Which NFL teams have done the most to improve themselves in free agency this offseason, and which teams still have lots to do in the draft?
To sort that out, I've graded every roster in the NFL heading into the draft. While I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion in the comments section (these are subjective, after all), I made every effort to be as comprehensive as possible.
The grades may not match up with a team's win-loss record in 2012—a credit to the work they've done (or failed to do) this offseason. Other teams may be far better in some areas than others, resulting in a higher grade overall but still not relieving them of a clear Achilles heel. Still others have gaping holes sure to be filled in the draft or the post-draft free agency period that could seriously improve their current grade.
How the Grades Were Compiled
To find the overall grade, the weighted grading system broke out into four categories: starting QB, LT/edge rusher (scheme-dependent—either DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4), starters and depth. QBs were given the most weight, and then overall starters and LT/edge rusher were given roughly equal weight.
Depth includes both subpackage players and immediate backups. In the formula, depth rarely changed the overall grade, but it was included to give a clearer picture of why some teams with equal grades have different outcomes.
Why did I choose the weighting the way I did? Clearly, this is a quarterback-driven league—very few people not named Adrian Peterson would argue with that notion. After passing the ball, the next goal is to keep the other passer from doing the same. Thus, pass-rushers and pass-protectors are the other uniquely valued positions in the NFL.
What the Grades Mean
A: Able to Excel without Much Help
B: Able to Excel with a Customary Amount of Help
C: Able to Excel Under Ideal Conditions Against Most Opponents
D: Unable to Excel Under Even Ideal Conditions Against Almost All Opponents
For quarterbacks, as well as left tackles and edge rushers, this will make a lot of sense. The "help" or "conditions" described is often good protection, a great receiving corps, a talented guard next to the tackle or a quarterback with a quick release who makes his line look better.
For units and complete team grades, the "help" or "condition" might be something like fantastic coaching, home-field advantage, weather conditions, unforced errors by the other team, etc.
Overall, the grades are on a bit of a bell curve—though that was not done intentionally. It mimics what we see in the NFL every winter when the playoff races begin. A few elite teams secure their spots early, and a few are all but eliminated by Thanksgiving. The middle of the pack, however, is huge and ultra-competitive.
Check out how your favorite team did compared to their rivals and leave your comments below.