Stat Analysis
Advanced analytics on player and team performance

SackSEER 2019

by Nathan Forster

The top of the 2019 NFL draft is likely to be dominated by the edge rushers. As many as four edge rushers are projected to go in the top ten, and thus a team with a high pick and a need to upgrade their pass rush is likely to have plenty of highly touted options. But will this group live up to the hype? Will the 2019 draft be to edge rushers what the 1983 draft was to quarterbacks?

SackSEER, Football Outsiders' statistical system for projecting college edge rushers to the next level, wants to throw just a bit of cold water on the hype following the edge rushers in this draft. Although SackSEER agrees that it is a reasonably deep draft for edge rushers, it also believes that this draft lacks a truly top-tier prospect like Khalil Mack or Von Miller. Rather, SackSEER lumps this year's top edge rushers together in a group of good but not great prospects that are all more likely than not to have at least some success at the NFL level, but could also easily bust. Additionally, SackSEER's best prospect this year -- who wins that distinction by a projection of less than half a sack -- is a player who may not even go in the first round.

SackSEER is based on a statistical analysis of all edge rushers drafted in the years 1998-2017, and measures the following:

  • The edge rusher's projected draft position. This year's projections use 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 into the NFL draft and position switches during college;
  • The prospect's college passes defensed divided by college games played; and
  • The number of medical redshirts the player either received or was eligible for.

SackSEER projection projects the number of regular season sacks that a prospect will record in his first five seasons in the NFL. Unlike SackSEER rating, SackSEER projection incorporates the projected round in which a prospect will be drafted according to ESPN's Scouts, Inc.

SackSEER rating provides a historical percentile rating on the college edge rusher's prospects for success as compared to the other prospects in SackSEER's database, irrespective of projected draft position. If you want to see how the prospects stack up based on SackSEER's trends alone, you can look at SackSEER rating; if you want to see how the prospects stack up based on SackSEER's trends when balanced against conventional wisdom, you can look at SackSEER projection.

Below, we take a look at some of SackSEER's top prospects in the 2019 NFL draft, along with some similar prospects from previous drafts.

Brian Burns, Florida State
SackSEER Projection: 26.6 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 96.1%
Similar Historical Prospects: Jadeveon Clowney, Dontay Moch

Brian Burns' good combination of production and athleticism earns him the top spot in this year's SackSEER projections. Burns recorded 23 sacks and seven passes defensed in only three seasons with the Florida State Seminoles. Burns' workouts, however, were even better. Burns ran a freakish 4.53-second 40-yard dash -- the same time that Jadeveon Clowney recorded in 2014. Burns' broad jump and vertical jump were not quite as good, but were still well above average, leaving Burns with an excellent explosion index. Burns also recorded a strong 7.01-second 3-cone time.

The greatest knock on Burns is that he played light at Florida State -- he tipped the scales at only 235 pounds. However, Burns bulked up to 249 pounds for the combine and obviously did not lose much of his athleticism. Burns may have to play as an outside rush linebacker at the NFL level, but he has a great chance to excel in that role.

(Click here for Derrik Klassen's analysis of Burns' film in Futures.)

Josh Allen, Kentucky
SackSEER Projection: 26.3 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 87.5%
Similar Historical Prospects: Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith

Josh Allen has an all-around good, but not great, projection. Allen had 17 sacks in 13 games as a senior. Those are really good numbers, but almost all senior edge rushers drafted in the first few rounds have good senior numbers, so those 17 sacks do not give Allen the boost you might otherwise expect. Similarly, Allen had a good combine workout, but it was far from historically great. Allen ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, which is a great time for a 262-pound player, but he was only average on his jumps, recording vertical and broad jumps of 33.5 inches and 9 feet, 10 inches, respectively.

Continuing the theme, Allen had above average passes defensed numbers, but they are only slightly above average. Allen had one interception and eight passes batted away, which is again good not great. For perspective, Allen's passes defensed are way better than famous bust Vernon Gholston (who only had one pass defensed in his college career), but not quite as good as superstar Khalil Mack (who had 25 passes defensed).

The upside to Allen's SackSEER is that his numbers are all-around good and he has no glaring weaknesses (at least from a statistical standpoint). In that regard, Allen is similar to Ryan Kerrigan, who was also unusual in his uniformly good but not quite great SackSEER numbers.

(Click here for Derrik Klassen's analysis of Allen's film in Futures.)

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
SackSEER Projection: 25.7 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 89.7%
Similar Historical Prospects: Bruce Irvin, Anthony Barr

Montez Sweat proved at the combine that he is explosive, fast, and quick. He recorded a 2019 edge rusher-best 4.41-second 40-yard dash as well as good jumps and a good 3-cone time. Sweat also proved that he was good at sacking the quarterback at Mississippi State, recording 22.5 sacks in just 26 games for the Bulldogs.

The one black mark on Sweat's SackSEER is his zero career passes defensed. In that regard, Sweat is very similar to former first-round edge rusher Bruce Irvin. Irvin, like Sweat, entered the draft as a senior after only playing two seasons of major college football. Irvin also had good combine numbers and lots of college sacks, but only one pass defensed. Irvin finished his first five years in the NFL with 29 sacks, which is very close to Sweat's projection.

Nick Bosa, Ohio State
SackSEER Projection: 22.1 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 67.4%
Similar Historical Prospects: Joey Bosa, Brandon Graham

Despite being ranked No. 1 overall on many boards, Nick Bosa just does not have the numbers to top SackSEER's list of top edge rushers. Bosa had good college sack production, but much of it is uncertain. Bosa was on the way to having a breakout season as a junior, but he only played four games, so there is no way of knowing whether he would have kept up that pace. Bosa also has only two career passes defensed, which is below average for a drafted edge rusher. Bosa's explosion numbers at the combine were also below average.

None of his metrics doom him to failure -- far from it. Bosa is still an above-average edge rusher prospect, but he does not possess the typical indicia of a future NFL star at the position.

To be fair to Bosa, SackSEER somewhat underprojected his brother, Joey Bosa. It could very well be that Nick has the same qualities that allowed his brother to overperform his SackSEER projection. That said, Joey Bosa's projection was similar, but stronger than Nick's. Joey had slightly above average passes defensed numbers, while Nick's are below average. Joey's and Nick's explosion numbers were similar, but Joey was much quicker, recording a 6.89-second 3-cone time as opposed to Nick's 7.10-second time. Nick Bosa's uncertain SackSEER should at least give teams pause before they assume he will be able to replicate his older brother's success in the NFL.

Rashan Gary, Michigan
SackSEER Projection: 22.1 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 71.8%
Similar Historical Prospects: Frank Clark, Margus Hunt

Rashan Gary is the quintessential raw talent at the position. Gary has amazing athleticism for his 277-pound size. Gary ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, which he paired with a 38-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot-flat broad jump. However, Gary does not have much sack production -- his best season is 5.5 sacks in 13 games as a sophomore. Also, he did not record a single pass defensed.

Luckily for Gary, there are certainly examples of successful edge rushers in the NFL who had the athletic measureables but lacked college production. For example, Frank Clark, who also attended the University of Michigan, had good explosion numbers for his size, but few college sacks. Despite his lack of college bona fides, Clark has 35.0 NFL sacks in just four years. Gary could follow a similar career trajectory; however, he could just as easily end up like Margus Hunt, a freakish athlete who has mostly been relegated to role player status in the NFL.

Zach Allen, Boston College
SackSEER Projection: 19.6 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 71.8%
Similar Historical Prospects: Erik Flowers, Jabaal Sheard

Zach Allen is a big defensive end at 280 pounds who might be better suited as a 3-4 defensive end or a run-stopping end in a 4-3. Allen is far from a Julius Peppers-level athlete, running the 40-yard dash in a glacial 5.0 seconds. However, Allen leads the class in passes defensed rate, intercepting two passes and batting down 14 others for the Eagles, suggesting possible untapped pass-rushing potential.

Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
SackSEER Projection: 18.0 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 80.6%
Similar Historical Prospects: Shaun Phillips, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Oshane Ximines is a small-school prospect who is worth a flyer in the late second or early third round. After all, Jared Allen and Robert Mathis, two highly successful edge rushers in the NFL, attended Idaho State and Alabama A&M, respectively. Although Ximines had only a mediocre combine, he was extremely productive in college, with over 30 sacks along with 13 passes defensed.

Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
SackSEER Projection: 17.6 Sacks Through 5th Season
SackSEER Rating: 49.0%
Similar Historical Prospects: Victor Abiamiri, Michael Haynes

Clemson has sent a lot of edge rushers to the NFL with varying degrees of success. According to SackSEER, Ferrell is a thoroughly average draft prospect who probably does not belong in the first two rounds. Ferrell had few passes defensed in college and his sack numbers were just OK. Ferrell did not do a complete workout at the combine and did not work out at his pro day due to a toe injury. The only SackSEER-relevant drill Ferrell performed was the 3-cone, which was a below-average 7.26 seconds.

Full SackSEER Projections, 2019 Prospects
Edge
Rusher
College Proj.
Round
Explosion
Index
SRAM PD/Rate 3-Cone SackSEER
Sack Proj.
Rating
Brian Burns Florida State 1-2 1.61 0.75 0.21 7.01 26.6 96.1%
Josh Allen Kentucky 1 0.48 0.64 0.21 7.15 26.3 87.5%
Montez Sweat Mississippi State 1 1.74 0.62 0.00 7.00 25.7 89.7%
Nick Bosa Ohio State 1 -0.11 0.65 0.07 7.10 22.1 67.4%
Rashan Gary Michigan 1 1.12 0.36 0.00 7.26 22.1 71.8%
Zach Allen Boston College 2 -1.08 0.40 0.43 7.34 19.6 71.8%
Oshane Ximines Old Dominion 2-3 0.08 0.67 0.27 7.13 18.0 80.6%
Clelin Ferrell Clemson 1-2 -0.10 0.51 0.11 7.26 17.6 49.0%
L.J. Collier Texas Christian 1-2 -0.65 0.40 0.18 7.71 16.6 40.8%
Jachai Polite Florida 1-2 -0.60 0.53 0.14 7.35 15.7 30.3%
John Cominsky Charleston 5 0.19 0.39 0.25 7.03 13.7 88.8%
Chase Winovich Michigan 2 0.23 0.40 0.02 6.94 13.5 36.7%
Ben Banogu Texas Christian 5 1.97 0.48 0.08 7.02 12.2 85.6%
Joe Jackson Miami 3 -1.20 0.66 0.17 7.34 12.1 50.8%
D'Andre Walker Georgia 2-3 0.35 0.28 0.11 7.25 10.7 22.6%
Anthony Nelson Iowa 6 0.09 0.52 0.19 6.95 10.5 82.7%
Jalen Jelks Oregon 4 -0.75 0.40 0.31 7.22 9.9 36.4%
Porter Gustin USC 6-7 0.53 0.76 0.15 7.25 9.7 83.6%
Maxx Crosby Eastern Michigan 6 0.83 0.45 0.14 6.89 9.4 75.6%
Carl Granderson Wyoming 3-4 0.19 0.42 0.14 7.44 9.3 34.4%
Jordan Brailford Oklahoma State 5-6 1.21 0.50 0.06 7.22 8.4 66.7%
Jamal Davis Akron UDFA 1.26 0.24 0.24 7.00 6.7 61.5%
Justin Hollins Oregon UDFA 1.18 0.27 0.22 7.06 6.7 65.4%
Wyatt Ray Boston College 5 -0.07 0.38 0.11 7.34 5.2 25.5%
Austin Bryant Clemson 5-6 -0.37 0.42 0.09 7.34 5.1 36.0%
Charles Omenihu Texas 4-5 -0.29 0.31 0.02 7.48 4.8 25.1%
Sutton Smith Northern Illinois UDFA 0.13 0.60 0.11 6.75 3.9 44.2%
Christian Miller Alabama 6 0.60 0.36 0.07 7.28 3.9 27.1%
Shareef Miller Penn State 4-5 -0.39 0.33 0.00 7.25 2.3 7.3%
Gerri Green Mississippi State UDFA 0.38 0.17 0.18 7.27 2.0 23.7%
Darryl Johnson North Carolina A&T UDFA -0.31 0.63 0.19 7.33 1.3 7.1%
Malik Carney North Carolina UDFA -0.14 0.45 0.11 7.40 1.0 21.2%
Jonathan Ledbetter Georgia UDFA -2.19 0.12 0.00 7.55 0.0 0.7%
Cece Jefferson Florida UDFA -1.50 0.23 0.09 7.50 0.0 1.8%

Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN+.

Comments

16 comments, Last at 24 Apr 2019, 3:07am

1 Re: SackSEER 2019

I'm curious why anyone would want to sign up to draft "Dontay Moch".

Innovative Comments, Intelligent Signature.

8 Re: SackSEER 2019

I loved Moch coming out of Nevada, as did SackSeer. HIs tape looks better than Brian Burns' tape, because he didn't get washed out as much on the run. In the Boise State upset, he deflected a pass twenty yards downfield while in great coverage. Once drafted by the Bengals, he got busted for PEDs, probably because he needed to gain weight while not losing any of his speed. Moch did have a two sack game in preseason, but he ended up being a failed 3rd round pick.

2 Re: SackSEER 2019

I realize this probably isn't right, but if you just look at 'Similar Historical Prospects' as the possible ceiling/floor for a prospect, then I think Allen and Bosa look much better. Both their comparables are good to excellent. On the other hand, Burns and Sweat seem more like higher-ceiling/lower-floor guys. I mean the space between Jadaveon Clowney and Dontay Moch is from perennial All-Pro to Arena Football league.

3 Re: SackSEER 2019

I’d be interested to see what the model looks like with the draft projection removed, as draft projection is often based on the attributes you’ve bucketed into the Explosion Index. Seems like there could be a potential issue with overfitting and/or multicollinearity?

Apologies if this question has already been asked and answered!

5 Re: SackSEER 2019

I was waiting for this! Even though I don't watch college ball or film, I'm not surprised by SackSeers conclusions. From what I've read of this year's prospects they all have holes in their resume and none sound like can't miss superstars. I AM surprised about Burns doing so well here, though. The reviews I've read are particularly weary of him.

9 Re: SackSEER 2019

Exactly. If he's a good to excellent passrusher, however, I don't think his run defense will matter that much. Cam Wake was pretty bad against the run. Still is, I guess.

7 Re: SackSEER 2019

This is my favorite draft related column at FO, now that the Jets drafted Darnold. Thanks again for all the hard work.

My main surprise is Rashan Gary ranking as high as he is. Watching Michigan film I see Vinovich making plays and Gary not doing much. Also, I though Josh Allen would have a higher SRAM given how often he dropped into coverage last year, although SackSeer has him rated about where I though it would.

16 Re: SackSEER 2019

If you're interested take a look at the MGoBlog game columns that include a "UFR" - Upon Further Review - play-by-play analysis of all the snaps. Most of the columns give Gary good scores, because his job was essentially to suck up blockers and force the offense to account for him.

Whether that will translate to the NFL, or if someone else will be sucking up blockers for him, or if his injured shoulder will heal cleanly, are of course open questions. The lack of college production for such an athletic freak is clearly the biggest concern on his resume; whether it outweighs that once-in-a-decade talent will be answered differently by different GMs.

12 Re: SackSEER 2019

This will be fascinating to watch in future, as SackSeer and PFF are almost diametrically opposed in terms of their evaluation of these prospects. PFF agrees with the scouting consensus that Allen and Bosa are historically great prospects and Burns is right behind them. They are also much more down on Sweat and Gary than SackSeer is.

The most polarizing prospect is Winovich, who PFF thinks is one of the top edge rushers in the class and is being massively undervalued, while SackSeer couldn’t be more pessimistic about his outcome. I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle

13 Re: SackSEER 2019

This is actually what inspired my comment above. It seems like the SackSeer projections are essentially double-weighting combine drill performance, whereas PFF is purely a scouting/grading service and doesn’t account for drill performance in their evaluations.

14 Re: SackSEER 2019

Seems like passes defensed are really low this year. Is that an aberration, part of a trend, or am I just plain wrong in thinking that?