO content that I'd grown to appreciate on the FO site and felt pretty conned.

If you published a lot of good stuff here and the ESPN stuff was extra, that would be one thing. It might be just my perception, but I've been coming to FO less and less since the ESPN deal because there just isn't as much here.

Hey, just like the NFL is a business, so is FO. But if you're going to make me sign up for a crappy service (espn insider) just so I can read some watered-down version of what I want, I'll have to take my eyeballs elsewhere.

Good luck, sill rooting for you guys.

by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 07/17/2010 - 1:53am

Hi Anonymous123,

Some answers to your comments.

We haven't had to edit anything we've submitted to ESPN in a while. The most common example of us having to do that in the past was two years ago, when Ned Macey was writing Any Given Sunday (which is the column you're referring to in your parenthetical). Those columns had extra content provided at FO. An example would be http://www.footballoutsiders.com/fo-espn-any-given-sunday/2009/any-given....

I can't agree that FO on ESPN has, for the most part, been equivalent to 100-words-or-less pablum. We submit five columns a week during the season to ESPN. I write two of them. Quick Reads is thousands of words long. The Fantasy Matchups column is usually around 2000 words. I also write a fair amount of what we consider to be "feature" columns for ESPN, the articles we write for Monday Night Football games. Those are around 1000 words, no less than 800, no more than 1200. They may have a concept or two explained in further detail for a larger audience, but they're similar to what we would produce for FO if such an article was relevant.

Furthermore, some of the other articles that might disappoint you because of their lack of length are what you might consider bonus articles; they only exist because ESPN subsidizes their existence. A good example would be the Four Downs series of articles in the offseason. This organizational rankings piece -- which ran about 4000 words when it was sent in to ESPN -- is another example. If you look back at the years before our ESPN deal, we published far fewer articles during the offseason. The ability to write articles for ESPN also creates a subsidy for researching ideas that might otherwise have been put on the backburner; the data on running back performance inside the 5-yard line that's quoted in the FOA2010 running backs section is a perfect example.

As for the idea that the existence of the ESPN articles has caused us to publish less content at FO, that's simply not the case. We have published more free content at FO over the past 12 months than ever before, both during the season and in the offseason. Keep in mind that of the articles we post at ESPN, only one -- Any Given Sunday -- was previously offered on this site for free. Quick Reads was originally written for FOX; it's only since we started putting the column together for ESPN that we've offered it on this site for free, one day later.

Tom quoted a $15 Amazon price for ESPN the Magazine, which comes with Insider for a full year. I would imagine that something like 120 FO articles a year, many of which don't get republished on this site, are worth that $15. I apologize if you feel like that hasn't been the case.