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Pro Football Focus has changed the way NFL teams analyze data, and the Giants are leading the charge


CINCINNATI — Pro Football Focus advertises “Every player, every play, every game” in the lobby of its two-story, red brick office building on Central Parkway in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A Thursday tour of their facility and databases, though, revealed that this ambitious slogan still undersells how deep and nuanced their data, evaluation and dissemination have become.

The public is familiar with the company’s grading system of players, which involves 70 graders assigning values to each player’s performance and 20 senior staff members signing off on those evaluations before they go final.

But PFF, founded in 2008 by Neil Hornsby and bought in 2015 by NFL receiver-turned-analyst Cris Collinsworth, now has 500 employees dedicated to collecting data. And it supplies that data to all 32 NFL franchises and almost 70 college football programs.

This information is both changing and streamlining the way NFL teams are processing and analyzing the game. So here is a look at some interesting Giants-related notes, courtesy of PFF, along with examples of how NFL teams are using PFF to their advantage.


Saquon Barkley gained 54% of his 1,307 rookie-year rushing yards on the 22 carries he took for 15-plus yards. His 54% “breakaway percentage” not only led all 47 NFL backs with at least 100-plus carries in 2018; it ranks first among all 90 rookie running backs with 100 rushes in PFF’s entire database, which goes back to 2006.

Saquon Barkley's 54% "breakaway percentage" was the best rookie rate in Pro Football Focus' entire database. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

This doesn’t say much for the consistency of the Giants’ 2018 running game, but it puts into context just how explosive Barkley was in his rookie year. PFF’s comprehensive ‘Ultimate’ database, then, gives NFL teams the ability to drill down on an eye-opening stat much further.

Opponents can sort Barkley’s explosive gains by the Giants’ offensive formations, for example, to determine in which sets he does the most damage. Or the Giants can click on any Barkley stat and watch video of related plays (provided by other companies), and then view a diagram of all that play’s options and executed assignments.

PFF senior analyst Steve Palazzolo says each NFL team uses the company’s information differently, but PFF has a service team dedicated to fielding questions and feedback from clubs.

The Giants, interestingly enough, were the first NFL team to contact and consult Hornsby going all the way to 2009, when current Giants senior director of football information Jon Berger found the information online intriguing and useful. It spread league-wide in less than a decade.

“PFF Ultimate really is changing the game for NFL and NCAA teams,” says Austin Gayle, senior content and strategy analyst. “Front offices can use it to watch cutups of a prospect's third-down passes in the fourth quarter against Power 5 competition in the red zone at the click of a button. Coaches can scout themselves and opponents using Ultimate's tendency, formation and personnel information. Players can watch tape of themselves or their opponents in a limitless combination of situations.”


PFF’s numbers show Daniel Jones has more than earned his new nickname. Through the Giants’ first two preseason games, Jones ranked fifth in PFF’s accuracy percentage statistic (73.7%) among the 88 NFL quarterbacks with 10 or more attempts this preseason.

This stat is valuable because it is different than tracking whether a pass was complete or not; it’s tracking whether the quarterback threw an accurate pass.

Eli Manning, for example, was around only 56% in accuracy percentage for the 2018 season, which ranked 34th among the 41 NFL QB’s with 100 or more attempts. That means almost one out of every two passes Manning threw last season were inaccurate.

The numbers also show Manning threw a bad deep ball. He completed just 15-of-36 passes for 473 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions when throwing 20-plus yards down the field. He finished the 2018 season ranked 19th in passing grade (71.4) on such throws.

NFL teams can’t get enough of PFF’s quarterback data, though, as you can imagine.

When Giants coach Pat Shurmur was evaluating this spring’s draft class, for example, he could sort PFF’s Ultimate database, by “Daniel Jones, shotgun, 11 personnel” and watch all qualifying throws in succession. Then he could type in Dwayne Haskins’ name and so on.

Rams head coach Sean McVay, meanwhile, hired PFF senior analyst and former NFL QB Zac Robinson this offseason to be L.A.’s assistant quarterbacks coach. Robinson had been watching and grading every QB snap for PFF, and his knowledge of the position and the Rams’ offense impressed McVay.

Former NFL QB Bruce Gradkowski also is now involved in the QB grading and evaluation process. And NFL coaches and former players are constantly visiting the company headquarters to pick PFF’s collective brain.

A few years ago, in fact, former NFL coach Chip Kelly publicly criticized PFF”s grading system, only to visit the offices, observe their comprehensive and objective grading process, and change his mind. He ultimately bought a share of the company.


Cody Latimer will have to be a consistent deep threat this fall for the Giants’ receiving corps to have success, and though he played in only six games last season, one stat stood out: Latimer caught all four of his contested targets 20-or-more yards downfield from Eli Manning in 2018.

The sample size is small, but with Odell Beckham Jr. gone, Golden Tate suspended the first four weeks and Sterling Shepard’s thumb still healing, the Giants need someone to stretch the field. Perhaps Latimer can be that guy.

These types of nuggets are part of what NBC loves about PFF. Collinsworth is the lead analyst alongside Al Michaels on the flagship Sunday Night Football broadcast, but the game’s producers drive the inclusion of PFF metrics to supplement game coverage.

Palazzolo says PFF supplies NBC with a 60-to-80-page stat book each week on the teams facing off in that Sunday night’s game.

The newest metric that PFF is now honing behind the scenes and working on perfecting, would be familiar to baseball fans: W.A.R., or Wins Above Replacement.

It’s complicated to put a number on how many wins a football player is worth to his team, given how many extra variables are at play. But PFF is putting plenty of time and resources into crafting the context of these players’ performances and developing another valuable metric.

Meanwhile, their growing database is also allowing them to start thinking about evaluating coordinators’ offensive and defensive play-calling, based on factors such as how consistently open receivers are schemed and how often a defense generates pressure out of certain sets.


Giants D-lineman B.J. Hill finished his 2018 rookie season ranked tied for 49th in pass-rush win percentage (9.8%) among qualifiers at his position, per PFF. The Giants were one of only eight teams without an interior defensive lineman ranked inside the top-40 in pass-rush win percentage in 2018. They’ll need rookie first-round pick Dexter Lawrence to change that.

Their outside pass rush needs help, too. Olivier Vernon, traded this offseason to Cleveland, recorded 46 (18%) of the Giants’ 255 total pressures in 2018. Lorenzo Carter 29 (11%) was far behind with the second-most pressures. Carter finished the 2018 season ranked tied for 63rd in pass-rush win percentage (11.7%) among the 119 edge defenders with at least 100 pass-rush snaps on the year.

Rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker ranked tied for 10th in coverage grade among qualifying FBS cornerbacks in 2018 while playing for Georgia in the SEC. He also ranked tied for 10th in forced incompletion percentage (29.3%) and seventh in passer rating allowed (40.2).