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NFL combine numbers matter for pass rushers

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2016 draft, I stumbled upon Justis Mosqueda's Force Players metric. He has his specific formula that heavily involved utilizing the combine productions to identify who would be Force players in the 2016 NFL draft. In the first round, there was only one Force Player -€” Shaq Lawson. There would be a mid-tier Force player in Jonathan Bullard. That is it.

I decided to try out a more simplified version of finding possible Force players in an article called "Is the Force on our Side?" It is a simplified version of discovering Force players because I do not have Mosqueda's specific formula. Force players are broken down into two types of edge rushers, power and bendy.

Power Rushers

Power rushers like to go through a tackle or take an inside lane to get to the QB. Here are the players who were tops in three specified metrics for power edge rushers, as specified by Mosqueda.

2016 Top 3 Power Rushers
Ranked high in more than one Combine Test
2016 NFL Production
Player Team Rank NFL
10 yard split Vertical Jump Broad Jump Tackles Sacks TFL's
Emmanuel Ogbah Cle 2nd 2nd-T 3rd-T 53 5.5 4
Noah Spence TB 3rd 4th-T 3rd-T 22 5.5 0
Shaq Lawson Buf 6th 4th-T 13 2 1

Since I have no idea about Force players or the actual algorithm to identifying Force players, I had a difficult time trying to squeeze in Lawson into the mix as Mosqueda identified him as the only Force player in 2016.

In the Power Rushers chart, I included their respective NFL production in 2016. Lawson did not fare as well as the players above him.  After watching Noah Spence for a season, I do not believe he is a power rusher, but rather a bendy rusher as he has used his speed to exactly how a bendy rusher would.

Bendy Rushers

Bendy rushers limit their body's surface area and contort their body as they keep their inside number aligned with an offensive tackle's outside number. Here are the players who were tops in two of the three specified metrics for bendy edge rushers.

2016 Bendy Rusher
Top Ranking of Bendy Rushers on Specified Tests
2016 NFL Production
Player Team Rank NFL Production
3-cone Broad Jump Tackles Sacks TFLs
Alex McCalister Phi 4th 1st 0 0 0
Joey Bosa SD 2nd 5th-T 29 10.5 7

According to Mosqueda, one of the big tests for bendy rushers happened to be the 3-cone drill. So I took the players who were tops in 3-cone drill and broad jump for this simplified version of finding Force players. There were only two players who populated this area.

Joey Bosa's tape did not lie, but something does not add up as his metrics do not jump off the page.

Defensive Ends drafted in the first three rounds of the 2016 NFL draft

2016 NFL Draft
DE's drafted in the first three rounds
Rd Pick # Player Team GP Tackles Sacks TFL's
1 3 Joey Bosa SD 12 29 10.5 7
1 7 DeForest Buckner SF 15 73 6 4
1 9 Leonard Floyd Chi 12 33 7 2
1 19 Shaq Lawson Buf 10 13 2 1
2 32 Emmanuel Ogbah Cle 16 53 5.5 4
2 33 Kevin Dodd Ten 9 5 1 0
2 39 Noah Spence TB 16 22 5.5 0
2 44 Jihad Ward Oak 16 30 0 0
3 65 Carl Nassib Cle 14 20 2.5 0
3 69 Yannick Ngakoue Jax 16 11 8 1
3 70 Bronson Kaufusi Bal 0 0 0 0
3 72 Jonathon Bullard Chi 14 18 1 0
3 75 Shilique Calhoun Oak 10 9 0.5 1

It appears as though the theory improving the chance of landing a producing edge rusher did not work out for presumed Force player Shaq Lawson for this season. Lawson's career just started and so it might take some time for the theory to be disproven so early.

But what of combine winners in Ogbah, Spence, Bosa and McCalister? Out of the remaining four players who were tops in their specified groupings, only one of them did not make any statistical dent in the NFL -€” Alex McCalister. The reason behind that was he incurred an injury during pre-season that landed him on injured reserved for the whole season.  The other three players did have an impact at the NFL level.

Combine results are just one of the factors into drafting.  It should help reaffirm the tape a player produces. Which is why Bosa went third overall and McCalister was a seventh round pick at 240th overall.

For this article, though, when a player is tops in all the categories of a specific type, bendy or power, it reveals an improved chance of landing a productive player.  Well, at least for one season. Again, what I found were not Force players, but rather underwear Olympic winners over multiple categories. In this one season, it seemed to work out better than a Force player formula.