2 Who Missed the List: Briggs & Bennett
Every year the PFF Analysis staff gets together and assembles our combined Top 101 list for the prior season. Believe it or not we’re not all robots and we don’t come with exactly the same lists in exactly the same order. It often turns into an intense debate, particularly toward the beginning points of the list and for the players making the final 10, which almost always takes more discussion than the order for those at the top.
Nobody gets all of their players on the list and everyone has at least one or two players that they were “banging the table for” (to steal a draft term) but just can’t convince enough of the rest of the staff to include them. Last season guys like Tony Romo, Jonathan Stewart, and Eugene Monroe were on the just-missed lists that we posted before the Top 101 was revealed.
This year we’re going in reverse and you already know who made the list, so now find out who I wanted in the final cut but couldn’t convince the rest of the guys on their merits.
All throughout our process I was told how important it was for linebackers to excel in coverage. Yet when it came time to bite the bullet, people decided that Briggs, our third-ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in coverage, wasn’t worth a spot in the Top 101.
Granted, Briggs had a tough middle stretch of the season, but there was more than enough in the early part of the year that meant he should have gone in over a solid (but unspectacular) year from someone like Lawrence Timmons. Come the end of the year, Briggs had earned a +12.1 grade, had eight combined interceptions and pass deflections (no linebacker had more) and surrendered fewer firsts downs and touchdowns per snap in coverage than linebackers such as Jerod Mayo, Bobby Wagner, and Daryl Washington (who all made the list).
Briggs may not be the force he once was in the run game, but even then he still had the ninth-most defensive stops against the run. All things considered, in the changing NFL, his skill set and how he delivered on the field should have seen him find his way into the opening set of picks (No. 101-91) at some point.
While I understand that Bennett was something of a boom-or-bust player in 2012 (as he has been most of his career), it doesn’t mean we should ignore the performances where he was extremely good. It did, after all, lead to him finishing seventh in our 4-3 defensive end rankings this year with significant positive grades in run defense and in rushing the passer.
When you break down his numbers you get an even bigger idea of why he should have made the list. In our Pass Rushing Productivity measure, Bennett picked up 71 combined sacks, hits, and hurries (sixth-most of all his peers) on 569 pass rushes, good for the 10th-best PRP score of all 4-3 defensive ends.
That alone isn’t a compelling case, but a healthy 18 defensive stops in the run game show a player who can really do it all. Sure, some of his better performances have come against guys you might consider weaker talents. However, he showed in the final week of the season he was more than a flat-track bully, getting a lot of joy against a talented right tackle in Tyson Clabo. When you look at who Charles Johnson earned his big grades against, is there much difference between how he did it and how Bennett did?
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