The Buffalo Bills picked up Marcell Dareus’ fifth-year option for the 2015 season, meaning that the clock is ticking towards an extension for the team’s most dominant and valuable player. Buffalo took Marcell Dareus with the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and he’s lived up to the lofty expectations that come with that status. After getting off to a slow start for the first 1 ½ seasons of his career, Dareus exploded in 2013. Consistently wreaking havoc on opposing offenses, Dareus earned him consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and was named to the Associated Press’ First-Team All Pro lineup.
Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy went second and third overall in the 2010 NFL Draft and enjoyed immediate success. Dareus took a bit longer to get up to speed, but he now rounds out the trio’s own tier of elite defensive tackles. What will make offseason really interesting is money. Gerald McCoy was given a seven-year, $98 million extension ($14 million APY) last season, but Ndamukong Suh is set to become the most high-profile unrestricted free agent on the market in years. Suh is a superstar in the NFL and will likely earn upwards of $15 million per year.
The Bills are reportedly looking to extend Dareus this year before he can sniff the free agency waters. However, it’s likely that Dareus will wait for Suh to sign a new deal that will “reset the market” so to speak.
So, let’s take a look at the numbers to determine which of these three elite defensive tackles is the best of the bunch, while trying to come up with a reasonable contract that would work for both Dareus and the Bills.
|Since 2011||GP||TKL||SK||“Stops”||Total Pressures||QB Hits||QB Hurries|
Gerald McCoy plays the three-technique defensive tackle position in the Buccaneers’ “Tampa 2” defense. The three-technique is the key to the engine that is the “Tampa 2” and McCoy is the ideal fit. As the three-technique, McCoy will typically align to the outside shoulder of the guard, between the tackle. This scheme lets him see one-on-ones to the open side of the formation, meaning that he’ll be head-up with a left guard for the majority of his snaps. His alignment is schemed for him to enjoy extreme success in the passing game, as he’s able to use his lighter frame to penetrate backfields with quickness and agility.
Ndamukong Suh is a versatile defensive tackle that plays both the one and the three technique roles within the Detroit Lions’ defense. Suh’s size, strength, power and all-around ability makes it easy for the Lions to move him around the defensive line. Gerald McCoy is the best three-technique in the NFL, but he’s just a three-technique. Suh’s size and skill set allow him to thrive from a variety of alignments and roles.
Marcell Dareus has put up statistics very similar to Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh, but what makes his numbers so impressive is that he does it from more of a hybrid role. At any given time, Dareus will align as the nose tackle or zero-tech (over the center) and two-gap, using his massive frame to anchor against a double team and stuff a run. He’ll line up at one-tech (between the center & guard) and 1 gap, where he’ll split double teams and get into the backfield. In some nickel packages, he’ll widen out to the three or the five-technique and display some underrated pass rush moves to fight his way into the backfield.
Winner: Marcell Dareus
Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh have been two of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the National Football League over the past two seasons.
|Since 2013||SK||“Stops”||Total Pressures||QB Hits||QB Hurries|
Suh (25 QB Hits, 96 QB Hurries) and McCoy’s (23 QB Hits, 83 QB Hurries) pressure numbers dwarf those of Dareus’ (10 QB Hits, 49 QB Hurries). However, Dareus has the most sacks of the group. Going back to the scheme portion of this article, Suh and McCoy are two of the most talented defensive linemen in the league. They are both one-gapping disruptors that rely on speed and strength to win their one-on-ones. Playing as a three-technique, both are facing minimal double-teams—they are expected to disrupt. Dareus faces more double-teams just based off of his alignment and is still a pretty efficient disruptor. All three are ferocious in the passing game and win in different ways.
Winner: Gerald McCoy
Marcell Dareus is the best and most effective run defender among the group, as he’s recorded a “stop” on 86 of a possible 892 rushing attempts since 2012. His 9.6% rate places him 7th at the position. ProFootballFocus defines a stop as a tackle that constitutes as a “loss” for the offense (i.e. failing to reach a % of yardage on a given play/situation).
Gerald McCoy’s 900 snaps against the run are the most in the three-year time span, but he recorded just 52 stops. His 5.7 run stop percentage places him 36th.Ndamukong Suh recorded 66 stops in his 813 run snaps. His Run Stop Percentage of 8.1 places him 12th among defensive tackles.
|Run Stop since ’12||Snaps vs Run||Stops vs Run||Run Stop %||% rank in ’14 PFF|
Winner: Marcell Dareus
At AdvancedNFLStats.com, they track a statistic called “Success Count.” Success Count refers to the number of plays in which a player was directly involved that would typically be considered successful. In other words “impact plays.” Over the past two seasons, Marcell Dareus has a success count of 119, meaning he’s averaging about 3.8 impact plays per game. His 119 Success Count ranks him third over that span. Suh was right on his tail, finishing just behind Dareus with a success count of 103. Gerald McCoy’s 2.8 impact plays per game would rank 11th among defensive tackles.
|Since 2013||Success Count||SC avg rank|
Draw: Marcell Dareus & Ndamukong Suh
When comparing these elite players, it became clear that there really is no right answer to the question, “Who is the best defensive tackle in the NFL?” Dareus, McCoy and Suh each bring unique traits to the position that separate themselves from the pack.
The beauty of numbers and stats is that you can find ways to make them work for your personal argument, no matter how logical or illogical it may be, which is why context is so important. For instance, Marcell Dareus had 58 fewer pressures than Ndamukong Suh and 46 fewer than McCoy over a two-year span, but he had the most sacks of all defensive tackles in 2014. That number right there is why you have to point to their scheme; what their role is, what they’re asked to do, etc.
Looking at the run stop numbers, Gerald McCoy’s effectiveness was marginally lower than Suh’s or Dareus’. But, that goes back to the scheme. As the three-technique to the open (weak) side of the formation, he’s not in a position to make as many plays against the run as Dareus or Suh would be due to their alignment.
Now, when you take everything into consideration, Marcell Dareus is probably the defensive tackle I want as the cornerstone of my franchise. Suh was 1b, but Dareus’ scheme-versatility is invaluable. He can effectively play at four spots on the defensive line, in either even or odd fronts. He’s a powerful man with one of the most underrated bursts at his position. Just scratching the surface at 25-years old, there is no way the Bills can afford to play games with him the way they have with players like Jairus Byrd, Andy Levitre, Donte Whitner, Antoine Winfield, etc. There’s no way the team can rationalize not paying Dareus to a starved fanbase that’s finally got a taste of a winning season.
A six-year deal worth up to $107.5 million seems like a realistic deal for both Dareus and the Buffalo Bills.