Photo by Travis Essinger.
Between 2005 and 2015, 89 Defensive Tackles were drafted in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds. How do we find the next Domata Peko? How do we find the next Jurrell Casey? How do we find the next Malik Jackson?
My cat says we could use analytics.
The anomaly of Peko, and others
Peko, drafted in the fourth round from Michigan State by the Cincinnati Bengals, appeared in 208 NFL games over 14 seasons. Kyle Williams, drafted in the fifth round from LSU, played 183 games over 13 seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
These are not household names because they are defensive tackles on teams with little to no postseason success over the past 15 seasons.
Geno Atkins and Jurrell Casey still making tackles up the middle ten years after they were drafted. 45 of the 89 defensive tackles drafted between 2005 and 2015, in rounds three through 5, played in more than 48 games, equating to three full NFL seasons.
Basic Math principles state, if my team drafts a defensive tackle in the third, fourth, or fifth round, my team has over a fifty percent chance on drafting a three year starter helping defend the run and help pressure the opposing quarterback.
We can’t get run on
When I look at the game of NFL football, I see an indefensible rectangle with a flawed and imperfect understanding of how points are generated. Just like baseball, football has basic principles.
We can’t get run on. Two good defensive tackles in a four down lineman set help us not get run on. I was watching Tennessee/Buffalo the other night and on 3rd and 4, Tennessee had one down lineman. Two others standing at the line of scrimmage over the guards. “Hybrid” defenses and formations are getting sexier based on personnel talent and versatility.
Two good defensive tackles and pressuring the opposing QB with solely our front four is a basic principle.
Aaron Donald pressuring the QB right up the middle are magical moments. Our model does not expect this from the defensive tackle position.
Though, I think Donald performed the job of blowing up the backfield, as is the job of a defensive tackle, better with Ndamukong Suh playing nose tackle.
Of course, I’m in the Belichick and Mike Vrabel camp pressuring the opposing QB and helping in Coverage and making sure we don’t get run all can be accomplished with three down lineman and two “OLB” in a two point stance but w/e.
NFL Prospect: What is your Job as a Defensive Tackle? If he doesn’t answer “to blow up the opponents backfield on every snap. Either by sacking the quarterback, interrupting the hand off to the running back, or tackling the running back for a six yard loss”, then Coaching needs to explain this after we draft him. Analytics don’t measure Swagger.
How do we do a better job expending a third, fourth, or fifth round draft pick, every season, for a defensive tackle?
Beyond tackles, sacks, bench press
When I look at how players are drafted, I see an imperfect and flawed evaluation system based on six metrics:
bench press, forty yard dash, vertical jump, Broad Jump, Shuttle, and three cone.
My guess is Jurrell Casey had a bad combine. Atkins had a bad combine. Kyle Williams had a bad combine. I’m not going to check because the defensive tackles cited in this article obviously fooled the scouts.
How do we not get fooled when we throw a dart in the third, fourth, or fifth round at a defensive tackle prospect? We are throwing a dart at a board with two halves: three year starter or nah, we missed. we can make our dart board more precise if we decide to use the pick on a defensive tackle in the fifth round. Look bruh, you can pass on this DT in the fourth round, but now the dart board is 50% three year starter, because we are taking a DT in rounds three through five (this half of the dart board cannot change), and the other half is “didn’t work out”.
However, the other half of the dart board where he didn’t work out is now easier to hit because of the angle you are throwing the dart by waiting until the fifth round to expend the pick. Do you feel the algorithms bend?
Beyond the film
We have to look beyond the film in talent evaluation. In the stack of defensive tackle prospects, show me everything you don’t like on film and I’ll respond with one question: Can coaching fix this?
He didn’t do a lot of bench presses? Do you think after one season in our NFL conditioning program he’ll be able to do more, with proper form so he does not tear a pectoral muscle? He refused to do three cone? He didn’t participate in shuttle or the 40? Oh noes, however will we measure his NFL game speed? Do you think after a year in our NFL conditioning program he will be faster? More agile?
See bruh, since 2016, we’ve drafted three defensive tackles. Ogunjobi was a hit. How does Jordan Elliott look? Brantley is on a NFL roster and we have to pay Ogunjobi so congratulations, a better way of picking NFL prospects is three for three and batting 1.000 on defensive tackle prospects.
Baseball principles don’t apply to football. Baseball analytics have no place in football. Giggle. No, baseball is a different game on a different shaped field, a diamond. Football is a game where you don’t use your feet and the ball isn’t a ball (at all) so out of the gate you’re dealing with complex principles with no logical explanations.
A basic principle. Let’s not get run on. We’re not getting run on because our front four annihilate opponent’s backfields. Make things crazy back there. Create pressure for the opposing QB.
Sacking the opposing QB> “Franchise QB”. What is a “franchise” QB? The guy who sells the most jerseys? Don’t @ me.
Picture the draft dart board divided again by two sections. One section is guy who sacks the QB in a way worth 20% of the salary cap. The other section is a quarterback playing in a manner worth 20% of the salary cap. Which section of the dart board are you more likely to hit with a first or second round draft pick?
We’re starting to digress into bust rate.
I’m fine to pay Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Mahomes, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, 20% of the salary cap because their Super Bowl titles earned it.
Too many hall of famers playing or recently retired are creating recency “bias” on “franchise QBs” and what they should be paid. And yeah, ignoring the invariable variable, required, Mahomes is a Hall of Famer. He already has the Super Bowl title and could end up with every passing record in the books, except completion percentage. If we are going to win a title, in the next ten years, we are going to have to beat Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in January.
Defending the rectangle is difficult and this guy Mahomes, with the speed of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Travis Kelce running routes over the middle creates too many challenges.
You know how we defend the rectangle? We pressure the opposing QB with our front four and for Mahomes, the pressure has to be constant involving blitz packages.
It’s unavoidable, there will be one on one coverage at the rectangle’s outer edges down field. Does the centerfielder have to help left field or right field?
I expect to see Ward Island on Sunday. Guy was a top five pick, just like Jalen Ramsey who, apparently, is erasing half the rectangle in single coverage. Do I need to describe the advantage created when one of your cornerbacks is erasing half the rectangle, usually against their best outer “edge” receiver? And dude, when the opponent’s best receiver lines up in the slot, Ward Island should follow.