Ranking the NFC East offensive players from ‘Elite’ to ‘Garbage’

I did a little color coded spreadsheet of each of the four NFC East offenses. To see the entire thing, click “Full screen view” on the spreadsheet below. Analysis after the spreadsheet.

Elite players

Jason Witten, Cowboys – Clearly one of the 3 best TEs in the game.
Fred Davis, Redskins – This is where my rankings need an explanation. Fred Davis is by no means an elite TE in the NFL, but he is as a #2 TE. When you think about the best #2 TEs in the game, I think it’s really between Davis and whoever you’d consider the 2 in New England, whether that be Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez.  These rankings are based upon the player’s role within the offense.

Great Players (in no particular order)

DeSean Jackson, Eagles – When you think about players that “have the ability to score anytime they touch the football, DeSean is probably the most dangerous player in the NFL, with apologies to Chris Johnson.
Jason Peters, Eagles – An absolute devastating blocker in the run game, and very good in pass protection as well.
Michael Vick, Eagles – If he can continue to play like he did in 2010, he deserves to be called “elite.” Need to see it for more than one year.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – 1,672 yards from scrimmage last year. Does it all. Runs, catches, and is surprisingly good in pass protection. Complete player entering just his 3rd year.
Vince Young, Eagles – Again, VY is not a “great player” by starting QB standards, but he’s most certainly a great #2.
Jason Avant, Eagles – Andy Reid calls Avant the best 3rd WR in the game. I’m not sure I agree, but he’s as polished a route runner, blocker, and professional receiver with great hands as you’ll find in the league. Unfortunately, he has athletic limitations.
Steve Smith, Eagles – Debated calling Smith an “elite” #4 receiver, but let’s hold off there until we see if he’s healthy or not.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Strong, fast. When I think of WRs that play more like running backs once they have the ball in their hands, I think Anquan Boldin of a few years ago, and Miles Austin.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – The numbers are outstanding. Clearly a talented player. Quick release, has some wheels, accurate.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Already a complete receiver entering his third season.
Chris Snee, Giants – Borderline top 5 OG in the NFL. Not quite “elite,” but right there.
Kareem McKenzie, Giants – The Giants probably have the best RG/RT combo in the NFL.

Above average players

Todd Herremans, Eagles – I’d have him in the “great player” category if he hadn’t been moved from LG to RT. Still a very talented lineman, should acclimate well to his new (and old) position.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Continually improving player. Athletic kid, polished route runner with decent size, and good speed. Will be ready for Week 1, but has questions surrounding him, due to the lack of time in camp because of his illness scare.
Ronnie Brown, Eagles – Excellent fit for the Eagles offense. Can run, catch, and pass block. Significant dropoff from McCoy to Brown should McCoy go down for any period of time, but the offense shouldn’t suffer much.
Doug Free, Cowboys – Had a very good 2010. Deserved a big contract, and got it.
Jon Kitna, Cowboys – Again, only “above average” as a #2 QB. 4-5 as a starter last season, 209/318, 65.7%, 2365, 16 TD, 12 INT. The Cowboys can still win should Tony Romo go down for a few weeks.
Eli Manning, Giants – Smart, but sometimes his smarts don’t translate into good decision-making. Good arm, above average accuracy. Led the league in interceptions in 2010.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Gritty player. Runs hard, can catch, very willing pass blocker. What makes him good is his drive to fight every last yard. Unfortunately, that’s also his downfall. Has to correct his fumble-itis.
Mario Manningham, Giants – After a slow start to his career, Manningham broke out in a way last year as the Giants’ 3. Big play threat, a little dopey at times. I’m expecting about 1100 yards out of him this season.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants – Very effective in his role as a sledgehammer. Perfect back for hammering tired defenses late in the 2nd half with a lead, and in goal line situations. Completely one-dimensional.
Santana Moss, Redskins – Great year last year (90-1115-6), but seems to be unable to string together consecutive big seasons. Shifty route runner, deep threat.
Chris Cooley, Redskins – Look at his numbers. Consistently good every season. Can’t block.
Rex Grossman, Redskins – We of course don’t know for sure yet who the official Skins QB is yet, but for now we’ll assume it’s John Beck. Rexy is actually a nice backup, and I think he should be starting.
Anthony Armstrong, Redskins – “Above average” only as a 3, of course. Can stretch the field. 19.8 yards per catch last season.

Somewhat tested, optimistic

Dez Bryant, Cowboys – We’re pretty sure he’s going to be a great (and maybe even an elite) receiver some day, but let’s actually see it first.
Trent Williams, Redskins – Up and down in 2010, but looked fantastic from what I saw of him in the preseason. There was a play where he just physically over-matched Ray Lewis. Reminded me a lot of Jason Peters seeing that.

JAGs – Stands for “just a guy.” (Isn’t going to kill you, but doesn’t exactly do a lot win games either)

Brent Celek, Eagles – Was among the most promising players heading into 2010, and then just kind of disappeared.
Evan Mathis, Eagles – Todd Herremans to Mathis is a significant downgrade at LG. Solid player, didn’t give up any sacks the past 2 seasons, although he wasn’t a 16-game starter during that time.
Owen Schmitt, Eagles – Sort of the epitome of a JAG.
Clay Harbor, Eagles – Decent blocker, has receiving skills, but needs significant improvements to his overall game for the Eagles to even consider implementing more 2TE sets.
Kyle Kosier, Cowboys – Valuable as a mentor to the three young guys along the Cowboys OL, but as a player, really nothing about his game is impressive.
Felix Jones, Cowboys – Felix Jones? Here? No way! He’s at least “above average!” Honestly, I just can’t put him there. There’s no question he has talent. Has shown flashes as an explosive runner, is a threat as a receiver, but simply put… His production hasn’t matched his potential. In three seasons as a pro, he has 2330 yards from scrimmage. That’s only 658 more than LeSean McCoy had in 2010. It’s only 718 more than Ahmad Bradshaw had in 2010. Jones has looked great in the preseason, but until he shows some consistency and durability, he’s a JAG.
Martellus Bennett, Cowboys – For the past few years, we’ve heard about how loaded the Cowboys are at TE with Bennett as the 2. He’s been a complete disappointment. Are we even sure if he’s the 2 anymore?
David Diehl, Giants – Played very well at times as a LT in previous seasons, and even got himself to Hawaii, but was pretty bad last season. He’ll slide inside to LG, which is probably a better spot for him anyway. Limited athletically.
David Baas, Giants – I really struggled with Baas, since, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t see much of the guy playing in San Fran. From the limited opportunities I had to watch him play in the preseason, he seems like a mauler type, with limited athletic upside.
David Carr, Giants – Former #1 overall pick is just an average backup at this point in his career.
Tim Hightower, Redskins – Looked outstanding in the preseason. Need to see real production in the regular season.
Darrel Young, Redskins – I was shocked to see Mike Sellers make the team. That’s an indication to me that the Redskins might not be 100% sold on Young. JAG status might even be generous here.
Chris Chester, Redskins – Athletic guard, hasn’t been consistent enough to hold down a steady starting job in the NFL, has upside.
Jammal Brown, Redskins – Solid RT, nothing special here with no upside. You pretty much know what you’re getting here.
Ryan Torain, Redskins – I like Ryan Torain. Hard runner, breaks tackles, even produced as a starter at times last season. But when you look around the league at the other backup RBs, you realize kinda quickly that Torain is easily replaceable.

Untested, optimistic

Tyron Smith, Cowboys – Unless they’re Ndamukong Suh, I have trouble putting any rookie higher than this categorization. I think Smith will be a good pro this season, especially as he eases into action on the right side. Smith is the only rookie I’m optimistic won’t hurt his team from Day 1.

Somewhat tested, pessimistic

William Beatty, Giants – One penalty every 26 snaps last season. He’ll be facing excellent pass rushers all season long. Is he ready? I have my doubts.

Below average player

Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys – The Cowboys’ depth at receiver isn’t good. Ogletree has some upside, but is definitely not an ideal option as a 3rd WR.
Domenik Hixon, Giants – Domenik Hixon can play for my team any day, just not as a 3rd WR. Massive downgrade from Mario Manningham to Hixon this season.
Kory Lichtensteiger, Redskins – Has some nice athleticism for an interior O Lineman, but can be bullied in pass protection.
Will Montgomery, Redskins – Seems like a classic “effort guy” to me. Like Lichtensteiger, Montgomery often has trouble holding his ground against bull rushers. Like the Eagles and Cowboys, the Skins will be very vulnerable up the middle against interior pass rushers.
Jabar Gaffney, Redskins – Pretty clear cut below average starting WR, right? Don’t think there’s much to explain here.

Untested, pessimistic

Jason Kelce, Eagles – Very athletic center with the ability to get out on the edge and block in the run game. Unfortunately, he was brutal in pass protection in the preseason.
Danny Watkins, Eagles – Not sure this “kid” is ready to go. Won’t be surprised in the slightest if newly signed Kyle DeVan is the Eagles starter Week 1 in St. Louis. Watkins has not looked good in any facet of th game this preseason.
Bill Nagy, Cowboys – 2011 late round pick will undoubtedly face siignifcant growing pains this season.
Phil Costa, Cowboys – Not sold that he “won” the starting center job as much as the Cowboys didn’t want to pay Andre Gurode.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Complete unknown. Played in just one preseason game, gained 32 yards on 10 carries. Missed a lot of camp. Unrealistic to expect significant contributions this season. Frankly, I’m not sure he should even be considered the #2 back. It’s probably still Tashard Choice, a guy that a lot of people thought would be cut.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Camp darling last preseason, much less impressive this season. I don’t see it.
Jake Ballard, Giants – I’d put him in the “garbage” section, but I know literally nothing about Ballard.
Henry Hynoski, Giants – Was better than Bear Pascoe as a FB this preseason, which isn’t saying much. Aside from a cool nickname, I saw nothing to get fired up about Hynoski whatsoever.
John Beck, Redskins – This has been beaten to death for the past 7 months. Not sure what I can add in a sentence or two.
Leonard Hankerson, Redskins – Frankly, I’m not even sure WHO the Redskins 4th receiver is. They kept 8. But if it’s Hankerson, I didn’t really see much from the kid.

Garbage

Tony Fiametta, Cowboys – Barely NFL roster-worthy.
Jesse Holley, Cowboys – Ditto.
Travis Beckum, Giants – A little harsh? Maybe. There are probably four dozen TEs that are better than him, and he’s a starter.

47 Comments

  1. Free Plax says:

    LMAO I just re read you put Jason Avant another JAG as a great player, whoever wrote this is an Eagles fan. Come on man take those greeen ane white glasses off.

    1. Name all the 3s in the league that are better than Avant.

      1. Free Plax says:

        No. 3 Rec. better than Jason Avant in no particular order

        Jericho Cotchery
        Percy Harvin
        Austin Collie
        Lance Moore
        Jordan Shipley
        Jabar Gaffney or Eddie Royal which ever you consider the 3rd reciever
        Patrick Crayton
        James Jones

        If you want to say Avant is the best 3 in the East fine you win, although if and when Smith get’s healthy trust me Avant will be the no.4 on the Ealges. However he is by no means a great player he is a JAG maybe a high JAG but a very replacable reciever.

        1. Free Plax says:

          One last note I did not include all the 3’s I think are about the same as Avant and also some of the number 3’s that are better than Avant have moved up the depth chart to No. 2; which by the way is what happens to “great” no. 3 recievers, it won’t with Avant because he is limited. Agains not saying he is terrible or anything like that just pointing out that he is not feared or considered great by opposing teams.

        2. OK, so you have 8 there. Take away Jabar Gaffney since he’s not on the team anymore, making Royal the starter, and you have 7. Take away Harvin, since he… you know… starts… and you have 6. I like Jericho Cotchery, but since the Jets didn’t even like him enough to let him stick with the team, let’s get rid of him. Down to 5.

          As for the rest, I might nitpick one here or there (like a Patrick Crayton, a Jordan Shipley, or even a James Jones), but I’ll give them to you. So there are five 3rd receivers better than Avant, making Avant the 6th best 3rd receiver in the NFL. To me, that’s great… for a 3rd receiver.

          As for being “feared by opposing teams,” yeah… well 3rd receivers generally aren’t. Lance Moore is probably the only one.

          1. Free Plax says:

            clever slant since we are basing our debate on previous years stats, Gaffney or Royal stays as better than Avant. (Note, I could have put on at least 5 more players that were considered No. 3’s last year but ended up starting a lot of games and moved up to No. 2) Cotchery over his career is a better 3 than Avant and is still a 3 for the Steeler so I confident barring injury he will prove again he is still better than Avant so he stays too. I’ll give you Harvin even though he was considered a 3 and becuase he could also be considered a RB. We still have not discussed the players that are equal to Avant so saying he is the 6th best No. 3 is a stretch. My point is not that he stinks it’s that he is not “great” Great players should have a pro bowl or two under their belt how many Pro Bowls has Avant been to as a No. 3? You listed JAGs that have appeared in Pro Bowls

  2. Free Plax says:

    Dude please explain to me how the heck is Rex freakin Grossman an above average player? The guys screams JAG at least Diehl has been to the Pro Bowl

    1. Above average as a 2, not as a starter.

      1. Free Plax says:

        Rex is starting bro, so therefore he is a No. 1 but still Rex Grossman is not an above average backup either, the guy is terrible. If Grossman is an elite no. 2 what’s that Make John Kitna? Great by your standards

        1. It was posted before Shanahan made the announcement, “bro.”

          1. Free Plax says:

            Fair enough… but do your really consider Rex Grossman as a above average backup?!?!? Are you really trying to argue that

  3. Dan in Philly says:

    I thought after listening to WIP that only the Eagles had any players who were terrible, and that fact was going to doom their entire season…

  4. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

    Is a defensive players list coming also Jimmy?

    1. Perhaps. This took me a long time to do. If I have time later this week, yes. If not, no. I’m thinking there are 3 elite defenders in the division.

      1. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

        Ware, Tuck, and Cole?

        1. cwel87 says:

          Asomugha might be the best defensive back – not to mention defensive player – in football (he’s certainly in the discussion, along with Revis, Woodson, and Polamalu). And Asante’s really not that far behind.

        2. Ware, Nnamdi, Asante

          1. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

            I phrased that ambiguously. I meant that as 3 people I didn’t think you’d be including that I would consider.

          2. hooter says:

            Asante over Tuck?

            1. They play 2 completely different positions. Tuck is great, but he’s not among the 5 best at his position in the game. Asante is.

  5. cwel87 says:

    Offensive lines throughout the NFL seem to be in disarray.

    Can you think of five truly elite offensive line units?

    How about three?

    …two?

    It’s rough.

    1. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

      Should there be a lot of elite ones though? That would require that five guys be elite. That’s hard to get by itself.

      1. cwel87 says:

        By elite unit, I mean similar in quality to that of, say, the Eagles defensive line. Every player is not elite, but there are stars mixed in with quality starters – and no one is denying the top-3 potential of the line.

        1. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

          Ah sorry I misunderstood. I would still say its hard to do. For you to have an elite WR core you’re talking about probably only 2 or maybe 3 people. OLines are 5 people and probably the largest unit so we would expect less elite ones.

          With that said though I agree with your general point. I wonder if that is true objectively or a perception thing? Lines in our division are pretty bad which might skew my judgement.

          1. cwel87 says:

            The best offensive line in football is probably…the Browns.

            lolwut

  6. James says:

    Jason Avant is great? Steve Smith coming back from a serious knee injury is great? Yikes…

    1. Great 3rd and 4th receivers… Yes.

      Commenting without reading the post (Bad James!)

      1. hooter says:

        Avant is god awful at best

        1. cwel87 says:

          As long as you stay objective

      2. Free Plax says:

        Jason Avant’s best season
        51 catches 587 yards 1 TD

        Domenik Hixon’s best season
        43 catches 596 yards 2 TD

        Hixon Below average player, Jason Avant Great player… Come on man i know every team overates the talent but Avant is a JAG bro, every team has one them.

        1. Hixon put up those numbers as a starter. Plus, he’s returning from an injury that most athletes don’t fully heal from until their 2nd year back.

          1. Free Plax says:

            My point is more that other than Eagles fans nobody considers Jason Avant a great player he is a JAG dude. I know he does a good job for the Eagles but every team has a player like him on their roster he can’t be on the great list. On last thing if your going to factor in Hixon’s knee injury and say it takes two years to come back from, Steve Smith comes off the list because he had micro fracture surgery which is worse than Hixons and it will definitly take him two years to be Steve Smith again. And while your at it Danny Watkins is a rookie and he is under the untested pessimistic? Don’t you usually have to give a Rook a couple of years before you start making predictions on them?

            1. But we’re also talking about Steve Smith as a FOUR, not a 3. If I was ranking Smith as a 3, it’d be lower. The 3 in most NFL offenses are going to see about 50% of his team’s snaps. The 4, significantly less.

              Look around the league. How many teams have a better 3 than Hixon? Easily more than half. Meanwhile, how many teams’ fours would you rather have than Steve Smith?

              1. Free Plax says:

                Don’t get me wrong Jimmy I am not here becasue I feel like Hixon was slighted, in fact Hixon might very well be the fourth reciever on the Giants. My point more was Steve Smith at this moment weather he is a no 2,3 or 4 is a question mark, the man had micro fracture surgery on his knee 9 months ago. Healthy he is one of the best 3’s in the game, but in truth the Eagles have no idea what they are going to get out of him this year, so therefore even as a Number 4 you can’t say he is a great player till he proves he is again. Like you said before it usually takes 2 years to get back to form, Smith is only 9 months recovered from an injury that may or may not end his career.

              2. Simple question: How many 4’s in the NFL would you take over Steve Smith?

              3. Free Plax says:

                As I said before since Steve Smith is coming off of a bad injury nobody knows what he is at this point so there for we don’t even know if he will be an effective No. 4 reciever. How do you know he will have the same quickness or burst untill you see him do it again. Look Steve Smith healthy is not only a great 4th reciever but is a great No. 3 too. My point is untill he proves he is back you can’t say he is great. Let’s talk again after the season is over becuase SS will have proved if he is back or not.

              4. The fact that you’re not answering my question proves my point.

  7. deg0ey says:

    I think you’re being a little harsh on Watkins; sure, he hasn’t set the world on fire (and your actual grading of “Untested, pessimistic” is difficult to argue with) but his run-blocking has been pretty good so far and he’s steadily improving.

    Would be very surprised if he’s not the Wk1 starter – He was drafted because the Eagles believe in him and he’ll improve faster by playing.

    It’s also easy to forget just how bad the OL was last year. Peters-Mathis-Kelce-Watkins-Herremans is a definite improvement over Peters-Herremans-McGlynn-Cole-Dunlap

  8. Naturally, Shanny picks Grossman, lol.

  9. theguyotc says:

    I like that — assuming you agree with the rankings — you can see at a glance the strength of each offense. It’s been pretty clear the NFC East has some problems on their O-lines, but this really drives the point home.

    As far as BBI’s changes, I’d agree with his note on Beckum but Jacobs being a “jackass” probably played a part in the ranking. I’d take Ronnie Brown over him. He may prove me wrong this season, but I think he can still play and he does a lot more than Jacobs. I think Jimmy got it right on both Jacobs and Manning.

  10. PE says:

    And with the signing of DeVan, we potentially upgrade the Eagles RG spot from “untested, pessimistic” to “Just A Guy”. Man, that’s some high level football diction! Haha, good stuff though Jimmy.

  11. BigBlueIntervention says:

    Won’t comment on the other teams, but I have a disagreement with 2 Giants players’ rankings. That’s pretty damn good considering I’m a bit of a homer. Nice job IMO Jimmy.

    1) Brandon Jacobs – Should be either “Great” or “Elite.” Why? For the same reasoning as Fred Davis. As a #2 RB, you would be very hard pressed to find someone better (and yes, considering Bradshaw had almost twice as many carries as Jacobs, Brandon is considered a #2).

    Rushing yards – Only Thomas Jones had more as a #2 back than Jacobs did.
    Yards per carry – With an adequate sample size (147 carries) had the 2nd highest YPC of any running back in the NFL.
    Touchdowns – Coincidentally, ranked 9th in the entire league in rushing TDs with 9.
    Big play ability – Ranked 6th in the NFL with 10 carries of 20+ yards.
    Fumbles – People seem to think he’s fumble prone, but he only fumbled twice.

    He’s also looked impressive this preseason. He may be a jackass, but he’s definitely a really strong player. One of the best, when considered a #2 RB.

    2) Travis Beckum – Just think its a bit early to call him “Garbage” when he’s been relatively untested. If he’s out there for a significant number of snaps and misses blocks, drops catches, runs wrong routes….then I think you can call him “Garbage”. I’d go with “Untested – Pessimistic”

    Other than that, nice job. I’d argue Eli Manning as “Great” but that’s a can of worms I don’t think anybody wants to open.

    1. ubrab says:

      As an Eagles fan, agree with those 2 – Especially, if we consider Jacobs as a #2 RB, he has to be Great/Elite, if they keep his carries low he might be one ofthe best 2 in the league.

    2. Euler.is.a.pimp says:

      I agree with Jacobs. I thought he was gassed, but he probed me wrong. I wouldn’t say elite, but great I can agree to.

  12. Tracer Bullet says:

    C’mon, Jimmy! Only white guys are “gritty.”

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