DeForest Buckner, 49ers, RAS, NFL Draft, NY Jets
DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers, Getty Images

These defensive linemen overcame a low RAS to enjoy NFL success

I’m a big believer in data. When paired with everything else, data provides us the insights to make informed decisions.

When it comes to NFL draft prospects, data can tell us a lot about a player and their likely output in the future.

But, sometimes the data and the production just don’t match. Sometimes, players come along that buck the trend.

Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is a great way to summarise a player’s size, explosion, speed, and agility. Running on a 0-to-10 scale it’s simple to understand and more times than not it’s a good indicator of a player’s potential.

Today I’m going to take a look at a few defensive line prospects who tested poorly but went on to have at least one productive season in terms of getting to the QB, and then I’m going to give you my thoughts on a couple of prospects who could do the same thing from the 2022 draft class.

Over the last 10 years, only five players have tested poorly in their RAS score (a score between 0 and 5) and then gone on to have a 10+ sack season in the NFL. That’s just 12.5% of all prospects who have had a 10+ sack season since 2010.

Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers – 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft

  • RAS overall score: 4.90 (Poor)
  • Size: Elite
  • Explosion: Good
  • Speed: Very Poor
  • Agility: Poor
  • 10 sack seasons: 2019
  • Career sacks per season average: 4.1

Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers – 175th overall pick in the 2010 draft

  • RAS overall score: 4.67 (Poor)
  • Size: Good
  • Explosion: Good
  • Speed: Very Poor
  • Agility: Poor
  • 10 sack seasons: 2012, 2013
  • Career sacks per season average: 6.7

Deforest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers – 7th overall pick in the 2016 draft

  • RAS overall score: 3.95 (Poor)
  • Size: Elite
  • Explosion: Okay
  • Speed: Very Poor
  • Agility: Poor
  • 10 sack seasons: 2018
  • Sacks per season average: 7.5

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Za’Darius Smith, Baltimore Ravens – 122nd overall pick in the 2015 draft

  • RAS overall score: 3.73 (Poor)
  • Size: Good
  • Explosion: Poor
  • Speed: Poor
  • Agility: Poor
  • 10 sack seasons: 2019, 2020
  • Sacks per season average: 6.4

Markus Golden, Arizona Cardinals – 58th overall pick in the 2015 draft

  • RAS overall score: 1.99 (Very Poor)
  • Size: Poor
  • Explosion: Very Poor
  • Speed: Okay
  • Agility: Poor
  • 10 sack seasons: 2016, 2019, 2021
  • Sacks per season average: 6.4

The positive here for the New York Jets is that two of these players were coached by Robert Saleh when they had their 10-sack seasons: Armstead in 2019 and Buckner in 2018.

Another thing to note is that size and explosion seem to play a bigger role than speed and agility. Only Markus Golden scored poor or worse on both and went on to have a 10-sack season, whereas all the others scored good or better on at least one of size or explosion.

It must be noted that Golden did have a hamstring injury as well as a hand injury in the run-up to the draft, and although he completed all drills at his pro-day, many believed the injuries were playing a big part in his woeful numbers.

I went on the hunt for a couple of prospects who followed a similar pattern to the players above – players who scored a 5 or lower on their RAS but had notable marks in either size/explosion or both.

Here are a couple of players that stood out to me.

Sam Hammond, Nevada – 6’4, 259lbs

  • RAS overall score: 4.43
  • Size: Good
  • Explosion: Good
  • Speed: Poor
  • Agility: Good
  • 2021 College Stats: 34 tackles, 8 TFL, 5.5 sacks

When it comes to players who really ticked the boxes I was looking for – providing good size/explosion despite a poor overall RAS – Sam Hammond is the only player who really stood out.

Hammond is a tall and long defensive end who has a high motor and showcases a good understanding of leverage and how to use his hands. He’s quick off the snap and improved every single year he was in college. A captain at Nevada and a former walk-on, he has a ton of fight and determination.

Big Kat Bryant, UCF – 6’4, 251lbs

  • RAS overall score: 2.66
  • Size: Okay
  • Explosion: Very Poor
  • Speed: Okay
  • Agility: Poor
  • 2021 College Stats: 50 tackles, 12 TFL, 6 sacks

Big Kat Bryant (real name Markaviest) was a 4-star recruit at Auburn, and he spent the first four years of his college career there before following Guz Malzahn to UCF.

Although he never reached the lofty heights expected of him when he stepped foot onto the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf, Bryant did finish his college career with 106 tackles, 24.5 TFL and 16 sacks.

Bryant isn’t the biggest edge defender out there, but I was a big fan of his when he was at Auburn and he saved his best season for last in 2021. Through it all, he’s a touch unrefined for having spent five years in college, but he has potential as a pass-rush specialist and I could see someone grabbing him in the seventh round as an experiment.

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Staff writer for Jets X-Factor, NFL draft writer for SB Nation, Scribe & founder of the Daily Jets Newsletter, host of the UK Jets Podcast, husband and dad. Email: d.wyatt25[at]gmail.com
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