Projecting 2019 Sack Totals For 1st Round Defensive Lineman

Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL Draft was billed as being loaded with quality defensive line prospects and with 13 selected in the first round, the NFL clearly agrees. Now that we know what teams the prospects belong to, it's time to consider what type of sack production we can expect from them as rookies.

Before I offer my predictions, here's a look at the rookie sack leader by season since 2014.

  • 2018 - Bradley Chubb 12
  • 2017 - Carl Lawson 8.5
  • 2016 - Joey Bosa 10.5
  • 2015 - Preston Smith 8
  • 2014 - Aaron Donald 9

While everyone would love to see their shiny new first round pick rack up double-digit sacks as a rookie, the reality is that only two rookies over the last five seasons accomplished that feat. Let's examine my realistic predictions for the 2019 crop.

Pick No. 2: Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

You know the Bosa brothers are competitive and Nick is eyeing Joey's 10.5-sack rookie season (12 games) and aiming to top it. On a loaded 49ers defensive line, Bosa is primed to turn in a monster rookie season. Boasting a translatable and NFL-ready pass rushing skill set, Bosa and Dee Ford are among the most potent duo's of EDGE rushers the league features. San Francisco did a terrific job of making its primary weakness and area of strength this off season.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 10-12

Pick No. 3: Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

The phrase "unblockable" is often used loosely but it totally fits to describe Williams' final season at Alabama. Racking up 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2018, SEC interior offensive lineman had no answer for the dynamic Williams. His ability to clear contact and finish is truly exceptional and I'd bet he finds production early in his NFL career. A lack of dynamic edge rushing presence on the Jets roster makes things a bit more challenging but Williams should be a terror in the face of quarterbacks right away.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 6-8

Pick No. 4: Clelin Ferrell, Oakland Raiders

While many were surprised to see Ferrell get selected in the top-5, all he did was rack up 50.5 tackles for loss and 37 sacks over his final three seasons at Clemson, increasing his TFL and sack totals in each season. No, he isn't the most explosive or bendy rusher but he is long, technically-refined and heavy-handed.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 5-7

Pick No. 7: Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars

To the tune of 21.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks, Allen ran circles around SEC offensive tackles in 2018. Providing dynamic speed and flexibility off the edge, Allen does have some development needed in terms of pass rush variety and hand usage. With that said, he can be moved around the formation and positioned where his explosiveness is a challenging assignment 1v1.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 6-8

Pick No. 9: Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills

Oliver adds much-needed interior pass rush to the Bills' defense, an area that has been lacking in recent years. Despite tallying 53 tackles for loss across three seasons at Houston, his sack output in college was never greater than 5.5 in any season. With that said, much of that can be attributed to Houston playing Oliver over the center in three-man fronts, leading to constant double and triple teams. His explosiveness, leverage, flexibility and motor should find him in the face of quarterbacks early and often in the NFL.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 6-8

Pick No. 12: Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers

Racking up 10.5 sacks in 35 games at Michigan, Gary was never truly a sack artist in college. While he certainly has the physical traits needed to develop as a pro, he underachieved in college based on his five-star recruiting status. A big concern for Gary when projecting his rookie sack total is that he has a laberal tear that he intends to play through and have surgery after the season. I am concerned with how that will impact him in 2019.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 3-5

Pick No. 13: Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins

Wilkins is one of the highest-floor prospects from the 2019 class and I expect him to be a foundational piece on Miami's roster for years to come. With that said, the Dolphins defensive line is lacking in the way of complementary pass rushers which could make things challenging for him in his rookie season. A four-time All-American in college, the production will come for Wilkins but the big numbers wait until the talent around him improves.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 3-5

Pick No. 16: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

I believe Burns was the best pass rusher in the 2019 Draft class. Not the best prospect, but the best pass rusher. On a Carolina defense that is looking to become more multiple with its fronts, Burns is the perfect defensive weapon to aide in that transitions. Burns' blend of burst, length, flexibility, rush variety and vision should make him a dynamic rusher in the NFL.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 7-9

Pick No. 17: Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants

Labeling Lawrence a 340-pound space eater is truly underselling playmaking ability. Lawrence came on strong as a true freshman, racking up 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks but then battled a toe injury in 2017 and played less than 50 percent of Clemson's defensive snaps in 2018. While he is certainly a better run defender than pass rusher, his mobility at his size combined with his power and flexibility should enable him to make an impact applying heat on the quarterback in the NFL.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 2-4

Pick No. 19: Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

An ACL tear in January will likely sideline Simmons for his rookie season, but a healthy Simmons is a top-10 prospect all day long. The Titans will have to wait a year to get returns on its investment in Simmons but I expect him to be a dynamic and productive interior pass rusher for years to come.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 0

Pick No. 26: Montez Sweat, Washington Redskins

There are some question marks surrounding Sweat, but his 30 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks across two seasons in the SEC speak to his potent playmaking upside. Sweat is a powerful dude with nearly 36-inch arms and insanely explosive combine testing numbers. He compares favorably to the departed Preston Smith who tallied 24.5 sacks in four seasons for Washington.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 4-6

Pick No. 28: Jerry Tillery, Los Angeles Chargers

Tillery was one of my favorite selections of the entire first round of the 2019 Draft. Breaking out as a senior with eight sacks, he was constantly applying heat on opposing quarterbacks last season. I love his blend of burst, length, flexibility, strength and rush variety to win as a pass rusher. He knows how to grease rush angles and work combinations of moves to get home. Playing between the edge rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram could lead to a big rookie season.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 6-8

Pick No. 29: LJ Collier, Seattle Seahawks

Collier's blend of motor, power and heavy hands are terrific traits but he is lacking in terms of first step quickness and flexibility which could limit his production as a pass rusher in the NFL. Ultimately, Collier's impact on passing downs may be more in the way of collapsing the pocket than finishing at the quarterback. He has the traits to develop and I love how he improved every year in college, leading to his status as a first round prospect.

Rookie Sack Prediction: 2-4



Written By:

Joe Marino

Director of Administration

Director of Administration & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.

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