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Thursday, February 18, 2010

From the Hart: Guyton better than Mayo?


By Andy Hart

February 18, 2010

Not sure if people saw this or not, but agent Neil Cornrich recently quoted a internet site called Pro Football Focus in his discussion of client Stephen Neal. Cornrich, who is a long-standing and relatively high-level agent, relayed that the site rated Neal as the second-best guard in football for 2009.

Thanks to a link on our buddy Albert Breer’s Boston.com blog, I clicked on over to Pro Football Focus to see what the site was all about. I’ll be honest I’d never heard of it before. I’m also very skeptical about such stats-only rating sites that seem to miss aspects of the game that can’t be expressed in a number. Sort of like the time one such site tried to tell me that Bo Jackson wasn’t any good because, among other things, he’d never had a 1,000-yard season. That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read.

But since a well-respected agent like Cornrich noted the site, I figured that gives it some level of credibility. Unless, of course, he’s just using it as a way to simply pump up his player in free agency. That’s a possibility as well.

Anyway, not sure if they know what they’re talking about, the positional player rankings at Pro Football Focus are very interesting regarding the Patriots. I urge you to check them out for yourself, but I’ll discuss some of them here.

As Cornrich alluded to in his comments regarding the fact that Neal is supposedly backing off his previous talk of retirement, the New England right guard is ranked right behind New Orleans’ Jahri Evans as the No. 2 overall guard. By comparison, Logan Mankins ranks sixth.

Maybe the most eye-opening ranking concerning the Patriots is at inside linebacker. (Again, that’s if you put as much stock in this site as Cornrich apparently does.) Pro Football Focus ranked New England defensive captain and leading tackler Jerod Mayo as the 39th best player at the position – four spots behind teammate and former undrafted free agent Gary Guyton, who came in at No. 35. And it’s not like the list is totally crazy, as San Francisco’s Patrick Willis led inside linebackers, followed by Baltimore’s Ray Lewis.

Another shocker comes at quarterback where Pro Football Focus ranks Tom Brady at No. 10, right behind Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Jacksonville’s David Garrard. San Diego’s Philip Rivers took the top spot, with Indy’s Peyton Manning coming in at No. 6. On the other end of the spectrum Jets rookie Mark Sanchez ranked 38th, barely beating Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

Elsewhere on offense, Wes Welker is the Patriots highest-rated receiver at No. 4. That’ a slot ahead of Houston’s Andre Johnson and trailing, in order, San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (No. 1 WR), Minnesota’s Sydney Rice and Indy’s Reggie Wayne. Randy Moss comes in at a seemingly pedestrian 21st, just head of Chicago’s Devin Aromashodu and Carolina’s Muhsin Muhammad.

And can you guess which Patriots offensive lineman rated the highest, taking home the No. 5 overall slot at tackle? That would be second-round rookie Sebastian Vollmer. Wow! Veteran tackle teammates Nick Kaczur and Matt Light ranked 28th and 33rd, respectively. Has Light really gone from an All-Pro in 2007 to the third-best tackle on his team in 2009?

Finally we highlight the safety spot. Patriots Pro Bowler Brandon Meriweather got some more love for his 2009 season, coming in 6th in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Baltimore’s Ed Reed and Jets safety Kerry Rhodes took the first two slots on the list. From the Hart favorite James Sanders ranked a respectable 26th among all league safeties, despite losing his job for most the season to Brandon McGowan, who ranked 57th overall.

Other interesting rankings for Patriots included Tully Banta-Cain (6th at 3-4 outside linebacker), Vince Wilfork (6th, defensive tackle/nose tackle), Leigh Bodden (14th at cornerback), Shawn Springs (32nd at cornerback), Ty Warren (9th at 3-4 end), Jarvis Green (22nd at 3-4 end), Dan Koppen (18th at center), Chris Baker (11th at tight end), Benjamin Watson (35th at tight end), Kevin Faulk (22nd at running back), Laurence Maroney (52nd at running back) and Stephen Gostkowski (3rd at kicker).

What do you think of this site and its rankings? Mayo may have struggled in his second season, but is Guyton really a better inside linebacker? Which of the rankings did you find most shocking? Which is most accurate? Let us know with a comment below!

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