ESPN has been teaming up with Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus in recent years to come up with some more analytical content. While the FO content focuses more on fairly objective metrics, PFF’s uses their grading system. Opinions are mixed on the quality of PFF grading (as opposed to their more objective signature stats), but it provides some interesting discussion points.
On Monday, PFF released their ranking of all 32 NFL teams. They used their 2016 grades, so it is less projection and more where things stood based on performances last season. Naturally, the 49ers returning players graded out fairly poorly, albeit with some exceptions. It’s interesting to note that the positive players in the “good/high quality” range are primarily incoming players.
The 49ers ranked No. 30. The team’s biggest strength and weakness both came from the offensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley showed up as the biggest strength, ranking No. 25 among offensive tackles. PFF dinged him for 39 pressures, but described him as “a solid run-blocker.” On the other hand, left guard Zane Baeedles was listed as the biggest weakness, with a PFF grade of 40.2.
PFF included a “by the numbers” section, and for the 49ers, they mentioned DeForest Buckner’s 1,007 snaps. He graded out in the “average” area, albeit close to the good/high quality area. The chance to decrease his snaps could help him get a bit more efficient in his work.
Here’s a rundown of the grades for the players PFF projects as starters. The team has six players who were graded as “good/high quality” in 2016. Of those, NaVorro Bowman and Joe Staley are returning, while Brian Hoyer, Kyle Juszczyk, Pierre Garçon, and Jeremy Zuttah are incoming players.
Again, these are based on last year’s grades. It provides a jumping-off point as opposed to a projection for 2017. There is a huge wildcard in terms of the new coaching staff, and what it will mean for a lot of these players. Some might continue to regress, but particularly on defense, there is some room for optimism about players taking a step forward.