So we’re on to our penultimate part of this series and today I’m looking at edge pass rushers and this is a good class!
I like this group, I think there’s some really good players to be had at the top of the draft and through the first round…
After that I think there’s a bit of a drop off. If you’re a team that wants a edge this year, you need to do it early if you want them to make an immediate impact.
There are some projects further down the draft that could turn into solid players in the right situation and with the right coaching.
But anyway, without further ado, here are my top 5 edge defenders in the 2019 NFL draft.
1. Nick Bosa, Junior, Ohio State, 6’3, 266 lbs
Fits; Cardinals, 49ers, Raiders… Any team that mainly plays in a 4-3 defense. He’s not making it out of the top 2 though, nevermind top 5.
Nick is pretty much like his brother but probably more advanced in some areas, which when you consider how good Joey is, is kind of scary.
Nick isn’t quite as big as Joey is or was coming out of Ohio State and they are slightly different athletes but because they’re brothers they’re almost always going to be compared to each other
How is Nick the same as Joey? Well they are both exceptional technical pass rushers. Both Bosa’s have incredible hand usage and are both high motor guys who fight until the end of every rep. Nick has a pass rush plan every snap and an arsenal of moves and counter moves that he can pull off. Nick is also a good edge setter, just like Joey is and isn’t a liability against the run like some edge defenders are.
However Nick, whilst smaller, is probably more refined in his techniques than his brother was and he’s also registered better combine numbers in events such as the 30 yard shuttle and bench press, two events that show agility, bend and strength… All important aspects of beating a 300 lb human to a certain spot on the field.
The only real red flag is the core injury that he suffered which lead to him leaving Ohio State early.
Nick Bosa is a true, blue chip prospect in this draft class and to me is the best overall player in it.
2. Josh Allen, Senior, Kentucky, 6’4, 262 lbs
Fits; Jets, Giants, Bucs
Allen is a true speed edge rusher, with a red hot motor. Allen is truly explosive and will give a lot of offensive tackles problems purely because speed scares defenders do death.
I love that he’s played in over 40 college games over his 4 years at Kentucky. That’s a lot of experience playing again SEC tackles and what makes it better is that he has insane production whilst doing so, growing each year and putting together a monster year last year when he racked up 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
Areas of concern will be his tiny hands which don’t even span 9 inches, which is in the 1st percentile of measurements ever taken at the combine. Usually small hands are linked with not being able to finish your rush by bringing the quarterback down… because your hands are too small to grab and take down you target but then again, his production was insane, and it was in the SEC… We’re not talking about a Jaylon Ferguson who’s beating up on non-Power 5 guys.
The only other concern would be that he relies on his speed too much and hasn’t refined his technique enough yet and it’s something he’ll need to work on in the NFL; if he comes up against tackles that are basically lumps, he’ll have a field day but at this stage if he comes up against a technically sound tackle with athleticism such as David Bakhtiari,Tyrone Smith or Taylor Lewan, he could be in for a long afternoon.
3. Brian Burns, Junior, Florida State, 6’4, 249 lbs
Fits; Jets, Giants, Raiders, Lions
Brian Burns could end up being the best edge player in this draft. He has explosiveness and also exceptional technique and variety of pass rush moves.
He absolutely tore up the combine with out of this world scores on the broad jump and the 40 and very good scores in the vert and 3 cone.
Burns put together a 10 sack season last year at FSU and he also had an excellent career overall in Tallahassee which actually started with Burns getting himself 8.5 sacks in 8 games as a freshman. So he has experience, pedigree coming from the SEC and also the production… All big ticks for me.
Cons; Burns isn’t the greatest run defender you’ll ever see and he is quite light for an edge guy. I’d like to see him pack on some muscle, as long as it doesn’t impact his speed negatively.
4. Clelin Ferrell, Junior, Clemson, 6’4, 264 lbs
Fits; Lions, Bills, Dolphins, Panthers
Ferrell is a really, really solid player. He’s an excellent run defender, one of the best run defenders and edge setters I watched when evaluating this group. Which is a way, sets him apart from a lot of guys… Because to a lot of players and to a lot of fans, being a defensive end or outside linebacker is just about sacks and tackles for loss, which to a point is correct, but if you don’t have edge discipline, then good offenses are just going to take advantage of you sooner rather than later and you’ll become a liability.
That said, Ferrell did hit 11.5 sacks last season after getting 9.5 the year before on that extremely talented Clemson line, so it’s not all about being a run defender.
The reasons why Ferrell isn’t higher up this list are that he lacks bend and athleticism compared to those above him in the list. Having that ability to corner is really what gives certain prospects that really high ceiling, because speed is generally something you either have or you don’t.
Ferrell is a high floor, relatively low ceiling kind of prospect who will have a lot career in the NFL but won’t be wowing many people on a weekly basis with splash plays.
5. Montez Sweat, Senior, Mississippi State, 6’5, 260 lbs
Fits; Giants, Lions, Bills, Panthers
Sweat has been an absolute beast since transferring to Mississippi State, accruing over 30 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks in 2 years as a bulldog.
He also demolished the combine in Indy a few weeks back and that’s pretty much what put him firmly back on my radar. At first, I was a fan of Sweat but then when watching him more closely after the last season had finished, I felt he lacked the flexibility when cornering to make a top edge rusher and instantly relegated him to outside of the first round.
I know we all read far too much into what players do in Indianapolis, in the underwear rather than with a helmet and pads on, but a 4.41, 40 yard dash is IN.SANE. For context, Saquon Barkley ran a 4.40, 40 and RGIII ran a 4.41. Montez Sweat is an athletic freak.
I’m actually really glad Sweat got to do his thing in Indy too. He will have a red flag for character concerns from some teams. However, we all have things we regret in our lives and whilst I don’t condone what happened with Sweat, all I have heard and read about him from coaches and players is that he is a completely different person and everyone now raves about his character. Which I believe is the best kind of apology for past indiscretions.
Sleeper. Chase Winovich, RS Senior, Michigan, 6’2, 256 lbs
Fits; Everyone – who doesn’t need blue collar edge depth?
It feels like Winovich isn’t really *that* much of a sleeper but I’m a big fan of his.
Winovich is a decidedly average athlete for the position but what he lacks in speed and power, he more than makes up for it in the 6 inches between his ears.
Winovich always has a pass rush plan, which to me, is kind of more satisfying to see rather than a guy just going on to the field and winning rep after rep because he’s bigger, stronger and faster than the guy across from him.
Winovich is also a fighter, he’s been moved around at Michigan… He used to be a tight end and has played both inside and out on the defensive line. That to me says the coaches wanted a guy like Winovich on the team and his inside/out versatility is something I’m really big on as the NFL is always looking for guys like that who they can use in different ways.
Winovich is a super hard worker whose motor is ridiculous. Won’t ever be a star but will always be on a team.