Sunday, March 25, 2012

Looking back on the 2011 NFL Draft 1st Round Ratings/Attributes (#6 - #10).

    This is the second blog in my Rookie ratings review series.  In case you missed the first blog covering picks 1 through 5, you can find it here: .  I encourage you to read the first blog, as I won't be repeating the entire introduction in this post.

    The short introduction is that I am comparing the original rookie ratings to the final rookie ratings in Madden 12.  I will be giving EA a grade on these ratings/attributes and providing some suggestions for improvement.

** Look past Overall (OVR) rating ***

Blue = increase in ratings/attributes
Red = decrease in ratings/attributes

M12 rating = Madden 12 Player Ratings

Original = First Madden 12 Rating.
Final = Final Madden 12 Rating.
Here are picks #6 through #10:

#6 Julio Jones (WR), Atlanta Falcons

    Julio Jones was the 2nd wide receiver taken in the 2011 draft and the Atlanta Falcons gave up a ton to move up in the draft to acquire him.  The Falcons traded the Browns 5 picks for Jones, those picks included the 27th, 59th, and 124th overall picks in 2011 and their 1st and 4th round picks for 2012.  To say Jones had pressure to produce early would be an understatement.  For the most part, Jones didn't disappoint and provided the Falcons with a dynamic WR to lineup opposite of superstar Roddy White.

    Jones finished the season with 54 receptions for 959 yards (17.8 YPC) and 8 touchdowns.  His 8 TD's led all rookie WR's.  He was 2nd among rookies in receiving yards and 3rd in receptions.  In total, he was ranked 24th in the NFL in receiving yards and was tied for 8th in receiving TDs.  He did all of this while missing 3 games due to a hamstring injury.  Plus, he added 7 receptions for 64 yards and 1 rush for 13 during his only playoff game against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.  

    Now let's look at the bad.  He came into the NFL with some concern about his durability and that didn't change with him missing 3 games this season.  His INJ attribute of 85 never changed, but a slight decrease going into to Madden 13 wouldn't be out of the question., gave Jones an overall grade of -0.4 (#52 out of 115 WR's) and a receiving grade of -1.6 (#65 out of 115 WR's).  So did EA ignore their most trusted source again.  He did put up some good numbers, right?  

    The thing that hurt Jones the most in his PFF grades, were his hands.  He had 8 drops during the regular season on 62 "catchable" targets for a 12.9% drop rate.  That drop rated tied Jones at #71 out of 95 WR's.  Those 95 WR's had between 24 and 135 "catchable" targets.  He ranked #37 out of 45 WR's with at least 49 "catchable" targets.  The bottom line is Julio Jones is overrated in the CTH attribute and in no way did he deserve a 4 point increase over the course of the season.  Unfortunately, EA regularly ignores drops when rating the CTH attribute.  Here is a previous blog I did addressing this very issue: .

    I give EA a "C+" for Jones' final rating/attributes   I believe his original rating is closer to reality when looking past the broken OVR formula and at the key position attributes.


#7 Aldon Smith (OLB) S.F. 49ers

    What can you say about Aldon Smith's rookie season other than "outstanding".  He terrorized opposing QB's all year and made several offensive tackles look completely over-matched.  Based on his original Madden 12 attributes, you can see that the EA ratings team was all over Smith's potential.  They gave him an elite PMV (96), elite ACC (96), elite PUR (90) and a very good BSH rating of 85.  Matched up with his 82 SPD and 78 STR, Smith was a top pass rusher in Madden 12 from day 1.

    Smith finished his rookie season tied for 5th in league with 14.0 sacks, which also led all rookies.  He had 37 total tackles (31 solo), 2 FF, 4 PDefs and one safety.  In two playoff games,  he added 2 additional sacks and 4 solo tackles.  He missed the All-time rookie sack record by half a sack.  He received the highest Pass Rush Productivity grade in the entire NFL by (based on all defenders with at least 50% of their teams pass rush snaps). The bottom line is the Niners got every thing they had hoped for out of the 7th overall pick.  Oh, did I mention he was primary used as situational pass rusher and still put up those huge numbers despite having significantly fewer snaps than other OLB's.

    So, what could possibly be wrong with Smith's final Madden 12 rating?  Well, it all goes back to having a horrible OVR formula and the fact that EA had to show fans OVR increases regardless of having realistic/accurate attributes.  Basically, since Smith was already elite is the attributes he excelled at most (with the exception of BSH), EA had to find other attributes to raise to get the OVR to increase.  The attributes they used were AWR, MCV, and ZCV.  AWR accounts for approximately 16% of an OLB's overall rating (regardless of being in a 3-4 or a 4-3 system).  MCV accounts for approximately 5% of the OVR and ZCV is at approximately 4%.  If you put MCV and ZCV together, you can see the impact 9% might have on the OVR.

    The problem with the MCV and ZCV increases is that they were only increased to raise the OVR and not because he was better in coverage than originally thought.  Let me explain.  Per PFF, Aldon Smith was on the field for 616 snaps during his rookie season, of those 370 were passing snaps.  He rushed the passer on 337 of those passing snaps, which was 91.1% of the time.  No other Linebacker rushed the passer at a higher rate.  So that leaves 35 (8.9%) passing snaps where Smith was asked to play in coverage, that is only 5.6% of ALL the snaps he played.  Of those 35 snaps, he was targeted only 4 times and gave up 2 catches for 17 yards.  Please understand, that 3-4 OLB's are not asked to play coverage very often.  Were 4-3 OLB's are asked to cover 4 to 5 times more than their 3-4 counterparts.

    How can such a small sample size result in such a large increase in coverage attributes for a player and position that is rarely asked to cover?  Answer:  the broken OVR formula.  EA uses the same formula for all OLB's, regardless of scheme (3-4 or 4-3).  Due to his dominant pass rushing ability,  fans expected an increase to Smith's OVR and EA had no choice but to raise MCV and ZCV to achieve that.  This is another example of why OVR should be used as a ranking with no connection to attributes, at least until EA can produce a formula that works.

    There should be a clear difference in how 3-4 OLB and 4-3 OLB are rated.  An accurate OVR formula would account for that.    

    I give EA a "B-" for Aldon Smith's final rating/attributes.

#8 Jake Locker (QB) Tennessee Titans

    At #8 we have the 2nd QB taken in the first round and one who many experts could not agree on when it came to his value and upside.  That said, Tennessee has been known to take a chances at the QB position (remember Vince Young).

    Unlike the previous seven draftees, Locker didn't have much impact his rookie season.  As a matter of fact, according to PFF he only dropped back to pass 76 times all season (48 QB's had more drop backs during the 2011 season).  Matt Hasselbeck started all 16 games at QB for the Titans.

    To be fair, let's look at the stats.  Locker was 34/66 (51.5%) for 542 yards, 4 TDs to 0 Ints, plus he carried the ball 8 times for 56 yards and a TD.  Was this a big enough sample size to warrant increases in any of Locker's original attributes?  I would say no.  Than again, EA gave Matt Flynn a significant increase for one good game against a horrible secondary.  Maybe, someone could convince me he deserved a slight bump in AWR due to his 4:0 TD to INT ration.  

    While Locker only completed 51.5% of his passes, he still received increases in SAC and DAC.  Remember, THA is not actually an attribute that effects OVR.  Why not just leave the attributes alone?  If this same small sample size was enough to give him increases in attributes, would it also be enough to give him decreases?  Last time I checked, 51.5% was a horrible completion percentage at any level of football.

    Locker also received a 13 point increase in CAR, despite only having 8 carries all season.  Are you kidding me?  After 8 carries can someone really justify changing the CAR, BCV, and TRK attributes?  Maybe, they just thought those attributes were incorrect to begin with.  I doubt it.

    We may never know what goes through the mind of the EA ratings staff, since no one from EA explains why they make these changes.  In fact they would rather everyone just stay focused on OVR.  Sorry, I think the OVR is garbage and will continue to encourage Madden fans to look deeper at all the attributes.  Until EA starts disclosing their rating procedures, people like me can only hypothesize their reasoning.

    I give EA a "C" for Locker's final rating/attributes.  The jury is still out on Locker.  For all we know, he could turn out to be another Vince Young for the Titans.

#9 Tyron Smith (RT) Dallas Cowboys

    At #9 we get our first offensive lineman with Tyron Smith.  Smith had a great rookie season for the Cowboys and was easily their best offensive lineman this yeare.  He started all 16 games at RT and received the 4th highest overall grade for an offensive tackle from (13.7).  PFF also rated him 13th in pass blocking and 5th in run blocking among offensive tackles.  He was selected to the All-Rookie team by Pro Football Weekly, The Sporting News, and

    Smith also showed good awareness for a rookie.  He received a positive grade for penalties with 0.1 (7 penalties on the season).  While Smith did give up 8 sacks, PFF still gave him the 11th best Pass Blocking Effeciency grade for tackles with 96.0.

    Another positive sign for Smith, was that he improved throughout the season.  He gave up 5 sacks his first 7 games and only 3 sacks the rest of the way.  As a matter of fact, 3 of his first 5 sacks were a result of his first game against the Eagles.  The next time he played the Eagles he only gave up one sack.  So half of the sacks he allowed all season came in two games against the Eagles, there is no shame in that.

    Get this.  Smith is only 21 years old and won't turn 22 until December of this year.  I think it's safe to say he still has a lot of room to improve and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he ends up making a few ALL-PRO teams along the way.

    I happily give EA an "A" for Smith's final rating/attributes.  They gave him a good ratings to start the year and he received well deserved increases.  I am looking forward to seeing the Cowboys and Eagles go at it in 2012 and will make a point to watch Smith battle it out against their fierce DE pass rush.  

#10 Blaine Gabbert (QB) Jacksonville Jaguars

    With pick  #10 with get our third QB already and easily the biggest failure in the top 10 (possible the entire first round).  Over the course of the season Gabbert was easily the worst starting QB in the NFL, yes that includes Tebow.  A statement that stands out in my mind about Gabbert, came from ESPN's Mark Schlereth.  I will summarize, but Schlereth basically said that Gabbert looked flat out scared in the pocket and was not prepared to face an NFL pass rush.  After watching a few of his games, I have to agree with Schlereth.  That said, he is not only scared, but he is just plain horrible.

    Let's look at the stats.  Gabbert started 14 of the 15 games he played.  According to statistics, Gabbert was dead last in QB rating with 65.4 (33rd out of 33 qualified quarterbacks).  He ranked 32nd in completion percentage with 50.8% (only Tim Tebow was worse).  He also ranked 32nd in passing yards per game with 147.6 (again only Tebow was worse).  Oh and let's not forget his 26.4% first down percentage and 5.4 yards per attempt, those also ranked last among qualified QBs.

    The only bright spot I can find is that Gabbert threw 12 TD's to 11 Int's, but honestly he was so bad that defenders probably couldn't catch the ball either.  Those 12 TD passes ranked him 27th the NFL.  He also fumbled the ball 14 times, 8 of those coming on 48 rushing attempts.  Just how bad is that.  Well, based on my research the average NFL QB fumbles the ball approximately 6.43% of the time when rushing, Gabbert fumbled 16.67% of the time when he rushed the ball.  That is horrible.

    Even though I think this is enough to show how Gabbert was this year, we can't forget to take a quick look at  According to PFF, 38 quarterbacks took at least 25% of their teams offensive snaps.  I will give you one guess as to who was graded dead last.  Yes, it was Gabbert, who earned an overall grade of -49.9 from PFF.  Mark Sanchez was 37th with a -27.9, a difference of 22 points.  I looked back on the last four years that PFF has been grading players and no QB has ever had an overall grade as bad as Gabbert.  Oh and let's not forget that he was last in deep accuracy with 27.8% completion on passes attempted 20 yards or more down field.  Even if you subtract Gabbert's deep passing statistics, he only completed 53.3% of his passes.

    Gabbert was viewed by some as a developmental quarterback going into the draft, so it's fair to think that he had no business starting in the NFL his first season.  Of course we can't erase the past, not matter how bad Gabbert would like to.  There really is no where for Gabbert to go, but up.  Well, maybe out of the league entirely.  

    I give EA a "D" for Gabbert's final rating/attributes.  They clearly gave him significant decreases throughout the season, but honestly he deserves even more decreases.  The most puzzling thing, is that he actually received an increase in AWR by 4 points over the course of the season.  How is that possible?  If anything it should have went below his original AWR?  That fact that he still has a SAC of 84 and a throw on the run of 80 is also disturbing.  Reality just doesn't support those attributes.

    Yes, poor Jacksonville fans didn't have many options at QB in Madden 12, but that doesn't mean Gabbert should not be accurately rated.  After signing Chad Henne this off season and attempting to get Tim Tebow in trade, Jacksonville is already trying to move on from Gabbert.  If the Jacksonville organization no longer has faith in Gabbert, why should anyone else?

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