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How accurate were the PFF grades for the 49ers offense in 2019?

There is one crowd that swears by PFF and their grades, while others roll their eyes every time PFF is brought up.

San Francisco 49ers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We are under three weeks away from the NFL Draft, where the San Francisco 49ers will look to improve their roster. We’re not working endless hours watching tape and collecting information to evaluate the 49ers. Most people turn to Pro Football Focus for their grades to get a general idea of how players performed. I was shocked at the comments earlier this year when I said that PFF doesn’t grade every player on every play. PFF is a tool like anything else and should be used as one piece of the puzzle. Here is a brief explanation of how their grades work from their website:

On every play, a PFF analyst will grade each player on a scale of -2 to +2 according to what he did on the play.

At one end of the scale you have a catastrophic game-ending interception or pick-six from a quarterback and at the other a perfect deep bomb into a tight window in a critical game situation, with the middle of that scale being 0-graded, or ‘expected’ plays that are neither positive nor negative.

There is too much nuance in football, which is why most NFL teams and scouts use PFF for their charting information and not their grades. The two teams that rely on PFF’s grades are Washington and Arizona. No further comment on that.

Anyway, today we’ll talk about the 49ers offense. I’ll list the players’ grades for the position—I’ll keep it to the players in the “two deep,” aka the ones that play. For the skill positions, I’ll include Football Outsiders data as well.


Jimmy Garoppolo: 78.2 (ranked 13th) DVOA: 11th

Jimmy is a touchy subject for fans. Negative criticism is usually met with excuses, even if they aren’t applicable. For Garoppolo, many will talk about the dropped passes, but ignore the throws the defense dropped. Both PFF and FO feel spot on here. For what Garoppolo was asked to do, he played well as a first-year starter. Jimmy G needs to be as decisive as he was in the Arizona/New Orleans games. When he gets off to a hot start, Garoppolo’s confidence soars. Garoppolo’s 2019 criticism will pale in comparison to what happens this upcoming year. Brace yourselves.

Running back

Top-ranked: Raheem Mostert 75.5 (14th); DVOA: 7th; Success rate: 53%

Matt Breida: 73.1 (33rd); DVOA: 33rd; Success rate: 46%

Tevin Coleman: 69.5 (50th); DVOA: 38th; Success rate: 39%

The success rates are the most telling, given each back ran behind the same offensive line. The only thing only Mostert back is getting more carries. We’ll see if Breida is on the roster Week 1. I have my doubts. His talent is undeniable, but the thought of Breida coughing up the ball in critical situations scared the 49ers off from giving him touches in the playoffs.

Coleman was frustrating because, for the majority of the season, he left a ton of yards on the field by missing cutback lanes and holes the line opened up for him, which is why to this day I have no idea why Mostert wasn’t getting the bulk of his carries. Then the playoffs came, and Coleman stopped with the hesitation and looked like the player the 49ers hoped they were getting in free agency.

Wide receiver

Top-ranked: Emmanuel Sanders 78.4 (19th); DVOA: 24th

Deebo Samuel 74.5; DVOA: 38th

Kendrick, Bourne 68.0. Bourne was six passes short of the threshold for DVOA. He ranks in the top-5 with his current number.

Marquise Goodwin 58.0. Like Bourne, Goodwin didn’t have enough passes. He would have ranked 28th.

Dante Pettis: 56.4. Pettis’ DVOA was in the negatives.

According to PFF, a “70” is average, which is why the 49ers are in the market for a receiver. Bourne, Goodwin, Pettis, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Travis Benjamin, and Richie James shouldn’t stop any Super Bowl contending team from adding a receiver. Add in the uncertainty at the position in the future, and the 49ers doubling-down on a wideout in this year’s draft wouldn’t be a surprise if they can add more picks via trading back at some point.

Year 2 of Deebo will be fun. Will he turn into the leader that Sanders was? Samuel’s development as the 49ers work in a rookie will be fascinating to see.

Tight end

Top-ranked: George Kittle 95.0 (numero uno); DVOA: 9th

Ross Dwelley 56.3 (62nd) DVOA: -21.1%

So, Kittle’s decent.

After Kittle, Levine Toilolo didn’t provide much of anything. Dwelley filled in at tight end and fullback fine, but fine isn’t good enough. I think fans are hesitant to upgrade because Dwelley was serviceable. Again, the goal is to improve. Because Shanahan schemed, Dwelley open doesn’t mean the 49ers can’t get better behind Kittle. I have a feeling opinions will change once the 49ers have someone a little more athletic than Dwelley at tight end next year.

Offensive line

Top-ranked: Daniel Brunskill 73.0

Joe Staley 72.7

Mike McGlinchey 67.5

Laken Tomlinson 64.7

Weston Richburg 62.5

Justin Skule 62.3

Mike Person 61.8

Ben Garland 58.1

Quarterback and offensive line are the two toughest positions to assign a “grade” to. The people I speak with that consult for NFL teams agree that Staley was awesome last year. They also had Richburg as a top-5 center, not the 26th ranked center. I’m going to side with the professionals on this one.

What makes offensive line difficult is you have to understand what they’re being asked to do and understand the pass protections. Good luck figuring that out without the play-call. The other issue with all of these grades is there is no adjustment for the opponent, which is why Staley, to me, was the best offensive lineman last season. As president of the Brunskill fan club, I love seeing him first, but Brunskill wasn’t better than Staley or Richburg.

I’d have Tomlinson closer to “average.” McGlinchey’s grade is fair. Person’s grade is a touch high, which is saying something.

What grades do you disagree/agree with the most?