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2017 NFL Draft: SackSEER predictions favorable for Watt, Bowser

Football Outsiders predicts sack totals for the 2017 edge rusher class. Will one be a Giant?

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2017 NFL Draft, and the New York Giants’ selection at 23rd overall, draws closer, there has been plenty of speculation about who could be the newest Giant by the end of the first round.

If you have been following Jesse Bartolis’ “dark horses” series — a series, by the by, that predicted Odell Beckham Jr. — you’ve read about linebackers T.J. Watt of Wisconsin [Full Article] and Tyus Bowser of Houston [Full Article].

Jesse considers these players “dark horses” because they fit the New York Giants and Jerry Reese’s track record in the first round and have intriguing traits, but aren’t popularly linked to the Giants. These prospects have been mentioned for their ability to effect the quarterback while being viable options in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

But as dark horses, there are, of course, questions about how much they can help the Giants. After all, if they were obvious contributors, they wouldn’t be dark horses.

On that account, football analytics website Football Outsiders is throwing in on the side of Jesse and those of us who believe those prospects could be impact players at the next level. Seven years ago Football Outsiders created the idea of the SackSEER to predict a pass rushing prospect’s success at the next level. That first version famously predicted that that Jason Pierre-Paul would be a bust who would rack up a grand total of 3.8 sacks in his first five years in the NFL. They were wrong, and after acknowledging the mistake refined their algorithms and have become a pretty good (if still flawed) predictor of success.

Here is what the SackSEER bases its results on, per Football Outsiders:

SackSEER expresses its thoughts on each drafted edge rusher through two outputs: SackSEER projection and SackSEER rating. SackSEER projection and SackSEER rating contain the following common elements:

- An "explosion index" that measures the prospect's scores in the 40-yard dash, the vertical leap, and the broad jump in pre-draft workouts;

- The prospect's score on the 3-cone drill;

- A metric called "SRAM" which stands for "sack rate as modified." SRAM measures the prospect's per-game sack productivity, but with adjustments for factors such as early entry in the NFL draft and position switches during college;

- The prospect's college passes defensed divided by college games played; and

- The number of medical redshirts the player either received or was eligible for.

With that in mind, what does the SackSEER say about two of Jesse’s dark horses?

T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

SackSEER Projection: 26.5 Sacks Through Year 5

SackSEER Rating: 91.3%

Most draft analysts rank Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas as the second-best edge rusher available in this year's draft. SackSEER, however, prefers T.J. Watt.

Thomas and Watt are similar prospects in a lot of ways. Their production almost tracks one another's exactly. Neither saw game action as freshmen, they both had relatively pedestrian sophomore campaigns, and they both broke out as juniors, each recording exactly 12 career sacks apiece. Thomas has several pounds on Watt, but Watt makes up for it with slightly better combine numbers. Watt bested Thomas by 2 inches on both the vertical leap and broad jump drills and had an even faster 3-cone (6.79 seconds) than Thomas. However, what sets Watt apart from Thomas is his strong passes defensed rate, giving Watt at least one trait similar to his more famous older brother. Watt intercepted one pass and batted away six others during his short career, resulting in an average of nearly one pass defensed every three games.

Tyus Bowser, Houston

SackSEER Projection: 26.5 Sacks Through Year 5

SackSEER Rating: 92.0%

Other than Myles Garrett, few edge rushers in this draft stand out in terms of pure sack production. Bowser, however, breaks away from a large pack of prospects with SRAMs between 0.50 and 0.60 due to a strong passes defensed rate and good workout numbers. Bowser is the only edge rusher in this year's draft with more than one career interception, and he also had nine passes defensed. Bowser posted strong numbers in every drill that matters to SackSEER, including a 2017 edge rusher-best 6.75-second 3-cone time.

As you can see, the SackSEER is quite high on both prospects. For reference, they are tied for second behind Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, who is in the 98.7th percentile of edge rushers, and is predicted to have 31.9 sacks in his first five years.

They are ahead of prospects like Derek Barnett (25.5 sacks), Solomon Thomas (24.2 sacks), and Taco Charlton (20.5 sacks).

How does the SackSEER prediction weigh on your preference for the Giants’ pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?