Ranking season continues on with training camps still at least three weeks away from getting underway and ESPN.com has now begun their positional series for 2020. On Monday, ESPN.com released their rankings of the top 10 edge rushers for the 2020 season and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt made the cut outside the top 5.
According to ESPN.com, more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players were asked to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions. Voters gave their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then the results were compiled and the candidates ranked based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews and research. Ties were broken by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls.
The list of top 10 edge rushers for 2020 includes Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears at the top and he’s followed by Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals and Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers. Von Miller of the Denver Broncos and Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns round out the top five edge rushers for 2020.
Here is the synopsis on Watt not making the top 10 for 2020:
Not many players maximize their abilities quite like Watt, who was wildly productive with 14.5 sacks and a league-leading eight forced fumbles (tied with Jones). If that wasn’t enough, Watt won on 27.7% of his pass rushes, tops among this group.
“He does it in every category,” a veteran NFL defensive coach said. “If he had Josh Allen’s athletic ability, he would be No. 1 on this list.”
That’s really the only knock on Watt: Some prefer the raw explosion from the players ranked higher. But Watt still got several top-five votes while surprising many along the way.
As one Steelers player told me, he didn’t really know what to expect when Watt got drafted three years ago. He had knee ligament issues at Wisconsin, where he started as a tight end.
That uncertainty changed in a hurry.
“As soon as he showed up it was like, oh s—,” the player said.
Wait, what did that veteran NFL defensive coach say about Watt? Athletic ability? Watt-man can’t jump?
Watt’s pSPARQ rating ahead of him being drafted was 142.0 while Josh Allen posted a score of 128.8. Those numbers certainly aren’t the end all do all, but even so, they’re not close, relatively speaking. I certainly would like to know the name of that veteran NFL defensive coach that said that. That’s perhaps the single-worst quote ESPN could have used as an example for why he deserves to be ranked seventh on this list.
Yes, despite Watt being ranked seventh in this top 10 list for 2020, which is surely a huge honor, it’s still too low. Not that raw stats tell the whole story, but of this year’s top 10 edge rushers, only Jones and Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints have more sacks than Watt does in the last three seasons. The same goes for the last two seasons. Oh, and Watt leads all NFL players in forced fumbles the last three and two seasons combined.
According to the article, Watt’s highest ranking was 4th and his lowest was 12th. Who the hell ranks a player like Watt outside the top 10? That’s simply crazy and I think you would get that response from fans of other teams as well. That really makes one question the validity of the panel used this year by ESPN.
So, where does Watt rightfully belong on this list? Higher than 7th and easily somewhere in the top 5. After all, he was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year Award candidate in 2019. That’s as recent as it gets. Watt deserves to be ranked ahead of Garrett, so that would have him in the top 5.
Another season like, or better than, the one he had in 2019 should easily cement Watt as the NFL’s top edge rusher. It’s hard to imagine that not happening barring an injury.
Here’s to hoping that the remainder of ESPN’s positional rankings for defensive players gets better and are more justifiable as they progress throughout the rest of this week.
In case you’re curious, below are this year’s top 10:
1. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
2. Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
3. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
4. Von Miller, Denver Broncos
5. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
6. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
7. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Cam Jordan, New Orleans Saints
10. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys