“Meaningless” Grades

February 29th, 2016

Joe had a quite a learning experience last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Regular readers here know Joe is largely outraged by the player grades issued by popular data-geeks website ProFootballFocus.com. It’s junk science, Joe believes, for many reasons.

Well, guess what, Joe inadvertently landed at the Pro Football Focus corporate party in a swanky Indianapolis bar last week, where company owners and key partners were celebrating their business.

Man, Joe learned a lot during a heated discussion.

First, let’s be clear; Joe did not crash the event. The only way to the toilet in the busy establishment was by walking through the room hosting the party. Subsequently, waiting in line outside the bathroom, Joe landed next to Pro Football Focus investor and NBC game analyst Cris Collinsworth sucking down a drink and preaching the gospel of PFF and explaining how he first was exposed to the site.

Joe left the corporate party and returned to a table in the bar. What happened next is where it gets interesting.

A guy walks up to Joe and introduces himself and sits down. It’s a current NFL coach, who just happens to be a fan of JoeBucsFan.com. Thoroughly shocking!

Conversation is candid and friendly until Joe makes a wiseass comment about the nearby Pro Football Focus crowd and their nonsense grades. The coach is appalled and tells Joe that anyone who thinks Pro Football Focus is garbage is ignorant to the workings of the NFL. (Whaddya know, the coach was there for the PFF event!)

A passionate discussion ensues, and then the real truth comes out.

The coach explains that 20 NFL teams pay for Pro Football Focus data and for the ability to integrate it into their team game-film-breakdown systems. That data is invaluable because it saves loads of hours that would fall on quality control coaches and assistant position coaches. He explained that NFL teams trust Pro Football Focus to assess when a player is completely uninvolved in a play, such as a wide receiver lined up wide right on a quick screen to the left, and the identification and labeling of personnel groupings by PFF.

Essentially, PFF counting heads and determining what’s irrelevant on every play allows teams subscribing to their services to save time. That frees coaches’ precious hours to evaluate players, assemble “cut-ups” (aka film of hyper-specific play calls) and more.

As for the Pro Football Focus player grades, the coach said they are simply “meaningless” food for the fantasy football consumer. He said he couldn’t imagine those grades being taken seriously by anyone he’s worked with in the NFL.

Joe is summarizing quite a bit here. But what’s most interesting is that fans and media who love PFF and swear by their data often cite that NFL teams pay for it. Well, it seems the truth is that the teams are paying for a totally different product than what is gobbled up by consumers.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter told Joe last week that NFL-employed scouts and evaluators often frustrate him because they don’t really know everything they’re watching.

Joe wonders what Koetter would think of largely anonymous PFF graders who possess less than 1 percent of the training and experience held by their NFL counterparts.

12 Responses to ““Meaningless” Grades”

  1. Bucs SB with Jameis Says:

    PFF Loves Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy though. So There’s that.

  2. Supersam Says:

    Pff loves Doug Martin too

  3. Bucs Fan Since '76 Says:

    Great article Joe! How much do you love your business!? LOL.

  4. Larry Says:

    they’re not their… =)

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter told Joe last week that NFL-employed scouts and evaluators often frustrate him because they don’t really know everything their watching.

  5. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    I could care less about their grading system. I enjoy the factual data they
    provide, and compare it to others data banks. If everyone is saying the same thing; cool.

    I don’t care if they’re paying a bunch of pop warner, or highschool coaches a few bucks to review tape.

    It’s just a measuring stick, nothing to cry about. Big up to the guys at PFF, Pro Football Reference, and anyone else that took the time build a worthy site.

  6. The Buc Realist Says:

    While I agree with the “they don’t know what they are watching” because they do no know the play. But on the other hand, every coach hides the play like it is a top government secret at the same time!! Either educate or do not complain about it!!!

    Also, these stats are so meaningless that NFL teams are paying for it!! While no one should take the numbers as gospel, they can paint a picture!!

  7. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    Yeah, its just a measuring stick. A form of checks and balances – Nothing more- nothing less.

  8. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    You would be shocked, how many different fanbases review your site. I could be in Vegas, at may favorite watering hole. Have the labtop up, and some random person. Will be like – “O’sh!t is that JBF”? No matter where I’m at I get that.

    Note: I lot of folks say they came across your site, around Free Agency and Draft time. When they’re looking up information on player movement, and potential draft prospects. So Big ups Joe’s – Your doing a bang up job.

  9. Joe Says:


    Thanks for the tidbits. That’s neat to know. And humbling, too.

  10. briandorry55 Says:

    They trust them for that…but don’t trust that hey can recognize a player doing something correctly? Seems dubious.

  11. LUVMYBUCS Says:



  12. Trubucfan22 Says:

    You do have to take the analysis with a grain of salt. But most of the time player assignments are pretty easy.

    An OT 1 on 1 with a DE, win lose or draw it is an easy assignment to figure out and grade. If you are blocking a player and he ends up getting the sack or tackle, You did a bad job. If he didn’t, you did a good job. Sometimes it can be hard to tell who’s responsibility is what, when no one blocks a free blitzer. But the majority of plays you can look at the matchups and see who won and lost.

    Coverage and specifically zone coverage can be tough to grade. There is a lot of holes in zones naturally, so it is hard to pin a catch on a defender that was close by, but not exactly covering that receiver. it is obvious when a CB is playing man to man coverage. And it is also easy to grade that matchup. Did the WR he is covering catch the ball? Yes, you get down graded. No, good job you get brownie points.

    In some instances it is easy, others it is hard. But it gives you a ball park look at how well or poorly a player is doing. It is not by chance that JJ watt grades well, and Daquan Bowers grades poorly.