ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” did a group think piece recently detailing who they claim to be the NFL’s best pass rusher. Despite what most of us already know, a great many of them picked someone not named J.J. Watt.
Matt Bowen led off, and he clearly hasn’t been paying much attention to H-Town’s favorite son:
Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Von Miller is the top pass-rusher in the NFL based off the consistent havoc he creates on tape. He shows the ideal blend of acceleration off the line, technique (hands) and the ability to convert speed to power. While J.J. Watt is a very close second in this discussion, and Khalil Mack is continuing to develop his enormous skill set on the edge, Miller impacts opposing offenses more than any other pass-rusher in the league. You'd better have a plan to limit Miller or he will take over the game.
K.C. Joyner seems to be the one who did his homework instead of shooting from the hip, and he had this to say:
KC Joyner, NFL Insider: Over the past four seasons, only six defensive linemen have posted a 3.0 or higher disrupted dropback percentage, which measures how often a defender registers a sack, interception, batted pass or pass defensed on a per-snap basis. Watt is the only player to have done this on multiple occasions in this time frame, posting that mark in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Assuming he hasn't lost any speed because of last year's back injury, Watt is hands down the NFL's best pass-rusher.
Field Yates also speaks sense when he says:
Field Yates, NFL Insider: There are two players who occupy a neighborhood of off-the-charts sack production over the past six seasons: Watt and Miller. Watt edges Miller by 2.5 sacks, but the damage of his 76 sacks has been done in five fewer games. Picking between these two players is like splitting the finest of hairs -- either choice suffices -- but Watt is the selection because sack production is far from the only way to measure pass-rush acumen. Watt has rare power, explosion, quickness, closing speed and an array of pass-rush techniques to get home. When he doesn't, he's about as good as any defensive player in the league at getting his hands in passing lanes. Watt has more passes defensed than all other defensive linemen in the NFL since entering the league in 2011 and more than all but just two linebackers. He's remarkable.
What do you think? Is Von Miller or—shudder—Aaron Donald really better than J.J. Watt? If you had to pick one pass rusher to build your team around, would you take Von Miller or Khalil Mack over Watt? By this time next year, do you think Jadeveon Clowney will land in the top two on that list?