Pressure: Conversion Percentage
Have you ever wondered if there are players who convert more of their pressure into sacks or not?
I decided to take a look at the entire PFF-era (2007-) to check it out; adding up every sack, hit and hurry a player recorded over that span and looking at the percentage of those total pressures that became sacks on the play. I set a cutoff of 100 total pressures over the period to qualify for the list.
The top of this list is a very good list to be on, with a who’s who of top pass rushers over the past decade being represented. Joey Porter heads the list thanks in no small part to a 2008 season in Miami in which we credited him for 17 sacks but just 48 total pressures, a pretty crazy 35.4% of his total pressure.
Beyond Porter we find other retired greats like Greg Ellis, Jason Taylor and soon to be retired Shaun Phillips.
The rogue name amongst the field of edge-rushers is Buffalo’s Marcel Dareus, the lone interior presence and by far the best conversion percentage of any interior defender (including JJ Watt).
What about the other end of the table? The guys that actually generated a decent amount of pressure over their careers but couldn’t convert it to sacks consistently?
The edge rusher with the worst conversion rate over the PFF era is former Atlanta first round bust Jamaal Anderson. Anderson actually became a half-decent run defender but could never seem to generate enough pressure, and perhaps more damningly, just couldn’t get home when he did get pressure.
Anderson managed to convert just 7.5% of his total pressure into sacks, the worst mark among qualifying players. He is followed by another former first round pick that people in Denver at least will tell you is a bust: Robert Ayers.
Ayers has actually enjoyed something of a renaissance in his career and has become a half decent player (if not the player he was supposed to become at draft time perhaps), but even in 2014, a career year for him with the Giants, he could only convert 10.9% of his total pressure into sacks. Despite ranking 5th overall among 4-3 DEs and 6th as a pass-rusher, Ayers still struggled to covnert that pressure into play-ending sacks.
Elsewhere on this list are other players that have been consistently disappointing pass-rushers, but the other name to leap out is that of Brandon Graham, who just got handed a big contract from the Eagles. PFF has long championed Graham, and he has consistently generated a huge amount of pressure in the limited snaps he has been given, but as we can see here he has never had a great conversion rate. Graham has 161 total pressures over his career but only 19 of those have been sacks. We would expect Graham to flourish in his new full-time role in Philadelphia, but it is going to be fascinating to see if he can improve that strike rate on his pressures.
Finally, let’s turn our attention to the defensive interior players, who were kept separately from the previous list (because naturally defensive interior players are going to have a lower strike rate of pressure thanks to the nature of the pressure they generate).
As we saw before Marcel Dareus tops the list, but there are two other players who also post a better conversion rate than J.J. Watt; Henry Melton and Tommie Harris. This is not to say that they are better players, Watt has more total pressures than both players combined, and almost as much as the pair combined with Dareus, but they have each converted a greater percentage of their pressure into sacks.
At the bottom end of the scale Fletcher Cox has the lowest conversion rate, perhaps due in part to the amount of head-up alignment he finds himself playing in Philadelphia.