Fascinating article in today's Wall Street Journal (of all places) regarding the efforts of some guys in England to grade the play of every O-Line in the NFL. Apparently, for the past 3 years, these guys spend six hours per game reviewing every block by every lineman in the NFL and grading each lineman's performance. They claim to have graded over 500,000 blocks over 3 full seasons.
But what is really interesting about their grades is that they sell their grades to whomever wants to buy them. The buyers? A small number of NFL lineman buy them and then disupte grades on certain plays. Why? Because most of the buyers are actually the NFL teams themselves, as well as certain NFL "analysts"; apparently, the people responsible for assembling, changing, and paying the OL's in the NFL think these grades have enough merit to actually pay for them!
The chart published in today's WSJ ranks all 32 OL's in the NFL, apparently based on the combined grades of each starter on a team's OL using the grades from last year's season -- at least, that's how I interpret it. Thus, while the NYJ's OL was ranked 1st based on last season's performance, it is ranked 3rd for this season, presumably because of changes in the composition of that OL (or in the composition of the Texans and Ravens OLs, which are now ranked #1 and #2).
Some really curious things pop out to me when I perused the chart at lunch today:
1. While the Pats' line is ranked #4 overall, it is ranked #20 in pass blocking. That is surprising, given the performance of the Pats' passing game. But again, I believe the ranking reflects last year's performance by this year's starters, so maybe the Pats OL was really bad in pass blocking last year.
2. The Browns' OL is ranked #6 overall and #6 in pass blocking, which I would not have expected given the performance of their offense last year.
3. The worst pass blocking OL's in the NFL based on last year's performance belong to the Buccaneers (#32) and the Bears (#31). While Cutler got ravaged last week, it is perhaps not a good sign for our defense that the Vikes were unable to sack or disrupt Freeman much last week (although hopefully things will get better with KWill back in the lineup).
4. BY FAR the most distressing grade that jumped off the page was the grade for the Vikes' OL for run blocking. While ranked #25 overall (recall the rankings are based on our current starters based on last year's performance, which means the Vikes' OL collective ranking includes Charlie Johnson's grades for last year's performance with the Colts as well as Hutch's grades while playing injured last season), the Vikes OL was ranked #30 for run blocking. What a CRIME: to have the best RB in the NFL, and pair him with almost the worst run blocking OL in the NFL. Hopefully, at least some of that dismal performance can be attributed to the zone-blocking scheme that is now history, and the current players can improve their run blocking with a new scheme and better coaching. But it does cause one to scratch one's head. Why build your team around the best RB in the league with perhaps one of the worst run blocking lines in the league? How is that going to work? And note, the best run blocking OL in the NFL this year? The Ravens, 40% of which are former Vikes. Ouch!!