In the list below, you will find the fifteen 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers who accumulated the most sacks in 2012. To make this as much of an apples to apples comparison as possible, the list only contains players under 275 pounds. Once players get over 275#, they start to nudge up against the defensive tackle group. At some later time, I will probably make a separate list just for them. This is mainly intended to look at the physical traits of the players who are achieving a high degree of success. Though the players on a list of this sort can vary from year to year (star players get injured, and oddballs sometimes have a big year), the overall picture tends to be quite similar. As always, the players Kangaroo Score and Agility Score, are given in the form of how many standard deviations above average, or below, that they are compared to other players in the same position group. Avg. TFL is the average number of tackles for a loss that the player had in his last two years in college.
Player Avg. TFL Kangaroo Agility Score Sacks in 2012
Due to the complete lack of combine data for Elvis Dumervil and John Abraham, I left them off the list, since no real conclusion can be drawn from them. Nonetheless, if you are interested, they had 11 sacks, and 10 sacks, respectively.
Of these fifteen, only Clay Matthews and Shaun Phillips would fall into the what I consider the high agility pass rusher category, due to their somewhat below average Kangaroo Scores. While I believe that pass rushers who rely solely on their agility are somewhat less likely to succeed than players with positive scores in both categories, Matthews' and Phillips' Kangaroo Scores are still basically average results. Phillips, who had the lower Kangaroo Score of -0.290, would still fall in the 49.1 percentile. Of the remaining 13 players on the list, 12 showed at least slightly above average Kangaroo Scores (10 out of 15 scored over 0.500), which is a measure of explosive power. While most of these twelve players, would fit in the highly explosive pass rushing group, this isn't to say that their Agility Score doesn't still play a significant role in their success.
The most peculiar player on this list is probably Chris Clemons, who has by far the worst Kangaroo Score, though we can only guess as to what his Agility Score might be. Since the Seahawks, more than any other NFL team, is stockpiled with players who have weak physical traits, yet exceeded the computer's expectations (Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant...), I have to wonder if they are putting something into the water (other than Adderall). I have to admit that I am fascinated by this team. What makes Clemons even more interesting, is that he was an undrafted player, who didn't really emerge until after he had been in the league for 7 years, and been on 4 different teams. So, while I could be disappointed that the computer was unable to spot his potential, it's not as if any of the NFL teams were able to do so either. He is an enigma.
The computer's scores would have basically suggested that Anthony Spencer was just 'okay', since he only had average scores in either category. For the most part, I think that is an accurate depiction of him as a player, despite his high number of sacks in this past year. For a former 1st round pick, he was probably a bit of a reach, considering his weak measurables. On the other hand, you have Aldon Smith, about whom the computer would have had a hard time drawing a conclusion. While his Kangaroo Score was pretty good, this was somewhat counterbalanced by a slightly below average Agility Score. Considering that he only started for one year in college (though it was a highly productive year), this made projecting him as a first round pick difficult. It will be interesting to see what becomes of him, when he is no longer benefiting from playing next to Justin Smith, though I can't say that this explains all of his success. However you look at it, Smith and Spencer were somewhat more difficult to predict, though still at least average athletically.
In the end, I just think it is interesting to see how this group, no matter how you pick it apart, is still significantly above average overall. With an average Kangaroo Score of 0.598, and an average Agility Score of 0.568, these players aren't you average bozos. Their Avg. TFL of 14.32, is also remarkably close to the 15 TFL standard that I generally set as a requirement for a 1st round draft pick. I'll try to post updates of this list for future years, but looking back over the past few seasons, the results are largely the same, even if the particular names in the top 15 players vary somewhat.
As always, if people want to insist that stats and combine results don't matter, and that players succeed simply through effort, and strength of will, that is none of my business. I'll continue to place my faith in the physically gifted.