RGIII deserves spot on NFL’s top 100 list of 2014


(REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files)

There isn’t much visibility into how the NFL selects its top 100 players, but we do know current NFL players are part of the voting process. And we do know there are currently seven quarterbacks in 70 of the 100 spots, with the remaining players revealed over the next few weeks. We also know RGII is not going to be among them. But should he be?

It all depends on how you rank the players. If you are going strictly off last season, which saw RGIII coming back from surgery and playing for a 3-13 team then no, he probably doesn’t deserve a spot in the top 100. But by that method neither does #58 on the list, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.

Flacco led the Ravens to an 8-8 record while completing 59 percent of his passes for 3912 yards and 19 touchdowns. Griffin completed 60.1 percent for 3,203 yards and 16 touchdowns.

According to ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, Flacco ranked 25th out of the 39 quarterbacks rated last season. He ranked second to last (Geno Smith) in Pro Football Focus’ QB Rating among those who took at least half of their team’s snaps.

Using Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value, an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position, Flacco ranked 22 out of the 33 quarterbacks who started at least half of their team’s games in 2013. Griffin ranked 18th.

But this isn’t a list of just quarterbacks, it is a list of the best players in the NFL at large, and even with a disappointing sophomore campaign RGIII still should be considered based on past performance. In fact, according to Approximate Value, Griffin ranks seventh overall among all NFLers in the league since his rookie year in 2012.

If we are going to estimate QB performance for the 2014 season, then RGIII makes an interesting case to be included in the Top 100 as well. After all, the upside of RGIII is very high, which is why the NFL named RGIII the second best QB under the age of 25 and put him 15th on their Top 100 list just a season ago.

So yes, it’s fair to list Griffin among the top five quarterbacks in football, which is likely where he’ll end up on this list. It might not be long before he’s considered No. 1.

This year the Redskins are in a much better position to succeed than at any time in Griffin’s career.

New coach Jay Gruden was able to help improve the Bengals while their offensive coordinator, guiding their offense from the 20th best in the league in yards in 2011 to a top 10 unit in 2013. Quarterback Andy Dalton also improved each year on Gruden’s watch. That’s good news for Griffin.

The wide receiving corps also improved in the offseason into one of the league’s best. DeSean Jackson, the NFL’s top wide receiver last year, will now be RGIII’s primary target. D-Jax had his number called 119 times in Philadelphia last season and made 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. When Eagles quarterbacks threw his way they had a Rating of 124.4, which is higher than what Aaron Rodgers posted in his 2011 MVP campaign in which he completed 68.3 percent of his passes for over 4643 yards and 45 TDs. Jackson also caught 16 of the 33 deep passes (targets of 20 yards or more) and didn’t drop a single ball as a deep threat. That will only help Griffin, who completed just 12-of-46 of his long attempts downfield (20 yards or more) in 2013.

Washington’s red zone offense will also improve. Cincinnati scored 23 touchdowns through the air on 74 passing plays inside the opponent’s 20-yard line last season. The Redskins, on the other hand, threw for 14 TDs on 71 tries.

I would also expect Washington running backs to be more involved in the passing game as well. Last season, only 13.6 percent of targets went to running backs, second-lowest in the league. Cincinatti, meanwhile, targeted Giovani Bernard 69 times – eight more than all of Washington RBs combined.

If we are looking at the past to rank the top 100 then we should give Griffin the benefit of the doubt and include his two-year career. If we are projecting into the future then we should give RGIII credit for playing in what appears to be a better system with better offensive weapons at his disposal. Either way, it looks like he belongs in the top 100.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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