Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
We look at the college production of the defensive end prospects in this year's draft class to try and find the players who could provide the biggest pass-rushing updgrade to the Cowboys defensive line.
Yesterday we looked at the Production Ratio of outside linebackers in this year's draft class. Today we switch our focus to defensive ends. If you are unfamiliar with the Production Ratio, follow the link above and read up on it in yesterday's post. Here's how it's calculated:
|PRODUCTION RATIO = (SACKS + TACKLES FOR LOSS) / NUMBER OF GAMES PLAYED|
In yesterday's post, we looked at the production ratio of the top pass rushers from the last two draft classes and found that almost all of the top rushers coming out of college in the last two years had outstanding Production Ratios. So instead of repeating that, we'll look at how the Cowboys' current crop of defensive ends stacks up, also because it helps establish a baseline of what type of numbers to expect from this year's draft prospects.
|Draft Round / Pick||Player||POS||School||Sacks||TFL||Games||Production Ratio|
||DE/NT||William & Mary||13.5||28||43||0.96|
If you want a penetrating defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, you'll probably want someone with a Production Ratio of at least 1.0, and probably higher. J.J. Watt would probably be considered the prototype of a pass rushing DE and he had a 1.85 ratio. As you look at the Cowboys defensive ends, you may wonder why Jason Hatcher didn't get 20.5 sacks last year like Watt did - after all, their production ratios are similar.
Keep in mind that these ratios are very susceptible to the level of competition a player faced in college. Jason Hatcher for example joined the Cowboys from Division I-AA Grambling State, not exactly a football powerhouse, which probably needs to be factored into his Production Ratio.
Similarly, what role a player played on his team also impacts the numbers. Jay Ratliff for example has a career Production Ratio of only 0.50. But Ratliff originally began his Auburn career as a tight end, moved to defensive end as a sophomore and then to defensive tackle in his final season. There's no way to factor those things into these metrics.
What the Cowboys have along their 2012 defensive line is Jason Hatcher and potentially Tyron Crawford as pass rushing threats, but little more than that. Lissemore may be better suited inside, Marcus Spears has two sacks over the past three seasons, and Kenyon Coleman has only had one sack in his two years in Dallas. The Cowboys need to beef up their line with somebody who can rush the passer and collapse the pocket. They need a "Pressure Five".
Traditionally, the 3-4 DEs have been big-bodied, 300+ pound players whose primary focus has been on stopping the run and keeping multiple blockers tied up so that they cannot release upfield to take on a LB or DB. Often, this role meant the DE's in a 3-4 were not the players who made the most tackles or sacks, and have been derisively called "run-stuffers".
But that has been changing of late. Arizona's Calais Campbell, San Francisco's Justin Smith and Houston's J.J. Watt demonstrated just how disruptive a pass rushing five technique - or Pressure Five - can be.
Keep in mind that in a 3-4, you are basically pressuring a five-man offensive line with just three defensive linemen. And you're already asking them to take on two guys at a time, stop the run and keep blockers from releasing upfield. And you now want them to rush the passer as well? It takes a very special kind of player who can do all of that.
That is why Pressure Fives are so hard to come by. And you simply cannot pass them up if you get the opportunity to get one. Here are this year's candidates for the job:
3-4 Defensive Ends
The table below shows the current top-ranked defensive linemen who could potentially play defensive end in a 3-4. The table is sorted by their CBS Draft Rankings (Rank per January 10th), though you probably shouldn't attach too much weight to these early rankings.
The table features two Production Ratios, one for the entire college career and one for the last two seasons of a player's college career. The former gives a good indication of how consistent a prospect has been over his entire time in college, the latter may be more indicative of his potential.
|College Production||Production Ratio|
|Rank||Player||School||Ht||Wt||Sacks||TFL||Games||College Career||Last two seasons|
|13||Johnathan Hankins||Ohio State||6-3||320||4||15.5||38||0.51||0.68|
|72||Sylvester Williams||North Carolina||6-3||320||8.5||20.5||25||1.16||1.16|
|106||William Gholston||Michigan State||6-6||278||10||30.0||36||1.11||1.48|
|436||Spencer Nealy||Texas A&M||6-5||277||4.5||21.0||52||0.49||0.73|
At first glance, this year's defensive end class does not look overly promising. Only four players have a career Production Ratio above 1.0, but that number increases to seven players if we limit the data to only the last two college years.
Note that Jonathan Hankins and Jesse Williams (and perhaps a few others) would likely play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, and we'll include both players in the next post on nose tackles as well, but for now they are listed here.
Easily the most impressive prospect per the Production Ratio is Kawann Short out of Purdue. Short has been a wrecking ball for offensive lines almost his entire college career. In addition to his impressive production ratio, Short has also notched 15 pass breakups over his four-year career. The guy's stats are through the roof, and if the Cowboys want an interior pass rusher, Short could be their guy. His Production Ratio over his junior and senior seasons is 1.79. That's J.J. Watt territory (1.85) - and Purdue and Wisconsin play in the same conference, so those numbers are as comparable as it gets. Here's a detailed breakdown of both players in their last two college season:
Of course, the 6-6, 287 Watt put up measurables at the NFL Combine that the 6-3, 315 Short will never reach, but in terms of raw college production the two are very comparable. And Short is scheme-versatile: he can play nose tackle and he can play defensive end.
The Production Ratio, like every other stat-based projective tool, is not going to be a perfect predictor of how successful these players are going to be in the NFL. So if you find a player here who intrigues you or whose score worries you, take it as a sign that you may have to do a little more research on that prospect.