PFF is one of the better advanced analytic references in the football world, but that doesn’t mean they won’t leave you scratching your head from time to time. Which is exactly what their recent interior defender rankings have me doing at this exact moment.
For starters, it’s actually not all that bad for Falcons fans. I would even say it’s positive. The Falcons had three guys make the list, which is a testament to all of the work they’ve done this offseason in making sure the defensive line would be a strength rather than a glaring weakness as it has been in years past.
However, what’s puzzling is where they had Grady Jarrett on the list. He was the third-ranked Falcon, clocking in at #23.
It’s been three seasons since we saw Jarrett really dominate for a stretch, and with his being 30 years old now, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him. He was still good enough to make this list based on his play last year, though, registering seven sacks, 10 hits and 28 hurries from 487 pass-rushing snaps.
Just ahead of Jarrett were guys like Christian Barmore and Jordan Davis, who, admittedly, are some young players with promise. But c’mon, they haven’t sniffed the level of production of Jarrett and weren’t even better than him last season. They weren’t even close. Apparently, PFF thinks Jarrett will fall off a cliff at age 30, but for some reason, they have no problem with Calais Campbell at age 37 because he comes in at #17 on the list.
At 36 years old, Campbell isn’t the same player he was at the height of his career. But he did enough over the past three years with the Baltimore Ravens that expecting him to not be a top-20 player at the position this year is doing him a disservice. In his 15th season in the league, he produced 70.0-plus PFF grades both against the run and as a pass rusher.
Campbell is a future Hall of Famer that has aged like a fine wine. I hope he can continue his level of production with the Falcons, and I’m excited to see him play the same role in Atlanta that he did in Jacksonville, where he had his most productive seasons. But there’s no way I’m putting him ahead of Jarrett on this list.
In the middle of Jarrett and Campbell is David Onyemata, who just inked a three-year, $35 million contract with the Falcons this offseason. Onyemata’s run defense was decent a year ago, but he’s proven to be a better pass rusher from the interior. Having him and Campbell on the line should allow Jarrett to produce at the highest rate of his career.
That’s where PFF is missing the boat with their interior defender rankings. Jarrett has been a one-man wrecking crew for the last few seasons. Now, he has help around him for the first time in several years. I don’t think Jarrett has regressed, and that will be on full display this season.
Photo: Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire