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The Development of Bralen Trice

Looking in-depth at how special Trice’s career has been and how it’s likely to turn out come the 2024 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Texas at Washington Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just over 2 years ago, Husky assistant coach Ikaika Malloe raised the eyebrows of Husky fans when he said that Bralen Trice would probably be better than Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. That seemed like a bit of exaggeration considering that Trice had yet to see the field after redshirting the previous fall and Tryon-Shoyinka was about to become a 1st round pick in just a few weeks. Nowadays that statement doesn’t just not seem crazy but looks downright prophetic after Trice exploded for 9 sacks and made 1st team all-conference this past fall.

Clearly Ikaika Malloe knew something about his development that those of us on the outside couldn’t see at the time. Score one for the eye test. Now let’s try to even up the count for the analytics community. Let’s take a few different approaches to try to figure out how the rest of Trice’s college career leading up his likely eventual draft selection.

First, let’s look at how the developmental track compares to the aforementioned Tryon. Each redshirted their first year on campus and then went into reserve roles their first season seeing the field. Advanced data comes via Pro Football Focus.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (2018): 238 snaps, 1 sack, 9.1% pressure rate, 65.6 PFF Grade

Bralen Trice (2021): 194 snaps, 2 sacks, 11.2% pressure rate, 62.3 PFF Grade

That one was pretty close to a toss-up. Tryon graded out a little better from PFF but Trice got home one more time and saw a marginal advantage in his pressure rate. Then we get to each players’ respective redshirt sophomore season when they entered the starting lineup and here’s how things compared.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (2019): 613 snaps, 8 sacks, 13.8% pressure rate, 67.2 PFF Grade

Bralen Trice (2022): 611 snaps, 9 sacks, 20.9% pressure rate, 88.5 PFF Grade

While the total defensive snaps and sack numbers are almost identical, this becomes no contest for Trice. The big issue for Bralen was that too often he got to the quarterback and was only able to get a single hand on them and not bring them all the way to the ground. Still, that’s better than not disrupting the QB at all and Trice led the country in total QB pressures. A pressure rate over 20% is absolutely elite. The only seasons on similar volumes at the power conference level I can find that approached that number were from Nick Bosa and T.J Watt who each became 1st round picks and eventual NFL stars.

Given that Tryon-Shoyinka snuck into the 1st round you would think that Trice is destined to go way before that, maybe into the top-ten. It’s worth noting though that Joe had a great combine and finished above the 50th percentile in every testing category except weight and bench press. His most similar athletic profile per was to Robert Quinn who was taken 14th overall in 2011. It remains to be seen how Trice might test.

It’s also obvious that Trice has exceeded expectations based on his recruiting grade coming out of high school. Trice was the 447th ranked player in the 247 Spots Composite out of Glendale, Arizona and earned a 0.8889 rating. Anything above a 0.89 merits 4-star status so he was basically as highly ranked as you can be without earning that 4th star. What kind of career does that usually lead to?

I have a database of every player that earned a 247 rating going back to the class of 2014. For players from the classes of 2014-17 (ones that are almost entirely done with their college careers now) the odds for a random power conference recruit between a 0.88 and 0.89 rating are the following:

  • 15.3% chance of getting drafted
  • 14.9% chance of being named 1st/2nd team all-conference
  • 2.9% chance to become an AP All-American

Obviously Trice has already achieved the all-Pac-12 goal and is well on his way to getting drafted. If he has the same type of season again with some additional credibility then he certainly has a shot at earning AP All-American status. Those players earned an average career score (a metric of my own invention) of 7.81.

For context, some recent Huskies to finish in the 7.0-9.0 range for career scores include: Terrell Bynum, Tevis Bartlett, Benning Potoa’e, Jared Hilbers, and Salvon Ahmed. Generally multi-year starters who were quality players but not quite good enough to ever rack up an all-conference nod beyond honorable mention.

How does it change if we try to look at only edge rushers? The percentages when just looking at players viewed as a defensive end or outside linebacker coming out of high school drops to 0 for All-Americans and 11.1% for both all-conference and draftability. That sample though is from just 36 players so it’s not nearly as representative as the overall group. Only 4 players got drafted and none before the 4th round. Given that I didn’t remember any of them when looking over their names it’s safe to say none did anything in the NFL.

If you tried to make that sample a little bigger by including edge players with a 0.89-0.9 grade then there are a few more successful examples. A pair of 1st round picks emerge with South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw and UCLA’s Takk McKinley. There’s also a familiar Husky face with UW’s Levi Onwuzurike who became a 2nd round pick and is trying to fight through back injuries to keep his NFL career going right now.

Clearly though Trice is also way ahead of the path you would reasonably expect for an edge rusher that was a fringe 3/4-star prospect. Let’s dispense with all of that now and try a true apples to apples comparison given what we know now about Trice. How did things turn out for players who had a truly spectacular season in their first two years on the field?

The criteria we’re going to use is looking at players on power conference teams who scored at least an 85.0 PFF Grade on at least 500 offensive/defensive snaps in their first 2 seasons on the field. Trice also would’ve cleared an 87.5 grade and 600 snaps threshold but we want to try to make sure there’s enough of a sample size to look at the results. The way my database is structured I don’t have redshirt seasons accounted for so we get to go by number of seasons with offensive/defensive snaps at the FBS level. This excludes players who slowly got better and finally reached elite status as a senior.

If we just look at the classes of 2014-17 then there were 92 total players that fit that description. It’s a pretty prestigious list. In all, 80% of those players were drafted and nearly one-third (31.5%) were taken in the 1st round. Some of the players on that list include: RB Christian McCaffrey, S Derwin James, QB Deshaun Watson, RB Leonard Fournette, QB Justin Herbert, WR Jerry Jeudy, and QB Tua Tagovailoa. If you wanted to narrow things down even further you could say that 16.3% of them ended up being a top-ten pick. Those are pretty good odds.

What happens if we drop the sample to just edge rushers?

Well it’s kind of hard to do because that’s one of the least represented positions on the list. There were only 5 total during that 4-year period. The full list is:

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (1st overall pick, top-ten overall recruit)

Chase Young, Ohio State (2nd overall pick, top-ten overall recruit)

Nick Bosa, Ohio State (2nd overall pick, top-ten overall recruit)

Chase Winovich, Michigan (3rd round pick, top-300 recruit)

Anthony Nelson, Iowa (4th round pick, low 3-star recruit)

It seems pretty clear that if you were a slam dunk 5-star edge recruit and then you end up having a season as productive as Trice did as early in your career as he did then you’re destined to be one of the absolute top picks in the NFL Draft. If you expand the sample to include players who have also completed their college career from later draft classes you can throw in Will Anderson Jr. from Alabama who was just the 3rd pick in the 2023 draft after he was merely a top-twenty recruit rather than top-ten (still a clear 5-star).

There’s not exactly a huge track record though for Trice’s development trajectory among guys who weren’t 5-stars leaving high school. The closest comparison by far is Michigan’s Chase Winovich. He entered college just on the other side of the 3/4-star barrier so he was rated in a similar ballpark. His first season he redshirted which was the most likely outcome especially in the days before the free 4 games rule. Once again Winovich sat out the 2015 season just like Trice did in 2020.

Finally in 2016 Winovich broke out despite playing on a stacked front 7 that included Charlton plus other future draft picks Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, Chris Wormley, and Maurice Hurst. He finished with 6 sacks playing largely as a pass rush specialist. Winovich started in 2017 and again had a fantastic season with his larger role accumulating 10 sacks on a 14.5% pressure rate. In his final season the sack totals dropped in half to 5 despite his pressure rate actually creeping up a little further to 15.3% when he failed to wrap up the QB quite as often as he had the previous year. At 6’3, 250 lb with short arms Winovich tested extremely well in the speed/agility drills (90%+ percentile in all) but struggled in the strength/explosion categories. That all resulted in him falling until the 77th pick overall.

It’s not unreasonable to think the Trice follows a similar trajectory. Maybe offenses double team him more often this year and he can’t quite get home to the quarterback as often as he did last seasons. Listed at 6’4, 270 lb Trice is a little bit bigger than Winovich was but I don’t think he’s going to test as a 90th percentile type athlete in the speed/agility categories even if he’s a little more explosive.

It seems reasonable to think that with at least a solid season coming up (and barring injury) that Trice’s floor when it comes to the draft is probably something like the 4th round. How much higher than that Trice goes will come down to exactly how productive he can be for this upcoming Husky team and whether he tests at the combine like a 3-star prospect or shows that he has taken a major jump in his athleticism. Regardless, Trice has been an incredible success story and it will fun to see exactly how far he can go.