Pro Football Focus can be a really interesting litmus test. There are a select few who will always rail for or against them. There are others who will pick and choose what to back based on the nature of the data (for example, number grades are worthless, but more nuanced statistics like pressure percentage have value). Then there are those who agree with the outlet when the outlet agrees with them, but trash them when their opinions differ.
Yesterday was a great day for Bud Dupree disbelievers, as PFF listed him as one of the most overrated pass rushers scheduled to hit free agency in 2020, arguing that his sack total is inflated relative to the frequency with which he was actually able to generate pressure.
In the same article, however, they also listed Javon Hargrave as being in the underrated section of free-agent-to-be pass rushers for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both players should figure to be paid rather handsomely, by somebody, this offseason regardless of what PFF says. But this is what they had to say about Hargrave:
Over the course of his rookie contract, Hargrave has continued to improve in the middle of a talented Steelers’ defensive line. Stephon Tuitt’s injury this season paved the way to Hargrave playing a career-high 680 defensive snaps in 2019, and he turned in the highest overall grade of his career at 83.4. Don’t be fooled by the sack total of four; Hargrave consistently generated pressures at one of the highest rates of any interior defender.
Hargrave’s pressure rate of 14.2% this season fell behind only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones at the interior defender position. The Steelers are stacked at interior defender with Cameron Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave, and Tyson Alualu, who had a career-high PFF overall grade of 80.1 in 2019. It remains to be seen if they’ll prioritize bringing back Hargrave because of that, but whoever ends up with him will have a prime candidate for a breakout player.
With Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, no, they won’t prioritize re-signing an interior defender. And if you want to talk about age, Dupree is actually a few days younger than Hargrave. Both will be turning 27 in early-mid February. The outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense, however, is more valuable than defensive tackle, when the base package is the nickel.
The Steelers’ best combination is still Heyward and Tuitt. Tuitt had some unfortunate injuries in recent years, but so did Dupree. There’s no reason to assume that he will continue to be injured every year, as there is nothing in his injury history that indicates ‘injury-prone’. If they didn’t have two very good interior defenders already, we would be having a different discussion. But they do. Let’s just hope Hargrave makes enough to earn the Steelers a third-round compensatory pick.