So I was looking through some of my older projects and I stumbled across a mostly finished review of 2010 Positional Rankings that I was working on for a while but never got a chance to finish. Since we're going into the 2011 season, I figured I might as well throw this out there before it becomes too irrelevant.
Keep in mind these are position squad rankings, so they take into account not only the starters but the depth at the positions. This involved a lot of statistical analysis (and I mean a lot!), with very little look at "potential" considering it's a review of the past season. Every squad has a slice of their statistics shown (mostly the relevant key statistics) but more statistics than what is listed were taken into account in the rankings, for instance drop percentages. I wrote this some months ago, so there may be portions of this that are flat out comedic knowing what we know now.
Rankings after the jump.
1. New England Patriots
Passing: 331/507 (65.3%), 4022 yds, 37 TD, 5 int
Rushing: 41 att, 22 yds, 1 TD
In a year that saw Bill Belichick essentially rebuild his entire offensive philosophy on the way to winning a third Coach of the Year berth, the Patriot QB corps (read: Tom Brady) set several records during the year and is always a fearsome opponent to face for any defense. A mind-boggling 5 interceptions and over 4000 yards later, and Tom Brady takes the third spot for positional ranking. On pure passing alone, New England takes the cake -- and eats it in front of you with a swagger that cannot be matched.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Passing: 348/561 (62.0%), 4215 yds, 28 TD, 13 int
Rushing: 115 att, 741 yds, 9 TD
Featuring the two-pronged attack of a dual-threat phenom and a servicable starter as a backup, Philadelphia had a very strong showing at the quarterback position during the 2010 regular season. With a QB corps that had a ground attack rivaling the rushing attack of some teams, the Eagles still managed to put up a very strong performance in the traditional passing roles of the QB. I won't hold my breath on the Vick-Kolb tandem remaining going into next year, but if they do Philadelphia should hold stock in the top 3 QB corps by next season's conclusion as well.
3. Green Bay Packers
Passing: 352/541 (65.1%), 4355 yds, 31 TD, 13 int
Rushing: 73 att, 382 yds, 4 TD
While Matt Flynn is certainly no starter in the league, he's a backup quarterback that would put some starters to shame (we're looking at you, Jimmy Clausen.) Aaron Rodgers spearheaded a dominant Pack offense with his arm, was no slouch with his footwork, and made good use of the highly touted Green Bay receiving corps throughout the year.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Passing: 305/490 (62.2%), 3562 yds, 25 td, 6 int
Rushing: 72 att, 403 yds, 0 td
Sophomore Josh Freeman led an improbable Buccaneer team with solid quarterback play and fundamental protection of the football rivaling even New England. Backup Josh Johnson was serviceable and refused to be a liability with accurate play. Look for good things coming out of the Tampa area in 2011, especially at the quarterback position.
5. San Diego Chargers
Passing: 358/542 (66.1%), 4718 yds, 30 TD, 13 int
Rushing: 35 att, 47 yds, 0 TD
San Diego gets a lot of mixed reviews, but there's one thing no one can deny: Rivers can sling a football with the best of them. Deprived of their first WR through most of the year, the Chargers still racked up well over 4500 yards on the way to mediocrity in a pedestrian division, which is a feat that cannot be rested on the shoulders of the performances of the fifth-best quarterback corps during 2010.
Honorable Mention - Pittsburgh Steelers
Passing: 296/477 (62.05%), 3848 yds, 20 TD, 9 int
Rushing: 46 att, 238 yds, 2 TD
Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, and Byron Leftwich rounded out a quarterback squad whose depth could rival even the deepest corps in the league. When Ben Roethlisberger was out during a 4-game suspension, the backups managed to hold things down and improbably led the team to a 3-1 record.
RUNNING BACK (RB/FB)
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Rushing: 500 att, 2416 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: 70 rec, 642 yds, 3 TD
Racking up 500 attempts (which if I'm not mistaken ranks somewhere between "holy crap" and "oh shi--" on the Richter scale) during 2010, Kansas City owned the positional ranking at running back for the 2010 season and showed a real commitment to the running game. They pounded the rock with authority, and feature two running backs in the top 20 of the league in yardage this year; the only club to do so in 2010.
2. Oakland Raiders
Rushing: 429 att, 1985 yds, 16 TD
Receiving: 93 rec, 1034 yds, 6 TD
Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were a one-two punch of ridiculous stats behind a mediocre offensive line. Recording the most receiving yards among rushing units, Oakland scored a fearsome 132 points from the backfield alone. If their new HC can hold the line strong coming into next year, expect the same solid performance from two very shining stars and a formiddable depth chart.
3. Houston Texans
Rushing: 396 att, 2012 yds, 20 TD
Receiving: 76 rec, 529 yds, 4 TD
Houston possesses the most explosive rushing offense in the league. They do more with less attempts than other teams, and somehow manages to break the plane 1.25 times per game on the ground. Don't sleep on this running back corps, especially if they can manage to get some more depth behind league-leader Arian Foster.
4. New York Giants
Rushing: 443 att, 2131 yds, 17 TD
Receiving: 61 rec, 440 yds, 0 TD
With a chimeric ground philosophy, the football Giants thrived under an Eagles-esque two-starter attack. There is no doubt that the Giants had a formiddable top 5 squad at running back during the 2010 season. If the New York Giants had some more depth and change of pace style backs, they could easily have been in the top two RB cores in the league, but uncertainty at their RB position leaves one wondering if they will thrive again in 2011.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Rushing: 446 att, 1775 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: 73 rec, 529 yds, 4 TD
While not as dominant in the running back squad as some other clubs, the Falcons are still a force to be reckoned with. Michael Turner is a great running back, and Jason Snelling is a very formidable dual-threat fullback. Atlanta certainly needs no more praise with a squad of pro-bowlers and a ton of promise, but they definitely have earned a top five spot in the positional battle.
Honorable Mention - New York Jets
Rushing: 456 att, 1926 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: 77 rec, 548 yds, 0 TD
Featuring eventual hall-of-famer LaDainion Tomlinson and up-and-coming Shonn Green, the New York Jets just miss the cusp of the top 5 despite putting up a strong performance through the year. They're very deep at RB/FB and look like a squad on the rise coming into 2011. It's not unthinkable to see them crack top 5 following next season, so keep your eyes peeled.
OFFENSIVE LINE (OT/OG/OC)
1. New England
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.81
Adjusted Sack Rate: 4.9%
The Patriots managed to defy all logic with their incredible offensive line performance this year. With key injuries to several veteran starters and a prolonged hold-out by Pro-Bowler Logan Mankins, New England managed to turn out an offensive line that still held up to the scrutiny of 16 games against NFL competition. If they can manage to solidify this line even more, expect them to earn another well deserved best offensive line award next year.
2. New York Giants
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.29
Adjusted Sack Rate: 3.3%
Chris Snee and Shaun O'Hara suited up to lead a ferocious offensive line during the 2010 campaign. A very powerful running game was anchored by a competent line, and Eli Manning managed to throw a remarkable number of picks despite being protected so well through the year by his line. If Eli can somehow manage to get the electrical bugs out of his play, he should reward a great offensive line next year with a playoff berth.
3. New Orlean Saints
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.49
Adjusted Sack Rate: 4.7%
The Saints featured one of the top-2 offensive lines during their Super Bowl run in the 2009 season, and they came back with almost no dip in performance during the past season. They're the only team with an offensive line that ranks in the top 5 for both rushing and pass blocking, and it shows with great performances through the year from Drew Brees. With solid RB play in the coming seasons, expect a rushing attack that matches up to the offensive line's push.
T4. New York Jets
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.54
Adjusted Sack Rate: 5.4%
As much of a social pariah as the New York Jets may be, they back it up on the football field (more often than not). With a solid offensive line like this one, it's not hard to see why. Nick Mangold is a mauler who sets a prime example for the rest of the guys flanking him, and they certainly show up to play for him. There are no signs of a dip in performance for this dominant line in the future.
T4. Atlanta Falcons
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.23
Adjusted Sack Rate: 4.1%
As good as the Jets are, the Falcons are every bit as good on the line. Essentially the pass-blocking version of NYJ's run-blocking line, they flipflop in what they do well, but they both do equally well in all facets of the game. Todd McClure stands tall to Logan Mankin's challenge, and managed to lead a younger offensive line to some pretty stellar performances in 2010.
Honorable Mention - Houston Texans
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.49
Adjusted Sack Rate: 5.9%
I can't say with any truth that the Houston Texans deserve to be in the top 5, but they certainly deserve to be the only honorable mention. Their offensive line is in a class of their own, between the elite (above) and everyone else. If they can manage to improve their pass protection in the coming year, I can definitely see this offensive line making a serious case for themselves in 2011.
TIGHT END (TE)
1. Dallas Cowboys
Receiving: 127 rec, 1282 yds, 9 tds
Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett comprise a formiddable tight end corps that really stepped up when Dallas experienced the football equivalent of Chernobyl. Jon Kitna stepped into Tony Romo's shoes without skipping a beat this year and helped Dallas get two receivers over the thousand-yard receiving mark. With Tony Romo behind the helm again in 2011, there seems no limit to where this tight-end squad can go.
2. New England Patriots
Receiving: 93 rec, 1161 yds, 18 tds
When Randy Moss left for more purple pastures in the beginning of the year, it left a huge question mark as to where New England's offense was headed. Brady being Brady prevailed, and managed to turn two rookies into unlikely success stories. A ridiculous 18 touchdowns later, and the Patriot TE corps taps in at second in the positional breakdown for the past season.
3. San Diego Chargers
Receiving: 80 rec, 1149 yds, 12 tds
San Diego had one of the most dominant regular-season offenses this year, for good reason. That reason is Antonio Gates, an immensely talented player. Antonio Gates is about where their TE corps ends, but third place isn't bad considering Antonio Gates almost beats any TE tandem in the league -- alone.
4. Detroit Lions
Receiving: 120 rec, 1384 yds, 6 tds
Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler make a Batman and Robin combo that essentially doesn't care what cripple is throwing to it any given week. They've performed strong through the year, and a league-leading yardage at the TE corps is the product of this dedication. If they can manage to play with a starting QB for the most of the year in 2011, expect good things from the fourth-best TE squad in the league.
5. Washington Redskins
Receiving: 100 rec, 1175 yds, 7 tds
Donovan McNabb still has some gas left in his tank, as evidenced by him (and Rex Grossman) making good use of Chris Cooley and depth in what can only be described as "making the best of a bad situation." There's no telling what will happen to the Redskins next year, but if Mike Shanahan can manage to get a solid starter to take advantage of Washington's top-flight tight ends, expect nothing but positive results.
Honorable Mention - San Fransisco 49ers
Receiving: 90 rec, 1272 yds, 7 tds
The Smith/Smith era has come to an end, which can only mean good things for Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and company. With a strong statistical performance on a middle-rung team, there's only two places for this tight end corps to go: up or down. True, it's hard to really know where the 49ers are headed with a regime change underway, but if they're smart they'll be sure to keep making excellent use of Vernon Davis's skillset in the following season.
WIDE RECEIVER (WR)
1. San Diego Chargers
Receiving: 149 rec. 2544 yds, 15 TDs
While some would make the claim that Green Bay possesses the best receiving corps in the league, I can't help but disagree. Featuring a wide receiver corps that combines for a stout 17 yards per completion and a ridiculously high 1st% amongst most of its wide receivers, Philip Rivers makes the absolute best with the elite talent lining up at wide-out for the Chargers.
2. Green Bay Packers
Receiving: 228 rec, 3163 yds, 23 TDs
While I have them as a close second to the Chargers, the receiving corps in Green Bay is absolutely as elite as they come. Being the only team that can credibly send out five wide and still pose a threat on the ground is a huge asset to have, and the matchup problems this squad creates leads to a very high powered offense. We'll see if this group of hands will come out with the Lombardi this Sunday, but there's no doubt that the Packers feature a bevy of receiving threats.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Receiving: 277 rec, 3210 yds, 25 TDs
Peyton Manning is notorious for turning guys you've never heard of into some of the biggest names in the NFL. This receiving group is the product of that work. With the most touchdowns, and receptions, among wide receivers, there is no doubt this unit is hell on opposing DBs. As long as Peyton Manning stays in Indy, I don't see the collective wide receivers there dropping off much at all.
4. Denver Broncos
Receiving: 230 rec, 3336 yds, 19 TDs
The Broncos passed a heck of a lot more than they ran in 2010. So, naturally the receivers that Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow work with are going to record plenty of stats. Even still, a solid 14.5 yards per pass completion from guys like Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, and Demaryius Thomas is nothing to sneeze at. The Broncos look like they have no where to go but up, and odds are good these wide-outs are only going to get better in the process.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Receiving: 185 rec, 2808 yds, 17 TDs
Despite being a team that's mostly known for being run first, and highly lauded for its defense, the Steelers are no bums when it comes to the forward pass. Big names like Hines Ward and Antwaan Randel El have been in some of the biggest plays in NFL history, and help round out a Steeler unit with guys like Mike Wallace and Emmanual Sanders in kind. As long as Ben Roethlisberger has guys like this to throw to, the Steelers will remain a very deadly passing team.
Honorable Mention - New Orlean Saints
Receiving: 235 rec, 2967 yds, 21 TDs
It's no surprise that last year's Super Bowl champions have a good squad of receivers for Drew Brees to throw to. They couldn't quite catch lightning in a bottle twice, but make no mistake. The New Orlean Saints don't have very many flashy names but they quietly toil away at being an excellent passing team thanks to their wide receivers. We'll see what moves they can make this following offseason, but breaching the top five in 2011 is not out of the question.
DEFENSIVE LINE (DE/DT/NT)
1. New York Giants
Stats: 264 com, 187 tot, 77 ast, 35 sacks, 20 FFs
Many things tend to break down in New York over the course of the year -- this isn't one of them. Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora lead a cast of all-stars to a ridiculously high 20 forced fumbles and an all-around great performance through 2010. As long as the Giants keep the status quo next year, with the depth they have there's only a couple teams in the league who can rival them on the line.
2. Detroit Lions
Stats: 279 com, 203 tot, 76 ast, 39 sacks, 9 FFs
Ndamukong Suh seems to get all the credit for the defensive improvement in Detroit this year, and while it's not undeserved it may be a little misplaced. Featuring five players who have recorded 4 or more sacks trough 2010, this defensive line is one of the deepest and most consistently dominant ones in the league.
3. Tennessee Titans
Stats: 276 com, 204 tot, 72 ast, 28 sacks, 8 FFs
It's no mistake that the Lions and Tennessee Titans feature very similar defensive lines in terms of dominance. Jim Schwartz was originally in Tennessee as Defensive Coordinator prior to becoming Detroit's head coach. While in Tennessee, he helped implement a defensive scheme revered for dominant defensive lines. While the dividends of the system haven't paid off as well as it has in Detroit, there's no doubt the Titans feature an imposing line.
4. Oakland Raiders
Stats: 277 com, 200 tot, 77 ast, 28.5 sacks, 3 FFs
While neither team in the Bay Area was decidedly impressive this year, the Raiders still managed to put up a respectable show. This is thanks in part to guys like Asomugha, Ford, McClain... and their defensive line. Shaughnessy, Kelly, and Seymour are just three cogs in a rotational line that stymies opposing quarterbacks and tailbacks alike.
5. Philedalphia Eagles
Stats: 209 com, 175 tot, 34 ast, 30 sacks, 5 FFs
The only playoff team with a top five defensive line, Trent Cole is a menace at DE and keeps the guys playing beside him well motivated. The defensive woes in Philadelphia are well known by now, but the defensive line is certainly not party to that equation. Time will tell if they continue to improve on this impressive line, or possibly shake the foundation and convert to a 3-4 base scheme.
Honorable Mention - Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 116 com, 63 tot, 53 ast, 8.5 sacks, 3 FFs
While all of the top five are 4-3 base defenses, the Pittsburgh Steelers have managed to possess remarkable play at defensive line with only three down lineman. What they lack in stats outs itself when watching the line play, but their excellent linebacking corps tends to clean up the messes as is common in their scheme.
1. Chicago Bears
KR: 59 ret, 1497 yds, 25.4 avg, 0 TDs
PR: 33 ret, 564 yds, 17.1 avg, 3 TDs
Predictably, the Chicago Bears had the best kick/punt returning in the league for the 2010 season. Led by the greatest returner of all time, Devin Hester combines with Danieal Manning and other special teamers to create a unit that shut down special teams units for most of the year. As long as Hester remains in Chicago, expect the Bears to be a top five lock for years to come.
2. Atlanta Falcons
KR: 46 ret, 1221 yds, 26.5 avg, 1 TDs
PR: 19 ret, 230 yds, 12.1 avg, 1 TDs
Since 2009, third year player Eric Weems has been a dominant force in the NFL. His performance in 2010 hasn't dropped off much if at all, and it's easy to see why with Atlanta's consistent return averages. Since Weems is only going into his fourth year, he should be able to carry this success well into 2011 and beyond.
T3. Tennessee Titans
KR: 64 ret, 1556 yds, 24.3 avg, 1 TDs
PR: 27 ret, 329 yds, 12.2 avg, 1 TDs
Coming in tied for third place in the KR/PR positional rankings is the Tennessee Titans. Mark Mariani has returned nearly 90 punts and kicks for the Titans this year, and has 2 touchdowns to show for it in an impressive rookie season. The future is unclear as to whether or not Mariani will breach into a more active role in the Tennessee offense, but he'll do just fine making himself a paycheck as a return specialist in 2011.
T3. Detroit Lions
KR: 61 ret, 1519 yds, 24.9 avg, 1 TDs
PR: 30 ret, 362 yds, 12.1 avg, 0 TDs
CFL player turned-Steeler turned-Lion Stefan Logan is one of two players to average in the top five of the league in terms of yardage on both kick and punt returns (the other being Mark Mariani.) The Pro Bowl alternate had a special year playing with his new team in 2010, and looks to have a good future as both an offensive cog and a special teamer going into next season with the Lions.
5. Seattle Seahawks
KR: 65 ret, 1558 yds, 24.0 avg, 3 TDs
PR: 42 ret, 468 yds, 11.1 yds, 0 TDs
Ex-Jet Leon Washington had a career year this season for the Seattle Seahawks, helping an improbable playoff team on their way to 7-9 with a stellar performance in his return duties. It's unlikely the Seahawks build this moderate success into a dynasty, but it shouldn't be because of the return game. There's nothing to suggest that Washington will decline next year, but time will tell if his supporting cast can continue to assist him.
Honorable Mention - New England Patriots
KR: 56 ret, 1231 yds, 22.0 avg, 2 TDs
PR: 27 ret, 361 yds, 13.4 avg, 1 TDs
Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman head a kick/punt return group that, while not top five this year, still put on a very strong performance in the 2010 season. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick may be credited with almost everything outside of the Boston Area, but truth be told New England has some very special playmakers all over the field, as evidenced by some strong special teams play this year.