Nov 3, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) pitches the ball as he is pressured by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
So Pro Football Focus, the be all and end all of grading football players, left Muhammad Wilkerson off of their Top 101 list of players from 2013. Then they wrote an article about it where they praised him, said his penalties held him back then said that their own grading formula might be flawed by weighing penalties too highly. They said he played better in 2012 but then said if they didn’t weigh in penalties than he would have been rated at or above Sheldon Richardson at 81. You can find those articles here and here.
Pro Football Focus is fine to quote when you are talking about players to buttress your point about a player but it is far from the be all and end all of a discussion. They look at each individual play but then don’t see the whole game. To ignore Wilkerson’s effect on the game as a whole, game planning for him, the extra room he gives others to rush or stop the run and limit your data to play by play rankings is ludicrous. Football is a team game and offenses and defenses are interconnected groups of players in which the value of one player has an effect on the others around them either positively or negatively. Wilkerson’s effect is clearly positive.
There is a more simple approach. Are there 101 better players in the NFL than Muhammad Wilkerson? No, and there probably aren’t 60 better for that matter. There is no totally objective way to compare football players, because some impacts aren’t measurable despite what crazy analytic statistic is made up. Wilkerson had 63 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception 15 tackles for loss and 6 run stuffs. That’s good right? He had around 1/4 of the sacks of the entire team and he did from a 3-4 end position that is not conducive to pass rushing because of it’s responsibilities with keeping contain and setting the edge. Wilkerson even had 3 pass defenses which is more linebacker-esque than end-like. Oh yeah and he’s 24 years old. Here’s the most important thing, when you were watching the game could you see right away that he was one of the most talented players on the field? My answer is yes.
Would I write an article about this if there were football going on? No, because subjective lists are just that. These are just people’s opinion even though Pro Football Focus is portraying them as gospel. An individual graded these plays by making decisions on what was positive or not and then gave it to an analyst to add their spin. This is just like when they did not give their defensive rookie of the year award to Sheldon Richardson even though he had the best score among the group and was leading each week. My only problem with Pro Football Focus is that they try and make it seem factual. It isn’t and Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best 100 players in football and that’s my opinion.