Never has the edge position been more important in the NFL, and never has it been more confusing to scout. There are so many different players who win in such different ways, you have the flexible bendy guys, you have the speed to power guys, you have the pure power guys, and you have a huge number of different schemes at the NFL level that require different player types. That said we’re going to try to put each player in a vacuum and try to evaluate them in that way the best we can.
13) Curtis Weaver, Boise State
He definitely lacks the frame of your prototype edge rusher, and unfortunately he lacks the explosiveness as well. Best case scenario he finds himself in a system that allows him to use his power to influence the point of attack on the strong side of the defense.
12) Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Unmatched motor, excellent hand usage, and palpable power. I’ve had the opportunity to watch Kenny 1st hand for his entire MSU career and he’s been a joy to watch develop. He has been a nightmare for Big Ten offenses the last couple years, and should excel in the NFL despite athletic limitations.
11) Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Similar to Curtis Weaver, Taylor definitely doesn’t lack in the strength department, but the functional athleticism and flexibility leave a lot to be desired. The flashes are there for Taylor to be a plus starter at the next level, but unfortunately the consistency is not.
10) Bradlee Anae, Utah
Elite frame, far from elite athleticism. Anae wins with a really impressive array of pass-rushing moves, and uses his hands really well for a player his age, however his 5.21 RAS (relative athletic score – @mathbomb) give him a somewhat limited ceiling.
9) Josh Uche, Michigan
Josh Uche is a super fun player to watch on tape. For a player at his size, the power shouldn’t pop like it does, but he finds a way to generate it. I’m interested to see if/how he tests at his pro day, but the athleticism shouldn’t be an issue when you evaluate him. He has the versatility to drop into coverage, and I’m really interested to see what team takes a shot on him.
8) Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Damn near 34″ arms, and uses them super effectively. You rarely find a rep where he allows an OT to lock his arms on Lewis, as he chops arms and uses his hands at a high level. He has ideal size, and showed some next level explosiveness in his jumps at the combine (124″ broad, 37″ vert).
7) Zack Baun, Wisconsin
He’s definitely not your traditional edge prospect, and I don’t expect him to play like one, but I really like his tape. If I were evaluating him strictly on his ability to rush the passer, he would slide a bit further down this list, however it’s his versatility, intelligence, and coverage ability that make him such an intriguing prospect. Pulling out a 7.0 3-cone in Indy was huge for his status as a pass rusher.
6) Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
The explosiveness really stands out with Okwara, who uses a mean first step to generate leverage off the edge. He’s a really smart player who understands tempo and how to effectively convert speed to power to keep his OT on his heels and off-balance. He didn’t perform in Indy, but I expect to see some really solid numbers at his pro-day.
5) Jonathan Greenard, Florida
Greenard is one of my 2020 “draft crushes”. Rarely does a pass-rusher come out of college with the savvy game that Greenard possesses at a young age. On-top of that, he came out of Indy with 35″ arms, and an above average tester in basically every drill (including a great 3-cone and short shuttle). I think this kid has a huge ceiling and I would bang the table to draft him in the 2nd round.
4) Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
This guy is a prime “1st guy off the bus” candidate. A rocked up 6’5 266 lb edge player with 35″ arms, Gross-Matos has a super impressive 1st step for a guy with that description. The functional strength is clear on tape and the explosiveness stands out, the only issue is consistency with a pass-rush plan to counter a technically sound OT. With good coaching this guy can be an All-Pro, but with bad coaching I still can’t see him really failing.
3) AJ Epenesa, Iowa
I won’t say to completely throw away the combine results, as they are telling about the type of player he is, but I wouldn’t get too concerned. The one bright side of Indy was proving he has the ideal body for an edge rusher, and while the testing was average.. it was just that, average (not below). As far as the tape goes, you see an ultra-productive player who uses his length to dominate 1-1 matchups consistently at the B1G level. He showed some flashes of different pass-rush moves, but I would like to see that on a more consistent level in the NFL to keep OTs guessing.
2) K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
I see a lot of Josh Allen in Chaisson, the problem is I don’t see anywhere near the production. Chaisson gives you some serious juice coming off the edge as the speed rusher you crave with a great frame. He also gives you best-in-class coverage ability for his position, making him ideal as a 3-4 edge player for a team that would value his elite versatility. It’s not often you see a guy with 3 years of production totaling in 9 sacks translate to the NFL, but if you’re going to bet on any of them, this is your guy.
1) Chase Young, Ohio State
Ask Penn State what happens when you try to block Chase Young with one guy, it just doesn’t work. Here you’re drafting a guy who will demand 2 blockers for the majority of his career, and is flat out one of the best pass-rushing prospects we’ve ever seen. He got 20 1st place Heisman votes as a defensive player who missed 2 games. If anyone has anybody other than Chase Young as their top-ranked edge rusher, they have an impressive ability to avoid watching good players.