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Kruger takes down Andrew Luck

Kruger takes down Andrew Luck.

Explanation of the RSP Writers Project and my picks in Round 1 and 2

After selecting Josh Freeman, Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall early in the draft, I needed to use my picks in rounds 4 and 5 to build the core of the rest of my team. The two most critical positions I had ignored were left tackle and pass rusher. Fortunately my need largely coincided with what was left: I didn’t see a true difference maker at corner or defensive tackle, so it was easy to focus on 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 ends.

On offense, my choice at left tackle was made easy once Jake Long, Trent Williams, and Tyron Smith went off the board at the end of round four. I had D’Brickashaw Ferguson with those four in my final tier of what I would consider above-average left tackles, and Ferguson ranked second to only Williams. His reputation took a bit of a hit with a a poor 2011 and the Jets general implosion since then, but Ferguson quietly had a nice rebound season last year. He allowed only two sacks in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, and came in as PFF’s #7 left tackle. He’ll only turn 30 in December, so I think my team can count on him for another five years at least. He’s got size and great athleticism, and keeps himself in good shape, so he seems unlikely to fall off a click as he ages. As the 14th offensive tackle off the board, I think Ferguson represents strong value this late in the draft. He’s capable of being a franchise left tackle, which makes him a pick I can feel comfortable about at the end of the fourth round.

Turning to defense, my first goal was to take a player capable of playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end. Paul Kruger is an ideal player because of that exact versatility, and the 27-year-old has improved every year of his career. According to PFF, Kruger actually ranked as the top pass-rushing 3-4 OLB last season in their pass rushing productivity metric. While Kruger had 9 sacks in the regular season and another 4.5 in the playoffs, the most impressive statistic he posted was 33 hurries in just 359 pass-rushing snaps last year. He had 2.5 sacks, four tackles, and five hits on Andrew Luck in the Ravens initial playoff game, one of the most dominating performances by any player this past postseason.

Kruger is mediocre against the run and was a part-time player in Baltimore. Despite the big contract the Browns just gave him, there are certainly question marks about his ability to maintain this level of production. He’s only done been great for one season, and perhaps he won’t be the same player when he’s not teamed with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. But that’s why he’s available in the fifth round and not the first. I’m happy to take a chance on an ascending player who was stuck behind Jarret Johnson early in his career and then broke out last season. He just turned 27 last month, making him a player that can be a defensive cornerstone for the foreseeable future.

  • mrh

    I think 5 years is optimistic for Ferguson. Since the merger their have been 119 tackles with five or more seasons of an AV of 6+ while in their 20s. Ferguson has had seven such seasons. Obviously AV is imperfect – it grades Ferguson’s 2011 as AV 9 and 2012 as AV 6, which might be backward. Because OL AV is tied to reputation as well as performance, it may over-estimate performance as players age. Also, I didn’t distinguish between RT and LT and so this study doesn’t precisely match what you want out of Ferguson, but warts and all here’s what I found.

    106 tackles in the sample were no longer active by 2012. Of those, 20% never posted an AV of 6 in their 30s. 23% had only one such season. 14% – two seasons; 21% – three seasons; and 20% – four+ seasons. It seems unlikely that most good-in-their-20s tackles will give a team five years of AV 6+ in their 30s.

    If I limit this to just tackles with seven or eight seasons of AV 6+ in their 20s, only 4% never had a 6+ season in their 30s. 33% – one season; 13% – two seasons; 21% – three seasons; and 25% – four+ seasons. So “elite” tackles are much less likely to never have a AV 6+ season in their 30s, but not all that much more likely to last a long time. And that could just be that their reputation took an extra year to die.

    There’s probably a few mistakes in my data gathering and this is clearly a crude first cut at how tackles age. But I think three years is about how long you’ll have before you need to address LT, not five.

    • Chase Stuart

      Really interesting stuff. I think there are other ways to measure it, which means you just gave me an idea for a new post!

      • mrh

        Thanks, looking forward to reading it.