Pro Football Focus watches every offensive, defensive, and special teams player on every snap throughout the entire season, and grades each player on every single play. Many people love their work, many people are very critical of it. I, for one, fall into both categories. Personally, I don’t fully trust Pro Football Focus’ grading system on a number of levels. For example, in 2010, when the Eagles played the Lions, DeSean Jackson was targeted 7 times. He made 4 catches for 135 yards (33.8 YPC) with 36 YAC and a TD. Do that every week for 12 years and people are going to say you’re better than Jerry Rice. PFF’s rating for DeSean in that game… -0.1. Huh?
However, their snap count data is invaluable. Whenever I write about a player on this blog, there’s a 99% chance I’ve taken a quick peek at how many snaps that guy gets. It’s so valuable to me in fact, that last year I paid $90 for that information on a year subscription (I believe they’ve since lowered that cost).
With that preface in place, I was alerted to a radio spot with Bryan Broaddus of 103.3 FM in Dallas, who went into a full-on aggressive attack on Pro Football Focus and their evaluation of newly acquired Cowboys OG Nate Livings.
Radio guy sidekick: So Nate Livings on a 5 year $19 million deal. He’s rated the 56th best offensive guard in football according to (derisively) that reputable website out there…
Broaddus: Would that be Pro Football Focus?
Radio guy sidekick: Yes. You heard of this cat? They actually rate offensive linemen (incredulous).
Radio guy sidekick: 56th best in football.
Broaddus: Would that be considered a good rating?
Radio guy sidekick: I don’t think so.
Broaddus (continuing): It’s a difficult rating because they don’t actually watch film.
Radio guy sidekick: I see.
Radio guy sidekick: Do they read books?
Broaddus: TV scouting maybe? Maybe they watch TV games.
Radio guy sidekick: With the sound up or down, because that’s important.
Broaddus: You wanna go down because you don’t want to be influenced. But around here we actually try to sit down and watch games.
OK, so right off the bat, in the setup to what he’s about to speak on for the next 10 minutes, Broaddus has already identified himself as having no clue whatsoever what he’s talking about. Squabble over PFF’s methodology or scouting pedigree if you’d like, but to make the accusation that they’re not watching film is 100% wrong.
Broaddus continues, noting the games he watched Livings play:
Broaddus: I watched Nate Living play against Calais Campbell (Cardinals), and I watched him against the Ravens the first time they played them last year, I watched him against the Houston Texans in the playoffs.
Radio guy sidekick: All teams that feature good pass rushers.
Broaddus: And Week 2 they played the San Francisco 49ers, saw a little Justin Smith there, so again this guy, I feel like there have been some people that have come out and given this guy a bad rap, an if it’s Pro Football Focus, I know the organization, I respect some of the things they do, but I think they’ve got this guy wrong. And again, I’m not saying he’s Larry Allen, but there’s things about him. If you go back and watch the Arizona game against Calais Campbell, who was franchised an is an outstanding young defensive end, you would sign him off that game alone, the way (Livings) played against Campbell. And I was expecting the worst.
First of all, no, you don’t know PFF’s organization as we already established, Broaddus. And to repeat again that you do is a flat-out lie.
But that’s not important. What I’m curious about is what PFF’s grade was for Livings in the Arizona game. Survey says… +1.1. Very good grade. So Broaddus and PFF agree.
Broaddus: Now, he had a game, I talked to a scout about this, and I’ll go back and look at this game, against Jacksonville with Tyson Alualu, had a struggling game. You know, it was not good.
OK, so a scout that Broaddus trusts said he was bad in the Jacksonville game. PFF’s rating for Livings in that one… -9.0, a terrible score. So again, it looks like Broaddus (or at least a guy Broaddus respects) is 2-for-2 in agreement with PFF.
The other 3 games Broaddus noted, where he liked what he saw out of Livings: First matchup against the Ravens, Week 3 against the Niners, and the playoff game against the Texans. PFF’s ratings in each of those 3 games: +1.8 (Ravens), +0.1 (Niners), and -2.9 (Texans).
So of the 5 games mentioned, Broaddus agrees with 4 of them. As far as the one dissenting game (the Texans), Bob Sturm happened to review 4 games as well, with the Texan playoff game included, and his picture of Livings was much less rosy:
He is 6’4, 310 pounds, and has primarily been a left guard for the Bengals. He has been a starter and has kept himself pretty healthy so the idea of getting a big body that you can count on is worth something. But, beyond that, I am a bit puzzled at what made the Cowboys rush out and put 5 years and a fair amount of cash on this guy at the start of free agency. He has many characteristics of a guard that you might want to replace. He is on the ground a lot, meaning he is losing battles and losing his balance. This is a problem Leonard Davis had because he would often be plugging holes for his own runner by falling in the path. On pulling plays, he does win a reasonable amount, but it is far from a regular event. He is often stood up at the point of attack which is uncommon for a pulling guard who is getting a running start to the collision. Sometimes, he is being stood up by a linebacker with which he severely holds a weight advantage.
Livings plays high, and in football at the line of scrimmage, that is not something that is a plus. Low man wins, and he is often not very low. In pass protection his feet do not look quick enough to deal with stunts, as Jeremy Mincey destroyed him on an inside stunt in Week 5. As most guards, he is as good in pass protection as can be expected as long as he doesn’t get exposed in space. If the gaps widen out, he is in trouble, and Antonio Smith of Houston was able to make that happen in the playoffs. With the run, he can be decent, but there are plays where the man across from him shoots a gap to either side of Livings and the guard has no chance and either holds or gets beat badly.
In general, he is just not that impressive. I am hoping the Cowboys know something that we don’t, but on the surface, yes, he is younger and yes, he is healthier. But, he is not better than Montrae Holland from what I could tell, and I am a bit puzzled at the signing. Time will tell, but I would keep my bar low on this signing.
I respect Broaddus’ scouting acumen, but he really comes off as a know-nothing know-it-all with a bitchy tone. Full audio here: