SackSEER 2023: Is Tyree Wilson Overrated?

Texas Tech Red Raiders ER Tyree Wilson
Texas Tech Red Raiders ER Tyree Wilson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - The 2022 NFL draft was extremely strong for edge rushers. Three edge rusher prospects were drafted in the top five selections: Tavon Walker, Aidan Hutchinson, and Kayvon Thibodeaux went Nos. 1, 2, and 5 overall, respectively. Although not quite as ballyhooed as the 2022 class, the 2023 class includes three edge rusher prospects who are slotted to go in the first 10 picks: Will Anderson, Myles Murphy, and Tyree Wilson.

SackSEER, Football Outsiders' statistical system for projecting the NFL success of college edge rushers, agreed with conventional wisdom that the 2022 class was strong. This year, however, SackSEER is much less bullish on the top available prospects. Indeed, SackSEER would rank the top prospect in this year's draft behind all three of the prospects in last year's draft. That said, this could be a good edge rusher draft for NFL teams looking for value as there are some intriguing players who may still be on the board in the second round.

SackSEER is based on a statistical analysis of all edge rushers drafted in the years 1998 to 2019 and measures the following:

  • The edge rusher's projected draft position. Specifically, the rankings from ESPN's Scouts, Inc.
  • An "explosion index" that measures the prospect's scores in the 40-yard dash, the vertical leap, and the broad jump in pre-draft workouts.
  • The prospect's score in the 3-cone drill.
  • A metric called "SRAM" which stands for "sack rate as modified." SRAM measures the prospect's per-game sack productivity, but with adjustments for factors such as early entry in the NFL draft and position switches during college.
  • The prospect's passes defensed divided by college games played.

Below, we take a look at some of SackSEER's top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft, along with some similar prospects from previous drafts.

Will Anderson, Alabama

SackSEER Projection: 25.9 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 2 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Ryan Kerrigan, Emmanuel Ogbah

No controversy here. Will Anderson is the consensus top edge rusher according to Scouts, Inc., and SackSEER agrees. The more difficult question is whether Anderson is worth the lofty price as he will likely command a top-five pick.

Anderson had very good sack production, recording 34.5 sacks in 41 games with the Crimson Tide. Anderson's passes defensed rate was below average, but only slightly so, and thus not a major concern. Anderson only ran one SackSEER drill at the combine—the 40-yard dash. He ran it in 4.60 seconds at 253 pounds, which is very good, but not good enough to dethrone some of the greatest performances of edge rusher prospects in past drafts.

Anderson's SackSEER projection is high enough that he should certainly succeed—and maybe even become a star—but it also suggests that he may not be an elite prospect.

Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

SackSEER Projection: 24.5 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 21 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Ezekiel Ansah, Rashan Gary

Lukas Van Ness never truly broke out as a pass-rusher at Iowa, but SackSEER suggests that his best days could be in front of him. Van Ness had a good combine, running the 40-yard dash in only 4.58 seconds and the 3-cone in only 7.02 seconds. These are extremely good times for a player who weighs in at 272 pounds.

Van Ness' weakness is his production. His passes defensed rate was average, and his best season for sack numbers was his freshman year, when he recorded 7.0 sacks in 13 games.

Production is not everything, and there is a fairly long list of edge rushers who never hit double-digit sacks in a season in college but later did so several times in the NFL. You never want to bet too hard on an edge rusher without tremendous college production, but Van Ness offers tantalizing upside as a player with a great combination of size and athleticism.

Myles Murphy, Clemson

SackSEER Projection: 21.9 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 7 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Derrick Morgan, Shaq Lawson

Myles Murphy's relatively high projection is almost entirely due to his high projected draft position, as his SackSEER projection is a mix of mediocrity and question marks. Murphy's production is very similar to Van Ness'. He recorded 18.5 sacks and five passes defensed in 35 games. However, he does not have the workout numbers that Van Ness does. In fact, Murphy has no workout numbers at all. Murphy did not do agility drills at the combine and sat out his pro day with a hamstring injury.

All of SackSEER's drills are correlated with one another, so it is usually not a huge problem if a prospect misses one of the drills. However, when a prospect has no drills at all, the only thing that SackSEER can do is project his drills based on his weight.

It could very well be that NFL decision-makers know (or suspect) that Murphy would post outstanding workout numbers if he could participate. In that case, it may be wise to disregard Murphy's SackSEER altogether. However, absent that, SackSEER suggests that Murphy may be significantly overrated at his projected draft position.

Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

SackSEER Projection: 20.8 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 35 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Aaron Schobel, Chandler Jones

Isaiah Foskey is the first prospect on SackSEER's top projections that does not have a first-round projection, and he gets there through a combination of athleticism and production.

Foskey's combine performance was a bit mixed, but strong overall. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, which is amazing for a player who weighs in at 264 pounds. His vertical leap was just average at 34 inches, but his 10-foot-5 broad jump was much better. However, he had a relatively slow 3-cone at 7.28 seconds, which could suggest that he lacks the lateral agility of other prospects.

Foskey's sack production was strong. He recorded 25.0 sacks in 37 games, with 20.5 of those sacks coming in his last two seasons. However, he only recorded two passes defensed.

Foskey's good metrics are better than his bad metrics are bad, so it more than balances out into a reasonably strong projection.

Will McDonald IV, Iowa State

SackSEER Projection: 20.6 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 65 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Leonard Little, Julian Peterson

Aside for possibly one sleeper in the later rounds, SackSEER believes that Will McDonald IV provides the best value of any edge rusher in this year's draft. McDonald is consistently strong in each of SackSEER's metrics and has a profile that is very similar to prospects who have succeeded in the past.

McDonald performed both the vertical leap and broad jump at the combine, despite just recovering from a fever. He performed well, recording a vertical leap of 36 inches and a broad jump of 11 feet even. McDonald followed up this performance at his pro day by running the 40-yard dash in what has been reported in the 4.62-second to 4.63-second range. There has been some inconsistent reporting on his 3-cone drill time, but all of his reported times are exemplary.

McDonald's production was also good. McDonald recorded 10.5 and 11.5 sacks in his sophomore and junior years, respectively, before dropping to only 5.0 sacks as a senior. The drop in sack production is not too concerning—sometimes a dominant college player loses production after facing increasing double teams and plays called away from him. McDonald also recorded seven passes defensed, which gives him a slightly above average passes defensed rate.

McDonald's biggest weakness is his relatively small size at 239 pounds. However, several edge rushers weighing in at less than McDonald have found success, such as Leonard Little, Robert Mathis, and Trent Cole.

This is a draft that SackSEER thinks is, overall, weak at the edge rusher position and a bit overrated. In a draft like this, McDonald could provide terrific value in the second round.

Nolan Smith, Georgia

SackSEER Projection: 19.6 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 42 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Barkevious Mingo, Trent Cole

Put simply, Nolan Smith blew up the combine. Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and is only the third player in SackSEER's database to run a sub 4.40-second 40, with the other two being Jayson Oweh and Amare Barno. Smith's other explosion drills were also great—he recorded a 41.5-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot-8 broad jump. It is enough to make him one of the five most "explosive" edge rusher prospects of all time.

The bad news is that Smith's college production was not great. He recorded only 12.5 sacks and four passes defensed in 38 games with the Bulldogs. The bad news is also that he is undersized at only 239 pounds.

It's easy to characterize Smith as a "workout warrior," and there is certainly a long list of players who performed at the combine but could not produce at either the college or NFL levels. However, success for Smith is far from impossible, as several edge rushers with relatively low college production and great workouts have become good pros, such as Michael Johnson and the aforementioned Cole.

Byron Young, Tennessee

SackSEER Projection: 19.2 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 62 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Cliff Avril, Jason Pierre-Paul

Byron Young is a similar prospect to Nolan Smith, but stronger in a few areas. Like Smith, Young also performed well at the combine, except that his numbers were not quite as eye-popping. Young ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, recorded a 38-inch vertical leap, and slightly bested Smith at the broad jump at 12 feet even. However, Young's combine was arguably more impressive because he recorded his numbers at 250 pounds rather than 239. In that regard, Young better fits the more typical size-speed profile for an edge rusher.

Like Smith, Young lacked outstanding sack production. Smith recorded only 12.5 sacks in 23 games with the Volunteers. However, unlike Smith, Young had only two seasons of FBS football, as his first two years were in junior college. Accordingly, Young's production comes from a small sample size while he was relatively inexperienced, suggesting that he may have room to grow in the future.

Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

SackSEER Projection: 18.9 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 5 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Dion Jordan, Jamal Reynolds

Tyree Wilson, despite being rated as the fifth overall prospect by Scouts, Inc., has a low SackSEER projection, which puts him behind several potential second-round talents, even after accounting for Wilson's high draft position. However, this projection should come with a huge asterisk because Wilson has yet to perform any pre-draft agility drills due to injury.

To set the table, let's start with why Wilson's baseline projection is so low. Wilson recorded only 17.0 sacks in 35 games with the Red Raiders, which gives him a much lower sack rate than prospects who typically go in the first half of the first round. In addition, he recorded only one pass defensed in his college career.

It begs the question of whether Wilson's high draft position is based on an expectation that he has outstanding physical tools and that those would be reflected in agility drill numbers, which we do not have due to his injury. Without anything to go on, SackSEER projects his drills based only on his weight, which may not be representative of his true ability.

Let's look at some of the best- and worst-case scenarios for his projections based on hypothetical workouts. The best-case scenario is that Wilson has a Nolan Smith-level workout where his performance ranks against the historically great numbers on the drills that SackSEER cares about. In that case, Smith's projection would skyrocket to 29.0 sacks, making him the consensus best edge rusher prospect in this year's draft. More realistic is a good but not historically great showing, much like Isaiah Foskey, which would bring Smith to 23.2 sacks. This result would make Wilson's high draft projection more understandable, but it would still suggest that he was somewhat overrated as a top-10 overall pick. There is also the "disaster" scenario where he performs poorly, similarly to Tamba Hali (who turned out to be a great pro), which would dip his projection to 15.3 sacks and would give Wilson the worst SackSEER projection of any top-10 pick in SackSEER's database, ranking him behind Clelin Ferrell and Dion Jordan.

Wilson has indicated that he plans to work out before the draft after skipping his pro day, so we may get more clarity before the Panthers go on the clock. At the moment, Wilson is a huge question mark, but his low baseline projection suggests that it may be difficult to live up to his high status as a possible top 10 pick.

Potential Sleeper: Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

SackSEER Projection: 15.1 sacks through fifth season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 156 Overall
Similar Historical Prospects: Margus Hunt, Will Smith

Adetowima Adebawore may project as an inside end in a 3-4 or a defensive tackle on pass-rushing downs in the NFL, which might take him out of the scope of SackSEER altogether. However, he was an edge rusher at Northwestern, and it may be worthwhile to talk about how he would project to a traditional 4-3 end, because he has an interesting profile.

Adebawore has an amazing size-speed combination, and it is puzzling why he is not getting more hype. Adebawore ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at 282 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly—282 pounds. As a point of comparison, Julius Peppers was considered a freakish athlete, and he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds at 283 pounds.

Adebawore's size-speed projection is so out of bounds good that he kind of breaks SackSEER to the extent that it overlooks his pedestrian sack production. Adebawore had only 12.5 sacks in 36 games for the Wildcats. However, he had an interception and six pass breakups, which gives him a fairly strong passes defensed rate.

It is highly uncertain how Adebawore's unique profile will translate into pass-rushing success—or even if his future team will use him to rush the edge at all. However, at the low price of a fifth-round pick, Adebawore's truly unique combination of size and speed could result in him significantly overperforming his draft position.

2023 SackSEER Projections
Edge Rusher College Proj.
Will Anderson Jr. ALA 1 0.9 0.78 0.122 25.9 86.9%
Lukas Van Ness IOWA 1 0.4 0.47 0.132 24.5 78.7%
Myles Murphy CLEM 1 -0.1 0.54 0.143 21.9 56.9%
Zach Harrison OSU 1-2 0.7 0.28 0.250 21.1 73.1%
Isaiah Foskey ND 1-2 1.1 0.57 0.054 20.8 80.8%
Will McDonald ISU 2-3 1.5 0.73 0.156 20.6 92.0%
Nolan Smith UGA 2 2.4 0.33 0.105 19.6 76.7%
Byron Young TENN 2-3 2.2 0.42 0.130 19.2 86.6%
Tyree Wilson TTU 1 -0.1 0.44 0.029 18.9 32.3%
Keion White GT 1-2 0.1 0.36 0.088 18.6 63.1%
Tuli Tuipulotu USC 2 0.0 0.64 0.161 17.3 71.1%
Derick Hall AUB 2 1.2 0.43 0.025 16.2 57.5%
Andre Carter II ARMY 1-2 -1.2 0.44 0.226 15.2 14.2%
Adetomiwa Adebawore NW 5 1.6 0.28 0.194 15.1 93.1%
BJ Ojulari LSU 2 0.8 0.53 0.065 14.6 40.9%
Felix Anudike-Uzomah KSU 3 0.8 0.58 0.037 14.1 72.2%
Nick Herbig WIS 3-4 0.2 0.65 0.226 11.9 48.9%
Ali Gaye LSU 4 0.0 0.20 0.391 11.3 41.8%
Jose Ramirez EMU 5 0.3 0.65 0.226 10.6 67.9%
Colby Wooden AUB 3 -0.2 0.32 0.167 10.5 31.5%
YaYa Diaby LOU 4-5 1.2 0.29 0.080 10.4 64.7%
Nick Hampton APP 4 0.9 0.60 0.093 10.1 47.4%
Isaiah Land FAMU 7-UDFA 1.0 0.73 0.276 9.7 27.6%
KJ Henry CLEM 3 0.0 0.29 0.239 9.3 11.4%
Mike Morris MICH 2-3 -1.3 0.33 0.217 9.3 8.8%
Thomas Incoom CMU 3-4 0.1 0.44 0.000 8.8 33.0%
Habakkuk Baldonado PITT 4 0.3 0.43 0.056 7.7 26.7%
DJ Johnson ORE 4-5 0.3 0.46 0.080 7.6 40.1%
Ochaun Mathis NEB 4 0.2 0.37 0.130 7.5 21.1%
Isaiah McGuire MIZ 5 0.6 0.44 0.030 7.2 48.1%
Tavius Robinson MISS 3-4 0.5 0.26 0.031 6.9 12.7%
Viliami Fehoko Jr. SJSU 6 -1.3 0.55 0.286 6.3 45.3%
Noah Taylor UNC UDFA 0.7 0.37 0.349 5.9 44.4%
Dylan Horton TCU 4-5 0.3 0.33 0.095 5.9 19.8%
Lonnie Phelps KU 6-7 0.8 0.55 0.027 4.5 40.1%
Caleb Murphy FER ST UDFA -0.4 0.91 0.103 4.5 8.8%
Brenton Cox Jr. FLA 4-5 -0.3 0.31 0.227 4.5 6.5%
Tyrus Wheat MSST UDFA -0.3 0.42 0.235 2.9 32.8%
Robert Beal Jr. UGA UDFA 0.9 0.32 0.054 1.8 24.6%
Eku Leota AUB UDFA 0.3 0.46 0.031 1.3 25.6%
Tyler Lacy OKST 4-5 -1.5 0.27 0.093 0.9 2.2%
MJ Anderson ISU UDFA -1.1 0.25 0.158 0.0 1.9%
Ikenna Enechukwu RICE UDFA 0.2 0.25 0.000 0.0 7.1%
Andre Jones Jr. ULL UDFA -0.4 0.31 0.180 0.0 5.8%

Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN+.


3 comments, Last at 24 Apr 2023, 8:45pm

#1 by big10freak // Apr 24, 2023 - 6:35am

I really doubt the NW kid lasts until the 5th.  Not because I am a huge fan.  Just that he is such a physical specimen some team won’t be able to resist come the third round. Heck if GB gets another second round pick he might be the latter of the two.   

Points: 0

#2 by Franchise_Punter // Apr 24, 2023 - 9:47am

Feel like we need some sort of "Georgia adjustment" to put these guys in context. How do you have one of the best defenses in the league and not have a single player with more than 4.5 sacks?

Nolan Smith's issue here is playing time. He had two years with a pressure rate hovering around ~20%, but he played very few snaps. Hard to say whether NFL coaches will be able to get him to a 70%+ snap count or if he'll be a pure sub package rusher at ~240 lbs.

His athleticism is insane, though. He's bigger than Haason Reddick and not far off from Micah Parsons physically, so I think a creative DC could get him a meaningful number of snaps and turn him into a double digit sack guy easily. I'd probably take the gamble over some of these tier 2 edge guys once Anderson and Wilson are off the board.

Points: 0

#3 by ImNewAroundThe… // Apr 24, 2023 - 8:45pm

If you're taking him over Will Anderson, yes.

Points: 0

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