Aaron Lynch was a star at Notre Dame. Then he transferred to the University of South Florida and it all fell apart, or so we thought. After his laziness on the field got him pushed down the draft boards he was drafted in the 5th round by the 49ers and has become quite a nice piece for their defense (I could go on about how perceived laziness is a dumb reason to not draft a prospect but none of us want that). The most interesting part about Lynch’s success in the NFL is that he wasn’t really developed much as a player. He is also performing at the highest level of football with only 2 real pass rush moves that he can win with consistently. Re-reaching the athletic peak he saw at Notre Dame has certainly helped, as has his renewed interest when actually on the field. Aaron Lynch is like a master craftsmen with only a hammer.
Lynch’s alignments are very concentrated, more so than any other player I’ve charted, save for Olivier Vernon. He spent just over 90% of his time at either 7 or 9 technique and just over 3/4 of his time on the left side of the defensive line. Just about 70% of his pass rushes came from the 7/9 technique on the left side of the line. Allowing a player as “raw” as Lynch specialize in one area like that until he gets his feet under him in the NFL is smart coaching from the 49ers staff. Lynch has obvious strengths that he can rely on to win consistently, so it’s a smart move to allow him to sit on those strengths without throwing too much at him. That was he can develop at a quicker pace both mentally and technically. Even with most veteran players it’s typical to see limited diversity in alignments, so this doesn’t have to change as Lynch matures either.
As a pass rusher, all of Lynch’s success rates are right around average. Hi pressure rate of 17.4% is just above average, while his win rate of 23.9% is just below the average number. Add them together and his cumulative success rate of 41.3% is also right above the average. His One vs One success rates are also right around average. These numbers don’t fully do Lynch justice, but more on that later.
Once he creates pressure, Lynch brings the quarterback to the ground about 1/5 of the time. 21.1% to be exact. That number is definitely the worst of all of his success rates and really the only one that is solidly below average. That’s expected, though, as most players don’t hit their stride with sacks until their third season in the league. Lynch has had 6 and 6.5 sacks in his first two seasons, respectively, so I would expect him to make the jump to double digits next year. He has produced more than most young players as well, so I don’t think it’s out of the question for him to really put it all together next season and be one of the top sack producers in the league, either.
Here is where it all comes together for Lynch. What he’s doing as a pass rusher is pretty standard for a young player. Nothing special, just enough to be considered a fine starter with the ability to and improve and become a pretty good one. It’s how he is doing it that makes me think he could be really, really good one.
This is where the part about how Lynch is a master craftsman with only a hammer comes in.
Lynch wins primarily with his natural skill-set; power, quick acceleration, and speed around the corner. Those abilities are mostly constituted in three areas: bending-the-edge, bull rush, and initial jump. Lynch’s long legs give him the ability to cover tons of ground when running-the-arc compared to the kick slide of offensive tackles. That combined with his flexibility makes his speed rush difficult to stop. He also has impressive strength, which, when combined with his length, makes him a huge bull rush threat. His ability to beat offensive tackles with an initial jump off the snap is powered by the quick acceleration and burst in his lower body.
When you combine those three areas they make up 64.5% of his total successes. That number is high on it’s own but it’s even more significant when you compare it to other EDGE rushers. If you factor out pass rushes where Lynch had success due to coverage or being left unblocked, since they don’t really represent any particular skill, the percentage of his wins that come from the three areas jumps all the way to 82.9%. That number is hugely significant, especially compared to other EDGE rushers.
Every five times Lynch beats his man, more than four of those times statistically are going to be from one of the three areas mentioned. It’s incredible that he was able to have the success he had in 2015 when opposing offensive tackles pretty much knew they were going to be hit with one of two things every play.
As Lynch develops into a complete pass pass rusher, or really even if he doesn’t, he will continue to become an even better pass rusher. If and when he gets to the point that an offensive tackle has to be aware of a couple moves in addition to the natural abilities he already brings to the table, then Lynch will become one of the best in the game. He already seems to have a little to build on in that area. He showed that he could have success semi-consistently with a swim move and he displayed rip and spin moves when needed. Developing one or two of those moves into consistent threats when needed will push him over the top.
Aaron Lynch is already a master craftsman with only a hammer. Once he has a full tool-belt to work with, there isn’t going to be much offensive tackles can do but watch as he takes up position as one of the best EDGE rushers in the league.
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