It is easy to recognize that Kentucky football is on the rise. Their overall records, wins against rivals, and bowl victories speak for themselves over the last few years. However, one thing that may not be as noticeable is the impact that Kentucky alum in the NFL.
In a recent statistical analysis, two former Kentucky Wildcats rose to the top of the best of the best pass rushers in the league. In a statistic that represents effectiveness per-pass-rushing-down, which NFL.com calls disruption rate, two Kentucky alums ranked in the top five in the entire NFL.
With a disruption rate of 17.5%, former Cat and current Green Bay Packers linebacker Ze’Darius Smith came in just behind Myles Garrett at No. 2 on the list. This is what NFL writer Nick Shook had to say about him:
Smith’s disruption total is higher because, in part, he played a full season, but his performance is almost on par with that of Garrett. Smith was the face of a turnaround for the Packers defense, providing immediate returns on the lucrative free-agent deal he inked last offseason. He was a menace, pressuring the QB on 19.4 percent of pass rushes when aligned on the interior. That rate was the highest among all defenders rushing from the interior (minimum 100 interior pass rushes), leading second-place finisher Stephon Tuitt (14.1 percent) by more than 5 percentage points. Smith was second in overall pressure percentage at 14.8 percent, trailing only Garrett. He and Packers DT Kenny Clark combined for 120 QB pressures last season, the most by any teammate duo in the NFL.
Smith is officially in the category of the elite, and luckily for him, he’s being paid as such.
At No. 5 in the rankings, the rookie linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Josh Allen, boasted a 16.2% disruption rate. Shook had this to say about the rookie:
Oh, look! It’s another youngster! It’s unrealistic to say Allen didn’t benefit from playing on a defense that also included Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, so 2020 figures to be a tougher test for him, with Campbell now a Raven and Ngakoue, who has yet to sign his franchise tag as of this writing, wanting out of town. Allen had quite a debut, though. Joining Bosa as a rookie Pro Bowl selectee, Allen used his athleticism and length to his advantage in 2019. His 10.5 sacks on 54 total disruptions places him among some of the most effective rushers in the NFL, but it also sets him up to receive more attention from offenses in 2020. We’ll see if he can keep the same pace.
Allen came in one spot below NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa and one spot ahead of perhaps the scariest man in the NFL, Aaron Donald. While it was clear that Allen had a great rookie season, comparing these advanced analytics puts his early success even more in perspective.
Were you surprised to see two Wildcats so high on this list? Any predictions on the next Kentucky guy to make as big of an impact in the NFL?
Check out the rest of the list of top disruptors here.