Football Outsiders’ SackSEER model predicts the number of rushers for the first five seasons. Here are the model’s favorite prospects.
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With no top-shelf quarterback prospects available in this year’s NFL draft, teams have understandably turned to the most valuable position on the defense: edge rusher.
Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is a strong candidate to be the No. 1 overall selection, and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Georgia’s Travon Walker are projected in ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock draft to also go in the top four. Edge rusher is widely considered to be one of the strengths — if not the greatest strength — of this year’s draft.
So will the 2022 NFL draft’s edge rusher class live up to its reputation?
One tool that could potentially help answer that question is SackSEER, Football Outsiders’ system for projecting college edge rushers. SackSEER uses pre-draft workout data along with college statistics to project the NFL pass rushing prospects of defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers.
SackSEER agrees with the conventional wisdom that this is a generally strong and deep draft for edge rushers. That said, contrary to some draft hype, there is a considerable degree of uncertainty as to just who is most likely to succeed.
In SackSEER, Hutchinson, Thibodeaux and Walker are all effectively tied — with only a small fraction of a sack separating their projections. more detail on how SackSEER works here.
Below, we take a look at SackSEER’s top prospects in the 2022 NFL draft, along with some similar prospects from previous drafts:
1. Travon Walker, Georgia
SackSEER projection: 27.2 sacks through fifth NFL season
Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 8
Similar historical prospects: Ezekiel Ansah, Brian Orakpo
Walker’s draft stock has risen in recent weeks, and in SackSEER he manages to edge Hutchinson and Thibodeaux by a small margin.
Walker’s best SackSEER metrics come from his terrific combine. His workout numbers ranged from good to fantastic. His 4.51-second 40-yard dash was great, especially for a 272-pound player. His 6.89-second 3-cone drill is in the top 10% of times by drafted edge rushers. His 35.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump were also good.
Of course, what drags him down a bit — and why many NFL fans are likely skeptical of his high draft position — is his lack of college production. Walker had only 9.5 sacks in three college seasons. Is Walker another workout warrior whose lack of college production foreshadows a disappointing NFL career? Don’t be so sure.
It may be counterintuitive, but workout scores are a more significa