T.J. Watt is an edge rusher. T.J. Watt finished third in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the year last season. Surely he would have to be one of the most disruptive players in the league last season, right? Not according to the narrow definition of a disruptor that Nick Shook worked with for a recent NFL.com article.
Players were judged, based on their Next Gen Stats, solely by Disruption Rate, or the percentage of passing plays in which a player recorded a hurry, hit, or sack. And based on this metric, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ leading sack producer over the past two seasons didn’t even crack the top 10.
First on the list, in fact, was Myles Garrett, who in 10 games produced 10 sacks, included in 53 total disruptions, and a disruption rate of 18.5 percent. In case it’s not clear yet, that means he disrupted the quarterback on 18.5% of the plays in which he rushed the passer, or not far off from one in five plays.
Von Miller was 10th on the list, with a disruption rate of 14.4 percent, producing 60 total disruptions in 15 games, even though he finished the year with eight sacks. In his entry, Shook notes that his disruption rate was higher than a number of players who had more sacks, including Watt.
His disruption rate, apparently, was 13.4 percent, which is obviously a very respectable number, but apparently one that would barely allow him to crack inside the top 15, though it’s important to keep in mind that these go by their own stats, and there are no official metrics for hits and hurries.
Compare this to Pro Football Focus’ numbers, under the same guide: all players with 250 or more pass rushes. By this measure, he had the fourth-most total disruptions in the league with 81, and the second-highest Pass Rush Productivity grade, which does place a slightly higher weight on sacks than hits and hurries. Za’Darius Smith was at the top, with Miller third, and Garrett fourth. They also credit Watt with 18 sacks, since they don’t award half-sacks to a play. In other words, there were 18 plays in which he participated in registering a sack.
It’s getting difficult to find metrics in which the results do not indicate that Watt is toward the top of his craft right now, entering his fourth season. He has been on a tear since the middle of his second season, and based on his seeming drive to be great, it’s hard to see anything short of injury getting in his way over the course of the next several years.