When analyzing Nik Bonitto and how his game translates to the NFL, his ability to bend and explode around the edge is usually the first thing mentioned. But while his physical and athletic profile has generated plenty of discussions, the most critical attribute of Bonitto’s may just be a single statistic.
Pass rush win rate (PRWR).
The NFL’s Next Gen Stats initiative, in conjunction with the normalization of stats like EPA and air yards, has transformed how football is seen, evaluated and analyzed. While the NFL’s analytic era is only in its embryonic stage, stats like PRWR have already proven to be a reliable barometer, not only for the evaluation of NFL talent but how we can evaluate incoming NFL talent.
PRWR Crash Course
Introduced in October of 2018, pass rush win rate is a relatively new stat that takes into account how long a block is (or isn’t) held within 2.5 seconds. ESPN and the NFL’s Next Gen Stats department worked together to create a stat that goes beyond pressures, hurries and sacks in an attempt to gauge how good a pass rusher is on a snap-by-snap basis.
The first full season of PRWR in 2019 crowned Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald as the most effective pass rushers at edge and defensive tackle.
In that season, the Broncos ranked 30th in total team PRWR with Von Miller only recording eight sacks in 15 games and Bradley Chubb having only played four games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL.
In 2020, T.J. Watt led all eligible edge defenders in PRWR while Aaron Donald led all defensive tackles again and earned himself Defensive Player of the Year honors along the way.
2020 proved to be another tough season for the Broncos’ pass rush as they ranked 24th in total team PRWR. Von Miller missed the entire season due to an ankle injury.
In 2021, Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald led the league in PRWR for their respective positions.
The Broncos would bottom out in 2021 finishing 32nd in total team PRWR as Bradley Chubb battled injuries and Von Miller would only play seven games for the Broncos before being traded to the Rams.
In the first three seasons of PRWR, multiple names found themselves in the top 10 in multiple years.
T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, Myles Garrett, Grady Jarrett, Joey Bosa and Robert Quinn were some of the most impactful defensive players in the league from 2019-2021 and PRWR reflected that as it built credibility as a relevant statistic.
What does PRWR mean for Nik Bonitto?
As evidenced above, in terms of PRWR the Broncos have been one of the worst teams in the league at rushing the passer since that statistic was introduced. But help may be on the way as soon as this upcoming season.
Randy Gregory was the big-name addition to the Broncos’ pass rush but with the last pick in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Broncos drafted college football’s PRWR champion, Nik Bonitto.
Bonitto found himself on NFL Draft radars after his 2020 season in which he produced nine sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss and an impressive 28% PRWR that led all FBS rushers.
Bonitto’s 2020 season was so impressive that he ranked at the top of PFF’s Top 10 Returning EDGE Defenders for the 2021 season. Below is author Anthony Treash’s blurb about Bonitto.
“Bonitto might be the most underrated player in all of college football. The rush-end led all FBS edge defenders in pass-rush grade (93.6), pass-rush win rate (28%) and pressure rate generated (25.7%) in 2020. Among all Power Five edge defenders since we began grading college seven years ago, Bonitto ranks in the top five in all three metrics.
Bonitto’s explosiveness and athleticism caused headaches for every offensive tackle he faced, and no lineman succeeded in shutting him down in 2020. His lowest win rate in a single game this past year sat at 17.6% — a pretty solid day for most FBS edge rushers.”
Bonitto only followed up with an all-time performance in 2021 ultimately ranking him as the best pass rusher in terms of PRWR since 2018.
In terms of career pressure rate – PRWR’s cousin that factors in pressures even when the defender is being blocked – Bonitto is in elite territory.
This is, in my view, quite concerning for Travon Walker — who had just an 8% pressure rate in college.
Here's where he, Hutchinson, Thibodeaux and Bonitto (!) stand on the x axis of this chart. pic.twitter.com/NVrN70TJhe
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) April 7, 2022
This places Bonitto above prospects like Chase Young, Brian Burns and Montez Sweat in terms of college pressure rate. At the same time, it puts Bonitto near Jaylon Ferguson, who has yet to turn a productive college football career into a productive NFL career.
However, the correlation between productive college football EDGE rushers becoming good EDGE rushers in the NFL is fairly strong.
As it stands, Bonitto’s NFL career is a high-variance projection but when factoring in the film we should be able to gain a clearer picture.
Does the film agree?
The scouting report on Bonitto coming out of Oklahoma is relatively straightforward. This is a player that has a great feel and ability when it comes to rushing the passer. He is athletic and versatile enough to hold his own in coverage. In order to become a complete player, it’s a matter of adding strength without losing speed and playing with more grit and aggressiveness around the line of scrimmage and when defending the run.
Bonitto’s pass-rushing talent was clear to anyone who spent time watching the Oklahoma defense the last two seasons.
Granted, this is a screen play so pressure is being invited but Bonitto’s burst off the line and ability to bend and dip around the tackle shows how skilled and athletic he is playing off the edge.
Credit has to go to the coverage on this sack, but Bonitto always plays with a hot and relentless motor. When you factor in raw pass-rushing ability, athleticism and motor you get effort sacks like this.
The weakest part of Bonitto’s game at this point is his ability to play stout and defend the run consistently. Despite that, Bonitto is able to shoot gaps and blow up plays due to his first step, speed and athleticism. There are many more aspects to Bonitto’s game but the point is, that Bonitto is a natural athlete with clear pass-rushing talent.
Nik Bonitto was drafted with pick 64 of round 2 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.37 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 96 out of 1503 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/DTWjkyjfJw #RAS #Broncos pic.twitter.com/qpAWNJCgb6
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
George Paton and the Broncos have been able to find a great balance between athleticism and football talent in the last two drafts. Selecting prospects like Bonitto and Baron Browning who are great athletes and have shown impact-player ability in flashes can give the Broncos much-needed boosts at linebacker and EDGE rusher.
While Bonitto has plenty of tools to become an impact player, with players like Randy Gregory, Malik Reed and Bradley Chubb on the roster, it is not crucial for Bonitto to be a starting EDGE worth 10 sacks per year right away.
Selecting Bonitto will be seen as a gamble by some but the fact of the matter is that George Paton, Bonitto and the Broncos have the luxury of time and talent on their side.