Over at Bleacher Report, Matt Miller's busy ranking the top 1000 NFL players, going position by position. Coming in as the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL: Gerald McCoy.
Third is nothing to scoff at, of course, but it's just slightly disappointing -- and most of it because of his run defense. According to Miller, McCoy gets pushed out of his lane too often and made just 18 solo tackles last year. The bit about the solo tackles is true, but not too telling -- not when Lavonte David's flying around, and certainly not when McCoy's job isn't to actually make tackles: it's to force the action out of his gap and toward other players, which he does expertly.
Miller did, however, name McCoy the best at the most important part of his job: rushing the passer.
McCoy received the highest pass-rushing grade of any defensive tackle this season—a perfect 55 overall. With nine sacks, nine hits and 27 hurries, McCoy didn't have the best numbers, but he did have the best impact when on the field as he produced those numbers in just 688 snaps. McCoy has the ideal mix of speed off the snap, natural leverage and the technique to beat blockers if they get their hands on him. Even with teams keying on McCoy exclusively as the Buccaneers' outside pass rush struggled, he continued to produce.
The two players ranked ahead of McCoy? Ndamukong Suh and...Aaron Donald. A rookie. I disagree with Suh supposedly outclassing McCoy, but at least there's a solid argument to be made there. He's a bit of a different style of defensive tackle, which always complicates direct comparisons. But Donald? Better than McCoy? As a rookie? Nah.
And I like Donald. I really like Donald. Had the Bucs not already had both Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald on the roster last year, he would have made a lot of sense for Lovie Smith to take as his first draft pick -- yes, even over Mike Evans. Donald's explosive ability and slipperiness as a pass rusher are outstanding -- but they're not good enough to make him a better player than McCoy, at least not yet. Certainly not when Miller, too, agrees that McCoy is the better pass rusher.
Better yet, the Bucs got another couple of players on the list: Henry Melton was named the 27th-best defensive tackle, and a better run defender than McCoy even. And Clinton McDonald comes in as the 41st defensive tackle on the list -- a little low for my tastes, but a good indication of the depth the Bucs have at this position. Amusingly, that group could have looked even deeper had they held on to Da'Quan Bowers, who Miller rated as the 47th-best defensive tackle -- a bit much for someone who was only lined up there on a handful of snaps every game.