After leading the league in sacks last season, the validity of Vic Beasley’s talents and his ability to repeat the performance were immediately called into question. The Atlanta Falcons linebacker went from being a disappointing rookie in 2015 to a quarterback-crushing star in 2016, a period of time that raised eyebrows around the league.

As his team hopes to show that their 25-point implosion in Super Bowl LI was a fluke, Beasley will try to prove the opposite when it comes to his sack production in 2017.

Is Beasley for real?

The case for Beasley

While Beasley led the NFL in sacks last season, it was clear from his overall play that the second-year edge rusher still has work to do on his game, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t improve and keep up his sack pace.

Much of Beasley’s sudden rise in success was credited to his relationships with veteran teammate Dwight Freeney, who helped improve the Falcons’ entire defensive line, and from Von Miller, who sees a lot of himself in Beasley. The 24-year-old won’t have Freeney on his team next season, but the veteran’s lessons have been spread throughout the locker room and Miller is still available as a mentor.

Though there will be no Freeney back in the Falcons’ lineup, Beasley might have even more room to work with next season. Dontari Poe’s added presence in the middle will suck up some blockers, and rookie Takkarist McKinley could give Beasley a book end pass-rusher to work opposite from.

Beasley’s progression from four sacks as a rookie to 15.5 as a sophomore is the natural progression of a talented edge rusher learning the ropes and adding experience to his arsenal every week. Now that he has the NFL’s attention, Beasley’s numbers may not be league-leading in 2017, but he will continue to prove that 2016 was no fluke.

Mitch Sanderson

The case against Beasley

Is Beasley a solid player and could he eventually be a very good one? Sure. But in five or six years’ time, his 2016 season will be viewed as a dramatic outlier. And it’s not a slight against Beasley, exactly, as there are only a handful of guys who consistently put up 15 sacks a season.

Miller, who’s significantly better than Beasley, has only put up more than 15 sacks once in his six-year career (18.5 in 2012). As argued above, Beasley will continue to develop and will benefit greatly from an improving supporting cast. However, his production this past season was undoubtedly a fluke.

Beasley produced 56 total pressures in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, meaning he sacked the quarterback on 27.68 percent of his pressures. PFF says the average pass-rusher converts at just over 15 percent, so it’s logical that Beasley will regress toward the mean.

The linebacker will likely be a much better player in 2017 and beyond, but he’s far from a lock to ever better his 2016 numbers for the rest of his career.

Jack Browne

You decide

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