Archive for the ‘Would you rather’ Category

Earlier, I gave you my AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams, the easiest part of which was picking the starting tight ends from each conference. Simply put, Jimmy Graham of the Saints and Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots, who were picked 52 spots apart in the 2010 NFL draft, are having two of the best seasons in NFL history at the tight end position.

And while only 11 weeks ago we were comparing Graham to Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, it’s become clear of late that Graham and Gronkowski stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league’s tight ends. Both are in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of receptions, yardage, touchdowns and first downs.

In less than a week, I’ll give you my All-Pro team in this spot. For that, it won’t be quite as easy to deal with the tight end position, because I’ll have to decide between the two Gs. Maybe laying it all out in the final 2011 edition of Would You Rather will help provide some clarity.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Jimmy Graham
Age: 25
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 122 REC, 1,569 YDS, 12.9 AVG, 15 TD
This season: 91 REC, 1,213 YDS, 13.3 AVG, 10 TD

OR

Rob Gronkowski
Age: 22
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 124 REC, 1,765 YDS, 14.2 AVG, 25 TD
This season: 82 REC, 1,219 YDS, 14.9 AVG, 15 TD

Obviously Gronkowski’s career numbers are better than Graham’s, but it should be noted that he’s had more opportunities in the New England offense. Graham has only started 15 games in his two-year career, while Gronk has started 26. And I don’t think anyone will disagree with the notion that the offense is more crowded in New Orleans than it is in Foxboro.

On a per-start basis, Graham’s numbers are better across the board. He even has a very slight edge in touchdowns per start (15 in 15 vs. 25 in 26).

Let’s set aside their 2010 rookie numbers, because neither really had an obvious edge over the other. This year, Graham’s catching more passes but Gronkowski is scoring more touchdowns. But including Darren Sproles, the Saints have four other receivers with at least six touchdown receptions. Drew Brees likes to spread it around, especially in the red zone.

By comparison, New England has just two other receivers with at least six scores and only three with more than a single touchdown. It seems Tom Brady has been more a creature of habit, which has probably benefited Gronkowski a fair bit.

In terms of athleticism, versatility and explosiveness, Graham probably has an edge. Gronk is three years younger and probably stronger, but he also has a more frightening history with injuries after missing the entire 2009 college football season due to back surgery.

My take: Although it’s seemingly impossible to cover Gronkowski, especially in the red zone, I think I’d take the athletically gifted Graham. The age gap doesn’t worry me too much, because both look to have many good years ahead.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles?

Everyone keeps saying that New Orleans signing Darren Sproles was one of the best moves of the rushed 2011 offseason. And they’re right, but it should be noted that Reggie Bush has also excelled since leaving the Bayou for South Florida.

Because of their similarities on the field and their similarly sized frames, Sproles has often been called a poor man’s Reggie Bush. But this year, he’s emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. Both are having career years.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Reggie Bush
Age: 26
Experience: 6th season
2011 stats: 14 games, 1243 yards from scrimmage, 5.0 yards per carry, 41 REC, 6.6 yards per catch, 7 TD
Career stats: 74 games, 5475 yards from scrimmage, 4.3 yards per carry, 335 REC, 7.2 yards per catch, 46 TD

OR

Darren Sproles
Age: 28
Experience: 7th season
2011 stats: 14 games, 1155 yards from scrimmage, 6.5 yards per carry, 79 REC, 8.3 yards per catch, 7 TD
Career stats: 92 games, 3709 yards from scrimmage, 5.1 yards per carry, 225 REC, 9.1 yards per catch, 24 TD

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. Sproles gets fewer yards per game, but he has historically received significantly fewer touches than Bush.

On 550 career touches, Sproles has averaged 6.7 yards per play. On 1,053 career touches, Bush has averaged just 5.2 yards per play. So on a per-play basis, Sproles has been much more productive. Both players have a touchdown for every 23 touches they’ve had.

So while Sproles is two years older than Bush, he might actually have fresher legs. He’s also dealt with fewer injuries and is less prone to mistakes. Bush has fumbled four times this year, while Sproles has yet to do so.

Finally, something should be said about each guy’s ability as a return threat. Sproles has five career kick/punt return touchdowns, while Bush has four. But he’s had 432 career returns, while Bush has had just 99. Sproles is an effective kick returner, while Bush only returns punts. But Bush has exhibited more home-run punt return ability than Sproles has (although his average is lower). The problem with Bush is that he barely returns anything now, and hasn’t scored since 2008 — he has just one return of 20-plus yards this year (Bush has four and a touchdown).

Gagnon’s take: Bush has the bigger name and has saved face with a solid 2011 season, but Sproles has always been underrated. I don’t care that he’s a couple years older and that his 2011 numbers might be slightly inflated by the presence of Drew Brees, Sproles is still more of an offensive and special-teams threat than Bush is. He’s my guy.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: Injuries are clearly a major factor with Bush, who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year. But although Bush may be more breakable and he doesn’t quite have the same ability to find the soft spots as a receiver that Sproles has, he’s still shown that he can come closer to being a featured, every down running back. Sproles has averaged 54.2 carries per year, to Bush’s 119.6. I’ll favor Bush, but narrowly.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Marshawn Lynch or Ryan Mathews? 

This week, we compare a red-hot Marshawn Lynch to a red-hot Ryan Mathews, both of whom have revived their careers after going through some rough patches. In the month of December thus far, they’ve been two of the most productive backs in the league.

On the surface this would seem like somewhat of an unnatural comparison, since Lynch came into the league in 2007 and Mathews was a rookie last year. But Lynch is actually only a year older than Mathews.

Both are California boys — one Northern (Lynch, who’s from Oakland and went to Cal) and one Southern (Mathews, who’s from Riverside and went to Fresno State). Both are power backs who don’t shy away from contact, shed tackles and leave bruises.

And both are former 12th overall picks trying to live up to lofty expectations.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Marshawn Lynch
Age: 25
Experience: 5th season
2011 season: 12 starts, 969 YDS, 4.3 AVG, 10 TD, 22 REC, 178 REC YDS, 2 FUM
Career stats: 60 starts, 72 YDS/GM, 4.0 AVG, 34 TD, 137 REC, 986 REC YDS, 9 FUM

OR

Ryan Mathews
Age: 24
Experience: 2nd season
2011 season: 12 starts, 943 YDS, 5.1 AVG, 4 TD, 45 REC, 420 REC YDS, 2 FUM
Career stats: 21 starts, 68 YDS/GM, 4.7 AVG, 11 TD, 67 REC, 565 REC YDS, 5 FUM

On a per-play basis, Mathews has obviously been much better. But he also hasn’t been asked to carry the same load Lynch has, which might account for at least a part of the gap that separates the two there.

Still, Mathews has been much more versatile in terms of his ability to be a productive receiver, so he has a clear advantage from a statistical standpoint. (Both players have had fumble issues, but each has fumbled exactly five times in the last two seasons, so neither really has an advantage there.)

You do have to consider the teams they play for. Mathews has been part of a top-notch offense ever since coming into the league last year, with Philip Rivers keeping defenses honest. The Chargers are ranked eighth in football offensively and seventh in passing this year; Seattle is 27th and 24th, respectively. Since the start of the 2010 season, San Diego has averaged 80 more passing yards per game than the Seahawks have, scoring an average of seven more points per game.

Mathews has found the end zone less, but he’s surrounded by a deeper offense and complemented by a touchdown vulture in Mike Tolbert, so that doesn’t necessarily make him less of a scoring threat. Although I still have to give the edge there to Lynch, who simply has a remarkable nose for paydirt. While Mathews has never had a run of 40 yards or more, Lynch has done it six times. The numbers indicate that, so far, he has more home-run ability.

But that could change, as it seems Mathews is hitting his stride right now. Year 3 could be a big one for him. Lynch is already finishing Year 5, which has to force you to wonder how much tread he has left on his tires compared to Mathews. Lynch has already played in 69 career games — he’s missed five due to injury and three due to suspension — and has become a workhorse in recent seasons.

Mathews has fresher legs, but he’s already missed as many games due to injury as Lynch has in his five-year career. So it’s very difficult to predict what the future holds for either player.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: Mathews is finally beginning to produce consistently, averaging 121 rushing yards per game over the past three weeks. But since he’s already missed five games in just two years, it’s difficult to trust his durability. Lynch is a similarly injury-prone player, but long-term I’ll favor the running back with the more punishing downhill style. I’ll take Lynch.

Gagnon’s take: As much as I love what Lynch is doing right now, I don’t trust him to keep it up. Consistency has always been a problem, and his body seems a lot older than 25. Mathews is coming into his own right now. Give me him.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Chris Long or Jason Pierre-Paul?

Both are first-round picks who stumbled out of the gate in similar 4-3 defenses. And both have recently emerged as top-tier defensive ends. Today, we compare Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants to Chris Long of the Rams.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Chris Long
Age: 26
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 60 games, 29.5 sacks, 140 tackles, 6 forced fumbles
2011 stats: 12 games, 12 sacks, 28 tackles, 1 forced fumble

OR

Jason Pierre-Paul
Age: 22
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 28 games, 15 sacks, 83 tackles, 3 forced fumbles
2011 stats: 12 games, 10.5 sacks, 53 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Long’s numbers are a tad distorted after he managed just nine sacks in his first 32 games. Since then, he’s had 20.5 in only 28. Then again, Pierre-Paul had just 4.5 in his rookie campaign — it’s not his fault he became acclimated faster and avoided a sophomore slump.

Overall, the numbers gently favor Pierre-Paul, especially considering his versatility as a guy who can spread out and make tackles. A good example of this came two weeks ago when he made a remarkable play to stop the Saints on a fake field goal attempt. Not many defensive ends would make that kind of play. He can stand up and chip in as a pass defender, too, and is simply one hell of an athlete.

That said, Long is probably a better overall run defender, and his sack numbers have clearly been better thus far. To boot, a recent Pro Football Focus study concluded that, based on sacks and pressures per rush, Long is the fifth-best pass rusher in the league, while Pierre-Paul didn’t make the top 25 despite his big sack total. In fact, in 2011, no player has had more combined sacks, hits and hurries than Long.

Gagnon’s take: I wouldn’t normally gamble on upside over proven production, but Pierre-Paul is already a double-digit sack man at the age of 22. Can’t ignore that — I’ll take the four-year advantage and the more athletic player.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: I agree, as it feels like Pierre-Paul is just beginning to tap into that upside, while Long is slowly reaching his ceiling. That said, based on sack numbers alone it’s difficult to compare the pure pass-rushing skills of these two players, because Pierre-Paul typically receives more help elsewhere on the Giants’ front seven than Long does in St. Louis.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Jay Cutler or John Abraham or Lee Evans in the famous namesake edition

For years, the first thing you got when googling “Jay Cutler” was the Wikipedia bio for an apparently famous bodybuilder who goes by the same name. While the football-playing Jay Cutler has since raised his Google profile above his celebrity namesake, the same can’t be said for Atlanta’s John Abraham, who is still trumped by a Bollywood actor, and Lee Evans, who takes a back seat to a world-renowned comedian.

So this week on Would You Rather, we’re asking who you’d rather be: Jay Cutler the bodybuilder, John Abraham the actor or Lee Evans the professional joker?

Jay Cutler
Age: 38
Measurements: 22-inch calves, 60-inch chest, 19.5-inch neck.
Accolades: Four-time Mr. Olympia.
Benefits: Can win a fight against everyone. Literally, everyone.
Drawbacks: Freak of nature. Roid rage. Potentially smallish testicles

OR

John Abraham
Age: 38
Memorable quote: “And who will decide what is good and what is not?” — Water, 2005.
Accolades: Best supporting actor nominee at the 2006 Filmfare Awards for his role in Baabul.
Benefits: Really, really, ridiculously good looking; movie star in a country with 700 million women.
Drawbacks: May or may not know what NFL football is. Definitely can’t get it on TV.

OR

Lee Evans
Age: 47
You may remember him from: There’s Something About Mary, in which he played Norm, a pizza-delivery boy posing as a disabled British architect in an effort to impress Cameron Diaz’s character.
Accolades: None really, but he’s become a very popular stand-up comedian.
Benefits: Hilarious.
Drawbacks: Sort of reminds us of Pee-wee Herman.

As you can tell, this comes down to brawn vs. charm vs. sense of humor. Do you wanna be jacked? Do you wanna be a heartthrob? Or do you wanna be the funniest guy in the room?

Sean Tomlinson’s take: Why is this even a debate? Of course you should take the quarterback. Wide receivers are widely available, and only the most elite are worth a high price in either free agency or the draft, and the same can be said about defensive ends to a degree. Whether or not Cutler is a franchise quarterback is an entirely different conversation, but he’s the pivot that anchors your offense, and the foundation that you build around.

Gagnon: Probably should have told him I wasn’t talking about the actual NFL players this week. As much as I love attempting to be the funny guy, I’m going with Abraham, who’s got nine years on Evans and is probably a lot richer than Cutler.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather (when we actually took the column seriously): Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco?

OK, I’ll admit that this isn’t the most unique comparison. Ryan and Flacco have been compared constantly since they came into the league together as first-round picks in 2008, and they’ll be compared for the remainder of their careers.

Out of Boston College, Ryan was one of the faces of the ’08 draft, while Flacco was a bit of an afterthought coming out of Delaware. Ryan went on to win the offensive rookie of the year award in Atlanta, but there was no doubt that Flacco would be the runner up in Baltimore.

Since then, both have experienced myriad highs and lows. This year, they’re both struggling more than they’d like — Flacco’s numbers in particular are down — but they’ve both had some big moments, too.

Who would you rather have on your team? Their numbers are eerily similar…

Matt Ryan
Age: 26
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 56 starts, 60.8%, 81 TD, 44 INT, 12,686 YDS, 7.0 AVG, 86.6 rating
This season: 10 starts, 60.8%, 15 TD, 10 INT, 2,625 YDS, 7.3 AVG, 85.5 rating
Career win-loss record: 39-17
Playoff stats: 2 starts, 66.7%, 3 TD, 4 INT, 192 YDS/GM, 5.6 AVG, 71.2 rating
Playoff win-loss record: 0-2

OR

Joe Flacco
Age: 26
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 58 starts, 60.6%, 72 TD, 42 INT, 12,782 YDS, 7.1 AVG, 85.7 rating
This season: 10 starts, 55.4%, 12 TD, 8 INT, 2,576 YDS, 6.6 AVG, 77.6 rating
Career win-loss record: 39-19
Playoff stats: 7 starts, 53.3%, 4 TD, 7 INT, 150 YDS/GM, 5.7 AVG, 61.6 rating
Playoff win-loss record: 4-3

A lot has been made about Flacco’s playoff record, which is obviously significantly better than Ryan’s. But the argument has to be made that Flacco has received more support than his counterpart. Setting aside the games they’ve won in January, Ryan’s playoff numbers are actually significantly better than Flacco’s.

In Flacco’s playoff games, the Ravens defense has surrendered just 16.3 points per game. In Ryan’s playoff games, the Falcons have given up a ridiculous 39 points per game.

So let’s be careful before calling Flacco clutch, because Ryan has done more with less. Consider, too, that Ryan has led more fourth-quarter comebacks (10 to 6) and game-winning drives (15 to 10) than Flacco has.

Sure, Flacco’s broad numbers were stronger than Ryan’s prior to this year, but he’s simply had more support. Also, despite throwing behind a weaker offensive line, Ryan has only been sacked 79 times in his career. Flacco, by comparison, has been taken down on 129 occasions.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: Yes, Flacco has received far more defensive help. But with all due respect to Todd Heap and Derrick Mason, he was still able to throw for 6,584 yards prior to the arrival of Anquan Boldin two years ago, Flacco’s first true deep target. That said, I’ll still favor Ryan, who’s been a little more reliable and accurate. Flacco has had three games in which he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes of the last two years (two this year), while Ryan hasn’t had any.

Gagnon’s take: Flacco shows flashes, but he’s too inconsistent. I don’t think either is an elite quarterback at this point, but I’d rather put my trust in Ryan than Flacco.

Last week’s Would You Rather: Drew Brees or Tom Brady?

They've come a long way since 2002.

Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady. This one’s quite simple. You’ve got the league’s two passing leaders in terms of yardage. Both are Super Bowl champions on perennial Super Bowl contenders. But as of late, both have had their struggles, especially when it comes to interceptions. Brees has 11 interceptions in 10 games, while Brady has thrown 10 picks in eight.

This year, their numbers are crazy close. Brady’s got a longer history and more accolades, but Brees is two years his junior.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Drew Brees
Age: 32
Experience: 11th season
Career stats: 147 starts, 65.6%, 258 TD, 143 INT, 38,592 YDS (263 YDS/GM), 7.4 AVG, 92.5 rating
From the start of 2010: 26 starts, 69.2%, 56 TD, 33 INT, 7,946 YDS, 7.4 AVG, 94.9 rating
This season: 10 starts, 70.9%, 23 TD, 19 INT, 3,326 TDS, 7.9 AVG, 101.3 rating
Career win-loss record: 86-61 (.585)
Playoff stats: 7 starts, 66.3%, 15 TD, 2 INT, 293 YDS/GM, 7.2 AVG, 102.0 rating
Playoff win-loss record: 4-3 (1 Super Bowl victory)
Accolades: 3-time All-Pro, 1-time offensive player of the year, 1-time Super Bowl MVP

OR

Tom Brady
Age: 34
Experience: 12th season
Career stats: 152 starts, 63.8%, 284 TD, 113 INT, 37,776 YDS (249 YDS/GM), 7.5 AVG, 95.7 rating
From the start of 2010: 25 starts, 66.0%, 59 TD, 14 INT, 6,932 YDS, 8.1 AVG, 107.2 rating
This season: 9 starts, 66.1%, 23 TD, 10 INT, 3,032 YDS, 8.4 AVG, 102.0 rating
Career win-loss record: 117-35 (.770)
Playoff stats: 19 starts, 62.2%, 30 TD, 16 INT, 232 YDS/GM, 6.5 AVG, 85.7 rating
Playoff win-loss record: 14-5 (3 Super Bowl victories)
Accolades: 2-time MVP, 2-time All-Pro, 2-time offensive player of the year, 2-time Super Bowl MVP

It’s amazing. Aside from the touchdown-to-interception ratio, Brees has better career numbers than Brady. But of course, that ratio is quite important, and it’s quite a large advantage for Brady. Additionally, Brady has been the hotter and much more accurate quarterback over the last season and a half.

Brees is clearly more of a yardage accumulator, while some might argue that Brady’s has had more fortune on his side. After all, Brady walked into a Bill Belichick dynasty, which explains his ridiculous win-loss percentage and the Super Bowls. Some of that’s on him, but some of it has to do with the teams he’s been on. In six years in New Orleans, Brees’ winning percentage is .629, which closes that gap a little.

Plus, since Brees joined the Saints in 2006, he has a 1-0 edge over Brady in the Super Bowl victories category. And his playoff stats are actually significantly better than Brady’s.

It should be noted that both players have dealt with a significant injury, but since both have bounced back and dominated in the seasons since getting hurt, I don’t think that’s a major factor in the comparison.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: I’ll take Brady by an edge, and it’s always a slight edge in these debates, the kind of edge that wouldn’t even draw blood if it was the edge of a table and you whacked your head off of it. Last year when Brees lost Pierre Thomas and the support of the running game he threw a career-high 22 interceptions. Brady’s on pace for a career-high of his own this year in that area, but his 10 picks look a lot different if we take away his four against Buffalo, which is looking like an anomaly. Brady has done more with less, and he’s rarely received consistent support from the running game.

Gagnon’s take: Aside from his interceptions, the younger Brees puts up bigger numbers than Brady with similar offensive support. Had Brees been in Brady’s spot in 2001, I’m confident that he, too, would have three rings. If I’m starting a new team right now and have the choice, I probably go with Brees.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte?