Identifying the best run-stopping defensive tackle prospects for the New York Jets in the 2022 NFL draft
The defensive line was supposed to be the strength of the New York Jets defense in 2021, but following a pre-season injury to Carl Lawson and some unexpected softness from the interior defenders, it was anything but.
A huge part of the issue rested on the Jets’ inability to stop the run. They finished the 2021 season ranked 29th in opponent rushing yards per game (138.3), 26th in opponent rushing first downs per game (7.6), 32nd in opponent rushing touchdowns per game (1.6), and 24th in opponent yards per rush attempt (4.5).
In short, the run defense was bad.
Not all of this sits with the defensive line – the linebackers missed multiple gap assignments, and Quincy Williams in particular needs to work on his patience and discipline in the run game – but a large portion of the blame has to be assigned to the big men up front.
Quinnen Williams was the best run-defender for the Jets’ interior with a Pro Football Focus run-defense grade of 59.0. You don’t need me to tell you that if your best run defender has a grade of 59.0, the unit as a whole struggled.
Foley Fatukasi, who has historically been one of the best run-defenders in the league, struggled on his way to a career-low 57.3 PFF run-defense grade. He bolted for Jacksonville in free agency.
The less said about Sheldon Rankins’ 34.4 run-defense grade, the better. For interior defensive linemen who had at least 200 snaps, that 34.4 grade ranked Sheldon 138th out of 148 qualifiers in the league.
I know some people don’t like PFF rankings, but when the grading matches the eye test and the general statistics, you know you have a problem.
The Jets haven’t done much to address the interior of their defensive line so far this offseason, only bringing in Solomon Thomas, who was actually the 148th-ranked run defender out of 148 qualifying interior defenders at PFF.
So, it’s safe to assume that we may see defensive tackle addressed in the draft.
Today I’m going to put the blinders on and only look at the run defense capabilities of the five most highly rated defensive tackles in the 2022 NFL draft:
- Jordan Davis (Georgia)
- Devonte Wyatt (Georgia)
- Travis Jones (Connecticut)
- Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma)
- DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M)
I’m going to look at total tackles against the run, missed tackle percentage, run stops, and run stop percentage. All of these stats are based on running plays and running plays alone.
One factor to keep in mind is that DeMarvin Leal spent more time at EDGE than defensive tackle at Oklahoma last year and edge players often have higher tackle numbers than interior players.
This stat shows how active a player is at finding and bringing down the ball carrier against the run:
- Jordan Davis: 26
- Devonte Wyatt: 29
- Travis Jones: 41
- Perrion Winfrey: 14
- DeMarvin Leal: 44
Missed tackle percentage
A player’s missed tackle percentage tells us how good he is at bringing down the ball carrier once he has a clear opportunity to do so:
- Jordan Davis: 0.0%
- Devonte Wyatt: 9.4%
- Travis Jones: 8.9%
- Perrion Winfrey: 26.3%
- DeMarvin Leal: 13.7%
As opposed to total tackles – which includes every tackle against the run – a player’s run stop total only includes tackles that constituted a failure by the offense:
- Jordan Davis: 19
- Devonte Wyatt: 18
- Travis Jones: 21
- Perrion Winfrey: 11
- DeMarvin Leal: 23
Run stop percentage
The percentage of a player’s run defense snaps where he was responsible for a stop, showing dominance in this area of the game:
- Jordan Davis: 12.2%
- Devonte Wyatt: 11.5%
- Travis Jones: 7.8%
- Perrion Winfrey: 6.1%
- DeMarvin Leal: 8.3%
Overall it’s clear to see why the Georgia pair of Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are considered the top two defensive tackles in the draft. They’re the only two defensive players here that have a run stop percentage over 10%.
Wyatt’s 11.5% rate ranks him 12th out of 458 interior defensive linemen who had at least 100 run defense snaps to their name, whereas Davis’s 12.2% rate placed him seventh-best.
Both are also outstanding tacklers, with Davis not being credited with a single missed tackle in 2021 and Wyatt missing only three tackles.
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Perrion Winfrey’s 6.1% run stop rate combined with his 26.3% missed tackle rate raises concerns for me in terms of his ability to help the Jets defend the run in 2022 and beyond.
Travis Jones’ 21 total stops against the run ranked him 25th out of 458 qualified players and his overall game makes him an attractive option in the second round if the Jets don’t decide to take Davis or Wyatt in the first.
So far the Jets have brought in Wyatt and Winfrey for pre-draft visits, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the other guys on here make formal visits before the draft later this month. I’d be even more surprised if the Jets didn’t use one of their first four picks on a defensive tackle.