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12 edge rushers to watch in the 2019 NFL draft who fit the Seahawks

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NCAA Football: UNLV at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve known all offseason that the Seattle Seahawks could do with some pass rush. Heck, every NFL team is looking to upgrade their quarterback hunters. Games are won and lost on how well a defense can pressure a quarterback.

In the John Schneider era, Seattle’s front office has seemingly placed a greater value on pressure numbers than sacks. Former defensive line coach and current Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn regularly speaks about “affecting the quarterback”. Pete Carroll’s March 27th comments on John Clayton’s 710 ESPN show align with this.

Talking about Jacob Martin, Carroll revealed the importance of pressure percentage in evaluating pass rushers. “We’re just looking for activity and problem-makers,” Carroll said. “Usually you can look to that pressure percentage; how many times when they rush do they affect the quarterback?” Rather than looking at the total number of pressures, noting the efficiency of each pass rush is a far better evaluative tool. What percentage of their pass rushes resulted in a pressure?

This extends to the 2019 draft class. With Carroll admitting that pressure percentage forms a big part of the front office’s process, we can identify players who are likely to be the Seahawks’ draft board. Such work can only be done with the pressure percentage figures. Rather than undertaking exhausting work, thankfully Sports Info Solutions have produced an excellent Rookie Football Handbook that contains scouting reports and analytics.

The usual suspects feature in the top 10 2018 pressure percentage for EDGEs and the top 10 2018 pressure percentage for defensive tackles/5 techs. Yet there are names that will be available by the time Seattle makes their first pick. Some prospects will be drafted in round 3. Additionally, there are some players who might even be untaken come Day 3.

The following numbers are from the handbook.

Defensive Tackle/5 Tech1:

  1. Quinnen Williams—17.8% Pressure Percentage
  2. L.J. Collier—14.6% Pressure Percentage
  3. Corbin Kaufusi—13.6% Pressure Percentage
  4. Zach Allen—12.4% Pressure Percentage
  5. Christian Wilkins—12.2% Pressure Percentage
  6. Ed Oliver—11.7% Pressure Percentage
  7. Dexter Lawrence—10.3% Pressure Percentage
  8. Daylon Mack—10.3% Pressure Percentage
  9. Isaiah Buggs—10.3% Pressure Percentage
  10. Dre’Mont Jones—9.9% Pressure Percentage

1Manocherian, M., ed. SIS Football Rookie Handbook 2019 (ACTA Sports, 2019) p.381

EDGE Rusher2:

  1. Josh Allen—26.8% Pressure Percentage
  2. Nick Bosa—19.7% Pressure Percentage
  3. Jaylon Ferguson—19.4% Pressure Percentage
  4. Clelin Ferrell—17.4% Pressure Percentage
  5. Montez Sweat—17.3% Pressure Percentage
  6. Brian Burns—16.2% Pressure Percentage
  7. Maxx Crosby—16.2% Pressure Percentage
  8. Malik Reed—15.8% Pressure Percentage
  9. Porter Gustin—15.2% Pressure Percentage
  10. Joe Jackson—14.9% Pressure Percentage

2Manocherian, M., ed. SIS Football Rookie Handbook 2019 (ACTA Sports, 2019) p.431

Combining these figures with how these prospects tested produces a list of names that meet the athletic thresholds of the Seahawks too. Before we delve into the intriguing assortment, we must first deal with the different roles on the defensive line. Bear in mind these types can blur based on the traits of each prospect.

1-technique

Seattle’s defensive tackles tasked primarily with defending the run are often absolute units who can anchor, fight double teams and hustle. It’s mainly a 1-technique (outside shoulder of the center), but when the Seahawks are playing the run they will stick this big body at 3-technique too (outside shoulder of the guard. The position has interchangeability.

3-technique

Getting interior penetration against the pass is awesome. It stops the quarterback from being able to climb upwards in the pocket. Furthermore, it’s a far shorter path to the passer than off the EDGE. Having a defensive tackle who has more athletic upside than a big-bodied run stuffer massively helps with rushing the passer. Sheldon Richardson was the Seahawks swinging for the fences. Last year, Jarran Reed flourished in the role.

5-technique

This technique specifically refers to a defensive lineman who lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Yet Carroll will deploy his 5-tech body-type heads up on the tackle (4 tech) and on the inside shoulder (4i). If there’s a tight end? Then the player must be able to go heads up there too in a 6 tech.

The build is around 275lbs. In what is similar to a traditional 3-4 end role, the player must be a capable run defender but also be able to get after the evil quarterback. Some 5-techs will then get moved inside to a 3-tech role on passing downs, the “inside-out” type of rusher that Malik McDowell was supposed to be. SIGH. @cmikesspinmove explained the role superbly at Beast Pode: “it asks one player to be able to play nearly all elements of the defensive end position in modern football — from techniques 3 through 9.”

LEO

The LEO attacks the passer from a wider alignment, 7 or 9 technique, to manufacture a one-on-one match-up with the tackle off the EDGE. Lighter, faster rushers—sometimes with SAM body types—will get slotted in at LEO as the looser positioning best suits their skillsets. Jacob Martin is the most recent example of this.

There is also the case of Frank Clark, who looked like he would be a pure 5 technique when he was drafted. Now, he alternates between 5 tech and LEO.

1-technique: Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack (8th amongst DTs/5ts with a 10.3% pressure percentage)

Mack’s play strength projects to the “plug-and-play” defensive tackle role on the Seahawks. An early down run defender who could play the 1, 2i and 3 techniques, his pressure percentage suggests he could offer pass-rushing upside. The Senior Bowl late addition would have to “do a Poona” though.

Seattle made an exception when they signed the shorter Ford as an undrafted free agent last year. Mack also falls shy of the size the Seahawks have sought from run defending defensive tackles. Seattle has looked for 6ft 3+ players with arms 33” and longer. The 336lbs Mack is 6ft 1 high with 31 ¼ ” arms. His 27” vertical jump is just inside the Seahawks’ threshold. He’s likely a potential Day 3 target.

3/5-technique: Alabama’s Isaiah Buggs (9th amongst DTs/5ts with a 10.3% pressure percentage)

Buggs’ role at Alabama was similar to Jarran Reed’s. He performed from a variety of alignments and showed himself to be an excellent run defender aided by raw strength and savvy. This means he could play on all 3 downs for Seattle.

On the other hand, his testing did not meet any of the Seahawks’ previous requirements, plus it matched the slow get-off he has on tape. Despite being 6ft 3 306lbs, Buggs’ 31 ¾” arms don’t meet the 32” mark Seattle seeks in pure run defenders. Meanwhile his 24.5” vertical jump is beneath the 27” the Seahawks have looked for from their pass-rushing defensive tackles. Finally, his 4.83s short shuttle is slowed than the desired 4.65s and quicker.

If Buggs is to garner Seattle’s consideration, he will need to be categorized chiefly as a run-stopping 5-technique—despite 3-tech being his best NFL fit. The Seahawks have been less strict with taking athletes for the 5t role. 2010 fourth-round pick E.J. Wilson is the most extreme example. Buggs being there in day 3 would exemplify the depth of this defensive line class.

5-technique: TCU’s L.J. Collier (2nd amongst DTs/5ts with a 14.6% pressure percentage)

Collier was a tad short for Seattle at 6ft 2, but his 34” arms and 283lb weight ticked boxes. The issues were his testing: a 7.7 seconds 3 cone and 4.78 seconds short shuttle disappointed but matched his tape. His 30” vertical jump meant his combine wasn’t all underwhelming.

Like Buggs, Collier’s 5 tech projection means Seattle will likely be willing to overlook bad numbers for positive traits. Collier dominates with a high motor bull-rush on film and is a skilled run defender. Yes, he’s straight line. But there are traits you can work with and his pressure percentage suggests excellent value as mid-round pick.

5-technique: BYU’s Corbin Kaufusi (3rd amongst DTs/5ts with a 13.6% pressure percentage)

Brother of Bronson, we unfortunately didn’t see much offseason “action” from the 25-year-old as he was unable to perform at BYU’s pro day on March 29th due to injury. Kaufusi chose to forego surgeries so he could suit up for BYU’s loss to Utah. He’s reportedly 6ft 9 and his disruptive length would be a high upside UDFA/late addition.

5-technique: Boston College’s Zach Allen (4th amongst DTs/5ts with a 12.4% pressure percentage)

Allen looked to be the same kind of deal when projecting him to 5-technique for Seattle. He’s been described to death as a “high floor, low ceiling” prospect. The reason? His game appeared to be predicated on sound technique and lacked explosion plus speed.

Then Allen’s Combine performance was really promising. He measured 6ft 4, weighed 281lbs and had arms that were 34 and ¾ ” long. He jumped 32” vertically and 112” in the broad; ran a 7.34s 3-cone and a 4.36s short shuttle. He’s a former basketball player and such movement skills are nice to see. The Seahawks want a vert of 32” +. For their LEO category, Seattle looks for a 3 cone below 7.3 seconds and a short shuttle below 4.4 seconds. Allen getting close to these figures from a 5 tech build and role is sweet.

This combined with Allen’s traits makes him someone Seattle would have to take early-ish. He has great positioning and strength against the run; facing the pass he bull rushes well but lacks other moves. He’s going no later than Day 2.

5-technique: Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones (10th amongst DTs/5ts with a 9.9% pressure percentage)

Down in Indianapolis, Jones’ 6ft 3 height, 281lb weight and 33 and 3/4” did well for his chances of becoming a Seahawk. His performance mediocre, except for 4.53s short shuttle that matches his slippery play style.

He is the inside-out type of rusher whose agility and hand usage rushing the interior generates serious excitement at what his potential could be playing on Sundays. From 3 tech he will cause pass protecting guards serious problems.

The issue is his play against the run, where he regularly gets washed through lack of play strength and an overreliance on quickness. Jones, though, would be a lovely, mid-round, swing-for-the-fences pick. Choosing to take a shot on his upside should be determined by interviews and what type of character he is.

5-technique: Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson (3rd amongst EDGE rushers with a 19.4% pressure percentage)

Ferguson, the NCAA D1 record sack holder, becomes the first warning of pressure percentage figures. A prospect can only play who they face, but it’s valuable context that Ferguson’s level of competition was below other people on this list. At his pro-day he was 6ft 4, 271 pounds, with 34 ¼ ” arms. He ran a 4.75s-4.82 40 and leaped 32” vertically and 9ft 10 in the broad.

These are impressive numbers that meet every one of Seattle’s recent trends. However, Ferguson’s testing also proved that concerns over his tape were valid. His 3-cone was timed at 8.08s and his short shuttle clocked in at 5.12s.

The way Ferguson won wasn’t just beating up on bad tackles. He showed the ability to convert speed to power. It’s just hard to see Seattle taking a player who tested so badly in agility drills and whose film shows a very stiff player too. More importantly, his run defense is a major weakness—essential to the 5-tech role that his frame projects to.

5-technique: Miami’s Joe Jackson (10th amongst EDGE rushers with a 14.9% pressure percentage)

At the combine Jackson was 6ft 4, 275lbs with 34 1/8 ” arms. Good. But then his vertical of 27” was disappointing as was his 9 foot 1 broad jump. He was timed as fast as 4.77 at Miami’s pro-day, suggesting the speed on tape is of the build-up kind. Technique-wise Jackson is raw too, making his high motor likely to drop into day 3. The lack of explosion might remove him from the Seahawks’ board entirely.

LEO/5-technique: Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (4th amongst EDGE rushers with a 17.4% pressure percentage)

Ferrell is a 2019 first-rounder. It’s questionable that he will even be available when Seattle picks at #21. After an inevitable trade down, he’s not going to be on the board. But, just maybe, he is the type of player John Schneider would stay at #21 for. All his testing looked nailed on to be a 5-tech in Seattle’s scheme. 6ft 4, 264lbs, 34 1/8” arms, 7.26s 3 cone, 4.4s short shuttle. All are at the right level for the Seahawks’ pass-rushing upside athletic targets.

Ferrell is more of a traditional 4-3 defensive end on tape with hips that look a bit stiff. That trait and his inconsistent motor might be where his play style differs from what Seattle looks for. That said, he can execute myriad assignments from various alignments, making him fit the 5-tech role damn well. He can win anywhere on the defensive line in the run and pass game.

LEO: Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby (7th amongst EDGE rushers with a 16.2% pressure percentage)

Since 2010, Seattle’s drafted the EDGE with the quickest 3 cone time three times. Crosby placed second behind Sutton Smith at the NFL combine, running a 6.89s drill that placed in the 95th percentile amongst defensive linemen. Crosby’s entire combine was incredible and met all of Seattle’s LEO thresholds. His frame looked capable of adding more to it and he added good weight for the combine.

Crosby’s play strength and pad level at the point of attack are the biggest knocks on him. That said, Crosby’s athleticism and hand usage shone repeatedly. He looks like a pure LEO for Seattle. Coming out of Eastern Michigan with little buzz makes his draft slot difficult to predict. But taking him in the middle rounds could prove to be a steal for the Seahawks if they can refine him technically. His arm length is so close to the 33” mark that it probably doesn’t matter that he’s slightly short.

LEO: Nevada’s Malik Reed (8th amongst EDGE rushers with a 15.8% pressure percentage)

Reed was a completely under the radar prospect who didn’t even get invited to the combine. He was invited to the NFLPA bowl though. He could be a Day 3 gem as an undersized, explosive first-step, swiping, bendy, high-motor pass-rushing specialist—somewhat like the pick of Jacob Martin last year.

SAM/LEO: USC’s Porter Gustin (9th amongst EDGE rushers with a 15.2% pressure percentage)

Gustin was a mini-workout warrior at the combine, putting up 31 bench press reps. His size was solid at 6ft 4, 255lbs and his 33” arm length was nice too. The 35.5” vertical and 119” broad were very good. However, Gustin ran none of the agility drills that Seattle seems to value so highly for their EDGE rushers.

Then he chose to at his pro-day. He showed himself to be an elite athlete that meets every one of the Seahawks’ athletic requirements, improving his combine numbers too.

Gustin dips on tape but never showed ankle flexion like those numbers suggest. In fact, his flexibility and athleticism in space looked to be a weakness before his pro day. The numbers are exciting when combined with his cerebral run defense that is full of effort.

The main limiting factor for Gustin is his checkered, if unconnected, injury history. He broke his ankle in October 2018, missing the rest of the season. The year prior was plagued by a toe injury that ultimately ended his 2017. If his medicals check out, he could keep climbing from drafted to day 2. This guy is a genuine sleeper.

Listen to Matty discuss NFL draft podcasts in the Seaside Chats podcast this week.

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