The San Francisco 49ers pass rush had some issues this past season. Aldon Smith was released, Justin Smith retired, and Ray McDonald was released late in the previous season. The team added some talent, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Eli Harold will likely be looked upon to take a sizable step forward, but in the meantime, pass rushers are likely on the 49ers radar heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.
On Tuesday, Football Outsiders posted their 2016 SackSEER projections. SackSEER projects sacks in the first five years of a player's career based on a statistical analysis of all edge rushers drafted from 1998 to 2014. They break down all the measurements in the article, but they include projected draft position, an "explosion index", 3-cone drill score, a metric called "sack rate as modified", college defenses passed divided by games played, and number of redshirts received or for which the player was eligible.
The SackSEER rating breaks down the prospect based on SackSEER trends alone. The SackSEER projection factors in the projected round a player is expected to be drafted, and thus is a little more subjective.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd is the most intriguing player on the list. He actually projects out at the top of the list, with a projected 26.9 sacks through Year 5. His rating is 81.0 percent, which means he is projected ahead of 81 percent of the players on the historic trends list. Floyd had some strong Combine numbers, but not so big production in college. That can often result in a "workout warrior" label, and FO acknowledged this in discussion Floyd:
It would be easy to label Floyd as a "workout warrior," and dismiss his prospects. However, the actual history of such players reveals a more nuanced picture. It is true that many edge-rusher prospects who excelled at the combine after mediocre college production have become busts. Barkevious Mingo is a recent example of a player who looked like Jevon Kearse at the combine, but whose NFL career ultimately lacked sizzle. However, there are also counterexamples of edge rushers with good workouts and thin college resumes who nevertheless found NFL success, such as Trent Cole, Mark Anderson, and Michael Johnson. It all adds up to Floyd being a boom-or-bust prospect who is essentially a coin flip.
FO's top five based on SackSEER projection are:
1. Leonard Floyd, Georgia - 26.9
2. Joey Bosa, Ohio State - 26.8
3. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State - 25.6
4. Shaq Lawson, Clemson - 22.9
5. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky - 208
FO's top five based on SackSEER rating:
1. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State - 97.3%
2. Bronson Kaufusi, BYU - 90.8%
3. Dean Lowry, Northwestern - 90.8%
4. Joey Bosa, Ohio State - 87.8%
5. James Cowser, Southern Utah - 84.2%
Kaufusi appears to be the most notable sleeper. He's a 280 pound defensive end, and while his explosive numbers were lacking, he was a pass breakup machine.
If you want to check out previous years of SackSEER, here is 2015, and here is 2014. Eli Harold showed up fairly well in the 2015 projection, while Aaron Lynch is pretty far down the 2014 projection (but better in the rating).