Secret Superstars 2014: Raiders
In the recent past the Oakland Raiders have struggled to find talent to fill out their roster while trying to rid themselves of overpaid veterans the last two seasons. They have found themselves gathering veterans to sign on short term deals and last season they found a player who easily produced his best season to date: 2014 Secret Superstar Pat Sims.
Sims was drafted out of Auburn in the third round of the 2008 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. His playing time was limited due to the emergence of Geno Atkins and the Bengals’ desire to keep playing Domata Peko, but Sims never helped himself out with any great display when he was on the field.
However, in 2013 the Oakland Raiders signed him to a one-year deal to be a stop-gap and found themselves with a player who was a bright spot in a difficult season.
In Sims’ six-year career he has only graded positively in the run game for a season once, in 2012, where he only played 209 snaps due to missing the majority of the year recovering from serious injury to both ankles. In 2013 Sims showed that the 2012 small sample size was not a fluke, finishing the season with a +9.5 grade in the run game. Sims had 24 stops against the run last season, giving him a 7.6 Run Stop Percentage — a number on par with his career best — while playing the most snaps in his career.
In the first half of the season Sims played as many remembered when he was a Bengal. There was a good performance in Week 2, but apart from that, he was largely hopeful to hit the average mark. That being said, something changed after the Raiders’ bye week in Week 7.
Second Half of the Season
In 2013 Sims had his best season to date, though his numbers were somewhat inflated due to a strong final two games where he dominated the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. In those two games he graded out at a combined +10.3. In the week 16 game against the Chargers Sims got consistent penetration into the backfield, ending the game with 11 tackles, 10 of which were defensive stops that helped him pile up a +7.2 for that one outing.
Over Sims’ career he has shown the ability to perform well in certain games but has struggled to be consistent from week to week. That also changed in the second half of 2013. Over the final 10 games of the season Sims graded +19.7, with a run defense grade of +12.4 and seven games with a positive overall mark.
The Raiders used Sims less at nose tackle and 4-3 defensive tackle and more as a 3-4 defensive end as the year wore on — it will be interesting to see how they deploy him in 2014 given the additions of Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck, Khalil Mack and Lamarr Woodley to the front seven. Hopefully, for Sims’ sake, the Raiders will continue to move him around and encourage the aggressive style rather than boxing him in as a two-gapping 1/0-technique player.
Last season Sims had his second-best year as a pass rusher, although he’s not anything close to an elite pass rushing threat. His Pass Rushing Productivity of 5.8 made him at least useful in that regard — for a run-stopping interior defensive lineman, a 5.8 PRP is a decent mark.
In most of Sims’ previous seasons he has struggled to be anything more than a liability as a pass rusher, only in one other time logging a PRP above 4. If he’s once again able to produce a respectable pass rush, it will give the Raiders one more moveable part in their revamped front.
With the additions the Raiders brought in this offseason it looks like Sims will have a reduced role compared to the 693 snaps he played last year. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a hit as a Secret Superstar, though. If Sims can play well in the role he’s handed he has the potential to be a key contributor in Oakland’s hopeful, rebuilt defense.
It would be a surprise if he is used much as a pass rusher since the team brought in Tuck, Woodley, Smith and Mack, but for Sims to continue this run as a successful find — and maybe even turn his second one-year contract into a multi-year deal — he will need to show that the second half of the 2013 was not a fluke.
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