One of the featured writers they added to their roster was draft scouting guru and former TJB Podcast guest Matt Miller, who - along with several other film junkies - is spearheading the B/R NFL 1000 project, where they attempt to rank the NFL's top 1,000 players. The project is now into its third year and they've just started releasing this year's results. For more on how the project works go here.
In their top 35 3-4 outside linebackers list, Miller and his colleagues rank Quinton Coples 29th. Calvin Pace was not ranked.
Here's what they said about Coples:
One of our lowest-rated pass-rushing outside linebackers, Quinton Coples (6’6”, 290 lbs, two seasons) just didn’t provide the pass-rushing threat many were expecting would come in 2013. He looks to be moving in slow motion a lot of times, at least comparatively speaking to other outside linebackers.Read Bent's thoughts after the jump.
Leaving aside the folly of comparing Coples to other outside linebackers when the Rush Linebacker role has much more in common with a 4-3 defensive end role, 29th was about what I expected for Coples. After all, it is supposed to be be based on the season as a whole and although he produced well over the second half of the year, he didn't have much statistical production in the first half. As I've already noted, their lists usually seem to correspond pretty closely to PFF rankings and his pass rush rating was low on there too.
However, while it's difficult to put forward a strong case that he should be much higher up the list, their analysis here is awful. Some of the things they said about him included "Doesn't have the natural athleticism or lateral agility to play in space", "Inability to move his feet", "Won't chase anyone down in space", "Has a low ceiling because of his lack of elite burst or athleticism" and the coup-de-grace: "Has value as a rotational player".
Rotational player? After missing the first two games with a broken bone in his foot, Coples played 84% of the snaps in what was the league's top run defense for most of the year. As soon as he returned to the lineup, Muhammad Wilkerson's production instantly picked up, having been constantly double-teamed in the first two games. In the second half of the season, Coples averaged 4.5 total pressures a game as a pass rusher, which is elite-level production.
As noted, his PFF pass rushing ranking was low, partly because of his slow start (and let's not forget he was also adapting to a new role). However, to an extent that's a reflection of the fact that teams were getting rid of the ball early and leaving additional blockers in to counter the Jets pass rush. PFF rankings for pass rushers don't take into account factors like that, merely being dependent on whether or not a pressure was recorded, so you can end up with a negative grade even if you give your man constant problems (as Coples did for most of the second half of the year).
Coples is not a speed rusher, but was constantly able to get upfield leverage and drive his man into the backfield. As for him not being athletic and lacking burst, anyone who's seen some of the plays he's made over the past two years knows that's laughable. Maybe the scope of this project was too big for them to watch any of Coples' performances over the second half of the season, so they're basing everything on an injured player who was still getting to grips with the changes to his role.
As for Pace, to see him overlooked altogether makes even less sense. I did wonder if they'd perhaps decided to treat him as a 4-3 outside linebacker, on the grounds that many of the Jets' main packages are a modified version of a 4-3 under scheme, but no, he didn't make that list either. Yes, his ten sacks were to some extent the product of other people, but let's not forget that Miller and his cohorts already justified marking Wilkerson down because "the emergence of other stars on the New York Jets defensive line helped him put up great numbers". The most disappointing part about Pace being unranked is that they don't have to mention him at all, let alone try to justify that decision, so we don't get the opportunity to point out any obvious contradictions. I'm not sure why it even makes sense to only evaluate only 35 outside linebackers when they evaluated 100 cornerbacks, some of whom were so bad they'll probably be out of the league this year.
Regardless of what these analysts continue to say, I'm bullish on Coples for 2014, as long as he can stay healthy. I'm also pleased that they brought Pace back, although I'm hopeful that the more dynamic Antwan Barnes will get more pass rush reps next year and wouldn't mind seeing them draft Pace's eventual replacement.