News & Analysis

How PFF grades all positions at the NCAA and NFL levels

During the NFL season, our team of 400-plus staff spend around 20,000 man-hours of work to grade and analyze every play of the NFL season, from the kickoff in the Hall of Fame game to the final play of the Super Bowl.

Memories can deceive, and highlights by their nature miss out on the vast majority of a player’s game, but PFF covers every player on every play of every game to give you the most comprehensive analysis of player performance you can find anywhere. Below is a series of articles, written by Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo, detailing the ins and outs of our groundbreaking grading system.

How we grade quarterback play


The PFF grading system is all about isolating the quarterback’s performance on a given play. We bring context to every throw, with a focus on timing, decision-making, accuracy and much more. Raw passing stats are often a gauge of the passing offense, and pass defense, as a whole, the PFF system is measuring the quarterback’s contribution to that production. Read more…

How we grade running backs


The PFF grading system isolates the runner’s role on each carry, separating the work he does from that of his blockers. Expectations change given the run concept, down and distance, quality of run blocking and number of defenders in the box, and the raw grades will be adjusted on each play. Many runs will receive neutral or expected grades depending on opportunity or quality of blocking on the play, and our system accounts for those variations. Read more…

How we grade receivers


The PFF grading system isolates the targeted receiver’s role on every pass attempt. Credit is given for plays in which the receiver adds value to the offense, especially when it’s above and beyond what was called for schematically. Read more…

How we grade run blocking


The PFF grading system isolates the role of each run-blocker on every running play. Blockers can earn positives for creating movement or winning their gap, while negative grades are assigned for poor blocks, with varying levels of downgrades within the system. There are many blocks that fall into the “expected” category and will receive a neutral grade, as both the run-blocker and defender end up in either a stalemate or a situation where the play calls for both players to achieve a similar result. Read more…

How we grade pass protection


The PFF grading system isolates the role of each pass-blocker with an emphasis on avoiding negative plays. In a “fault-based” system, the best pass protectors are expected to avoid losses, and each play is assigned a different level of difficulty or expectation based on factors such as down and distance and dropback depth of the quarterback (passing concept). A blocker who does his job will receive a fraction of a positive grade depending on the situation, using those previously listed parameters. Read more…

How we grade run defense


The PFF grading system isolates the play of each run defender on every play. Good run defenders will disrupt and finish plays while playing with sound gap control and discipline. This should all shine through in the PFF system which looks to add proper context to the execution of each play. Read more…

How we grade pass-rushers


The PFF grading system isolates the role of each pass-rusher, with an emphasis on creating positive plays. In a “credit-based” system, the best pass-rushers are expected to win at a high rate, and each play is assigned a different level of difficulty or expectation based on factors such as down and distance and dropback depth of the quarterback (passing concept). A rusher who fails to win or make an impact on a play will receive a fraction of a negative grade depending on the situation, using those previously listed parameters. Read more…

How we grade coverage


The PFF grading system is target-driven at the coverage level, crediting or deducting from all players involved either at the catch point or after the catch. Players away from the catch point will receive grading adjustments based on down and distance and other situational expectations. Read more…

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