Grady Jarrett always seems underrated. A two-time Pro Bowler and the team’s best defender, Jarrett has missed just three games over six NFL seasons and is already 11th in Falcons history in sacks. He’s great, but recognition for that greatness has taken time to arrive outside of this fanbase.
The longer he plays, though, the more his reputation catches up with his play. Unfortunately, the longer he plays, the more his team’s fortunes also end up hurting his cause, because the Falcons are a bad team with a bad defense and players who play on bad teams with bad defenses tend to struggle to earn recognition unless their production is transcendent. Jarrett is coming off a year where he was still dominant—per ESPN, he ranked 3rd in the NFL in pass rush win rate for a defensive tackle and 8th in run stop win rate, and even a modest highlight reel shows how impactful he is—but the surface numbers sagged a bit, as he went from 7.5 sacks to 4 sacks and from 12 tackles for a loss to 8.
That’s partly how Jarrett, who ranked #32 on the Pro Football Focus top 50 a year ago, wound up at #42 this year. He made a list he definitely belongs on, which is still good, but the drop is a bit of a bummer.
Here’s the writeup, which does not shed any light on that:
Very few players have done more with less help than Falcons interior lineman Grady Jarrett. It’s not that Atlanta hasn’t tried to find him some complementary pieces along the defensive line; they just haven’t had much success when they have. Jarrett continues to dominate despite this.
The now seventh-year defensive lineman has averaged over 50 total pressures over the past three seasons, earning a PFF pass-rushing grade above 80.0 in each year. He is a fantastic success story as a former fifth-round draft pick turned into one of the game’s best at a position that is currently stacked with elite talent.
The part about “less help” also helps to explain why Jarrett is here. The Falcons cut Takk McKinley mid-season and Dante Fowler had a mediocre year, leaving Jarrett to work alongside capable but not standout players like Steven Means, Tyeler Davison and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. His sacks flagged a bit last year, but per Pro Football Reference Jarrett actually managed more pressures last year than in 2019 and double his quarterback knockdowns, telling you how close he was to a huge year despite the many challenges he and this Falcons defense faced.
In a more blitz-happy defense and with a 17 game season, I like Jarrett’s chances of at least having one of his most surface-level impressive seasons, which should help him catapult up rankings like these again in 2021. Regardless of his exact position in PFF’s top 50 or the NFL Top 100—if indeed he makes the latter list at all after ranking #91 a year ago—Jarrett’s done more than enough to be recognized as one of the greatest defensive tackles in the NFL. The recognition is cool and all, but it’d be nice to see all that effort rewarded with some more winning, starting this year.
The PFF list will be fully unveiled by Friday, in case you’re interested, and we’ll see if any other Falcons make the cut, especially after the Julio Jones trade. They were the only two to make a year ago.