Robert Quinn takes his place among the NFL's best young pass rushers

Dilip Vishwanat

We've heard plenty, rightfully so, about Von Miller, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt, as the next generation of the NFL's best pas rushers. It's time to put Robert Quinn's name in that category too.

The 2011 NFL Draft class gets a lot of press these days. Many of those players are coming into their own in the league now. More importantly, it produced some guys that hit it big early and reached the stratospheric heights of super stardom afforded by a sport with national distribution.

A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, Colin Kaepernick and, of course, Cam Newton entrenched themselves almost immediately into the daily life of the NFL news cycle.

It was a trio of pass rushers that have received most of the press. Von Miller, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt have been regulars on the Defensive Player of the Year short list since their rookie years. Deservedly so. Those three are very good players, standouts in a draft class that was the mother load of pass rushers.

But now it's time to add a fourth name to that group of other-worldly talents gifted at harassing quarterbacks and making offensive linemen question their faith:

Robert Quinn.

The difference between Quinn and those other three players is mostly their rookie season, the publicity bump of a fast start to set the narrative in a media environment that insists on judging a rookie's past, present and future value based on their first 16 games as a pro.

Let's look at the stats.

No. 2 - Von Miller, Denver

Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles
Year Age G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011* 22 15 15 11.5 0 0 0 0 4 3 0 0 0 0 51 14 11
2012*+ 23 16 16 18.5 1 26 1 26 2 6 0 0 0 0 55 13 17
2013 24 8 8 5.0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 60 1 26 7
Career 39 39 35.0 1 26 1 26 7 12 0 1 60 1 132 34 28
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2013.

No. 7 - Aldon Smith, San Francisco

Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles
Year G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 16 0 14.0 0 0 0 0 4 2 0 1 0 0 31 6 1 3
2012*+ 16 16 19.5 1 6 0 6 1 3 0 0 0 0 49 16 15
2013 9 6 8.5 24 5
Career 41 22 42.0 1 6 0 6 5 5 0 1 0 0 104 27 1 18
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2013.

No. 11 - J.J. Watt, Houston

Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles
Year G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 16 16 5.5 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 2 2 0 58 10 10
2012*+ 16 15 20.5 0 0 0 0 16 4 0 2 7 0 69 12 20
2013 14 14 9.5 0 0 0 0 6 3 0 2 0 0 55 14
Career 46 45 35.5 0 0 0 0 26 7 0 6 9 0 182 36 30
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2013.

No. 14 - Robert Quinn, YOUR FAVORITE TEAM

Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles
Year G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2011 15 1 5.0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 20 3 2
2012 16 14 10.5 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 24 5 7
2013 14 14 15.0 0 0 0 0 1 7 0 2 33 1 42 4
Career 45 29 30.5 0 0 0 0 5 9 0 2 33 1 86 12 9
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2013.

Why the Rams under head coach Steve Spagnuolo didn't play Quinn more than 584 snaps is still kind of a mystery. Miller and Watts were the only regular starters as rookies. Aldon Smith only had 504 snaps his rookies year. He also had the luxury of playing with Justin Smith and an incredible front seven that put him in a great spot to succeed as a role player in his first season... Quinn certainly didn't have that luxury.

But it doesn't matter now.

Quinn's draft stock got dinged for his suspension at UNC during the 2010 season, one of the NCAA's ubiquitous "improper benefits" things (and here's your daily reminder that the NCAA relies on the same business model as the plantation economy of the Antebellum South).

Ironically enough, Smith and Miller have missed ample time this season because of troubles away from the field.

My point here: It's time to talk about Quinn in the same category as Miller, Smith and Watt.

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