As a former employee of Pro Football Focus, I can confidently tell you that the rating system the company built its reputation on is utter hogwash. I want to be clear, PFF is an incredible company that provides great analysis through articles, and advanced stats that only they keep track of, but their overall player ratings — the same ratings PFF has become synonymous with — are overhyped. Fans love the idea of crunching an entire player’s skill set into one easily digestible number and using that to measure who ranks who, who deserves what money, and so on. Football is more complicated than that though. With droves of different positions, each varying in relative importance, it’s impossible to judge each player’s value down to a single digit. That’s what PFF’s grades try to do though.
More often than not, these grades are respectable. The best players tend to be near the top. The worst players fall toward the bottom. That makes them a good jumping-off point for discussion, but nothing more. The grades are a shallow attempt to catch eyes, and it works. PFF is thought of as one of football’s premier analysis sites, and they need to keep that image up. That’s why when they tweeted out their end-of-year Steelers’ offensive ratings, they had to throw a small prerequisite in.
Analyzing Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, others
Kenny Pickett was alright during his rookie season. Definitely not spectacular like a grade of 75.5 would suggest, but fine, and definitely worthy of another season as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Aside from that though, the ratings look pretty solid. Pat Freiermuth emerged as a high-end tight end this season. Najee Harris really started to turn the corner toward the end of the season, and both Diontae Johnson and George Pickens were far and away the best wide receivers on the team. However, you’ll notice that at the end of the tweet, there’s a little blurb that states “min. 400 snaps.”
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Mitch Trubisky — the more valuable QB, despite being benched?
It could just be a coincidence, but I’d be willing to bet that the 400 snap prerequisite was thrown in there to keep Mitch Trubisky off this list. If the snap count minimum was set to 300 or even 350, Trubisky wouldn’t just be on this list — he’d be at the very top. Every other player on that list had at least 700 snaps, so putting the limit so low doesn’t make much sense. In 2022, Trubisky was given an overall grade of 76.6 — 17th in the NFL among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts, higher than the likes of Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Justin Fields, Kyler Murray, and of course Kenny Pickett — and a passing grade of 74.0 — 14th in the NFL, ahead of Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, plus everyone I already mentioned.
I don’t think it would be a great look if the guy who got benched in Week 4 and then came back in Week 13 to throw three interceptions was at the top of the player ratings for a team that finished 9-8. So, it doesn’t surprise me that Pro Football Focus would try to make sure he wasn’t at the top of that list, but it just goes to show that PFF grades might not be as trustworthy as some of us like to think. Oh, and by the way, Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton, ranked sixth and seventh respectively in PFF grade this year. Let that sink in.