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2015 NFL Draft: SackSEER projects best edge rushers in draft class

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Football Outsiders' SackSEER tries to project the best edge rushers in the draft. Who graded out on top, and could any of these guys end up with the Giants?

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The general consensus is that the New York Giants will be using the ninth pick of the 2015 NFL Draft on a player from one of three positions: Wide receiver, edge rusher, or offensive lineman.

Most of the mainstream media mock drafts have the Giants picking an offensive lineman. However it could be argued -- and I've done so frequently -- that the Giants would be better served by using the ninth pick of the draft on a receiver or edge rusher if the draft board allows it.

Back in 2010, Football Outsiders -- a web site devoted to applying advanced analytics to football -- unveiled its "SackSEER" statistic. The SackSEER is an attempt at projecting how successful college edge rushers will be in the NFL.

They introduced an improved SackSEER 2.0 in 2012 after a few swings and misses with the first version. The most notable of those misses was he Giants' own Jason Pierre-Paul. Before the 2010 draft, the SackSEER absolutely hated JPP, predicting 3.8 sacks in a five-year career. SackSEER cited his status as a junior college transfer and was less than impressed by his ability to do back handsprings.

But, let's get to this year's projections. If we are looking at the prospects the Giants could be choosing from at No. 9, that's probably Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Shane Ray (Missouri), and Bud Dupree (Kentucky).

SackSEER is very high on Gregory and Dupree, ranking them second and third (respectively) in projected sacks over the first five years of their careers. Football Outsiders is predicting 32.6 sacks for Gregory and 24.7 for Dupree in that span.

Randy Gregory

On Gregory, they say that teams shouldn't let themselves be bothered by his weight, and liken him to Robert Mathis or Trent Cole. His off-field issues are another matter entirely, but according to the SackSEER, Gregory projects to a very productive pass rusher at the next level.

Gregory's size doesn't seem to lend itself to what we think we think the Giants will do on defense. But, we also don't really know what they'll do. If the Giants are planning to use a stand-up rusher or JOKER player -- much like the role Mathias Kiwanuka played in the Giants' two Super Bowl runs -- then they could have a role for Gregory. Of course, that is if his off-field issues don't knock him down, or off, their big board.

Alvin 'Bud' Dupree

The SackSEER is similarly high on Dupree, who despite being heavier than Jadeveon Clowney, ran only fractionally slower, and easily eclipsed his vertical and broad jumps. The SackSEER dinged him for his slower than expected 3-cone drill, but predict that he will be an explosive downhill rusher in the mold of Michael Johnson.

Physically, Dupree fits the Giants mold almost to a "T", with the exception of freakishly long arms. And much like JPP, the Giants present a home for him to improve the technique and consistency issues that have held him back in college.

Shane Ray

On Shane Ray, however, the SackSEER is not nearly so enthusiastic and projects Ray to be a player in the mold of Vernon Gholston. Citing his low number of passes defensed and disappointing pro day performance, SackSEER views Ray as a player who's athleticism doesn't match his hype.

Personally, I think this is one where the SackSEER is setting itself up for failure. On tape, Ray might have the most explosive first step of any player in this draft -- certainly on par with Beasley, Gregory, or Dupree. However, he has been working through a foot injury, which kept him from a workout out at the Scouting Combine. Ray's workout numbers just don't look like they came from the same player who terrorized the SEC in 2014. If Ray worked through his injury and it impacted his numbers, that helps to explain the discrepancy and would throw off analytic projections like the SackSEER.

Final Thoughts

Analytics like the SPARQ or SackSEER are tools. They try to compare and project prospects based on the information available. They can be useful and accurate, but they can also whiff completely -- such as with JPP. We always have to keep in mind that the Combine, and the data generated by it, are only part of the picture. Data and projections need to be put in context and used as checks for what you see on tape.