Ranking the NFL Pass Rushers

I decided to fool around with my pass rusher rankings the other night and thought it might make an interesting post as we wind down the season. The way I try to look at pass rushers is a bit different so I’ll explain the methodology using the Chiefs’ Justin Houston, who rates as my most efficient pass rusher for the positions I looked at (34OLB, 43DE 3DE).

Using stats maintained by Pro Football Focus we can determine that when a QB drops back to pass without pressure he completes a pass 67.4% of the time. We consider that a success and anything else a failure on the play. When facing pressure a QB completes just 44.2% of his dropbacks that do not result in a sack. Using that data we can determine how many failures should result from a players pass rush attempts and how many theoretically occurred because of the pressure.

Houston has rushed the passer 300 times this year. On 300 dropbacks the QB should fail to complete a pass 97.9 times. However, only 242 of Houston’s snaps had no pressure. 14 plays resulted in a sack and 44 others resulted in a pressure. From those numbers we can estimate that 78.9 non-completions occurred without pressure, 14 failures occurred because of sacks, and another 24.6 non-completions because of pressure. For Houston that means his failures totaled 117.5, an increase of 20.1%. We can also say that this means Houston creates a failure 6.5% of the time.

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Who are the best in the NFL this seasons besides Houston?  Connor Barwin ranks 2nd with an 18% increase followed by Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, and Mario Williams.   JJ Watt is the highest ranking 34 Defensive End with a 15% increase. Watt has rushed the passer a ridiculous 426 times according to PFF, which no doubt drives his numbers down since he is likely rushing on many plays that he would have no chance to generate a pressure.

It is probably worth noting that the most effective pass rusher on the season is Brandon Graham of the Eagles who didn’t make my list because he had less than 150 pass rush opportunities. The Eagles have never shown any faith to use him in more situations but generally his numbers jump off the page despite the limited opportunities.

Name value players not doing so well this year include Red Bryant (102/106), Haloti Ngata (94/106), Ahmad Brooks (85/106), Mathias Kiwanuka (83/106), Muhammad Wilkerson (79/106), and Michael Johnson (71/106).

We can also look at the players salary cap figures and compare their salary and performance to the average of the group to determine how much value was received by the team this year. Ideally we would be comparing this against the individual positions and separating veterans and rookies, but for our purposes this should do.

Our most undervalued players were Houston ($6.5M gained), Ayers ($5.7M), Pernell McPhee ($5.6M), Alex Okafor ($4.8M), and Aaron Lynch ($4.5M). The most overvalued are Ngata (-$13.8M), Williams (-$12.4M), Brian Orakpo (-$8.1M), Tamba Hali (-$7.7M), and Calais Campbell (-$7M).

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Here is the complete list. You should be able to sort the table by clicking on the headers

RankNameTeamRush Snaps% Failure IncreaseFailures Per RushCap ChargeTrue ValueGain/Loss
1Justin HoustonChiefs30020.1%6.5%$1,598,812$8,130,428$6,531,616
2Connor BarwinEagles24818.6%6.1%$4,900,000$7,522,482$2,622,482
3Elvis DumervilRavens26417.4%5.7%$3,375,000$7,045,370$3,670,370
4Robert AyersGiants21017.1%5.6%$1,250,000$6,931,917$5,681,917
5Mario WilliamsBills31415.8%5.2%$18,800,000$6,400,202-$12,399,798
6Pernell McPheeRavens23815.4%5.0%$681,140$6,249,239$5,568,099
7Jerry HughesBills31515.3%5.0%$3,995,000$6,214,686$2,219,686
8JJ WattTexans42615.0%4.9%$4,575,567$6,090,168$1,514,601
9Junior GaletteSaints30014.5%4.7%$2,950,000$5,890,328$2,940,328
10Ryan KerriganRedskins30714.2%4.6%$2,774,639$5,746,904$2,972,265
11Ziggy AnsahLions26914.1%4.6%$4,226,023$5,701,705$1,475,682
12Trent ColeEagles27514.1%4.6%$6,600,000$5,692,273-$907,727
13Cameron WakeDolphins32213.9%4.6%$7,285,000$5,649,490-$1,635,510
14Alex OkaforCardinals18813.4%4.4%$613,607$5,428,936$4,815,329
15DeMarcus WareBroncos34112.7%4.2%$9,666,666$5,157,483-$4,509,183
16Chandler JonesPatriots18512.5%4.1%$2,229,136$5,064,789$2,835,653
17Aaron Lynch49ers22812.4%4.0%$469,500$5,006,614$4,537,114
18Cliff AvrilSeahawks28712.3%4.0%$9,250,000$4,981,477-$4,268,523
19Erik WaldenColts18912.3%4.0%$4,250,000$4,972,407$722,407
20Jason HatcherRedskins29912.2%4.0%$3,750,000$4,946,229$1,196,229
21Clay MatthewsPackers26012.2%4.0%$10,943,750$4,933,835-$6,009,915
22Vinny CurryEagles20712.2%4.0%$922,318$4,930,628$4,008,310
23Jacquies SmithBuccaneers15812.0%3.9%$395,294$4,853,667$4,458,373
24Everson GriffenVikings34711.9%3.9%$8,200,000$4,835,293-$3,364,707
25Quinton CoplesJets19711.8%3.8%$2,400,763$4,770,482$2,369,719
26Osi UmenyioraFalcons20511.7%3.8%$4,750,000$4,738,543-$11,457
27Michael BennettSeahawks33111.5%3.8%$4,000,000$4,675,991$675,991
28Robert QuinnRams32211.4%3.7%$3,002,357$4,601,619$1,599,262
29Paul KrugerBrowns33410.9%3.6%$8,200,000$4,411,152-$3,788,848
30William HayesRams23010.8%3.5%$3,845,000$4,360,947$515,947
31Julius PeppersPackers30710.8%3.5%$3,500,000$4,357,112$857,112
32Jason WorildsSteelers27010.7%3.5%$9,754,000$4,334,539-$5,419,461
33Jeremy MinceyCowboys27310.6%3.5%$1,250,000$4,297,159$3,047,159
34Calais CampbellCardinals29910.6%3.4%$11,250,000$4,280,930-$6,969,070
35Willie YoungBears27810.6%3.4%$2,666,666$4,273,193$1,606,527
36Charles JohnsonPanthers32910.5%3.4%$11,220,000$4,257,952-$6,962,048
37Terrell SuggsRavens32910.5%3.4%$7,800,000$4,232,431-$3,567,569
38George JohnsonLions20210.4%3.4%$570,000$4,224,416$3,654,416
39Mike DanielsPackers24110.2%3.3%$645,146$4,150,286$3,505,140
40Carlos DunlapBengals37110.2%3.3%$8,600,000$4,149,209-$4,450,791
41Olivier VernonDolphins32310.2%3.3%$759,520$4,141,280$3,381,760
42Kroy BiermannFalcons24410.1%3.3%$4,083,334$4,087,787$4,453
43Derrick MorganTitans2539.8%3.2%$3,541,668$3,953,434$411,766
44Whitney MercilusTexans2829.7%3.2%$2,082,026$3,945,711$1,863,685
45Malik JacksonBroncos2769.7%3.2%$623,403$3,937,216$3,313,813
46Dwight FreeneyChargers2779.7%3.2%$4,007,813$3,933,107-$74,706
47Mario AddisonPanthers2049.6%3.1%$865,000$3,873,036$3,008,036
48Jurrell CaseyTitans3399.6%3.1%$4,674,359$3,869,070-$805,289
49Cameron HeywardSteelers3269.5%3.1%$2,133,418$3,855,148$1,721,730
50Brian RobisonVikings3359.5%3.1%$5,700,000$3,837,600-$1,862,400
51Tamba HaliChiefs3159.4%3.1%$11,464,706$3,797,918-$7,666,788
52Rob NinkovichPatriots3689.4%3.1%$2,850,000$3,791,491$941,491
53Khalil MackRaiders2969.4%3.1%$3,395,818$3,787,456$391,638
54Corey LiugetChargers2919.2%3.0%$2,645,918$3,724,649$1,078,731
55Jared AllenBears3409.1%3.0%$3,000,000$3,704,639$704,639
56Sam AchoCardinals1548.8%2.9%$1,549,607$3,555,416$2,005,809
57Calvin PaceJets1718.6%2.8%$2,500,000$3,489,899$989,899
58Jason JonesLions2938.4%2.7%$3,683,333$3,413,716-$269,617
59Sheldon RichardsonJets3028.4%2.7%$2,285,000$3,398,138$1,113,138
60Brian OrakpoRedskins1798.3%2.7%$11,455,000$3,365,198-$8,089,802
61Chris ClemonsJaguars3138.2%2.7%$5,187,500$3,335,015-$1,852,485
62Cameron JordanSaints3688.2%2.7%$2,459,991$3,329,244$869,253
63Jason Pierre PaulGiants3438.2%2.7%$4,611,000$3,328,012-$1,282,988
64Justin TuckRaiders1988.2%2.7%$5,000,000$3,319,226-$1,680,774
65Antonio SmithRaiders2788.2%2.7%$4,946,875$3,307,064-$1,639,811
66Lamarr HoustonBears2448.1%2.7%$5,040,000$3,295,465-$1,744,535
67Brooks ReedTexans2018.1%2.6%$1,496,015$3,283,610$1,787,595
68Wallace GilberryBengals3448.0%2.6%$1,800,000$3,250,838$1,450,838
69Shaun PhillipsTitans1768.0%2.6%$1,975,000$3,242,920$1,267,920
70William GholstonBuccaneers2257.9%2.6%$595,136$3,189,515$2,594,379
71Michael JohnsonBuccaneers2357.8%2.5%$9,000,000$3,152,598-$5,847,402
72Justin Smith49ers2997.8%2.5%$6,936,666$3,143,093-$3,793,573
73Trent MurphyRedskins2117.7%2.5%$813,236$3,114,724$2,301,488
74Bjoern WernerColts2767.6%2.5%$1,794,636$3,091,783$1,297,147
75George SelvieCowboys1767.6%2.5%$730,000$3,079,184$2,349,184
76Ray McDonald49ers3477.5%2.5%$3,230,985$3,056,637-$174,348
77Eugene SimsRams2347.5%2.5%$1,216,684$3,054,880$1,838,196
78Jabaal SheardBrowns2667.4%2.4%$1,619,625$3,012,386$1,392,761
79Muhammad WilkersonJes3397.3%2.4%$2,187,500$2,942,242$754,742
80Derrick ShelbyDolphins1607.0%2.3%$573,334$2,846,773$2,273,439
81Tommy KellyCardinals3076.9%2.3%$955,000$2,806,934$1,851,934
82Cory ReddingColts3076.9%2.2%$4,391,668$2,788,700-$1,602,968
83Mathias KiwanukaGiants2916.8%2.2%$5,000,000$2,753,590-$2,246,410
84Derek WolfeBroncos3326.8%2.2%$1,420,036$2,752,308$1,332,272
85Ahmad Brooks49ers2206.7%2.2%$4,503,750$2,712,603-$1,791,147
86Andre BranchJaguars1806.6%2.2%$1,388,164$2,690,562$1,302,398
87Mike NealPackers2726.5%2.1%$3,750,000$2,617,805-$1,132,195
88Fletcher CoxEagles3626.4%2.1%$2,793,054$2,611,554-$181,500
89Desmond BryantBrowns2816.3%2.0%$4,000,000$2,533,961-$1,466,039
90Allen BaileyChiefs3376.0%2.0%$2,808,986$2,438,325-$370,661
91Wes HortonPanthers1536.0%1.9%$498,333$2,411,967$1,913,634
92Jared CrickTexans2535.9%1.9%$667,875$2,369,848$1,701,973
93Brett KeiselSteelers2505.7%1.8%$1,250,000$2,294,211$1,044,211
94Haloti NgataRavens2755.4%1.8%$16,000,000$2,180,260-$13,819,740
95Dominique EasleyPatriots1635.2%1.7%$1,327,918$2,104,369$776,451
96Ricky Jean-FrancoisColts2605.1%1.7%$5,125,000$2,084,371-$3,040,629
97Quanterus SmithBroncos1535.1%1.7%$468,000$2,071,853$1,603,853
98Malliciah GoodmanFalcons1964.7%1.5%$594,252$1,911,370$1,317,118
99Robert GeathersBengals2714.7%1.5%$2,700,000$1,903,755-$796,245
100Kendall ReyesChargers2554.4%1.4%$1,125,817$1,797,186$671,369
101Chris JonesPatriots2034.2%1.4%$495,000$1,689,715$1,194,715
102Red BryantJaguars1523.7%1.2%$5,468,750$1,479,888-$3,988,862
103Tim JamisonTexans2523.6%1.2%$840,000$1,475,515$635,515
104Cam ThomasSteelers1702.9%1.0%$1,500,000$1,186,606-$313,394
105Cedric ThorntonEagles2002.5%0.8%$645,000$1,008,615$363,615
106Jarvis JenkinsRedskins1652.2%0.7%$1,492,667$873,260-$619,407

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Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc