Writing the Pressure Production profiles for the 2o15 rookie class of EDGE rushers has become, to an extent, repetitive. Not necessarily in a bad way. I still very much enjoy writing, I think there are some things that can be learned, and I hope that you enjoy reading them. The nature of the beast with rookie EDGE rushers, though, is that they are repetitive. Both their approaches to and the spread of their impact on the game are very similar. For any given draft class, the EDGE rushers who play a role in their rookie season will have very little separating them. No matter their frighteningly high potential or their destiny to be nothing more than situational players, the vast majority of them are “just there” in their rookie seasons. Last week when I wrote about Vic Beasley’s Pressure Production results, I touched on this more in depth. There is very little that can be learned from an EDGE rusher’s rookie season. Most of them are, as I said, “just there” and how you interpret their respective seasons are very much based on how you viewed them as a prospect.
I’m starting with this intro for two reasons: 1) I’m probably not going to focus on writing about Pressure Production results for rookies as heavily next year as I am this year. If one or two of them have results that might be able to provide some large insight as to who they are as a player that we didn’t already know, then sure, they deserve to be delved into further. But for the most part, there just isn’t enough to learn and it’s irresponsible to form opinions on information that has such little impact on who players will become. And 2) Bud Dupree is yet another rookie who’s Pressure Production profile is going to feel mundane. There really isn’t much encouraging about how he played as a rookie. However, because of the way I viewed him as a prospect, and perhaps some homerism as a Steelers fan, I still have faith that he can become a very good player.
Here is the data on his rookie season.
Creating pressure was Dupree’s weakest area as a rookie. There are some aspects of how he won and what he was able to do after creating pressure that are encouraging. His success rates, more than anything else, confirm that he is just as raw as we thought he was, though. Yet, he didn’t even perform that bad compared to even the best rookie EDGE rushers in 2015.
Dupree spent the overwhelming majority of his snaps on the edge, a testament to the Steelers’ efforts to keep his role as simplified as possible. In his 84 edge snaps, he won on 31% of them. That isn’t a good number by any means, but it is comparably the best part of his chart. On the 11 snaps where the rushed on the interior, he didn’t create a pressure. The only one of the players charted so far not to do so. Just like he took most of his snaps on the EDGE, Dupree also faced a single blocker on the overwhelming majority of his attempts. 89 to be exact. On those 89 attempts he won on 26 of them, which equates to a rate of 29.2%. That rate is the worst among all of the players charted so far. He only faced 6 double teams in the eight games I charted, but, just like on interior attempts, he failed to create a pressure.
Dupree’s Cumulative Success Rate of 27.4% is not good. It’s the worst among the players charted. It also isn’t miserable. Considering I have focused on charting upper tier players, being only slightly behind the back is fine for a player who we knew would have hiccups coming into the league.
The ways that Dupree created pressure give me the most optimism about his future development. Everyone was able to peg him for the hugely undeveloped player that he is. He doesn’t really have the ability to win in any way other with his natural athleticism. That was clear at Kentucky and it showed in his rookie season. 50% of his wins came from his explosion; either running by offensive tackles right off the snap or running through them by means of his lower body explosion. As the season progressed, though, teams began to adjust. The tackles that Dupree was facing knew he could only win initially off the snap, so they didn’t even need to bother bracing for a counter attack. Dupree recognized this and progressively attempted to use various counter attacks to win later in the season, but he was just not developed enough to do so. It’s a good sign that he began to develop recognition skills as the season progressed and that his athleticism can still be used as a “trump card” (s/o Matt Harmon), but he still has lots of development ahead of him if he wants to be an impact pass rusher.
In college, Dupree was pegged as an uber-athletic player that wasn’t polished enough nor a high enough energy player to make him more than an athletic project. All of that was true then and most of it is still true now. However, Dupree’s effort issues seem to have subsided in Pittsburgh. His lack of effort at Kentucky put a cap on his production, but in the NFL it has actually helped sustain it.
On Dupree’s 26 pressures I charted 3 sacks, which is an 11.5% Sack Conversion Rate. 2 of those 3 sacks actually came from coverage pressures. Which, by their very nature, require the pass rusher to relentlessly pursue the quarterback throughout the play. College Dupree might not have converted those sacks, but NFL Dupree did. That in and of itself is a testament to his progression as a player, not necessarily something that should be used against him.
As the season progressed, Dupree got worse. It is expected that most rookies improve as the season progresses, but in this case it makes sense that Dupree did not. As he was adjusting to the rest of the NFL, the rest of the NFL was simultaneously adjusting to his athleticism, and their adjustment was much easier than his was. So, when we look at the big picture of Dupree’s rookie season we see more of the same. He was a disappointment as rookie, but showed signs of life that give me hope for his future.
If we hold out on making judgement on any player from the 2015 draft class, Dupree is probably that player. It is still going to take all of the development we thought it would, but he still has the potential to pick up as an uber-productive pass rusher right where James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley left off.
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