Why David Bakhtiari was the NFL’s best pass protector this season

Mike Renner breaks down the 2016 performance of Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

| 4 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Why David Bakhtiari was the NFL’s best pass protector this season

Green Bay Packers LT David Bakhtiari was recently named the winner of Pro Football Focus’ Best Pass Protector Award for the 2016 NFL season. To see the winner of every PFF award, visit our NFL awards page.

It’s only fitting that the league’s top pass-protecting offensive line in 2016 owns our award for the league’s top pass protector. Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari has been an above-average pass protector over the past two seasons, but he took it to a whole new level this year. Bakhtiari allowed a measly 20 QB pressures during the regular season (just four combined sacks and hits). His 97.6 pass-blocking efficiency was the second-best of any tackle in the league, and he allowed zero QB pressures in four games this year.

Best Pass Protector: David Bakhtiari

Bakhtiari was not only one of the most efficient pass protectors statistically, but he also did so in an offense that asks as much from their offensive tackles as almost any team in the NFL. That’s a rare combination. For a good portion of the Packers’ season, opposing defenses could not have cared less about the run. Bakhtiari pass-protected on 718 snaps in the regular season, compared to 337 in run blocking. That 32:68 run:pass split was the second-most lopsided ratio in the league. A lack of balance like that puts considerable stress on the protection, with defensive linemen consistently firing off the ball unfettered by the threat of the run.

At Pro Football Focus, we not only track wins and losses for offensive linemen, but also the severity of them. Getting beat cleanly will almost always be more detrimental to a quarterback’s health than getting walked back into the quarterback’s landing spot, but still maintaining the block. This becomes even more crucial when pass-protecting for someone like Aaron Rodgers, who has a propensity for holding onto the ball and extending plays outside the pocket. Rodgers had 351 dropbacks that took 2.6 seconds or more, second-most in the NFL. Even still, we have Bakhtiari with a grand total of 10 clean beats all season long—fewer than one per game. Only Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth recorded a lower rate of clean beats, and he had to pass protect for 0.36 fewer seconds per play, on average.

Other offensive linemen like Baltimore G Marshal Yanda, Whitworth, and Raiders C Rodney Hudson had fantastic seasons in pass protection, but Bakhtiari’s ability to do it at the hardest position under the most difficult conditions puts him at the top. For a man that received the league’s fifth-largest left tackle contract prior to the season, Bakhtiari certainly did his best to live up to it in 2016.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Joe Doe

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Bak was the reason Rodgers elected to roll left in the last throw to Cook against Dallas.

  • David Japhet-Mathias

    Didn’t Marshall Yanda only allow 6 hurries compared to Bakhtiari’s 20 pressures and have a higher pass blocking efficiency?

    • Eric Sidewater

      Guard vs. Left Tackle… it is WAY easier for guards to pass-block, as defensive tackles are slower and operate in a phone booth.

      • David Japhet-Mathias

        Following that logic, David Johnson couldn’t be PFF’s best receiver as despite how much he goes out wide he still operates greatly from the backfield and is covered by Linebackers and Safeties compared to WR’s covered by CB’s.

        • Frank Yi

          He was the best receiver relative to his position. Yeah he gets to go against LBs and Safeties, but they note they are not comparing him straight up against say, Mike Evans. What he can do as a receiving back outclasses his position easily, whereas Mike Evans, while spectacular, has a lot of tight competition.

          And they even compare him to Yanda, Whitworth, and Hudson

        • Eric Sidewater

          David Johnson’s effectiveness is accentuated by the fact that teams have to use S/OLBs to guard him, the alternative wouldn’t work. This argument can not transitively be applied to Yanda/Bakhtiari.

    • GBPFan12

      Does Flacco hold onto the Ball forever?
      Did the Ravens abandon the run and throw it 40+ times a game?
      Did they play the Eagles, Texans, Vikings (twice), Bear’s pass rushers (twice), Seahawks, Giants (twice), etc. teams w/good pass rushers?

  • Brian Dugan

    As Packers fans, we tend to be pretty hard on Ted Thompson… but when you think about how he’s built very good offensive lines without many high draft picks, it’s unreal.

    David Bakhtiari – 4th round
    Lane Taylor – UDFA
    Corey Linsley – 5th round
    TJ Lang – 4th round
    Bryan Bulaga – 1st round

    Josh Sitton was a 4th rounder. J.C. Tretter who has shown a lot of promise was a 4th rounder… Hell, even Breno Giacomini and Marshall Newhouse (both 5th’s) and Allen Barbre (4th) are still starting in the NFL.

  • geoff

    I’d love to understand some more about what makes Bakhtiari so good. What I mean is that I’d like to be able to draw some insights from Bakhtiari’s play that might be relevant to evaluating talent when the draft comes around. Is he particularly strong? Agile? Does he use his hands to latch on to the defender? Does he take the defender’s momentum and use it to push him past the pocket? Not being a Packers fan, I’m not familiar with his play but I’m wondering if there are lessons to be learned from the way he plays. Does he have a high value in that intangible Madden video game quality called Pass Blocking? In Seattle Tom Cable puts forth nonsense that spread offenses make it difficult to get Offensive Line talent. The truth seems to be that *HE* can’t seem to evaluate Offensive Line talent. When I looked at the draft last year and looked at Offensive Linemen, I thought Jason Spriggs’ game film looked terrific. He looked agile and physical against good competition. When I saw him play during the few Packers games I watched this year I thought *meh*, he looked ok. Sometimes he got thrown around by opposing DL. So in my mind it’s difficult to look at game film in College and know how it will translate to the pros. That being said, Germain Ifedi had terrible game film in College and has been terrible in the pros as well. I think people got seduced by his measurables, though, which were terrific. So can we figure out how to evaluate College Offensive Line talent to better predict success in the pros?