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Deontae Craig was one of Big Ten’s most efficient pass-rushers, even if others did not take notice
Deontae Craig had high productivity in 2022 despite relatively light workload
IOWA CITY — Deontae Craig is not one to dwell too much on his lack of all-Big Ten recognition from last season.
“It is what it is,” Craig said after Iowa’s open spring practice in April. “We always talk about ‘just control what you can control.’”
Despite coaches and media’s snub of Craig in the all-conference balloting, data shows the defensive end from Fort Wayne, Ind., was one of the most effective pass-rushers in the conference.
Craig was one of six players in the 14-team conference to finish the season with at least 6.5 sacks. (Fellow Hawkeyes Joe Evans and Lukas Van Ness also were on that list.)
The other five, including the two Hawkeyes, earned first-team or second-team all-Big Ten recognition from either coaches and/or media.
Craig racked up his career-high 6.5 sacks despite substantially fewer snaps than some of his fellow Iowa defensive linemen.
The second-teamer had 325 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Evans had 473 defensive snaps. Van Ness, an eventual first-round pick, had 478 snaps.
When factoring in the lighter workload, that made Craig statistically the most efficient pass-rusher on the Hawkeyes by a wide margin.
He had one sack for every 50 snaps, according to a Gazette analysis of data from Pro Football Focus and the team. The next-best Hawkeye, true freshman Aaron Graves, had one sack for every 71.3 snaps.
The efficiency also put Craig in unique company across the Big Ten.
Craig’s 50 snaps-per-sack rate was third-best in the Big Ten. (Players with fewer than two total sacks were omitted due to small sample size.)
Only Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig (47.3) and Michigan’s Mike Morris (48) had fewer snaps per sack, and both heard their name called in this year’s NFL Draft.
Craig was not the only Iowa player whose sack numbers shined when adjusting for snap counts.
Iowa had four of the 11 most efficient pass-rushers in the conference, according to the snaps-per-sack metric.
Graves, with one sack every 71.3 defensive snaps, ranked sixth in the Big Ten despite being a true freshman. Evans was eighth with one sack every 72.8 snaps. Van Ness was 11th at 73.5.
While Van Ness now is in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, the Hawkeyes will return the other three. Evans was a senior, but chose to use his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility.
Iowa has another seven defensive linemen who are also expected to return after seeing game action last year.
“Being able to depend on not just one, two, three guys, to be able to depend on up to 10 guys in any given game — it’s special,” Craig said. “Like I’ve been saying all year, even back to last season, I’m so blessed to be a part of this room with these coaches.”
As for the lack of all-Big Ten recognition, Craig’s focus is mostly on “trying to get 1 percent better” every day.
“And then all that other stuff is just extra,” Craig said. “But definitely a little motivation going into next season.”
The numbers suggest he will not need much extra motivation, though.