Early today on Twitter, I had a conversation with Justin Higdon, one of the draftniks I’m closer to in the draft community. As my “brand” of being the Force Players guy, I’m supposed to hate Joey Bosa, who is generally considered the top edge defender in the class, as he missed the 2016 Force Players cutoff. That’s not the case. I like him for who he is, a tough, long base defensive end who is going to give you above average run game contributions out of the gate. For someone who is only 20 years old, that’s great.
I will say, though, the combines of Bosa and his former teammate Noah Spence concern me. NFL Network’s Charley Casserly, who was the general manager of the Washington Redskins from 1989 to 1999, stated that Bosa was better than Ezekiel Ansah, who if you are judging by Pro Football Reference’s Adjusted Value, has the sixth-most efficient career of a first-round pass-rusher since 2005. The only names ahead of him are J.J. Watt, who Bosa has also been compared to, Von Miller, Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware and Khalil Mack.
The topic of Bosa reaching an eight-sack rookie season came up, something only 17 players have been able to do since 2005, including Ansah. Of the 17 players, nine were Force Players, including the only two interior defensive linemen on the list, three were Mid Tiers, two were non-Force Players and three hovered in no man’s land without full data on hand. Shawne Merriman would have qualified as either a Force Player or a Mid Tier pass-rusher, but we can’t pin him down into one category. Tamba Hali and Elvis Dumervil didn’t post enough data to even narrow them down that far.
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) April 6, 2016
My point was this, though: Only two of the 17 players who were able to accomplish this goal were non-Force Players, which in my mind is a red flag for Bosa’s chances, as the majority of pass-rushers drafted are non-Force Players. Even then, one, Aldon Smith, was coming off of a visible injury during his final year in college, which I speculate may have muddied his combine numbers.
What stuck me odd when I was compiling the data set was the fact that both of the non-Force Players weren’t on the rosters of the original teams which drafted them. If I were to make a list of first- and second-round misses who the Force Players filter passed over, Smith and Sheard are two of the first three. In terms of Approximate Value/Season, Chandler Jones and Sheard lead the list of non-Force Players, with Smith’s recent efforts holding him down in the seventh spot.
The other non-Force Players at the top of the data set are Whitney Mercilus, Akeem Ayers, Gaines Adams, Koa Misi, Courtney Upshaw, Trent Murphy and Quinton Coples. Those aren’t exactly the players you’d want a first- or second-round prospect to look up to.
It got me thinking, if the top non-Force Players don’t even receive second contracts with the team that drafted them, what must the full splits look like? Smith’s release from San Francisco wasn’t totally performance based, but Sheard walked from Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent, and Jones was just traded to Arizona for a second-round pick and Jonathan Cooper, a guard whose started 11 games in his three-year career. Ask a New England Patriots fan about Jones, and they’ll give you a speech on how he was never going to be re-signed by the team anyway and how he was a streaky pass-rusher.
The easiest way for me to try to measure the retention rate of first- and second-round pass-rushers was to look at which team they played for six years into the league. Remember, before the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams were signing first-round picks to contracts as long as seven years, but which could be voided after five, like Erasmus James’ in 2005. I figure, if they made it past that voidable stage, teams view their selection as a success.
Now this means that younger players will be excluded off the list, but I believe that actually hurts the case for Force Players more than non-Force Players. Names like Melvin Ingram, Jamie Collins, Ansah, and Mack are cutoff by the six-year threshold. The non-Force Players with the best public standing are the twins from Houston, Mercilus, who posted 12 sacks as a part-time starter for the Texans in 2015, and Jadeveon Clowney, who is still viewed as more potential than player after his microfracture surgery. After those two, there’s not much hope on the non-Force Players list. For the purposes of adding another class, we’re going to count who pass-rushers are slated to play for in 2016.
Here are the raw facts:
- Between 2005-2011, 22 Force Players were taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft.
- Between 2005-2011, 27 non-Force Players were taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft.
- 59.1 percent of those Force Players were still with their original franchise during their sixth NFL season.
- 7.1 percent of those non-Force Players were still with their original franchise during their sixth NFL season. You’re 8.32 times more likely to still be on your original franchise in your sixth season in the league if you’re a first- or second-round Force Player compared to a non-Force Player.
- 4.5 percent of those Force Players were out of the league within six years after being drafted. The only player who didn’t see a sixth season, making up the full 4.5 percent, is Jason Worilds, who retired to focus on religion. At the time, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport estimated that Worilds essentially turned down what would have been a contract worth $7 to $8 million per year, in what would have been his sixth season in the NFL.
- 57.1 percent of those non-Force Players were out of the league within six years after being drafted. You’re 12.69 times more likely to be out of the league within six NFL seasons as a first- or second-round non-Force Player compared to a Force Player.