CFF Sig Stats: Edge Defenders

Ben Stockwell looks at the edge defenders in this year's draft class with the help of our Signature Stats.

| 2 years ago

CFF Sig Stats: Edge Defenders

cff-sig-stat-edAs we wade into our massive pool of College Football Focus data, we’ll be sharing with you some of the highlights from our Signature Stats in position-by-position looks. So, over the next couple weeks you can expect daily dives into the best and worst that the full FBS schedule produced in all of the same categories you’ve come to know from our NFL coverage. It’s important to note that our stats are different from our grades, as the stats are black and white, result-based numbers while the grades add the context to a player’s contribution in each situation.

Here’s a look at some of our signature stats for edge defenders with the 2014 NFL leader listed for perspective.

Pass Rushing Productivity

cff sig prp ed

2014 NFL Leader: Brandon Graham 17.7

In the NFL our Pass Rushing Productivity stat is a who’s who of the most destructive and disruptive pass rushers with the likes of Cameron Wake showing how players can grow from part-time contributors into top-tier pass rushers. Our PRP scores are not directly analogous to our grades, but do give a good representation of who (regardless of how and when) are the most disruptive pass rushers, in this case in the 2015 NFL Draft class. For certain players there will, of course, be the question of the level of competition, but at some point a disruptive pass rusher is just a disruptive pass rusher, whether that translates from college to the pros is the bigger question.

–  Topping the list with a PRP score of 15.3 is James Vaughters of Stanford who notched 38 pressures on only 196 pass rushes this season. Part of a productive defense for the Cardinal, Vaughters rushed on only 70.8% of his snaps but made full use of his almost 200 pass rushes to top this list.
–  Second-place Trey Flowers has a relatively low conversion rate in terms of finishing his pressures with hits and sacks, but his relentless work rate against SEC offensive lines is noteworthy. Only Markus Golden of Missouri can match his sheer volume of pressure over the course of the season, but Flowers notched his pressure on 70 fewer pass rushes.
–  A number of names that draft followers will be familiar with crop up inside the Top 20 but a couple of top names conspicuous by their absence are Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Shane Ray. They only just missed the cut in 21st and 22nd, respectively, but for the amount of times they rushed the passer, other players in this class were doing more.

Third Down PRP

cff sig prp ed 3d 2

2014 NFL Leader: Brandon Graham 21.7

This stat is not available in our premium section for the NFL but a dig into our database yields the most productive pass rushers when they pin their ears back and fly at the quarterback in an obvious passing situation. In the NFL the likes of Brandon Graham, J.J. Watt and last season Ezekiel Ansah shine, and in college a number of the big names shone on third down as well.

–  The leader, however, will be an unfamiliar name to many as NC State’s Art Norman led the way with 25 pressures on only 96 third-down pass rushes. That accounted for 54% of Norman’s pass rushing production on 34% of his pass rushes; a sub-package rush specialist in the making?
–  Immediately behind Norman runs a list of the familiar names at the top of a number of edge rankings with Dante Fowler Jr. shining in particular on third down. Once again, however, the likes of Shane Ray are a little lower down, failing to match the per-rush production of other players on a heavier workload.
–  In fourth place on this list, Hau’oli Kikaha’s production is unquestionable and his 12 sacks on third downs were the most by an edge defender in this class, two clear of Utah’s Nate Orchard and three clear of Ray. There may be questions over Kikaha’s knees but his production on the field is exceptional.

Run Stop Percentage

cff sig rspct ed

2014 NFL Leader: Malik Jackson 14.1%

Playing on the edge isn’t all about rushing the passer. Much as you want to see the explosion and the ability to get after the quarterback edge defenders still have a duty to defend the run and by combining the two lists you can get a feel for not only the specialists but also players with the ability to contribute in all phases and potentially stay on the field for all three downs.

–  Once again leading the way is James Vaughters from Stanford. Though he played fewer than 600 snaps this season, Vaughters produced the numbers that a full-time starter would be proud of against both run and pass.
–  Second-place Danielle Hunter had one of the worst PRP scores in the class, though he fared better rushing from inside, but by sheer volume was the most productive edge defender against the run with his 41 stops six clear of Trey Flowers in second place.
–  Flowers leads a group that includes the likes of Frank Clark and Lorenzo Mauldin who each feature in the Top 20 of both Run Stop Percentage and Pass Rushing Productivity.


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben


| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Kyle Ferguson

    Just read the profile of Trey Flowers. They said he might have to be taken out on third down. Not sure if that’s true lol

  • IMG

    I’d like to see these metrics applied historically to draft classes from five plus years ago. It would be interestingt to see if these metrics truly do predict the potential productivity of a college player.

    • dorkus_maximus

      Absolutely. Talk is cheap and stats are meaningless if they can’t predict anything.

    • bobrulz

      That’s a ton of work. I’m not sure if they’ll have the time or resources to do this retro-actively. We may just have to wait a few years to find out.

    • LightsOut85

      Just read FO’s “SackSEER” article (projecting pass-rushers based on college career & combine measurables), and they’re very “nervous” about Dante Fowler (negatively comparing him to Dion Jordan, based on the results of their metric).

      He apparently had good PRP (et all) in college (esp 3rd down), but perhaps hits/hurries aren’t that good in projecting. That is, it’s good to include them all (& account for number of rushes) in the NFL, the “final destination” where all the OT are “NFL caliber”, but in college a pass-rusher who wants to be an NFL star should be getting a higher % of pressure as hits/sacks against college tackles…..just a theory though. (Randy Gregory ranks pretty similarly in “sack conversion%” (& similar metrics) as Fowler, but SackSEER is high on him – BUT, it is reflective of their entire college career, not just 2014 like these numbers).

  • LightsOut85

    “This stat is not available in our premium section for the NFL” And why (since it’s kept track of), we’re all still asking ourselves.

  • Ken

    Strength of competition has to be a factor in these stats as well.

  • Ron Hicks

    In my opinion, analytics (the systematic analysis of data or statistics) should have a disclaimer attached: “This information is for entertainment purposes only.” If statistics could accurately predict which college players would succeed and which would fail in the NFL, then they would trump game tape. They don’t; however, stats are fun to scrutinize and discuss.

    To be totally fair, if anyone knows of a research study that confirms the predictive nature of any set of statistics, as they relate to college and the NFL, please share the study with us.

  • Anthony

    Hey guys, when is the top of the crop for defensive ends coming out? I need to know who to be wary of for the draft other than Shane Ray and Trey Flowers. Thanks.