If the analytics don’t think Chubb is the best pass rusher in the draft, who is?
The New York Giants stunned the football world when they traded Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But while the trade netted them a third round pick and some potentially valuable cap relief, it also created a void in the defense opposite Olivier Vernon.
There was some trepidation among fans concerning Pierre-Paul’s potential fit in James Bettcher’s defense. However, given that the Arizona Cardinals hotly pursued JPP in free agency for that same defense — before Chandler Jones became a Defensive Player of the Year candidate playing the role earmarked for JPP — there was a “wait and see” attitude.
Now, the Giants have another hole to fill on defense. It’s possible that Avery Moss could step up to fill that void. He did play well in 2017, but it also seemed that the better he played, the less he played, so he is an unknown.
The Giants could also turn to the draft. And having the second overall pick in the draft, they have the option to select North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb. Chubb is typically regarded as the best defensive player in the draft, let alone the be best Edge player.
Former NFL defensive end and NFL writer Stephen White called Chubb the “Safest” player he’s ever evaluated, saying:
“Usually an edge prospect will have have question marks in some areas. Some have the speed and quickness, but maybe are little undersized. Others have tons of athletic ability and the size you like to see, but are very raw with their technique. Then you have the cats who look the part, but just didn’t have the production in college for some reason. And then you have the rare player who has every thing you want, but their technique is already so good that it looks like they may have already come close to maxing out their potential. Or maybe they played well, but they loafed a little too much.
Chubb just didn’t have any of these “buts” in the games I watched.”
There is one voice, however, who disagrees with the common consent that Chubb is the draft’s best bet as an EDGE rusher.
FootballOutsiders’ SackSEER, who’s “projections are based on a statistical analysis of the factors that have historically correlated to success as an NFL edge rusher,” believes that Marcus Davenport will be the top EDGE player from this draft.
This is what FootballOutsiders had to say about the two:
1. Marcus Davenport, UT San Antonio
SackSEER projection: 25.9 sacks through fifth NFL season
Scouts Inc.: No. 16 overall
Similar historic prospects: Osi Umenyiora, Barkevious Mingo
SackSEER’s numbers give Davenport just the slightest edge over the more highly touted Chubb. As Clay Matthews and his 4.5 career college sacks can tell you, success at the edge rusher position can often be more about potential than production. Davenport shows statistical signs that he could be ready to similarly blossom in the NFL.
For one, Davenport had a strong combine workout, running the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.58 seconds with a strong broad jump. Davenport also had a slightly above-average passes defensed rate. For a player slated to go in the teens (instead of the top five), Davenport sure looks impressive.
2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
SackSEER projection: 24.6 sacks through fifth NFL season
Scouts Inc.: No. 4 overall
Similar historic prospects: Grant Wistrom, Nick Perry
There is no question that Chubb is a good edge rusher prospect, but SackSEER is ambivalent regarding Chubb’s prospects as a top-five selection. Chubb’s prospects are quite a bit weaker than many of the recently drafted edge rushers selected high in the first round.
Chubb’s production was good, but he never dominated like Von Miller or Julius Peppers. Miller and Peppers each had seasons where they averaged more than a sack per game. Chubb had only 0.83 sacks per game in his best season. Chubb’s 4.65 40-yard dash and his jumps were excellent, but his workouts do not quite match the show that Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney put on in 2013. Chubb’s passes defensed rate was a little below average. Mario Williams and Peppers had passes defensed rates that would make Dikembe Mutombo jealous.
So should the Browns or some other team in the top five select Chubb? The choice is not quite as easy as the choice that the Browns made to select Garrett just one year ago. It all depends on the weight that potential suitors place on positional value (i.e., edge rushers are extremely valuable) and their tolerance for risk.
Raptor’s Thoughts: Davenport has been heaped with praise from the national media, but those scouts who have seen him in person say that while his athleticism is evident, he just doesn’t look like a complete player yet. He is used to playing out of a two-point stance, but his size, frame, and game will likely dictate a move a true defensive end in the NFL. It’s a position, they say, he just isn’t able to play yet.
On the flip side is Chubb. And while he just doesn’t compare to Clowney, Garrett, or Mack as an athlete, his game does compare pretty closely with Joey Bosa’s. SackSEER was similarly cool on Bosa, predicting 25.4 sacks through five years. the 2016 defensive rookie of the year has notched 23.0 sacks in his first two years. Like Bosa, Chubb’s game depends much more on beating defenders with mature, polished technique than with overwhelming athleticism. And given’ Chubb’s consistent performance against a variety of opponents throughout his collegiate career, it’s not unreasonable to expect that to translate to the NFL.
It is still up in the air whether Dave Gettleman will use the Giants’ first round selection on an edge rusher or wait until later in the draft to fill the need (if at all). If he does so, SackSEER is predicting that Florida State’s Josh Sweat could be the sleeper of the draft.
Josh Sweat, Florida State
SackSEER projection: 17.5 sacks through fifth NFL season
Scouts Inc.: No. 91 overall
Similar historic prospects: Brian Orakpo, Michael Johnson
Rated as a third-round pick by Scouts Inc., Sweat is the closest thing to a SackSEER sleeper in this year’s draft. Sweat’s blazing-fast 4.53-second 40, as well as his excellent vertical leap and broad jump scores, make him the second-most explosive edge rusher in this draft in terms of workout numbers. Sweat had only 14.5 sacks in his three-year career, but his sack production on a per-game basis is not much less than the more highly rated Hubbard, who had much less impressive scores on the explosion drills. Moreover, Sweat had a strong 0.20 passes defensed per game rate, which suggests that he may have been more disruptive than his sack numbers alone suggest.
In a draft that lacks true top-end edge rusher prospects by our projections, Sweat is actually SackSEER’s favorite prospect if you remove the adjustment for projected draft position.
Raptor’s Thoughts: Sweat certainly is an intriguing prospect. His athleticism compares favorably with Jadevon Clowney, but his previous knee injury will need to be investigated thoroughly. His incredible athleticism and surprising strength at the point of attack, when combined with his modest production in a scheme that rarely turned him loose, reminds me of Danielle Hunter coming out of LSU. It’s possible that Sweat could defy expectations and have a similar impact at the next level — assuming his knee checks out. It could also be worth noting that the Giants have expressed interest in Sweat and are having a pre-draft workout for him.