The only reason I know this is because the mill is about a 45 minute drive from our house, and we visit fairly frequently to purchase seconds. A Pendleton second can be marked as such for things like color variation, shortness in length (3/4" makes it a second1), thin spots (we avoid those), or any of a myriad of reasons.
Since the blankets are actually produced at that mill, we feel assured that we know exactly what we are getting, whether seconds or first quality. Granted, it is far more money than an Italian wool blanket, but I have to write that comparing one of those with some of the upper end Pendletons and claiming the surplus blanket is better seems a bit optimistic at best. Heck, there is a weight of blanket sold by Pendleton which I didn't mention that would better serve as a rug!
All that being written, I cannot claim one brand is better than another. I own four Early's, a couple of Woolrich (Civil War series), and perhaps a half dozen Pendletons. There are also a few no-name wool blankets around the house. I love 'em all and would be hard pressed to pick one out as my favorite, but if it were necessary there is a particular Pendleton that would be my reluctant first choice (wouldn't want to leave any behind ya understand!).