Pro Football Forcus and ESPN teamed up torank the 32 NFL teams based on their projected starting lineups. Using PFF's "grading, data, and football knowledge" they ranked the 12 players for each team's starting lineups/third down/nickel defenses. Where do the Miami Dolphins rank in the grading?
To understand the rankings, we take a look at the color coding of each player, first. Blue are "elite" players, dark green "high quality" players, and light green "good starters." The colors continue with yellow representing "average starters," orange "below average starters," and red "poor starters." The last two colors, gray and purple, represent "not enough information" and rookies, respectively.
Teams like the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, not surprisingly, top the list, with Seattle edging their NFC West rivals. Seattle comes in with Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas reaching the elite level, while Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, and Kam Chancellor all are tabbed as "high quality" starters.
The 49ers only have one elite player - Patrick Willis - according to the rankings, while Bruce Miller, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith all are just a step below the elite level. According to the grading criteria, however, the 49ers do not have a starter under the "average" rating, other than unknown center Daniel Kilgore and rookie Jimmie Ward. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have two orange category, "below average" players at their two guard positions.
Jumping down to the Miami Dolphins, the team surprisingly ranks at 13, with one elite player in Cameron Wake, and three "high quality" starters in Branden Albert, Randy Starks, and Brent Grimes. While Ja'Wuan James at right tackle gets the purple rookie tage and Dallas Thomas at right guard receives the gray "not enough information" moniker, the rest of the Miami offense is at least "average" (Shelley Smith and Lamar Miller), with the vast majority reaching the "good starters" light green, with Ryan Tannehill, Knowshon Moreno, Charles Clay, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, and Mike Pouncey all falling in the category.
The defense, however, is another story. While Wake is elite and Starks and Grimes are high quality, there are a lot of orange ranked "below average" players manning the Miami defense. Olivier Vernon, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, and Cortland Finnegan all fall in the orange. Louis Delmas and Koa Misi are in the yellow "average starter" levels, while Jared Odrick and Reshad Jones are "good starters." Jamar Taylor makes up the 12th defensive player, coming in with the gray "not enough information" label.
Here is the full write up from PFF and ESPN on the thinking behind the Dolphins ratings:
13. Miami Dolphins
Miami had some obvious problems ending the 2013 season, and to its credit the team has aggressively tried to fix them before the next season rolls around.
Branden Albert coming in at left tackle represents a 19.5-point swing in PFF grading for pass protection towards the green, with Albert surrendering less than half the total pressure Bryant McKinnie did this past season. Ja'Wuan James was seen by many as a reach in the first round -- he was Todd McShay's ninth-graded offensive lineman with a second-round grade -- but he does address a clear need, and as McShay points out has "very good natural tools as a pass protector."
This bolstering of the pass protection is key for the team, as Ryan Tannehill's passer rating dropped almost 50 points from 94.2 to 46.3 when he felt pressure in 2013. The team added some impressive depth in free agency, including Earl Mitchell on the defensive line and Louis Delmas in the secondary.
By the numbers: The right side of the offensive line is a question mark, but otherwise eight members of the projected starting lineup (66.7 percent) rank as good starters or better. There are more question marks on the defense, where 50 percent of the unit is graded as average or worse.