Despite pedestrian stats in his first season in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 defense, the Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett is still recognized by his peers as one of the best players in the NFL.
Jarrett had just 59 tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss in 2021. His sack total and tackles for loss were career lows. Jarrett routinely found himself doubled or even triple teamed on an undermanned front seven.
NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players recognize how good Jarrett still is, and so do the Falcons who rewarded Jarrett with a new contract in the offseason.
ESPN polled that group of people to create player rankings at each position. On Wednesday they released the Top-10 list of interior defensive linemen as voted by their peers across the NFL.
Jarrett checked in at No. 9 despite not having the flashy stats.
“For the second consecutive year, Jarrett garnered enough votes to sneak into the top 10 but not enough to make a sizable jump,” wrote Fowler on ESPN.
“A little declined but really good player,” an NFL senior personnel exec told Fowler via ESPN. “Wins with initial quickness. Still one of the best at that. So if he keeps that, he’ll always be productive.”
“We saw one sack in 2021 on 12 quarterback hits for Jarrett, whose baseline stats don’t tell his full story,” continued Fowler. “His get-off (burst off the line of scrimmage) still stands out. And the Falcons rewarded that skill with a big-money extension this offseason.”
“Once labeled as a player who struggles against the run, Jarrett comes in with a decently strong 35.5% run stop win rate (35th among defensive linemen) to complement his 15.4% pass rush rate (fourth among defensive tackles).”
Jarrett should get additional help off the edge this season after the Falcons had a shockingly-low total of just 18 sacks, 11 fewer than the next worst team in the NFL. The Falcons invested draft picks in edge rushers Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone while also signing veteran Lorenzo Carter to replace Dante Fowler.
Jarrett signed a three-year $50.5 million extension in the spring that should keep him an Atlanta Falcon at least through the 2024 season. As the Falcons rebuild, it would have made sense to try and move Jarrett, but his presence in the locker room, talent as a player, and connection to the fans and franchise made it smart to bring have him as a leader as the team emerges from the cap hell created by the previous regime.