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The 10 Most Mind-Blowing Patriots Stats On Pro Football Focus

BOSTON (CBS) -- Is there an accurate, reliable system of evaluating the quality of NFL players? Stats are nice, but they rarely tell the whole story.

Stats often penalize players for his teammates' mistakes, like Tom Brady's interception against the Colts that was really a drop and tipped ball by Julian Edelman. Did Malcolm Butler give up a touchdown against Odell Beckham Jr., or was that play Devin McCourty's fault?

That's where Pro Football Focus comes in. The website, according to its "About" page, aims to "provide the most in-depth, accurate and thought-provoking information on professional football player performance available on the web." One of PFF's flagship products is its "grading" system, which scores players ranging from -2 to +2 on every play based on how well they executed their individual assignments. Analysts then assign "grades" out of 100 for overall performance and other aspects of the game particular to their position. For example, a quarterback would be graded based on just his passing and running, while a cornerback would be graded on his coverage, run defense, and pass rushing.

In assigning individual grades and looking beyond the actual stats, PFF's system successfully removes the influence of teammates' performance on each other, like an "incompletion" that was actually a bad drop by the receiver, or a stuffed run that happened because of missed blocking assignments rather than indecisive running.

The inherent "flaw" (if you wish to call it that) in the system is that it's wholly subjective and ostensibly inconsistent. PFF's analysts are like the Wizard of Oz, mysterious puppet masters shrouded in secrecy, and they couldn't possibly all share the same opinions about every play. In fact, technically anyone can be an analyst - but you'd need to demonstrate valuable knowledge.

It's reasonable to look at PFF's grades with a raised eyebrow. But like baseball's WAR stat is head-achingly convoluted but ultimately accurate based on the top-ranked players, PFF's grades ultimately rank the league's best players at the top of the class, making them hard to ignore.

That's why it may surprise you to see these Patriots players ranked so highly among their peers at their positions. PFF believes these guys are playing as well as the league's elite this season, either overall or in a specific area, and until now you may have been understandably skeptical of that. You may still have your doubts after this list. But if you dismiss PFF's rankings, you're saying that either the top players are overrated or that they have a pro-Patriots bias.

Here are some PFF claims about the Patriots that may blow your mind...

1. Tom Brady Is The 12th-Best RUNNING Quarterback In The League

at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Everyone knows what Tom Brady can do when he's rifling the football down the field. But he's never been regarded as anything remotely resembling a "mobile" quarterback. Even with his recent improvements in moving around in the pocket, Brady has always had low-end speed when forced to run.

So it may make you spit your drink out to learn that Brady is ranked 12th among NFL quarterbacks in running ability, with a grade of 83.4. He ranks ahead of Andrew Luck (83.1) and just behind Michael Vick (86.6). The top 10 features several with quarterbacks who are highly regarded for their running ability: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, and Cam Newton can be legit playmakers with their legs.

The quarterbacks who rank behind Brady as runners aren't exactly impressive, but it may surprise you to learn that Brady is not only far from the worst running quarterback in the league, he's actually a decent one. This isn't to say he's suddenly Steve McNair, but it's an indication that when forced to run Brady has ran intelligently and maximized the yardage available to him.

2. Josh Kline Is The Patriots' Best Offensive Lineman

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18: Josh Kline #67 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The offensive line has become more of an issue with the Patriots as the season has gone along. Injuries and positional dilemmas have caused inconsistency on the line and brought trouble from talented pass rushers in recent weeks.

Sebastian Vollmer is often cited as the Patriots' best offensive lineman, and he is certainly the most experienced. But it is guard Josh Kline who rates the highest among all Patriots linemen with an overall grade of 80.9, which would rate him as an above-average starter (85-89 indicates a "Pro-Bowler"). This ranks him 21st in the league, just behind old friend Logan Mankins. Ravens stalwart and 2014 First Team All-Pro Marshal Yanda is the top-rated guard, lending credence to PFF's grading for linemen.

3. Jabaal Sheard, Not Chandler Jones, Is The Patriots' Best Edge Defender

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Jabaal Sheard #93 of the New England Patriots sacks Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills during the second half on September 20, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. New England defeats Buffalo 40-32. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jabaal Sheard; Tyrod Taylor

Just looking at sack totals, it may appear that Jones is the one who has been dominating up front for the Patriots' ferocious front seven. At times, he has blown up plays and taken over series with his pass-rushing, but he hasn't done it as much in recent weeks and hasn't performed as well in other situations. It's Jabaal Sheard who has been the Patriots' most consistently effective edge defender, ranking 12th in the NFL with an overall grade of 85.6 ("Pro-Bowler") - just ahead of the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, James Harrison, Jerry Hughes, Robert Quinn, and Carlos Dunlap.

While Sheard has delivered some eye-popping pass rushing plays, it's his run defense that has vaulted him into Pro-Bowl status. He ranks fifth in the league with an 87.5 run defense grade, sandwiched between Michael Bennett and Von Miller. Sheard is keeping pace with some elite company at his position.

Run defense is also the main reason that...

4. Chandler Jones Is Only 32nd Among Edge Defenders

of the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

You could be a great pass rusher, but if you can't defend against the run your overall ability still takes a major hit. Jones is unquestionably a dynamic talent, but his supposed weak spot has always been against big running backs going right at him, and it hurts his overall grade as an edge defender (79.8, an above-average starter). Jones has made plenty of flashy plays and racked up some sacks, but hasn't consistently brought pressure or defended the run the way Sheard has. It's a strong example of sacks being one of the most overrated stats in sports.

5. Dion Lewis Is The 10th-Best BLOCKING Running Back In The League

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tom Brady #12 hands off to Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dion Lewis caught New England's attention with impressive plays catching of the backfield, but his most underrated skill was his pass-blocking ability. At 5'8" and 195 pounds, Lewis will not intimidate any pass rusher. But he will slow them down better than most running backs in the league; Lewis' 78.8 pass-blocking grade ranks him 10th overall.

Don't let the small sample size fool you; Lewis was as much of a factor as anyone in Brady's early-season pass protection.

6. Patrick Chung Is A Top-5 Safety

New England Patriots v New York Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 15: Patrick Chung #23 of the New England Patriots is called for pass interference on a pass intended for Shane Vereen #34 of the New York Giants during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 15, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

If some Patriots players' improvements hadn't been noticeable, Chung's improvement in coverage has. Once maligned as a pure tackler who couldn't hold his own in coverage down the field, Chung has transformed into a very good cover corner and the difference between now and his first stint with the Patriots has been striking. He ranks fifth overall among NFL safeties with an 88.1 grade; 90 or more would rate him as "elite."

Chung ranks just behind former First-Team All-Pros Harrison Smith and Eric Berry, and ahead of the Seahawks' Earl Thomas. Again, if you don't believe these numbers you must think Smith and Berry aren't that good either.

Chung's ranking isn't even the biggest surprise at the safety position. It may shock you that PFF believes that...

7. Duron Harmon Is The 4th-Best Coverage Safety In The League

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29: Duron Harmon #30 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

As good as Devin McCourty has been for the Patriots defense since moving to safety, the players under him on the depth chart have performed well too. In fact, they've been far better than you would probably guess. Duron Harmon, for instance, ranks fourth in the NFL in "coverage" among safeties with an 86.0 grade, just behind teammate Chung. Yes, that Duron Harmon.

Throughout his young career, Harmon hasn't exactly made a name for himself making plays, but he had at least proven himself as an upgrade over previous Patriots safeties by simply not getting burned for big plays. It pretty much never happens with Harmon on the field; he has to be doing something right. And PFF apparently recognizes his coverage as Pro-Bowl level.

The surprises in the secondary don't end with the safeties. Would it shock you that according to PFF...

8. Logan Ryan Is The 5th Best Overall Cornerback In The League

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos misses a catch while cornerback Logan Ryan #26 of the New England Patriots defends in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 29, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After a promising rookie season, Logan Ryan took a step back in 2014 as a backup corner for the Patriots. But in 2015, after the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner forced him into a starting role, Ryan has taken a thrilling leap forward as a cover corner and may be emerging as not just the best corner on the Patriots, but one of the best in the entire league. Entering Week 15, Ryan grades 88.3 overall, fifth among all cornerbacks. He ranks behind the likes of Tyrann Mathieu, Josh Norman, and Chris Harris Jr., who are universally regarded as elite cover corners. Bill Belichick looks like a genius for retaining Ryan over Kyle Arrington and others.

Ryan has especially turned heads in recent weeks, blanketing freakishly talented No. 1 receivers like the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas and the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins. Ryan's coverage grade is at 86.5, ranking him 11th in the league and one spot ahead of Richard Sherman. He's had safety help over the top against some receivers, but that doesn't matter with PFF. According to their analysts, he is doing his job, regardless of everyone else.

Ryan's high ranking might catch your eye. But it may also surprise you that...

9. Malcolm Butler Is Only 30th-Best Among Cornerbacks

New England Patriots v New York Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 15: Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants in action against Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 15, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

As great as Ryan's story has been in the Patriots secondary, Malcolm Butler's has been just as exciting. Definitively proving he will not go down as a one-play wonder, Butler has emerged as a legitimate threat and relentless competitor in coverage against top receivers, most notably when he locked down Odell Beckham after an early touchdown.

But as good as Butler has looked, at times he has also gotten beaten down the field for big plays. He still needs work defending against high throws over the top to big receivers. His occasional mistakes have earned him a 78.7 overall grade, 30th among cornerbacks. Butler's coverage grade, however, is at 81.4, 24th in the league and just behind Aqib Talib and Sean Smith. Butler's overall grade is hurt by his poor run defense (38.4), a surprising score considering how good of a tackler he is.

Butler's ranking may not sound good, but he is still graded as an above-average starting NFL corner. For an undrafted free agent with only 13 career starts? Pret-tayyy, pret-tayyy, pret-ty good.

10. James White Is The 6th-Best Receiving Running Back In The NFL

Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: James White #28 of the New England Patriots runs after catching a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It may be easy to dismiss James White's lofty ranking among pass-catching running backs because of the sample size. White has only assumed even a secondary role in the Patriots backfield since Dion Lewis' injury, and while he may not be the dynamic open-field threat that Lewis was, he has made his share of plays as Brady's top receiver out of the backfield.

White's "receiving" grade is 87.5, which ranks him 6th in the league based on his average output. Established high-end backfield receivers like Arian Foster and Danny Woodhead populate the top of the list, once again giving legitimacy to PFF analysts.

His putrid grades in pure running and pass-blocking leave his overall ranking low (63.2, 50th in the league). But White's primary role will be to catch passes out of the backfield, and if he can keep producing like he has he may be a valuable piece of the Patriots offense down the stretch.

Matt Dolloff is a writer for His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at

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