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Where I agree, disagree with PFF on grades: Keenan Lewis, Curtis Lofton underrated

ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters and Pro Football Focus both took a detailed look at the rosters of every team that failed to make the Super Bowl this season, with PFF using its grading history to determine "how far away" each team was.

I had some strong disagreements with some of PFF’s grades (especially when it came to cornerback Keenan Lewis and linebacker Curtis Lofton, whom they inexplicably categorized as "bad" players in 2014). Those two were on my short list of the New Orleans Saints' MVP candidates for 2014 -- a belief that was only further backed up when I chatted with some personnel folks last week at the Senior Bowl.

You can check out my thoughts on many of the individual grades in the report and the accompanying video.

Where I agreed most with PFF, though, was that the Saints didn’t have enough players playing at an "elite" level in 2014 -- or even at the level PFF designated as "good." They had a total of five players in those categories in 2014, with quarterback Drew Brees and outside linebacker Junior Galette listed as elite, and running back Pierre Thomas, tight end Jimmy Graham, and offensive tackle Zach Strief as good.

A strong argument could be made that the Saints had no elite players in 2014, which was their biggest problem.

As I’ve written several times in recent weeks, the way the Saints have structured their roster, they have invested heavily in six to eight guys that are supposed to be elite – including Brees, Graham, guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, receiver Marques Colston, safety Jairus Byrd, Galette, and defensive end Cameron Jordan. Brees makes $20 million per year, and all the others make between $7 million and $10 million per year, if you include the 2015 option the Saints exercised on Jordan. But all of them underachieved to one level or another.

Check out the full breakdown of the Saints’ roster and other rosters around the league. It goes deeper than just the grades -- with breakdowns of the teams’ biggest needs, their best and worst values, and the good news and the bad news looking forward.

ESPN scouting analyst Matt Williamson also wrote an intriguing companion piece (which requires Insider access), ranking which NFL teams have the best talent aged 25 and underInsider. The Saints are in the middle of the pack.