D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC is ranking the Top 25 Falcons. And I’m not ripping him off. To be honest, I have been wanting to do this since the NFL Network started their own Top 100 rankings. And frankly, Pat Yasinskas of ESPN started ranking the Top 25 players in the NFC South roughly three weeks ago, so if I’m ripping anybody off it’s probably him.
But I didn’t want to just rank players based off my opinion, I wanted to come up with a more scientific method for ranking players, and that took some time to come up with.
Originally, I just wanted to look at every player in the NFL, assign them a rough grade (1-100) and based off that determine whether Falcon players could start on other teams. But some positions require two starters, and the reality of the NFL is that it is rare for teams to have two really good starters at the same position. So I also wanted to factor whether Falcon players could go to the other 31 teams and not just start, but be the best player at their position group. I also wanted to factor whether they could also become a role player on their respective teams. And dependent on the position would determine what sort of role. For a quarterback, that meant being the No. 2 if not the starter. For a defensive end, that meant being no lower than the third guy in the rotation. For a wideout, it mean being the third or fourth guy. For an offensive tackle, that meant being the swing tackle and so on and so forth. Based off how many teams those players could start for, be the best of their position group, and be a role player for would determine one aspect of their grade, by adding them all together. For example, since Aaron Rodgers is who I consider to be the best quarterback in the league, he could start for, be the best player at, and a role player for all 32 teams, giving him a maximum grade of 96 (or 32 + 32 + 32). That number was then averaged with their player grade that I had assigned them earlier. For example, Rodgers earned a 99 out of 100, the best in the league, thus giving him an average score of 97.5.
That alone is probably good enough, but I also wanted to add in additional factors. I wanted to give players that were in the primes of their careers a bonus. So I looked at each position group and based off the caliber of player, I looked at what age they could be expected to see their peak production decline. For the case of a top-tier quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, that age I determined to be 38 years old, which largely resulted from the fact that was the age in which Brett Favre played his last snap in Green Bay and John Elway won his last Super Bowl in Denver. And based off their current age, that would determine how many years of peak production each player could have. And for every two years of peak production left, they were awarded one bonus point. If they had 10 or more years, that would result in a maximum of 5 bonus points. I didn’t penalize players that were beyond their peak years.
Another bonus was awarded based off the players position. For example, quarterback being the most important position received a 5-point bonus. A backup quarterback received a 4-point bonus. Other of the “pillar” positions (edge rusher, cornerback, and left tackle) also received 4-point bonuses. Every other position received 3 points, except kicker, punter, and fullback which each only received 2 points. I’m sure I probably could have conceived a better methodology for that, but I didn’t want to over-complicate things.
In the end, it was supposed to result in a score from 1-100 in which players could be ranked. Although league-wide, two players would have received scores that exceeded 100. Tom Brady would have received a score of 101, while Rodgers would have received a score of 105.
Instead of ranking the Top 25 Falcons players, I’m going to rank the Top 33. Why 33? Well, several of the players that finished outside the Top 25 I think are interesting and worth discussing. So I picked 33 simply because the first player that I felt was worthy of mention is in fact the 33rd-ranked player on the team. Like D-Led, I’ll be posting a new player every day, counting down to No. 1.