Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Execs, players, coaches rank Arik Armstead No. 7 among top inside D-linemen

Jul 14, 2020 at 6:10 AM--

Arik Armstead played 18 percent of his defensive-line snaps along the interior last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but that was enough to get him the votes needed to land on ESPN's top-10 ranking of the best inside defensive linemen for 2020.

Writer Jeremy Fowler conducted an extensive poll involving 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players.

"Voters gave their best 10 to 15 players at a position," explains Fowler, "then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews, and research. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls."

One former San Francisco 49ers player, DeForest Buckner, landed at the No. 4 spot. Three spots later is where you will find defensive lineman Arik Armstead. While Buckner was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Armstead received a five-year deal worth up to $85 million to remain with the 49ers.

Not everyone felt the decision to choose Armstead over Buckner was the wrong one.

"Buckner is better down in, down out, but Armstead -- now that he's healthy and in a good situation -- put it all together (in 2019)," said one NFL personnel man. "He might have more in front of him than Buckner."

What is really interesting is that Armstead's highest ranking by voters had at least one individual putting him at No. 2 on the list, and one spot after Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, who unanimously earned the top spot. No one voted Armstead lower than No. 11.

Armstead's 89.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus this past season was the highest of his career and a significant jump over his 2018 numbers. He racked up a team-leading 10 sacks, adding two more in postseason play, 54 tackles, 11 for a loss, 18 quarterback hits, two passes defensed, and two forced fumbles last season, according to Pro Football Reference.

Although, Pro Football Focus' numbers can differ from other stat lines, therefore inflating Armstead's sack total by one and crediting him with 11 during the regular season.

"After an 11-sack season, Armstead earned an 89.8 Pro Football Focus grade," writes Fowler, "one of the highest at his position. And with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford rushing off the edge in San Francisco, Armstead brings balance to the 49ers' interior attack."

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