Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus released their list of the “10 best AFC defensive players right now.” The list starts exactly where everyone would expect, with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt taking the top spot. Just behind him is Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack as the second ranked player and Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller as the third player on the list.
Jumping to the seventh ranked player, Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh lands on the listing. A lot of people, Dolphins fans included, criticized Suh’s play last year, complaining that he was not the dominant player Miami had signed to a six-year, $114 million contract. PFF has previously written that Suh actually had one of, if not the, best seasons of his career, though many people still consider him a bust of a free agent signing because of the size of his contract.
Of ranking Suh the seventh best defensive player in the AFC right now, PFF writes:
Unless Ndamukong Suh reaches J.J. Watt-type levels for the next three seasons, he’ll be forever deemed overrated and a bust by the masses because of his massive contract. The truth is that he had a career-year in 2015, despite recording just six sacks. If it weren’t for his obscene number of penalties, Suh would have graded higher than Atkins in 2015. The Dolphin ranked fourth in pass-rushing productivity among his positional peers, and led all defensive tackles in batted passes (five). With a new coaching staff in Miami, the distractions that held back the Dolphins’ defense won’t be there. If Mario Williams decides to show up in 2016 and Cameron Wake can return from a torn Achilles, it’ll allow Suh to continue to disrupt from the interior and “prove” his worth.
Suh did not make the Pro Bowl in 2015, and that could also be attributed to people looking at his contract and expecting the impossible from him. That does not mean he was a bust, and it does not mean he was a bad signing for Miami. Yes, he is expensive, but he is also an elite player and one of the top defensive players in the conference - and the league.
Miami should expect more out of Suh in 2016, if only because the defensive system will be better suited to Suh, and Wake should be available for the entire season if his Achilles tear from last year is fully recovered. Like PFF said, if Mario Williams “decides to show up,” Suh could benefit even more from Miami’s defensive ends in 2016.