I'm a big fan of Pro Football Focus, as you probably know, as it continues to be the go-to reference for "experts" evaluating players. Seriously though, it's a nice resource, and because I don't grade the Saints players in the preseason I like paying close attention to it to see who they deem is playing best. Pro Football Focus has flaws and it's not the end all be all. But, more times than not, it seems to fall in line with my player evaluations and they seem to have knowledgeable tape watchers on staff. So here's how the Saints fared in preseason:
The top 5 graded offensive players were: Drew Brees, Khiry Robinson, Terron Armstead, Bryce Harris and Luke McCown. All five made the team, and it was particularly surprising to see two tackles on there considering the lack of depth at the position we assumed existed. Keep in mind this is with very limited snaps, so it doesn't mean much. One horrible game could wreck a guy's grades and one big game against a really bad team like the Raiders could boost them. I would have expected Armstead to have worse grades based on what I saw, though.
The 5 worst graded offensive players were: Ben Watson, Marcel Jones, Austin Johnson, Brian de la Puente and Travaris Cadet. Oddly, three of those guys made the roster and two are on the practice squad. They also saw more time than almost all of the guys that were cut. The first four players on this list had poor grades largely due to very bad scores in the run blocking department.
According to PFF, Terron Armstead was the best pass blocker in preseason of all NFL tackles. He did have a negative run blocking grade, though. The Saints got huge play out of their quarterbacks as Brees was the highest graded QB in the NFL and Luke McCown came in 6th. Keeping McCown based on his performance was a no brainer.
The top 5 graded defensive players were: Glenn Foster, Cameron Jordan, Tyrunn Walker, David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber. No surprises there. Excluding kickers and punters, Glenn Foster was the second highest graded player in the entire league for preseason behind the Bengals' Geno Atkins, all positions combined. All five made the team.
The 5 worst graded defensive players were: Keenan Lewis, Baraka Atkins, Jay Richardson, Ray Shipman and Roman Harper. Only Lewis and Harper made the team, though Lewis' grade was in large part decimated by going up against and getting repeatedly beaten by Andre Johnson, one of the best in the game. It's worth noting that Parys Haralson came in 5th overall in graded 3-4 outside linebackers, so that was a favorable trade. Surprisingly, Akiem Hicks and Curtis Lofton got the worst grades against the run. Not surprisingly, the worst pass rush grades were three outside linebackers: Atkins, Richardson and Will Smith.
John Jenkins received favorable grades across the board too, which is very encouraging. The best cover guys were Rafael Bush, Hawthorne, Will Herring, Korey Lindsey (who was cut) and Isa Abdul-Quddus.
On special teams both Thomas Morstead and Garrett Hartley of course graded very favorably, as did Preston Parker. Lots of players got negative grades for coverage, but the worst were Michael Higgins due to a costly penalty and Will Herring (due to missed tackles).
Looking forward to getting going with the player grades!