This is a great year for pass rushers, but history tells us many of these great prospects will not turn into NFL stars. A previous post outlines measurables that can be used to eliminate players as possible future Pro Bowlers. Here's a look at this year's top players and how they stack up to the filter. I'll be using a combination of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay's mock drafts to get a list of possible 1st round talents who project as either 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends.
|Name||Position||40 dash||10yd split||Broad jump||Vertical|
I've marked scores that meet the guidelines in green, ones that fall below but have precedent for other players succeeding with yellow, and no previous successes with red. Overall, the group measures fairly well, but without a single player who meets every guideline for their projected position.
The numbers don't dispute everyone's opinion that Von Miller is a can't-miss prospect. He is just 1 inch short of the guideline on his vertical jump, and far exceeds all other guidelines. Perhaps surprisingly, Justin Houston passes every guideline for a future Pro Bowler, and by this metric has the highest upside.
The next thing that stands out is Akeem Ayers shortcomings across the board. This is not a guy who should go in the 1st round, or that a team should expect a strong pass rush from. He seems entirely miscast in this role.
Brooks Reed flashes good speed and a blazing 10 yard split, especially for a 4-3 DE, but he also has a curiously low vertical jump. He clearly fails the guidelines, but so does Clay Matthews in this respect. Perhaps he could make the transition to a 3-4 OLB by shedding some weight in exchange for more speed.
Clayborn, Kerrigan, Smith and Allen show good promise as 4-3 ends. All suffer from a lack of pure speed, but show great short-area quickness. There's some talk of Kerrigan player 3-4 OLB, but his lack of pure speed would become a liability unless he can shed some weight and gain speed.
This leaves us with our two most unknown commodities. Da'Quan Bowers has no reliable measurables. Watching him on film reminds me of Calais Campbell, and perhaps he's actually best suited to be a 3-4 end, or even a 4-3 tackle. He does a great job of locking out, shedding blocks, but I don't seem the explosiveness required to be a pass rush threat. Robert Quinn's numbers put him squarely into the 4-3 role, where nothing about his measurables is a turnoff.
Overall, the top prospects come with a few concerns, and all but Ayers should make an impact at the next level. Miller proves his upside. Kerrigan and Reed are both possibly interesting for conversion to 3-4 edge rushers. Bowers is a big question mark still. I'm skeptical about Bowers and down on Ayers, but the other players have the tangibles to challenge for at least occasional Pro Bowl consideration, and at least be solid career starters worth taking in the 1st round.