Pro Football Focus, you’ve heard of it, you’ve probably read an article or two, and you either love them or you hate them. It’s not that their work is bad, or that they don’t put out interesting content, but the issue most people have with PFF, is their version of grading players based on a system that they devised themselves and a system in which very few fully understand.
When their grading system supports our favorite player, we tend to praise PFF as if they’re the holy gospel of football, but on the occasions that they give an analysis in which our player is ranked behind players that we don’t feel they should be, we act as if PFF is the worst thing in football since John Gruden’s beer commercial.
Usually, when it comes to big named players such as Mike Evans or Lavonte David, PFF will more times than not, wind up with a fairly accurate grading of their performance and impact both as a player and the manner in which they contribute to the team. Where they usually come up short however, is when they try to go out on a limb and pull that wildcard from the deck. Everybody does it, so it’s not exclusive to PFF, as we all try to predict who that one dark horse player will be, who that one unsung hero will be, who that one underappreciated and undervalued player will be, and we use our own version of grading to come to that choice.
If I were to be tasked with using the PFF grading system to predict who the highest graded defensive player on the Bucs this year, the obvious choices would be Lavonte David or Devin White. They are two of the biggest names on defense, but also two of the most talented players we have on the defensive side of the ball. We’ve seen what Lavonte is capable of, and we know he’s going to be a beast from the opening kickoff until the clock hits all zeros, and we know why the Bucs drafted White and there’s no reason to expect anything less than massive production from him this season.
Last season, PFF went with former Buccaneer defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as their highest graded defensive player, and while he won’t be around this season to get the honor again, we do think it will stay with the defensive line. This season, we fully expect to see former first round pick Vita Vea get the nod as the highest graded defensive player based on the PFF ranking system.
With the departure of McCoy and a year under his belt, Vea will look to take over the defensive line and make it his. Look for Vea to not only improve on stopping the run (something the Bucs struggled with horribly last year), but also look for him to find ways to get even more pressure on the opposing quarterback than he did last season. If he can manage to get in a tipped pass or two along with 5 or sacks along with a focus on stopping the run, not only will Vea be the highest graded player on defense based on PFF rankings, but he very well could be the highest rated defensive player on the Buccaneers no matter what grading scale you use.
Co-author: Kevin Curry