Critiquing the B/R NFL 1000 Project: Outside Linebackers

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.

In our penultimate installment, we look at their rankings for outside linebackers. To look back at the previous updates go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

In their top 35 3-4 outside linebackers list, Miller and his colleagues rank Quinton Coples 29th. Calvin Pace was not ranked.

Here’s what they said about Coples:

One of our lowest-rated pass-rushing outside linebackers, Quinton Coples (6’6”, 290 lbs, two seasons) just didn’t provide the pass-rushing threat many were expecting would come in 2013. He looks to be moving in slow motion a lot of times, at least comparatively speaking to other outside linebackers.

Read Bent’s thoughts after the jump.

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Leaving aside the folly of comparing Coples to other outside linebackers when the Rush Linebacker role has much more in common with a 4-3 defensive end role, 29th was about what I expected for Coples. After all, it is supposed to be be based on the season as a whole and although he produced well over the second half of the year, he didn’t have much statistical production in the first half. As I’ve already noted, their lists usually seem to correspond pretty closely to PFF rankings and his pass rush rating was low on there too.

However, while it’s difficult to put forward a strong case that he should be much higher up the list, their analysis here is awful. Some of the things they said about him included “Doesn’t have the natural athleticism or lateral agility to play in space”, “Inability to move his feet”, “Won’t chase anyone down in space”, “Has a low ceiling because of his lack of elite burst or athleticism” and the coup-de-grace: “Has value as a rotational player”.

Rotational player? After missing the first two games with a broken bone in his foot, Coples played 84% of the snaps in what was the league’s top run defense for most of the year. As soon as he returned to the lineup, Muhammad Wilkerson’s production instantly picked up, having been constantly double-teamed in the first two games. In the second half of the season, Coples averaged 4.5 total pressures a game as a pass rusher, which is elite-level production.

As noted, his PFF pass rushing ranking was low, partly because of his slow start (and let’s not forget he was also adapting to a new role). However, to an extent that’s a reflection of the fact that teams were getting rid of the ball early and leaving additional blockers in to counter the Jets pass rush. PFF rankings for pass rushers don’t take into account factors like that, merely being dependent on whether or not a pressure was recorded, so you can end up with a negative grade even if you give your man constant problems (as Coples did for most of the second half of the year).

Coples is not a speed rusher, but was constantly able to get upfield leverage and drive his man into the backfield. As for him not being athletic and lacking burst, anyone who’s seen some of the plays he’s made over the past two years knows that’s laughable. Maybe the scope of this project was too big for them to watch any of Coples’ performances over the second half of the season, so they’re basing everything on an injured player who was still getting to grips with the changes to his role.

As for Pace, to see him overlooked altogether makes even less sense. I did wonder if they’d perhaps decided to treat him as a 4-3 outside linebacker, on the grounds that many of the Jets’ main packages are a modified version of a 4-3 under scheme, but no, he didn’t make that list either. Yes, his ten sacks were to some extent the product of other people, but let’s not forget that Miller and his cohorts already justified marking Wilkerson down because “the emergence of other stars on the New York Jets defensive line helped him put up great numbers”. The most disappointing part about Pace being unranked is that they don’t have to mention him at all, let alone try to justify that decision, so we don’t get the opportunity to point out any obvious contradictions. I’m not sure why it even makes sense to only evaluate only 35 outside linebackers when they evaluated 100 cornerbacks, some of whom were so bad they’ll probably be out of the league this year.

Regardless of what these analysts continue to say, I’m bullish on Coples for 2014, as long as he can stay healthy. I’m also pleased that they brought Pace back, although I’m hopeful that the more dynamic Antwan Barnes will get more pass rush reps next year and wouldn’t mind seeing them draft Pace’s eventual replacement.

I also wrote about Coples and the “move” to “outside linebacker” here and here. Coples played with his hand in the dirt in a four man line on 58% of his snaps in 2013.

It should just be kickers and punter to go now, so we’ll cover that in our final instalment




62 comments
Tequila Joe
Tequila Joe

I hope something clicks for Coples this year. He could be huge for us and I think he can be a fine player as the rush LB in a 3-4 scheme. At the same time I'm curious what kind of player he would already be if he was asked to play with his hand in the dirt 100% of the time...

jjstearns
jjstearns

coples was having a solid preseason until he sprained his ankle which hampered him all year and he still played respectably when he returned. jury is still out - let's see where he is at after 4 or 5 regular season games

NYCPEinGermany
NYCPEinGermany

And the heaping of scorn on BR (justifiably) resumes.

williamg1
williamg1

I ranked the top 1000 NFL player rankings. The Bleacher Report NFL 1000 project didn't make the list. 



Tequila Joe
Tequila Joe

I like Coples but I think he's a guy that would have benefited from being drafted by a team that runs a 4-3 the majority of the time. 

RFortune
RFortune

Johnson is at the Knicks/Nets game and he was on his phone obviously talking to the Jets

__fense
__fense

So wait, a guy with double digit sacks isn't one of the top 1000 players in the NFL, but there's any amount of punters that are?

__fense
__fense

Be honest with us. When you first heard about this project, you thought "Oh, a guy on the podcast is doing this thing, it will be fun to go into a little more detail about Jets players" and now that you're committed to finishing it, you've been regretting the decision for weeks.

WW85
WW85

CJ leaves with no contract. Look to the draft I think

Pat d
Pat d

Hank is right, the Jets do need an outside pass rusher.

Disgruntled Jets Fan
Disgruntled Jets Fan

Are they done with this?  There's a little something I want to do with the final list.

DrJonathanReefer
DrJonathanReefer

got bored so, here.


Pure BPA based on the big board besides Gator and Benwikere, I just laughed at the names.



18 -TE ERIC EBRON

49 -WR MIKE EVANS

80 -RB CARLOS HYDE

104 -CB JAYLEN WATKINS

115 -ILB LAMIN BARROW

137 -RB LACHE SEASTRUNK

154 -CB EJ GAINES

195  -S JONATHAN DOWLING

209  -TE GATOR HOSKINS

210 -QB AARON MURRAY

213 -DE MICHAEL SAM

233 -CB BENE BENWIKERE


Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples  Oh god. 


How many years has Rex Ryan been running his defense? And how many times has the RUSH LB been explained to you? 


Coples is an edge player. 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB is irrelevant since he can do both. 

Brendan
Brendan

@Tequila Joe  I say we give him a full year at the RUSH before making that statement definitively. If he plays 2014 like he did for his healthy half of 2013, no one will be saying that. In fact, they might talking about him with some pretty impressive company. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@__fense  Almost, but I think it's still be worthwhile to debunk some of their mistakes.

boomer
boomer

@Pat d  Before his injury, our best outside pass rusher was Antwan Barnes with 12 QB hits and 2 sacks in 5 games.  Fortunately, he is coming back this year.

Brendan
Brendan

@Pat d  That's Fonzie, and please explain to us some more about how you agree with the comment citing Vernon Gholston in it. 

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples  Ha;gh;alfgha;lfgjl;afgja;lkfgja;fgjag


Thank you for giving us this gem. 

Tequila Joe
Tequila Joe

@Brendan @Tequila Joe  I haven't pulled the plug on him just yet. I hope and pray he gets to that next level but I truly believe he could have already been a pro bowl type player, if he was only asked to put his hand in the ground and rush on every play. I would never question Rex's defensive acumen but I would love to see more sets with Wilkerson at LE, Richardson and Ellis at tackle and Coples playing RE in a traditional 4-3 scheme. I think they would crush QB's on the regular...

madbacker
madbacker

@Bent do you see any potential for Coples to be moves to the Strong Side to learn that role and the team going after a more natural/pure pass rusher in the draft/trade?

Pat d
Pat d

I never mentioned Gholston. Just that the Jets need an elite pass rusher. People here bring up players, like Barnes, that no one except hard core Jets fans are even aware of. If no one else knows who he is then he is not an elite pass rusher.

High$ocietyJet
High$ocietyJet

So I'm guessing he's gonna go off on another rant about Gholston.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  "Is Coples a OLB   or is he a DE on a 4-3"


Like I've said, rush LB has more in common with a DE role, regardless of whether or not his hand is in the dirt.


Where I said you shouldn't compare him to outside linebackers wasn't in terms of his production (which compares very favorably with both OLBs and DEs thankyouverymuch) it was in direct response to Miller's comment that he is slower than other OLBs.  We shouldn't be comparing his speed to conventional linebackers, we should compare him with DE's where of course his athleticism is well above average.

Tequila Joe
Tequila Joe

@brendan @Tequila Joe  He played his whole life with his hand in the ground. Now he's expected to think and then react. I'm sure it would be an easy transition for you Brendan but not everyone is built the same way. 

Brendan
Brendan

@Tequila Joe You're literally just griping over where his hand is (on the ground or not). He rushes nearly every play regardless of where his hand is. 

Pat d
Pat d

I have to agree with you on this. It is not surprising though considering the Jets drafted a defensive lineman in the first round the last 3 years.

Bent
Bent moderator

@madbacker @Bent  No, not really.


On passing downs they can get get another pass rusher and both can rush from either edge, but in the base defense, Coples fits best at the Rush.

madbacker
madbacker

@Bent @Brendan @Pat d  yes yes yes let Barnes rush! I BELIEVE he still holds the record for most sacks on Tom Brady in the post season!!!!

Bent
Bent moderator

@Brendan @Pat d  Barnes had 11 sacks a couple of years ago and has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the league every year.  He's one of the best DPRs you could ever wish to have.  Let's just hope they can use him like that this year.

Brendan
Brendan

@Pat d  People who know good NFL players know who Barnes is. 


And everyone is aware who Coples is. 

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  Doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether or not he's standing and his productivity in each role reflects this.

madbacker
madbacker

@Bent @Brendan  BUT!! a pairing of the two could be interesting (either grooming Coples or Jordan in the strong side role and the other in the rush!) 

High$ocietyJet
High$ocietyJet

Even the most critical of Jets fan can see how ridiculous his comment is

boomer
boomer

@High$ocietyJet  As I was saying....


Seriously, when you start bringing up Vernon Gholston as a reason to criticize Rex the shark hasn't just been jumped, you've been shot over it with a canon. 

boomer
boomer

@High$ocietyJet  Well we could still go grab him.  Pretty sure he is still available.  And always will be.

DrJonathanReefer
DrJonathanReefer

@Brendan @juunit  


well it simulates the draft and  I just picked BPA based off who they ranked.  This does not reflect where they ranked said player. You can pick 3 big boards, but  I forgot who i picked.

Brendan
Brendan

@DrJonathanReefer Sometimes they throw stuff out there that hurts my head, like Evans in the 2nd round.