2011 NFL Draft: Finding Defensive Playmakers For The Cowboys - Post-Combine Edition

About a month ago, we looked at the Production Ratio for defensive linemen to figure out who could be a potential playmaker for the Cowboys defense. That post was based on some interesting work done by KaptainKirk, a staff writer for SB Nation's Mile High Report.

The Production Ratio is great for distilling a couple of key stats likes games played, sacks and tackles for loss into one simple number. With the plethora of numbers generated by the defensive linemen at the Combine I was looking for some measures that would help me make sense of all those many numbers.

Thankfully, KaptainKirk came through again, and proposed an Explosion Number that combines another three numbers into one simple measure. An additional measure that I've found useful to look at is Lateral Agility, and after the break we look at all three measures to see if they can help us identify some potential playmakers in the 2011 draft.

The 'Production Ratio' and 'Explosion Number' are measures proposed by NFL.com's Pat Kirwan in his book  titled "Take Your Eye Off the Ball", while 'Lateral Agility' was first brought to my attention in an article by Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly. All these measuresare just some tools among many others - albeit some pretty good tools - that measure the playmaking potential of defensive linemen. 

The Production Ratio is really a very simple formula that adds up sacks and tackles-for-loss and divides them by number of college games played. It is calculated as follows:


What you want in a Production Ratio is a score of 1.0 or better. Effectively, a score of 1.0 says that a player recorded one splash play in the defensive backfield per game. The higher the number, the better.

The Explosion Number isn't even a formula but a simple addition that adds the number of bench press reps with the broad and vertical jump values. Technically this isn't even mathematically correct, because were adding reps, inches and feet into one aggregate number, but so be it:


What this number gives you is an idea of the explosive strength of a lineman. An Explosion number over 70 is considered a very good result.

Lateral Agility uses the differential between the 40-yard dash time and the 20-yard shuttle to get a better feel for the lateral agility of a player, as the differential provides information beyond simple long speed and short-area quickness.


Generally speaking, a player who notches a .50 or better is considered to have outstanding lateral agility, a quality highly sought after in defensive linemen who usually operate in very tight spaces.

The Cowboys Front Seven

Before we look at the 2011 draft class, let's look at the Cowboys 2010 starting lineup at DL & OLB and how they compare across these three measures.

Draft Round / Pick
Player Pos School Production Ratio Explosion Lateral Agility Bench Press Vert. Jump Broad Jump 40 time 20-yard shuttle
Round: 1 / Pick: 11 DeMarcus Ware
ROLB Troy 1.96 75.7 0.49 27 38.5 10'2" 4.56 4.07
Round: 2 / Pick: 35 Igor Olshansky RDE Oregon 1.01 83.7 0.55 41 33.5 9'2" 4.96 4.41
Round: 7 / Pick: 224 Jay Ratliff* NT Auburn 0.50 69.4 0.62 26 33.5 9'9" 4.85 4.23
Round: 1 / Pick: 20 Marcus Spears* LDE LSU 1.11 63.1 0.61 23 31.0 9'1" 5.05 4.44
Round: 1 / Pick: 26 Anthony Spencer
DE Purdue 1.38 71.9 0.27 30 32.5 9'4" 4.70 4.43
*Pro Day results

As we'll see later when we look at the 2011 crop of rookies, the Cowboys have some pretty awesome dudes on the line. Ware is simply a monster, and for all the flak Olshansky has been getting, nobody can dispute that the guy is one powerful dude. Ratliff's Explosion and Lateral Agility numbers stand out despite a rather lacking college record, and (in hindsight) were a clear indicator of his potential at the NFL level. Spears' numbers don't stand out relative to his teammates, and Spencer's short shuttle numbers may have been an early indication for why he's been 'Almost' Anthony for the longest time.

2011 Defensive Ends

Now on to this year's draft class. The following table shows the current top ranked defensive ends, sorted by their CBS Draft Rankings (OVR is the overall ranking on the CBS big board). Unfortunately, there are only very few players for whom I have all the numbers. Some of the missing numbers are combine results that haven't been officially released yet, some numbers will get filled in once the players have their respective Pro days. Some numbers may never become available. Regardless, here is how the available numbers stack up for the top DEs:

OVR Player Production Ratio Explosion Lateral Agility Bench Press Vert. Jump Broad Jump 40 time 20-yard shuttle
3 Da'Quan Bowers 1.70 - - - -
7 Robert Quinn 1.54 65.8   22 34" 9'8" 4.70  
13 Cameron Jordan 1.03 66.1 0.41 25 31" 9'11" 4.78 4.37
17 Adrian Clayborn 1.11 - - 0.70 DNP 33" 9'5" 4.83 4.13
18 J.J. Watt 1.85 81.0 0.63 34 37" 10'0" 4.84 4.21
22 Ryan Kerrigan 1.94 74.4   31 33.5" 9'9" 4.71  
30 Cameron Heyward 1.02 - -   DNP 30" DNP DNP DNP
41 Jabaal Sheard 1.19 - -   DNP 31" 9'7" 4.69  
45 Christian Ballard 0.68 - -   DNP 31.5" 9"3" 4.80  
62 Allen Bailey 0.82 73.4   27 36.5" 9'9" 4.77  
70 Sam Acho 1.22 65.9 0.36 23 33.5" 9'4" 4.68 4.32
103 Pernell McPhee 1.16 - -   DNP 28.5" 8'11" 4.93  
115 Pierre Allen 0.94 - - - -
124 Greg Romeus 1.53 - -  - -
146 Ricky Elmore 0.93 66.5 0.64 26 31.5" 8'10" 4.96 4.32

BTB Member Fan in Thick an Thin pointed out to me earlier that I had miscalculated JJ Watt's Production Ratio, and I now have the correct number for Watt in the table above, and it's incredibly high.

Looking at the values of all three measures for JJ Watt, I can't help but stare in slackjawed amazement at that statline. The combination of outstanding performances across all three measures is simply amazing. In this whole post, there is only one other player whose numbers are comparable to Watt's, and that DeMarcus Ware. If we can get another Ware-like player in this draft at the #9 spot, by all means, go for it Mr. Jones.

Unfortunately, I doubt that the Cowboys will draft Watt in the 9th spot. But whichever team drafts him will likely be very, very happy with what they got. Ryan Kerrigan has some similarly high numbers, and while he is undersized as a DE in a 3-4, he might make an outstanding 3-4 OLB if his Production Ratio and Explosion Number are anything to go by.

2011 Defensive Tackles

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any 20-yard shuttle times for defensive tackles yet. If they become available in the next couple of days, I'll update this post. For now however, we'll have to do without the Lateral Agility score for the DTs.

OVR Player Production Ratio Explosion Bench Press Vert. Jump Broad Jump 40 time
2 Nick Fairley 1.5 - - DNP 31" 9'1" 4.87
5 Marcell Dareus 0.93 - - 24 27" DNP 4.93
21 Corey Liuget 0.94 63.1 27 27.5" 8'6" 4.99
36 Stephen Paea 1.2 - - 49 DNP DNP DNP
39 Phil Taylor 0.58 68.9 31 29.5" 8'4" 5.14
42 Muhammad Wilkerson 1.94 61.9 27 26" 8'9" 4.96
49 Drake Nevis 0.92 70.9 31 30.5" 9'4" 5.06
64 Marvin Austin 0.79 77.9 38 30.5" 9'4" 4.9
69 Kenrick Ellis 1.03 - - 26 DNP DNP 5.28
76 Jurrell Casey 0.53 62 26 27.5" 8'5" 5.06
91 Jerrell Powe 0.81 - - DNP 25" 7'9" 5.29
101 Jarvis Jenkins 0.75 51.2 17 26.5" 7'7" 5.08
119 Lawrence Guy 0.89 - - 28 29" DNP 4.96
134 Ian Williams 0.31 67.7 31 28.5" 8'2" 5.25
141 Sione Fua 0.63 62.5 30 24" 8'5" 5.28

For reference, last year's #2 pick Ndamukong Suh had a 1.53 Production Ratio, a 76.4 Explosion Number and a 0.59 Lateral Agility. 

Muhammad Wilkerson stands out in this table, and if you think he can translate his play at Temple into the NFL, then you might just have an outstanding talent on you hands here. Another player that is likely to make whatever team picks him very happy.

There are playmakers available all over the board for the Cowboys, not just in the 9th spot. The trick will be in identifying the right set of measures - and film study - with which to identify them.

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