Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Jul 2006

FO Ranks All 32 Teams on FOX: WR/TE

Our quarterback and running back unit rankings were arguably topped by the team with the best player at that position. But while Steve Smith was undisputedly the best receiver in football last year, Carolina comes in eighth in the wide receiver rankings. When it comes to wide receivers and tight ends, depth is as important as having one or two big stars. If you're a Dallas fan upset at where we ranked Bledsoe and Jones, you've in luck: we've finally reached the good part of your team.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 15 Jul 2006

73 comments, Last at 04 Aug 2006, 6:31am by rams fan


by B (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 2:50pm

I don't agree with your selection of Dallas as the top team. I'd put Cincy or Indy in the top spot, probabally Indy if age wasn't a factor.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 3:30pm

Some comments about my beloved Colts:

First, it's Bryan Fletcher, not Byron.

Second, why are they behind the Seahawks?

WR1: Future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison vs a good young receiver in Darrell Jackson. Advantage Indy.

WR2: Two-time 1000 yard receiver Reggie Wayne vs Nate Burleson, trying to return to form in a completely new offensive system after a very disappointing third year. Advantage Indy.

WR3: Quick slot man Brandon Stokley vs Bobby Engram, a model of consistency. Advantage Seattle.

TEs: Dallas Clark and Bryan Fletcher, 2nd and 4th in DVOA last year, respectively, vs Jerramy Stevens, 7th in DVOA with a DPAR of 16.6, barely edging out Clark, and Ryan Hannam, who's worse than replacement level according to DVOA. Clear advantage to Indy.

Sorry, but I just don't see it. I think this might be a case of overrating the Superbowl squad.

by Theo (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 4:33pm

It took a while before the football outsiders got the favorite sports writers' memo. The write-good-stuff-about-the-Cowboys-and-put-them-atop-of-your-lists-memo.

by Sam (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 5:05pm

Cortez Hankton plays for Jacksonville, Karl Hankton plays for Carolina.

And by "Cortez Hankton plays for Jacksonville" I mean Cortez Hankton has an injury at all times and is glued to the bench for the Jaguars, except in training camp where he shows flashes of brilliance.

by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 5:10pm

Wow, with all the doom forcasting here in New England, I expected the Patriots to be a lot lower, but I guess I underestimated how bad a lot of the recieving corps are out there. I guess I must read too much Ron Borges.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 5:45pm

Re 2.
Not that I disagree with Seattle being behind the Bengals and Colts (particularly after they lost a fair amount of depth, which they've needed).

But Hannam is more of a blocking TE, one who basically shut down Kyle Vanden Bosch, and was 3rd on the depth chart behind Itula Milli and Stevens. Itula Milli had a serious complication from apparently an apendectamy he had as a child, has to have some of his intestine removed, and was more or less done with football last year. This trial galvanized him and he showed up for mini-camps in spectacular shape ready to take his job as the #1 TE back.

Hannam however is now a Cowboy. Urban and Alex Bannister (Bears) are also gone. Both victims of chronic injuries.

I think the case of Dallas at number 1 is actually pretty strong, if OL play, and desire to pound the rock are taken out of the equation. So my immediately revised list might be:
Cowboys, Colts, Bengals, Seahawks....

by Kevin (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 6:04pm

The Giants at #15?


It's that simple.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 6:44pm


I'm a Giants fan, and I think they got the team placed just about right. If given the opportunity to trade pass catchers straight-up with any of the teams listed in the top 14 (for 2006 only and ignoring sal-cap ramifications), I'd take it.

Burress has poor concentration and route-running; Toomer is nothing more than a possession reciever at this point; Shockey is great, but he drops too many balls and gets too many nagging injuries; and everyone else is unproven "potential."

by Grabowski (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 7:40pm

Hate to see my beloved Bears ranked dead solid last in anything, but I have to concede that FO is dead on with that call... at least until Berrian and/or Bradley break out.

by the peepshow (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 9:20pm


I don’t hate to disagree …

1. Harrison is getting old and consistently draws double teams, whereas Jackson is young and extremely talented, yet flies under the radar for most defenses. Jackson simply will get more opportunities to make big plays because of this.

2. Burleson had his own 1000 yard season, and he’s moving to a system that will unarguably utilize his talents much more. He’s a YAC guy who is perfect for the #2 role in a WC offense.

3. Engram is hands down the best slot receiver in football. But you knew that already.

4. Minus the drops in the SB, Stevens was a model TE for the system he is in. If the team actually needed to throw to him more, he’d rank up there with Gates and Witten. Milli is a starting caliber TE, and combined they make the best two tight end tandem.

And I’m not sure why people thinks Seattle lacks depth at WR. Most cant look past the loss of Joe Joe (and there own noses). Hackett could start on most of the teams past the 10 mark on this list…

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 9:45pm

OK, I don't really have a horse in this particular race, so this isn't a bias thing, but one argument I don't get. How can you say Harrison draws double teams, Jackson doesn't, and then use that as proof that Jackson is better? The age thing is a solid argument, but that other one seems backwards to me.

by tim (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 10:42pm

disclaimer: eagles fan.

i don't understand how you wrote that the colts have 3 good receivers + good tight end and they're ranked under the cowboys.
Witten is frustratingly good, however owens is not working in the WCO in dallas, terry glenn is old and the vague promises of a patrick crayton justify them as #1 how?

by centrifuge (not verified) :: Sat, 07/15/2006 - 10:42pm

5: I thought the Steelers would be lower as well (and the article mentioned how similar the two situations are). I mean, it's just the Hines and Heath show for the time being. While Wilson, Holmes, or even Willie Reid might be an impact player eventually, it'll probably be week 8 before they figure out which one.

Of course, reading the rest of the list made me realize that Hines or Deion alone would probably put you at #20 -- everything else is gravy.

by the peepshow (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 12:25am


Mr. Burninator,

No where in my point did I claim Jackson was a better player because he isn’t. However, in the scope of evaluating teams WR/TE corps, having your most talented playmaker constantly being double teamed is a disadvantage (hence why they do it). Since the Colts no longer have an Edge in the running game, teams will feel confident to use that extra guy on Harrison. Wayne is a great player and would benefit from this, but he’s not the talent that Harrison is. Burleson and Wayne both had great years in 04’, where Wayne ranked first in DPAR (Burleson at number 7) because he became the main target while Harrison was getting it from both sides. But unless Peyton has another year like 04’ (and he may have to), Wayne wont be as effect as he was that year. The point being, the fewer weapons an offense has, the less the defense has to work to break them down.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 12:31am

Don't be too hard on the Steelers. While I agree that their WR and TE corp lacks big names after Hines Ward and Heath Shuler, Cowher and his staff always seem to get the most out of their pass catchers. When the went to the Super Bowl in 1995 their offense threw for just over 4,000 yards with Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Charles Johnson, and Andre Hastings at WR and Breuner at TE. I think their current group is much more talented and should be good enough to put them in the top half of the league.

by centrifuge (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 1:11am

15: Heath Miller. But yes, the Steelers can get by with slightly less pass-catching talent, largely (but not entirely) due to their run-heavy gameplan. Having a first-and-a-half-tier quarterback throwing to them helps a bunch. Even past that, Willie Parker had a very good recieving DVOA last year (47.7%, although only 24 passes), so I do expect the Pittsburgh aerial attack as a whole to be up to snuff.

by Englishbob (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 2:01pm

Dallas as no. 1?????
You have an ageing WR losing pace in Terry Glenn. You have an aging WR in Owens with a suspect temperment even if brilliant at his best. Add to this Crayton (how many balls did he catch last you?) and a very good TE (to date) in Witten. Anything more? How many wouldn't take Indy, Seattle, Oakland, Pittsburgh ahead of that? I think the Redskins at this point in time look more promising with S Moss in his prime, Brandon Lloyd finally supported with other receiving options, Randel El as the joker in the pack and a very tough and reliable receiver in Cooley. They to date still have David Patten (terrible stats last year but was injured).

by matt r (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 2:43pm

sigh...again with the lions shots. jeez. even if you say that rogers and mike williams are zeroes (and no real argument there, although i think they'll both be better this season), you say that roy williams is developing into a top receiver...and rank them 27th.

every time i see that you've posted new rankings, i think, "well, the lions have improved there, and there are bright spots, so..." and then i have to pan to the bottom of the page to see them.

...and just as you ignored brian calhoun in your discussion of the rb position, you ignore the tight end position completely in your comments. i'd put the lions in the top half of the league at that spot - pollard is no jason witten, no, but casey fitzsimmons and dan campbell are capable backups. they're certainly as good as the "intriguing" patrick crayton. give me a break on that one, by the way.

by Travis (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 3:38pm

Damning with faint praise:

Tight end Jerramy Stevens was very productive in the regular season and proved in the Super Bowl that he knows how to get open.

by kleph (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 6:46pm

a tad off topic but i would like to say i dig the new FO on Fox design. The blue banner and the separate story box on the front page makes it a lot easier to see what stories are where now. And they don't get pushed down the index pages like they did before so you can find them if you are late catching up.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 6:49pm

Re #3: They must have missed that memo when they ranked Dallas #21 and #22 in the QB and RB rankings, respectively.

Re #7: The Giants at #15?


It’s that simple.

A good indication that they're accurately rated- I can't tell if you think it's BS because they're ranked too high, or if you think it's BS because they're ranked too low. Which probably means they're ranked about right.

by cyberprophet (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 8:57pm

For a group supposedly utilizing statistical analysis as a tool, you have either missed some facts or your interpretation of them is poorly reasoned, at least as it pertains to the Dolphins. Chambers was 12th in the league in total yards and went to the Pro Bowl. Booker, a former pro bowl WR was 4th in the league with receptions greater than 50 yards. McMichael was the 2nd leading receiver on the team in touchdowns and yards combined and ranked 4th among AFC TE statistically. More over, they accomplished that with Gus Frerotte at quarterback (good guy, average QB at best).
Now without going into the additional size and speed aquired at WR during the off-season by the Dolphins; let's just add Culpepper or even Harrington to the combination. Why is this relevant? Because the stats you rely on are heavily effected by the QB.
In conclusion, not only is your ranking of the Dolphins recieving corps not reflective of last years stats, common sense would tell one it will only improve next season.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 9:51pm

Re: #22 Did you watch Duante Culpepper or Joey Harrington play last year? Don't be so quick to assume that they will take off in Miami and fulfill their promise. Culpepper is coming off major knee surgery and Harrington (good guy, below average QB) has never lived up to expectations. Getting Culpepper for 2nd round pick was a great move, but his poor performance last year has a lot of people wondering if he is the real deal, or a product of playing with one of the best receivers in the game.

by cyberprophet (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 10:27pm

Can I assume you believe Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfelds to be superior QB's to DC and JH? Remember, others may read this and your answer may be reflective of your overall judgement of football talent. Don't be so quick to assume they won't (or hopeful, as the case may be), as all indications thus far this offseason seem to support my assumption, if you haven't been paying attention.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Sun, 07/16/2006 - 11:08pm

I've been paying attention, and I have nothing against Culpepper, Harrington, or the Dolphins. But most player coming off of ACL/MCL surgery take 18-24 months to heal completely. So I'm not overly optomistic that Culpepper will be a significant upgrade this season. Harrington has never produced, until he does you can assume that he will continue to play they way he played in Detroit. The greatest predictor of future performance is past performance. If Harrington was going to be a great QB then he would have shown something by now. I keep getting this feeling that everyone is assuming the Patriots are due for a slide and the Dolphins are primed to take the division. In the long run Culpepper is a tremendous upgrade, but a lot of his effectiveness was predicated on his ability to move in the pocket, roll out, and scramble for yards.

by andy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 12:55am

also, though marty booker's solid and chris chambers and randy mcmichael are pretty talented, FO states points out that for all their talent both chambers and mcmichael are both overrated even while being given the 'underrated because of bad qb's masking their talent' argument because both of them catch a very low percentage of their passes and their success rate is also very low (the passes they catch aren't that effective, like maybe a 20 yd reception on 3rd and 21).

by PackMan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 11:13am

"Rookie Alex Smith showed some promise"........WHAT THE F....."at tight end"....oh, that rookie Alex Smith.
I just never thought I would see that phrase.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 12:03pm

Wow, I'm really suprised the packers are as high as 15. I mean, I love Donald Driver, but he is the ONLY thing they have. The rest of their receivers could as easily be out of the league as in it (although I do have hopes for Jennings being a quality player in a couple of years). I thought GB would be down around where they are in the RB ratings.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 12:43pm

I totally agree, I think their RBs are stronger as a unit than their WRs.

by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 1:45pm

#8. My problem with this ranking is it's based solely on looking at game play by play sheets and using league averages. It sidesteps the fact that not only does the guy throwing Burress the ball only complete 52% of his passes, but also ignores the Giants attempting more passes to targets 20+ yards down the field than any team in the NFL in 2005. By nature, it's more difficult to complete those passes. That might also explain why among the top 10 leaders in WR receiving yards, Burress trailed only Santana Moss in yards per catch. Among the top 10 leaders in TE receiving yards, Jeremy Shockey led in yards per catch. The same article says that Keyshawn Johnson is an "ideal" complement to Steve Smith, then says Amani Toomer's best days are behind him. Using whatever numbers or metrics you want, their numbers from 2005 were practically the same. Tiki Barber led the NFL in carries over 20 yards in 2005. On many of those plays, Plaxico Burress can be seen blocking a defender 10, 15, 20 yards down the field. Does he get credit for that? No. The article also says Sinorice Moss isn't Santana Moss (thanks for the newsflash) while extolling the virtues of Chad Jackson and Santonio Holmes. Can you understand why I thought the article undervalued the Giants' receiving core?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 1:56pm

#30, when it comes to individual evaluation, I think the FO methods are still in the Stone Age, and I don't mean that as harsh criticism. The undeniable fact is that individual baseball performance is much, much, easier to evaluate statistically, due to each at- bat being much more isolated, in terms of inter-player dependence, and due to the much larger sample sizes. While FO methods work much better for evaluating the performance of entire teams, or entire offensive and defensive units, than they do for individuals or offensive and defensive sub-units, that doesn't mean that individual evaluations are worthless, just that they need to be placed in context with other, more subjective evaluation methods.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 2:11pm

#25, I don't have any insight as to Culpepper's condition, but how quickly he will maximize his effectiveness will be dependent to a great degree on how quickly he adjusts to the fact that he no longer needs to throw three touchdown passes per game to have his team be competitive.

About the only time in the last five years the Vikings played competent defense in consecutive games was after Culpepper was injured last year, and Culpepper's worst play has tended to coincide with those instances when the Vikings defense was particularly porous. A Nick Saban team is not going to put Culpepper in that sort of situation, and it will be very important for Culpepper to recognize this and adjust his play accordingly.

I tend to think he will, and his time in Miami will be very productive. Having said that, I don't really fault Vikings management for the trade; I think Culpepper forced them into a situation where the only choices were to trade him for below value, or to engage in a high stakes showdown with their most visible player. I think I may have opted for taking that risk, but I can see where a new coach and management team would want to avoid that.

by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 2:46pm

This isn't a criticism, it's an honest question:

At what point did DVOA become a predictor of future performance?

I could be way off, but I've always thought of the measurements here as a superior way of evaluating what had already happened and not quite as good at predicting future performance. Additionally, with all the interdependencies among players football necessitates, I've always thought the statistics did a good job of evaluating a teams performance and, again, not quite as good a job of evaluating individuals. (When Harrington bounces a ball at Mike Williams feet, somehow that becomes partly Mike Williams fault?)

Anyway, I know that these lists aren't using JUST DVOA as a ranking mechanism, and I know that there haven't been any games yet this year to apply the DVOA discipline to. All I'm saying is that I like the FO articles that talk about what already happened rather than what will happen. Unless, of course, there is now a greater confidence in the predictive powers of DVOA on an individual level. If there is, someone please point me to the article that illustrates it.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 3:00pm

So it's the Viking defense's fault Culpepper was horrible last year? Here's a theory: The Viking defense was competent all year. It was the QB who kept throwing interceptions and putting them in tough spots that resulted in their poor showing the first 6-7 games. FO never claimed to be a perfect evaluation tool for individual players. Because football is a large team sport success on any given play is dependant on 11 players working in unison. You cannot evaluate any one player without having to compensate for the presence of every other player on the field. There is no "perfect system," which is why these debates over lists are engaging. That being said, I still think Culpepper will strugle. He's on a new team which means a different system and terminology and chemistry issues with other players. He's coming back from a devastating knee injury, which usually takes 18-24 months for full recovery. And in the seven games he played last season he looked horrible. I think it is a legitimate question to ask if his past successes where the result of good coaching and the presence of Randy Moss.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 3:07pm

33: DVOA isn't made to predict the future, that's what KUBIAK is for, although KUBIAK is designed specifically to predict fantasy performance. Anyways, these lists are mostly subjective, as the authors try to seperate the player's performance from that of his teammates, something football stats arn't capable of.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 3:43pm

daniel, if it is your assertion that the Vikings' defense was competent last year in the games against the Bengals, Falcons, and Panthers, then your definition of competent defense is so divorced from mine that further discussion is likely pointless. I am being charitable here regarding another Vikings early-season loss, the one to the Bears, in that the Vikings defense did not give up 20-plus points in the first half, which ignores that giving up 28 points to any team quarterbacked by Kyle Orton, under just about any circumstances short of three interceptions returned for touchdowns, really should not be labeled a competent performance. In the other Vikings' loss prior to Culpepper's injury, the opener with Tampa, a phantom offensive pass interference call which called back a long touchdown pass, and a catchable ball that Moe Williams tipped up to be intercepted in the closing moments on Tampa's five yard line, negated a pretty good performance by Culpepper against a high quality defense.

As I stated above, I have no insight as to Culpepper's physical condition. If and when he comes back healthy, however, I'd be willing to make a larger than average wager that he will be a very productive quaterback for a team coached by Nick Saban. Another fact that has yet to be mentioned is that the Vikings offensive line was horrible early last year, prior to merely becoming less than average by the season's end.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 4:23pm

To further examine the competent Vikings defense while Culpepper was playing last year, here are some of their accomplishments.

Bengals game:

The Vikings yielded 70 yard and 48 yard touchdown drives in the first quarter, followed by a 62 yard field goal drive and 53 yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Falcons game:

The Vikings gave up a 78 yard touchdown drive in the first quarter, followed by a 62 yard and 69 yard touchdown drive, and a 61 yard field goal drive, in the second quarter.

Panthers game:

The Vikings held Carolina to a 68 yard touchdown drive in the first quarter, followed by second quarter touchdown drives of 80 and 63 yards, along with a 51 yard field goal drive.

Bears game:

Against Kyle Orton and company, the Vikings gave up a 49 yard touchdown drive in the first half, and a 62 yard touchdown drive in the 2nd half.

Did Culpepper stink in these games as well? Yes, but the overwhelming majority of quarterbacks will stink on the road when playing behind an offensive line which is performing poorly, and accompanied by a defense which is yielding more than 20 points on drives of more than 50 yards in the first half.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 4:51pm

Actually the Vikings defense rated similar to the Dolphins last year (actually a little better). There is no disputing that their o-line struggled with Birk on IR. They gave up 54 sacks, but 33 of those came in the 7 games Culpepper started. If they give up 4.4 sacks per game with QB A, and 2.3 with QB B can it be theorized that QB A had something to do with it?

It's easy to look at a game like the one against Cincinnati and see the 37-8 score and assume that the defense played poorly. Lets look at how the offensive drives ended for Minnesota:
Drive 1: Michael Bennett fumble
Drive 2: Punt
Drive 3: Michael Bennett fumble
Drive 4: Culpepper InterceptionDrive 5: Culpepper Interception
Drive 6: Culpepper Interception
Drive 7: Punt (yea!)
Drive 8: Culpepper Interception
Drive 9: Culpepper Interception
Drive 10: Culpepper TD run

It wasn't the defense that lost that game. And all of those interceptions didn't come off passes tipped by the WRs. He threw 12 interceptions in 7 games. He has to shoulder the blame for some of them, doesn't he? I believe that the Vikings played better with Johnson at QB because they were able to sustain longer drives and score a few more points. In 2004 Culpepper was great. Better than great, he was phenomenal. But this isn't 2004. Scott Linehan isn't his coordinator. And Randy Moss isn't catching passes from him. And then there is the injury on top of all of that.

by paytonrules (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 5:39pm

Dead last for the bears eh? Not surprised.

Good thing they threw on their first 6 plays for that playoff game, all incompletes.

No I'm not bitter.

I just want to know why you couldn't develop Cedric Benson while at the same time utilizing what are likely to be the best years of Thomas Jones' career. There was a concern about getting Benson carries, but when your QB is inexperienced (at best) or bad (Orton), your wide recievers are horrid, your tight end has been in a coma for two years and nobody noticed....well you run, run and run some more. Two years ago the Steelers went 15-1 running over 60% of the time. I don't see why the Bears couldn't give it to Jones 25 times, Benson 15 and Peterson (who is pretty good himself) 10.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 5:42pm

Uh, daniel, in support of your notion that the Vikings defense didn't lose the Bengals game, could you give some examples of a playoff-caliber team like the Bengals losing a home game in which they had first half touchdown drives of 70, 53, and 48 yards, along with 62 yard field goal drive? On what planet does yielding scoring drives like that in the first half qualify as "competent"? Yes, the Vikings defense was similar to the Dolphins' last year, because the Vikings defense dramatically improved in the second half. To quote a famous figure from another sport, "You can look it up!".

Yes, Culpepper's greatest fault as a qb is that he holds the ball too long, but Brad Johnson benefited mightily from not being as frequently in a position where he was asked to match an opposing offense which had multiple long distance scoring drives in the first half.

by ben (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 5:44pm

33: It's my understanding that DVOA is mentioned in that way simply because it's a better measurement of who is playing well in the present than traditional stats. If DVOA says a team with a .500 record has played better than a team with a .750 record, then that seems to indicate the .500 team is primed to go on a run and the .750 team is primed to regress. In this way DVOA is "predictive". That's my understanding of it, at least.

For individual players, it would work similarly, but most of the time I think it would require a shift in mentality by the coaches for a player with a high DVOA but lesser traditional stats to start putting up the big traditional stats.

by Eric (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 5:58pm

As I understand it, DVOA is predictive in that it is a better measure of performance than traditional stats - yards, TD, wins, etc. Since past performance is a good predictor of future performance, DVOA's measurement of past performance has a predictive quality.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 5:59pm

Will, if a team is scoring touchdown drives of 48 and 53 yards, they are starting in pretty damn good field position. I have no idea if that is Culpepper's fault or not, but putting all the blame for the TD on the defense when the offense is starting on the opposing 48 doesn't seem fair.

FWIW, the one Vikings game I watched, which was the Falcons game, Culpepper looked completely lost, repeatedly holding on to the ball for far too long, not recognizing open receivers and then trying to force it in too late, but the defense looked awful as well and the game was out of hand by the second quarter. I didn't see much reason to think that Culpepper is due for a resurgence there, but I guess if you are going to blame the defense for putting him in an untenable position all the time that game would be a pretty good example of it.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 6:03pm

To further explain, throwing interceptions on the road while down twenty-plus points in the 2nd half is an extremely common failing of NFL quarterbacks, even among those who have been inducted to the Hall of Fame. To the degree that the quarterback is responsible for being down 20 plus points, the quarterback must shoulder the blame. However, when the offensive line stinks (and it went far beyond Birk's absence, as evidenced by the fact that three other ol starters from the opener last year will likely not be starting this year), and the defense is giving up multiple long scoring drives in the first half, concentrating on quarterback play is like focusing on the effectiveness of anti-aircraft crews at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; the battle has already been lost.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 6:18pm

ABW, yes, Culpepper's greatest fault is that he holds the ball too long. This fault becomes much more problematic on the road when his team is down multiple touchdowns. Also, I clearly recall one of Culpepper's interceptions in the Falcon's game occurring early when he scrambled, and made a reasonably good throw to an open Kleinsasser, who demonstrated a vertical leap of about two inches while letting the ball pass through his hands.

Did Culpepper play well last year? Nope, especially on the road. However, to base estimations of his future performance largely upon four road games last year, three of which were against playoff teams, when his offensive line stunk, and his defense was giving up multiple scoring drives of more than 50 yards (btw, the mark of a competent defense is yielding 50 yard field goal drives, as opposed to 50 yard touchdown drives) in the first half, seems to be a suspect way of evaluating quarterback play.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 6:32pm

Daniel, I just read my post above, and I apologize for adopting an unnecessarily sarcastic tone. That wasn't my intent, but I am a Vikings fan who is frustrated by the fact that the Vikings have not had above average defense in about thirty years, with a couple of exceptions, and the past seven years have driven me nuts with the ease by which opponents have scored. If their new regime will get the team to play consistently tough defense, I'll be happier, even if they still remain in the seven to nine win range. I do think that Culpepper will look much better if he plays with a defense that doesn't require him to toss three touchdowns a game.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 6:47pm

Armani Toomer is probably also ideal to play next to Steve Smith... and if Keyshawn Johnson was on the Giants his days would be numbered.

I think the FO metrics are fair because their points system allows some discrimination... but at the same time it's hard to pin blame for an incomplete pass on someone.

When will we see some game charting data?

by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 10:24pm

As a guy who has watched every Viking game since 1996, Will Allen is spot on.

I'm not a Culpepper fan, and he was awful last year, but he might not have been that bad if he had a little help on the defensive side of the ball in a couple of those games.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 12:01am

Question regarding Houston: Anybody know what happened to Bennie Joppru?

He razzled and dazzled us in the Big House for 2 years, was disregarded as "too small" to play TE in the pros, then rocked scouts and coaches alike in the Senior Bowl, all the way to a high 2nd round pick for the Texans (the first was A. Johnson). He was injured in training camp his rookie year, and the next year had another injury...but then what?

Others were getting the reps this past year, and ol' Bennie's never been heard from again (and so went the future of Texans receivers...he was also compared favorably to Hannam for his blocking abilities...sorry, Dave!).

by Luke (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 3:20am

Surprised that Peter Warrick didn't get a mention when discussing the seahawks #2 rank. He has been impressing the pants off the seahawks brains trust in mini camps. Looks like he's finally healthy again...and he's our #5 reciever? that's depth.

by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 4:29am

Ruben: Bennie Joppru was hurt again last year. He tore an ACL in May 2005 and missed the whole season for the third straight year. He is still with Houston and hopes to play this year. Click on my name for an article discussing his injury history.

by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 4:58am

Okay, everyone needs to stop with the Seattle-Boner. Seriously. The Seahawks aren't THAT good. They also have a little guy named Shawn Alexander to help them out so no way they are in the top-five. This argument has probably already been rehashed multiple times in this thread so I didn't read the comments in order to make this argument with a clean psyche.
To all the Seahawk backers- you're full of crap

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 6:08am

Re 50,
Peter Warrick, as of 6/21/06, is the 4th WR. DJ Hacket, subject of much statistical love, is 5th.

I think there's a template for that kind of thing. Good luck!

by Ruben (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 8:00am

Marko: Thanks for the link. Ouch, getting dropped from Madden must be rough...

by Eric (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 10:13am

In proper zlionsfan form:

The Seahawks are clearly ranked too high because they used to drop passes all the time. Sportscenter's Ultimate NFL Depth Chart, compiled by the genius Sean Salisbury, is way better than this. DVOA iz clrly ovrrtd!

by Mediator12 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 10:26am

I certainly think that the WR/TE receiving positions rely more on the rest of the offense than RB or QB.

Look NO further than KC getting the #7 Ranking. Their offense is predicated on the Best OL in football, Larry Johnson, a very good QB when not pressured in Green, Then their #1 WR TE Tony Gonzalez who caught a bunch of yardage last year and not much else. I mean BOTH his TD catches were the result of being wide open from blown coverages.

Eddie Kennison benefits more from playing in KC with that offense than ANY other WR in the NFL. Trent Green routinely gets max Protection from that outstanding OL and Tony Richardson (who is now gone) and Jason Dunn on all of those deep passes. We are talking 5 seconds to get open here. He is nowhere near a Top WR and his replacement value would be eclipsed by any other marginal WR who had that long to get open deep downfield. Ask KC fans about his drops and Downfiled blocking as well.

This is where the limitations of this system come into play in individual evaluation. Someone previously stated it the best when they said that these types of measurements can NOT exclude overall unit performance.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 10:44am

You are operating under the assumption that the Dolphin's defense is a significant upgrade over Minnesota. I'm not sure that is the case. They were both pretty much middle of the pack statistically. Miami had a better run defense, Minnesota a slightly better pass defense (probably due to the fact that teams had the lead against Minn and ran on them late). But it appears that the Vikings improved dramatically from 2004-2005, while the Dolphins slipped a bit. Minnesota has invested a lot of high draft picks in their defense the last 3 years, so I wouldn't be suprised if they have another year of improvement. Miami has also drafted some defensive players high (Jason Allen, Eddie Moore, Matt Roth, Channing Crowder, Will Poole), but I don't think they have done as well as Minnesota (Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Erasmus James, Kenechi Udeze, Kevin Williams).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 11:21am

No, Daniel, I'm saying that the Dolphins defense will be a significant upgrade over the Vikings defense that played throught the first seven games last year. I think Culpepper would likely have had a good year had he stayed in Minnesota, health notwithstanding, because i expect the Vikings offensive line to be above average this year, and because I think the defense will play more like it did in the 2nd half last year than it did in the first.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 1:45pm

Am I mistaken in thinking that these ratings were primarily considered in a vacuum? All of these units were rated without taking into account the rest of the offense, no?

I would like to know if anyone else is annoyed that the page automatically refreshes and bumps back to the top. I like to read during slow times - or processes - during work but that means I can only read a bit at a moment and it's a little irritating to have to scroll back down every five minutes.

by pops (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 2:09pm

ha ha... Sorry #57, but you DID say the Dolphins defense slipped a bit from 2004-2005. Now, I'm sure you just looked at the stats and inferred that, so it's understandable. But the reason the 2004 stats don't look as bad -even as they were one of the worst defenses in the league-, is the same reason stats of teams with a terrible run defense normally look not so bad: a terrible run defense will allow a lot less yards than a terrible pass defense. Still, a terrible run defense will give you a much lesser chance to win. And the 2004 dolphins run defense was ranked in the 30s...
Last year the dolphins greatly improved their run defense, and so teams tended to pass more and gain more yards than before... but with lesser overall success. This year, with at least 3 new starters, the secondary will likely be better. Younger and faster, if anything.
On the Culpepper argument, in Miami he will also benefit from a run oriented offense. If his past success was aided by good coaching and a great Randy Moss, his future success will be aided by a good defense, a good running game, good coaching, good receivers, and good blocking. He might struggle early as he adjusts to a new team -your main point, I think-, but he'll be fine at some point in the season, even if he can't scramble as much as before (I heard he was already scrambling in drills one or two months ago, though).

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 5:53pm

DVOA ranked Miami 9th in 2004 and 9th in 2005, so they're no slipping or improving involved. As for Miami having good receivers, well, you won't find any stats to back that up, but thier WR preformance in the past has been hampered by lousy QBs and sometimes lousy O-lines. However, I won't beleive they're good until they start catching more than 50% of thier passes.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 07/19/2006 - 2:25am

Granted Miami ran a lot in Saban's first year (444 attempts). And he had the backs to do it. But Minnesota has averaged 420 attempts over the last 3 seasons, and they never passed as much as Miami did last year.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Wed, 07/19/2006 - 9:44pm

Add another to the absolutely shocked that Indy isn't number 1.

The Seattle comparisons? hah.

The Seattle that last year relyed entirely on JJ for a needed reception in a clutch spot?

The Seattle that had no true burner, and although Nate may be that guy, hasn't proved jack.

I scoff in your general direction.

by the peepshow (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 12:57am

I go away for a couple days and things get all funky …

RE: 55
That was two years ago, and the team has seemed to fix the problem. Milli is no longer a starter, they cut Koren Robinson, and they stopped throwing at Alexander (the three main culprits). Jackson only flirted with the problem and Engram never had issues.

RE: 63

Yeah, they relied upon Joe several times (10 tds I believe), like when he became the No. 1 receiver for the team when they lost both Jackson and Engram right after each other. No true burner? Maybe not, but they play a WC Offense, which doesnt really use a fly guy that often. Scoff all you want, but the numbers do speak for themselves.

RE: 52

Okay, everyone needs to stop with the Seattle-Boner. Seriously. The Seahawks aren’t THAT good.

Arent that good hugh? They went to the Super Bowl, have a top Offense in the league (DVOAs pretty darn good too), led the league in sacks, had a handful of Pro-Bowl starters (5 I think), had a top defensive rookie, improved their defense… Or you could just ask Philly how their second Monday Night game went. Or the Panthers how bad the Seahawks were in the championship game.

I say why stop with the Seattle-Boner when Walter Joness size 18 NFC Championship ring fits so tightly around it…

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 1:31am

Out of curiosity, would Indy losing Harrison and Wayne for somthing like a combined 13 games have still managed to be 2nd to Seattle in Scoring and 3rd Banana to Seattle's number 2 in total offense. Would they have still managed to tie with Seattle and KC at 5.8 yards per play?

For much of the year Matt's pro-bowl passing attack relied on the #2,#3 TEs to escape from tough spots, and saw the #1,2,4,5, recievers miss significant parts of the season with injury. Something to consider.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 3:27am

I agree that it is an unfair criticism of Seattle to say they drop too many passes when that was a problem two years ago. But they seemed to revert to their dropping ways during the Superbowl. Stevens had a particularly bad day, but they had other guys drop passes that could have meant the difference in a close game. So it will probably stick with them.

by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 10:00am

In 2005, Seattle nearly halved their drops from 43 to 23, according to a Mike Holmgren pre-Super Bowl press conference. According to FO's own stats, Seattle was the only team that had three receivers with a catch percentage of 65% or better - that stat doesn't isolate receivers entirely, but if you look at Seattle's 2004 unmbers in that category, there's most certainly something to it (check out Koren Robinson's 2004 catch percentage!)

And Jackson missed a total of ten games - nine in a row from Week Five on, and the regular season finale against the Packers when Seattle had everything sewn up but Alexander's TD record and rushing title. Engram missed three games - starting with that same Week Five. Seattle went 3-0 without its top two receovers, and 10-0 without its top guy. Jurevicius' career year had a great deal to do with it, but everybody else stepped up. Hackett, Stevens, Jehreme Urban...and certainly Hasselbeck set the tone.

The problem did rear its head in the Super Bowl, but I fail to see that as a precursor to some sort of horrible new butterfingers virus. In 2004, it was par for the course. If 2005, it was a relatively isolated (and remarkably poorly-timed) series of incidents.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 10:27am


Manning seems to do just fine passing to obscure guys like Ben Utecht when he wants to. I think a trait of most great quarterbacks is that they don't need to fixate on their favorite targets. Brady's famous Superbowl XXXVI drive began with three passes to who-dat receiving back JR Redmond.

If you look at Jim Sorgi's numbers with the second-team offense, they're pretty impressive. Mostly the problems the second-team guys had were with finishing drives. Dominic Rhodes struggled, and without a good running game, the red zone offense was poor.

Here are Sorgi's career numbers with guys like Brandon Stokley, Troy Walters, and Aaron Moorehead as his receivers:

60/91 for 619 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT.

Not bad. Now replace Sorgi with Manning and Rhodes with James. Not bad at all.

by cyberprophet (not verified) :: Tue, 07/25/2006 - 11:03am

Your assumption (or hope)of Culpepper being hampered by his injury is already proving invalid as indicated by this report.


As you may already have been told, the "new system" is actually the old system Culpepper had success with in MN prior to last year. Which is more reason not to judge his abilities on 6 or 7 games, but rather on his overall career. Which until last year was outstanding, as indicated by where he stands in all time passer ratings.


In conclusion, I understand why many fans of other teams would like to believe what you contend; however, all the evidence indicates they will be greatly disapointed. D Pep will likely start the first game, and have an outstanding year.

by cyberprophet (not verified) :: Tue, 07/25/2006 - 11:08am

Apparently I need to reset the MSNBC report.


by Zambooch (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 7:15am

The strange "observation" the writer makes about the Raven's Mark Clayton pretty much sucked all the credibility out of this article.

by TomC (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 10:56pm

Sportscenter’s Ultimate NFL Depth Chart, compiled by the genius Sean Salisbury, is way better than this.

Off topic, but apropos of comment 55: What vengeful deity did the city of Chicago offend to be visited with the plague of midday sports radio co-hosted by Sean Salisbury? I have several blood sacrifices prepared to atone for whatever sin it was, just get rid of this guy, I beg of you.

by rams fan (not verified) :: Fri, 08/04/2006 - 6:31am

lmao at the seahawks recievers at no2, above indy, my rams, and... the CARDS! are you honestly telling me that you would take darrell jackson nate burleson and bobby engram over fitz, boldin and bryant! azs rotating door at te is a liability but its not like jeremy stevens is anything special enaugh to change the rankings. also i think you guys are putting waaay to much stock into a good tight end, gates and gonzo are great but your essentially ranking teams with great tes and ok recievers (kc/sd) above teams with an elite reciever and ok tes (car/stl)