I wrote earlier about SackSEER, the Football Outsiders model that tries to project the NFL success of college pass rushers. It uses four specific factors to do this: short shuttle time, indicative of agility; vertical leap, which can show potential for burst and explosiveness off the line; per-sack college productivity; and college games missed. The models is restricted to 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 linebackers and gives its results in the form of five-year sack totals.
I cautiously respect SackSEER because 1) it uses sound statistical methods to deduce which tools and conditions can be used to predict success; 2) those tools and conditions have tangible connections to success; 3) it's honest about its shortcomings; and 4) it's reasonably accurate.
SackSEER analysis of this draft's pass-rushing prospects was just released and offers a few against-the-grain opinions on some of the speed-rusher prospects being mocked to the Seahawks.
DE/LB Justin Houston (26.0 sacks projected by year 5)
One of the more under-the-radar prospects, Houston has good all-around measurables and steady production to boast of. He was invited to the Combine as a linebacker but could well shift to 4-3 end. Sounds like a candidate for Pete Carroll's LEO experiment; Seattle did recently work him out. Rob Staton, for his part, sees a somewhat raw prospect with questions about his effort level. He's currently projected anywhere from #15 to #45.
DE Ryan Kerrigan (24.7 sacks)
Kerrigan is largely projected to go before #25. His Combine measurables were a little disappointing, possibly hidden by his all-out effort, but workouts elsewhere suggest that he could have further athleticism to reveal.
DE Da'Quan Bowers (22 sacks)
Bowers is one of the most notorious conundrums of this draft. His dominant production as a junior seems unsupported by his workout numbers, and his knee injury could quickly cut short his career despite his insistence that it's not a concern. Without those concerns, he could be a top ten prospect and a surefire value pick at #25. His knee, however, is the kind of question that could scare bottom-ten teams away just as effectively as top-ten teams.
DE Aldon Smith (20 sacks)
Smith also has a mediocre Combine performance compounded with injury concerns. A lot of mocks are projecting him in the 15-25 range anyway. He's also a redshirt sophomore.
DE Robert Quinn (15.5 sacks)
Some people think that Quinn's one-year suspension will leave him rusty, and are assigning him a fall accordingly. Questions about his size and durability against the run - key considerations for Seattle - also linger. Rob doesn't rule out a fall all the way to Seattle. Quinn posted only modest workout numbers at the Combine, but put up wildly better numbers at his Pro Day, and I mean wildly. SackSEER basically has no answers on the guy; he's the definitive high risk-high reward prospect amongst this year's pass rushers.
DE/LB Brooks Reed (15.1 sacks)
Reed is a fringe first-rounder who has impressed some scouts with a blazing 40-time but possesses a mediocre vertical leap. He sounds like a better sprinter than burster. He's another of the popular candidates for Seattle's LEO job.
DE Jabaal Sheard (10.6 sacks)
Another possible LEO is Sheard, but his unremarkable production and SackSEER measurables call him into question.
SackSEER throws in a few mid- to late-round sleeper picks that could surprise based on SackSEER predictors:
Dontay Moch, Nevada - Amazing 42-inch vertical leap and good production against admittedly weak competition. May be undersized for NFL.
Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines - Small-school guy with high production at the Division II level. A long shot, but NFL success stories like Jared Allen have come from similar backgrounds.
Phillip Hunt, CFL - Smaller player with impressive Pro Day numbers and good production in the CFL.