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Thursday, July 18, 2013
Separating 'elite' from the rest in NFC West

By Mike Sando

Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus has just about finished ranking primary players from each NFL team into seven categories from elite to poor, with a special designation for rookies.

He has covered every NFC West team, allowing me to put together the chart below. Hornsby did not focus solely on starters. He rather focused on primary personnel packages. In some cases, that meant considering a nickel cornerback instead of a run-stopping linebacker. I ordered the chart by most players ranked above average. The order would change if we ranked teams by most players rated elite or high quality.

The Seattle Seahawks came away with the most "elite" players even though Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch were considered "high quality" and Earl Thomas fell into the "above average" category, two levels below elite. Hornsby cited missed tackles in keeping Thomas from the top category. As I noted in the NFC West chat, even if you accept the premise, grading down Thomas in that way struck me as similar to downgrading Shaquille O'Neal for missing foul shots. He still would have started for every team in the league.

Hornsby's full analysis is behind a paywall, so I'll single out one interesting note for conversation regarding each team: