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CBS Sports' Four Pronged Rankings: An Exercise In Confusion

Ladies and Gentlemen - Matt Moore, the Worst Starting Quarterback in the NFL.
Ladies and Gentlemen - Matt Moore, the Worst Starting Quarterback in the NFL.

Media and fans alike love to rank NFL teams. From power rankings to player rankings to draft grade rankings, comparing one team to another is commonplace, even if the basis for those rankings is not. Some rankings simply, and subjectively, pick teams. Some rankings try to add objectivity by using one set of statistics or another.

And then, there are rankings like CBS Sports' Pete Prisco's "Four Pronged Rankings" that that try to rank teams objectively based on subjective grading.

Confused? We aren't even into the rankings yet.

Prisco explains that the NFL is a "air" game, or a passing league that requires the ability to throw the ball and stop the other team from passing. In order to rank a team, and therefore predict whether that team should have success, Prisco looks at four areas:

1. Get a franchise passing quarterback.

2. If you have that guy, get the player who can knock down the other guy's franchise passer.

3. If you have those two, get the corner who can knock down the quarterback's passes.

4. If you have those three, make sure to get a premium tackle to keep the other teams' pass rushers off your quarterback.

Each team is then placed into a ranking along each of those four categories (subjectively). Once that is done, the rankings filter into a formula (the attempt to turn the subjective into objective), where the rankings for each team are awarded points inverse to their ranking (i.e., first place gets 32 points, second place 31). Those points are then added together (with the quarterback ranking being weighted with twice the points), to finally rank all 32 NFL teams.

Confused now? It gets better.

Each ranking is only allowed one player, so a team that has two stellar pass rushers only gets to use one of them for their point total (we'll come back to this point later). Prisco also subjectively chooses who will get the points awarded, such as a rookie who may or may not start, but does update his rankings to take out injured players (like the Baltimore Ravens' Terrell Suggs).

Essentially, Prisco feels that, if you are good at all four of his "prongs," you should be successful in the NFL. As he writes, "That doesn't mean the Cowboys are my pick to win the Super Bowl. It just means they are positioned well at four key spots."

According to Prisco's rankings, the Cowboys are the top team in the NFL, with 135 points, with Green Bay a distant second at 119 points.

So, let's turn to look at our own Miami Dolphins. Overall, Prisco rates the Dolphins to be the 19th best team in the league, tied with the San Francisco 49ers, with 77 points. That puts them ahead of teams like the Ravens and the current popular dark-horse team in the league, the Buffalo Bills, while behind teams like the St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and the top ranked Cowboys.

How did the Dolphins get their 77 points?

Left tackle Jake Long took fourth place in the tackles rankings, falling behind the Houston Texans' Duane Brown, the Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas, and the Cowboys' Tyron Smith. Fourth place claimed 29 points for Miami.

As for pass rushers, Miami's Cameron Wake came in as the eighth ranked player. Ahead of him were DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, Mario Williams, Clay Matthews, and Dwight Freeney. Eighth place adds 25 points.

As for cornerbacks, Miami finds Vontae Davis as the twelfth best coverage guy in the league, according to Prisco. That gives the Dolphins another 21 points.

So, with three positions complete, the Dolphins have 75 points. Since they only rate 77 total points, then that means the quarterback position must count for 2 points. With the double points given to quarterback, that means Miami's starting quarterback received one point, or ranks dead last in the league.

And, that's exactly where you find Matt Moore/Ryan Tannehill ranked (remember that rule that only one player could be ranked per team - apparently that doesn't matter in this case).

Apparently, Matt Moore - who will most likely be the starting quarterback to start the 2012 season - is so bad at the position, he ranks being Colt McCoy/Brandon Weeden, Matt Flynn, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Kevin Kolb/John Skelton, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Matt Cassel, Matt Hasselbeck (who isn't a sure thing to start - but he doesn't get the rule violating double listing), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Joe Falcco, and Cam Newton.

Does Moore rank ahead of all of those QBs? Maybe not. But given Moore's 12th ranked passer rating from last season, he's probably ahead of most of them.

But, obviously, he is such a poor quarterback, we should subjectively rank him dead last in the league.

Maybe it's my Miami homerism, but I think Moore deserves to be ahead of at least a few of those other guys I listed.

Since we are already on the topic, here are the top ten NFL teams, according to Prisco's subjectively objective rankings:

1. Dallas Cowboys (135 points)
2. Green Bay Packers (119)
3(t). Denver Broncos (118)
3(t). Houston Texans (118)
5. Carolina Panthers (113)
6. New York Giants (110)
7(t). New Orleans Saints (94)
7(t). Philadelphia Eagles (94)
9(t). Chicago Bears (93)
9(t). Kansas City Chiefs (93)

[Hat tip to ct1361]