Arizona Cardinals depth chart comparison

The brass that makes the decisions - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A breakdown of the Arizona Cardinals roster using Pro Football Focus's rating system and comparing the Cardinals roster to several other NFL teams.

If you have been on ROTB for more than a few months you know that generally when I write an article it’s about some breakdown performed by Profootballfocus.com (PFF). Yes, I am a fan boy of their system, yes I know it’s not a perfect system, no I don't work for them, yes I understand you can just read the articles yourselves on PFFs website and no my article won’t be more interesting than something Seth Cox or Jess Root would write because I’m an accountant (well, I’m getting my MS in accounting) and accountants are boring because we like numbers. So I have tried to step up my game and bring you a deeper analysis and raise the level of my articles to Seth/Jess like standards (ha, I wish) by brining you new data gleaned from PFF.

Recently PFF has been releasing potential depth charts for the upcoming season based on their scores of each individual player. If you are unfamiliar with PFF’s grading system they have a colored based ranking chart going from ‘Elite’ (blue), ‘High Quality’ (dark green), ‘Above Average’ (light green), ‘Average’ (yellow), ‘Below Average’ (orange), ‘Poor Starter’ (red), ‘Not Enough Info’ (gray) and finally ‘Rookie’ (purple). You can check out their website for their grading standards. It’s not perfect but it gives us something to work with (and talk about).

Recently PFF has been creating their depth charts with an unorthodox layout. On offense they list 14 starters, including three WRs, two TEs and two RBs. On defense PFF lists 12 starters, basically just adding another CB. I believe this is a great way to breakdown a roster as it includes almost every impact player (as Bruce Arians said, the league is now a sub-package league). However with any breakdown there are almost always flaws. Such as with Arizona; PFF has FB Robert Hughes listed as a starter. Ask any Cardinals fan and they will say the Cardinals do not play a FB. Adding a FB who is listed as "not enough information," or basically he hasn’t played enough snaps to earn a grade, impacts the overall "rating" of the roster.

So far only six rosters have been broken down by PFF and turned into colorized depth charts. I took each depth chart and broke down the percentage of players ranked by PFF as average and above, and came up with a percentage of the total roster that is considered average or above. Below in my excel sheet you can see the breakdown.

Next, I broke down the offense, defense and special teams and found the percentage of the number of starters considered average or above. Finally I tallied up the number of players considered high-quality and above. I came across several flaws in this but decided to not fudge the numbers as I would have to do that with every team. In example, Bradley Sowell is listed as the starting RT and is ranked as a poor starter with Bobbie Massie listed as his backup but being rated average. This matters in that if I take FB Robert Hughes off the depth chart and switched Massie and Potter the team grade of starts moves up 13.8%, which in this ranking is a HUGE jump.

So without further explanation, here is a six team comparison based on PFF grades:

Team Average and Above % of Roster (% of starters average or above) High Quality or Better
Arizona Cardinals 45% 5
- Offense % 64% 1
- Defense % 75% 4
- Special Teams % 100% 0
Atlanta Falcoms 37% 3
- Offense % 71% 2
- Defense % 83% 0
- Special Teams % 67% 1
Baltimore Ravens 54% 5
- Offense % 93% 1
- Defense % 83% 2
- Special Teams % 100% 2
Buffalo Bills 49% 3
- Offense % 57% 1
- Defense % 100% 2
- Special Teams % 0% 0
Carolina Panthers 40% 5
- Offense % 64% 1
- Defense % 50% 3
- Special Teams % 100% 1
Chicago Bears 41% 2
- Offense % 83% 2
- Defense % 75% 0
- Special Teams % 33% 0
Cincinnati Bengals 43% 4
- Offense % 71% 2
- Defense % 83% 2
- Special Teams % 100% 0

Comments:

  • Of the six teams compared, Arizona has the most number of highly ranked defensive players but the lowest team percentage of average or above average players. If Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter play at even PFF average this season, the defense could be considered elite (and would drastically improve the overall rating of the team). I imagine only San Francisco and Seattle will have better defenses then Arizona by PFF standards.
  • As alluded to above, if you remove "starting" FB Robert Hughes from the depth chart and switch Bobbie Massie and Bradley Sowell the percentage of average starters on offense jumps from 64% to 77%. That’s a D minus to a C plus.
  • Looking at Baltimore it is apparent that having a really well ranked PFF team does not mean the team will be successful. Part of that may be that two of their five "star" players (player’s ranked dark green and blue) are special team’s players. So maybe star power is more important than having a roster of average above rated players. I look forward to comparing them to the Patriots who I have a feeling will be similarly ranked yet were "successful" by NFL standards.
  • Carolina may take a big step backwards this year as they entire secondary is rated below average and their offensive line has two below average starters at tackle. Their front seven is filled with studs so it will be interesting to see if they cane improve the play of the secondary. Arizona was a pallet of colors (lots of red, orange and green) last year and won ten games in the NFC West; so Carolina may still be a 10 win team in spite of these ratings.
  • Finally, could the Bills have a good defense next year? They are on the only team of the six to have everyone on defense be considered average or better. Most of their secondary is considered average and they have the biggest gap between their defense and offense.

I will update this twice more, once when half of the teams are ranked and again when it breakdown by PFF is complete.

Let me know your thoughts and if you would like me to add or elaborate anything. I plan to use these breakdowns to compare matchups this season so I hope you find them interesting.

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