When the Seattle Seahawks selected Bruce Irvin with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the organization was universally criticized for the pick, but Pete Carroll and Co. may get the last laugh.
With what Irvin has shown so far in the 2012 NFL season, he may very well be the NFL's best pass-rusher.
After witnessing what a young, elite pass-rusher did for teams like the New York Giants with Jason Pierre-Paul and the San Francisco 49ers with Aldon Smith, it is easy to see why the Seahawks took a risk with Irvin so early in the draft.
So far Irvin has shined as the newest member of the Seattle defensive unit. Let's decide if Irvin is the best rookie pass-rusher in the NFL.
The Story for Irvin So Far
Three games into his rookie season, Irvin has recorded 2.5 sacks while not seeing the field on every down. Irvin has only been on the field for about half of the Seahawks' total defensive snaps so far, which was expected given his skill set.
Irvin will be a situational player for Seattle until he can develop into a better all-around player, but he has made his presence known in a big way.
What makes Irvin quite possibly the best rookie pass-rusher so far isn't only on the stat sheet. He has done an excellent job to date applying pressure and sealing the edge so other members of his unit can get to the opposing quarterback.
While Irvin has a long way to go, he is justifying his high selection in the draft so far.
With the NFL evolving into a pass-happy league, arguably the most important aspect of any defense is a quality pass rush, which has the ability to disrupt the timing of an offense and hide the deficiencies of a secondary—a strategy the New York Giants employ.
Pass-rushers are now one of the most common selections in drafts, whether they be at outside linebacker or defensive end. The 2012 NFL draft was no exception.
The big-name pass-rushers taken in the early rounds of the 2012 draft are a good gauge of how great Irvin has been.
Irvin has more sacks than all of the big names, including Quinton Coples (0), Shea McClellin (1.5), Melvin Ingram (0), Chandler Jones (1) and Nick Perry (1).
So far, taking Irvin early is looking like a great move for Seattle when comparing him to his draft class.
Why Irvin Can Be the Best
As mentioned, Irvin has done more than fill a stat sheet. Irvin was a standout in the preseason despite not recording many statistics, and head coach Pete Carroll has heaped praise on the rookie for the things he does that are not recorded (via The Seattle Times):
Bruce was the most productive guy in practice throughout the camp. We keep score of that stuff, and he was the highest-ranked guy in terms of productivity. That's in sacks and tackles for losses and knocking balls loose and all that stuff.
Seattle was criticized for taking Irvin so high, but two other NFL general managers reportedly had Irvin ranked as the best pass-rusher in the 2012 draft. Now it looks as if a few teams are kicking themselves for not taking Irvin early.
Rookie Year and Beyond
Irvin's production right now is impressive, but it could simply be the tip of the iceberg of what he is going to develop into down the road.
While Defensive Rookie of the Year is a possibility, the Seahawks are likely content with him being the best at pass-rushing and proving to all that the organization made the correct decision.
According to the National Football Post, Seattle is planning on having Irvin take over the "Leo" role (also known as the "Elephant") in the Seahawks defensive unit from defensive end Chris Clemons, which will require him to develop a better all-around game.
Irvin has unlimited potential and may move into an every-down role and become the best pass-rusher from the 2012 NFL draft class sooner rather than later.
For now, Irvin is excelling doing what the Seahawks drafted him to do. Regardless of when he was taken, Irvin has made the Seahawks organization look like geniuses after landing the best rookie pass-rusher in the NFL.