JVM: Defensive Interior
In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Jahnke Value Model” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2013. You can read about the work we’ve done to create it here, but in short:
• It’s solely about what a player did on the field in 2013
• Players are grouped by positions so their play essentially earns them a portion of the positional salary pool
• It’s all about cap hits (these values are approximate)
Here are 2013′s most undervalued and overvalued Interior Defenders:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Not much more can be said here about the Texans defensive end. We’ve almost run out of superlatives after naming Watt the back-to-back winner of PFF’s Dwight Stephenson Award which goes to the best player in football regardless of position. Watt just quite simply never gets blocked cleanly. He hasn’t had a game graded at -1.0 or lower since Week 4 of his rookie season. The big question now going into the last year of his deal is how much money is he going to get on his second contract?
2013 Cap Hit: $3.1m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $17.4m
Value Differential: +$14.3m
2. Damon Harrison, New York Jets
Damon Harrison is the premier run defender at the nose tackle position right now. It isn’t fair the way he rag-dolls centers that try to single block him. The 6-foot-4, 350-pound behemoth out of William Penn led all defensive tackles with a run grade of +37.6 and a Run Stop Percentage of 13.2. His pass rushing may have only had 10 pressures all season in 226 pass rushes, but Harrison’s work against the run more than makes up for it.
2013 Cap Hit: $488k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $9m
Value Differential: +$8.5m
3. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans
Jurrell Casey finally got that pass rushing thing down. After two seasons of being a disruptive force against the run, Casey translated that skill to pass rushing and came away with the third highest pass rushing grade among defensive tackles (+28.6). The third year defensive tackle was held pressureless just once all season (Week 14) and had the fifth-highest Pass Rushing Productivity at 9.2. His pass rushing grade is all the more impressive considering Casey isn’t just a pass rushing specialist. His 891 snaps were the sixth most at the position.
2013 Cap Hit: $739k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $9.1m
Value Differential: +$8.3m
4. Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets
Richardson makes that a ridiculous two Jets player in our undervalued Top 5. If you add in Muhammed Wilkerson, the Jets’ front three were undervalued by $19m this past season. Richardson finished the season with the second best run defense grade (+34.0) and fifth-best overall grade (+30.4) among 3-4 defensive ends. All in all it was good enough to be our runner-up for defensive rookie of the year. It’s rare to see defensive linemen dominate like Richardson did his rookie year and it’s easy to see him playing at a large surplus each year of his rookie contract.
2013 Cap Hit: $1.8m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $8.5m
Value Differential: +$7.9m
5. Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia Eagles
Thornton joined Damon Harrison this season on the ‘Where did he come from?” all-star team. The Eagles end thrived against the run after the Eagles switched to a 3-4 this season. Thornton was easily one of the best two-gappers I saw all season and his 12.4 Run Stop Percentage (second) and +31.0 run grade (third) back that up. Thornton did struggle to get consistent pressure, as his 3.7 Pass Rushing Productivity would suggest, but it’s hard to nitpick the performance of an undrafted free agent who had done little up until this point in his career.
2013 Cap Hit: $561k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.9m
Value Differential: +$5.4m
6. Dontari Poe, KC – Cap: $2.6M; JVM: $7.9M; Value Differential: +$5.3M
7. Everson Griffen, MIN – Cap: $770k; JVM: $5.9M; Value Differential: +$5.1M
8. Jason Hatcher, DAL – Cap: $2.6M; JVM: $7.7m; Value Differential: +$5.1M
9. Terrance Knighton, DEN – Cap: $1.8M; JVM: $6.8M; Value Differential: +$5.1M
10. Mike Daniels, GB – Cap: $560k; JVM: $5.2M; Value Differential: +$4.7M
1. Vince Wilfork*, New England Patriots
Vince Wilfork’s season lasted a mere 177 snaps before an achilles injury brought the defensive tackle’s season to a screeching halt. The former All-Pro was coming off back-to-back seasons where he had played well over 1,000 snaps in each and hadn’t missed time since 2009. At 32 years old, Wilfork’s best days are probably behind. The question the Patriots need to answer is will he be worth his $11.6m cap hit next season or will he be on this list again?
2013 Cap Hit: $10.6m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $206k
Value Differential: -$10.4m
2. Henry Melton*, Chicago Bears
If difficult to provide any real value when you only play 125 snaps, but even if Melton played a whole season at the pace he was going he still wouldn’t have provided any value. The Bears’ defensive tackle had the worst grade at the position when he tore his ACL Week 3 against Pittsburgh. Melton was held without a pressure through the first two weeks of the season and had a run defense grade of -4.1. After two superb seasons in 2011 and 2012, Melton lost a lot of earning potential in 2013.
2013 Cap Hit: $8.5m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $131k
Value Differential: -$8.3m
3. Desmond Bryant, Cleveland Browns
It was a rocky first season for Bryant in Cleveland. The former Raider signed a five-year, $34m deal last offseason which seemed to fall in line swimmingly with his $6.8m value from last season. The problem is that 2012 was a career year for Bryant and 2013 was far from it. After 10 pressures in his first two games in a Browns uniform, Bryant managed just 24 more pressures the entire season. The biggest question mark last season was how would he transition to a more full time role? The first go-around wasn’t too successful, but it is far too early to write off Bryant’s deal as bad just yet.
2013 Cap Hit: $7.9m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$6.8m
4. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens
It is difficult under the Jahnke Value Model to obtain high values on the defensive line ($10m+) without excelling as a pass rusher. While Haloti Ngata is a fine player, as his $5.1m value suggests, he’ll likely never live up to his four-year, $48.5m contract because of his lack of impact against the pass. This past season Ngata had the 12th-best Run Stop Percentage among defensive tackles at 8.4, but just the 28th-best Pass Rushing Productivity at 4.1. With a massive $16m cap hit next season that won’t be cut ($15m in dead money), Ngata will likely be making this list for a third straight year.
2013 Cap Hit: $11.5m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.1m
Value Differential: -$6.4m
5. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers
B.J. Raji was without a doubt one of the least impactful 3-4 defensive ends in football last season. Among starting ends, he had the fourth worst Pass Rushing Productivity (3.6) and the ninth worst Run Stop Percentage (3.8). It’s amazing how up and down Raji’s play has been over his career. He has overall grades of +15.1 (2010), -20.8 (2011), +6.5 (2012), and -14.8 (2013) the previous four seasons. That type of inconsistency won’t help his contract negotiations this offseason as Raji is set to become a free agent.
2013 Cap Hit: $6.6m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $700k
Value Differential: -$5.9m
6. Ryan Pickett, GB – Cap: $6.7M; JVM: $925k; Value Differential: -$5.8M
7. Darnell Dockett, ARZ – Cap: $7.7M; JVM: $2M; Value Differential: -$5.7M
8. Ahtyba Rubin, CLV – Cap: $7.6M; JVM: $2.1M; Value Differential: -$5.5M
9. Antonio D. Smith, HST – Cap: $9.2M; JVM: $4.2M; Value Differential: -$5M
10. Paul Soliai, MIA – Cap: $7.4M; JVM: $3.1M; Value Differential: -$4.3M
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner