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Leonard Williams, Rookie Linemen, and Sacks

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Sacks are only one measure of how effectively a defensive lineman is playing, but they are important. Leonard Williams enters the NFL highly touted. What kind of expectations should fans have for his rookie sack total?

I decided to take a look at the rookie campaigns of top NFL interior defensive linemen. You might remember before the Draft we took a look at where top talent was selected. To make the list, a player needed at least one AP All Pro first or second team selection in the last five years.

I also included each player's career average sacks per 16 games played. This is because some of the linemen on the list are purely run stuffers so their low rookie sack total is more a function of skillset rather than lack of development.

Player Rookie Sacks CareerSacks/16 Games
N. Suh 10 7.4
J. Smith 8.5 6.3
M. Dareus 5.5 7.2
J. Watt 5.5 14.3
F. Cox 5.5 4.3
G. McCoy 3 6.8
R. Seymour 3 5.6
M. Wilkerson 3 6.4
G. Atkins 3 7
J. Casey 2.5 5.3
V. Wilfork 2 1.6
H. Ngata 1 3
D. Poe 0 3.6
C. Campbell 0 6.6
Kyle Williams 0 4.2

So there you have it. We all have very high hopes for Williams as a player. It isn't clear we should expect monster totals from him as a rookie, though. If he gets six sacks, that would place him third on the list. I think it is certainly conceivable that Williams could outproduce most of the list. Simply put, he is a better prospect than most of these players were entering the league. With that said, 5 sacks would be an excellent rookie season. Less than that would not necessarily be a big disappointment.

This is also a function of role. You can see from the career averages interior type linemen do not put up monster sack totals. They are constantly working through double teams in traffic. Much of what they contribute is the dirty work, eating up blockers and redirecting the direction of the ball by penetrating. They don't fill up the stat sheet always, but their impact on the game is still huge. These are just things to keep in mind for Williams.