Bloggers, media and sport fans used to heap scorn on Bleacher Report, mainly due to some questionable user-generated content that damaged the site’s reputation in its infancy. However, since their big money deal with Turner 18 months ago, they’ve added some talented and respected names as featured writers and a great deal of their content is now well worth checking out.
One of the featured writers they added to their roster was draft scouting guru and former TJB Podcast guest Matt Miller, who – along with several other film junkies – is spearheading the B/R NFL 1000 project, where they attempt to rank the NFL’s top 1,000 players. The project is now into its third year and they’ve just started releasing this year’s results. For more on how the project works go here.
This is probably the most controversial ranking so far, as we find Muhammad Wilkerson all the way down in 9th. He’s not even rated as the best 3-4 defensive end on his own team, as rookie Sheldon Richardson is just ahead of him in 7th.
Here’s what they said about Wilkerson:
Wilkerson is a disruptive player whose impact often goes well beyond the statistics, even though the emergence of other stars on the New York Jets defensive line helped him put up great numbers in 2013.
Read Bent’s thoughts after the jump.
Bent, TheJetsBlog.comThis won’t do much to quieten the growing numbers of TJB readers that seem to be taking issue with the rankings Miller and his colleagues have come up with.
The fact they had Richardson up in 7th makes it difficult for us to attribute this to an anti-Jets bias, but few Jets fans will agree that the second team all-pro Wilkerson should be down in 9th. Their rationale that “the emergence of other stars on the New York Jets defensive line helped him put up great numbers” seems somewhat backwards considering Wilkerson was usually the one taking on double teams that allowed others on the team to exploit one-on-ones. Even more baffling is the fact that they acknowledged he did that earlier in the article when they say he “does a good job drawing double-teams at the line of scrimmage to free up the players around him.”
Here is an example of him doing just that so that Richardson could get a sack. Also, this BGA Extra from earlier in the season contains three examples of him taking on double teams so that Damon Harrison could blow up three runs while single-blocked (scroll down about one-third of the way down the page).
It’s almost as if one person did the film study and initial analysis and then someone else picked the grades and wrote the conclusion. Could they have deliberately rated Wilkerson low in an effort to attract more traffic from dissenting Jets fans?
Check out their analysis for Wilkerson’s pass rushing:
With 10.5 sacks this past season, Wilkerson tied for the second-most quarterback takedowns among 3-4 defensive ends. He has the power to bull rush opponents backward, while he is tremendous at using his hands to work his way off blocks. He doesn’t have the burst to beat blockers with his quickness alone, but he demonstrates that he can work his way around them both inside and on the edge.
Okay, so he’s one of the most productive at his position and able to dominate despite lacking natural quickness? Fair enough. Now compare that with what they said about Arthur Jones.
Athletically, Jones has the goods to be a dynamic pass-rusher. His natural strength and quickness make him a tough player to handle in space, and he uses that combination well to mix up his pass-rushing moves. If he’s asked to contain or slow-play at the line, Jones can struggle to break off blocks and attack. Improved leverage would be a bonus here, but as it stands, he’s physically dominant enough to beat most tackles without having truly established technique.
So he isn’t as productive as Wilkerson, struggles to get off blocks in spite of his natural strength and quickness and could improve his technique and leverage. Yet, he scores highly because he “has the goods to be a good pass rusher” despite the fact this project isn’t supposed to account for past performance or future potential.
Jones finished up one place ahead of Wilkerson in 8th and with a higher score for pass defense. It just doesn’t make sense.
On a more positive note, while I disagree that his run defense grade should be higher than Wilkerson’s despite his higher tackle numbers, it’s encouraging to see Richardson turning heads. They say he could be in the top five by next season. I agree that he should improve next year, because he is still a little raw technically and that’s where the less-athletically gifted Wilkerson made his biggest strides from year one to year two. The return of Karl Dunbar is big in that regard.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on this project over the offseason.