The top Edges of this class all seem to have their warts.
We have production questions such as, Kwity Paye and Jayson Oweh, guys with limited game reps like Gregory Rousseau, size concerns with Azeez Ojulari and players with injury/commitment issues such as Jaelen Phillips. Sometimes it’s best to wait it out until day 3 and take a similar player with issues, while using the premium picks on different positions.
Here are a few that I’d take a chance on….
Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh, 6’4, 259lbs
Weaver, and fellow Pittsburgh Edge Patrick Jones, have been on draft radars for a good couple of years now. Weaver had a breakout 2018 season, and then unfortunately tore his ACL in the 2019 pre-season, causing him to miss all that year. Whilst he was rehabbing, Jones put up some big numbers and became a highly regarded prospect, and Weaver became a bit of a forgotten man. Weaver came back this past season to have his best statistical year, finishing tied on the team in tackles for loss (14.5) and 2nd (behind Jones) in sacks with 7.5. He also had a 21.1% pass rush win rate, which was 10th best in this edge class and significantly better than his teammate Jones (13.7%) and other more heralded prospects like Jaelen Phillips (20.4%), Joseph Ossai (17.3%) and Jayson Oweh (16.6%)
Whilst the numbers are good, it was the manner in which he returned that was impressive. He was excellent against Boston College, helping to hold a strong running team to just 50 rush yards, and won a couple of really nice reps in their blowout loss to Notre Dame, beating first round hopeful Left Tackle Liam Eichenburg and Right Tackle Robert Hainsey, who will also get drafted. But his best performance was his last, in the big match-up against Clemson. He was dominant against Clemson Right Tackle Jordan McFadden, giving him fits on every rep, beating him off the snap and winning quickly. He fared well too on limited reps against Left Tackle Jackson Carmen, another potential top 50 player in this class.
Weaver is exceptional off the snap; he has heavy hands that win immediately and create pass rush lanes to utilise. He is a very technical player with more than enough pass rush moves, yet also strong enough to protect the edge in the run game. He’s long and has a huge wingspan (82 ¾ inches) that engulfs Tackles, and he uses this length to control and move them off point easily.
Now for the downside. He’s not a great overall athlete, lacking long speed (4.88 40) to chase down ball carriers and running Quarterbacks, and if he doesn’t win the rep quickly, he can be eliminated from the play with little fuss.
His Pro Day testing was a mixed bag – along with the disappointing 40 time he had average Vertical and Broad Jumps, but he had excellent agility numbers. He had a 4.26 shuttle and a ridiculous 6.97 3-cone, clarifying what we see on tape, a quick, twitchy guy with limited athleticism after the initial burst.
There is a chance Weaver goes on Day 2, but the injury history and poor 40 time will likely knock him into early Day 3, which will certainly be excellent value for someone with his skill set.
Malik Herring, Georgia, 6’3, 283lbs
From one player with an ACL problem to another, but this one is more recent….
A heralded 4-star recruit coming into Georgia, Malik Herring has been one of my favourite Edges to watch for the last couple of years. He was often overlooked on a Defensive Line that has two future high picks at Defensive Tackle (Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt) and had potential first rounder Azeez Ojulari rushing off the edge too. Herring is the big Defensive End in Georgia’s system, and can play as a 5-tech when they move to a 3-man line or stand up and rush on passing downs, making him extremely scheme versatile.
He was really good in 2019, with impressive outings against top SEC sides like LSU, Auburn and Florida, and although not quite up to that standard this season, he still graded out really well against Florida and Auburn. He did have a rough game against Alabama (who didn’t?) and the bowl game against Cincinnati wasn’t great either, but he has been extremely consistent over his four years at Georgia.
He is great off the snap, knows his gap assignments and responsibilities and flows nicely to the action. All hustle too, never gives up on a play even if it’s slanting away from him, and his high football IQ means he creates the disruption that his teammates clean-up.
And that probably leads us to the biggest problem, which is production. Stats can be blinding, and misleading sometimes, but at the same time they cannot be discounted. Herring has just four career sacks, that’s not good… The counter argument is that Herring creates so many stat relevant plays for others that it comes at the expense of his own numbers. I do believe this is true, but (unless you’re Jayson Oweh) stats still count, and Herring’s numbers are poor. On top of this he then blew his knee out at the Senior Bowl, which probably means losing all of his first NFL season while rehabbing. Obviously, we have no testing numbers for him now, so although I believe he was sneaky athletic for his size, he won’t be able to use any good testing to his advantage.
I think, without the injury, I would have expected Herring to be selected mid day 3, and be one of those swiss army knife types that every defensive line needs to have. Now, there is a decent chance that he may go undrafted, which is criminal considering the talent he has. Here’s hoping he rehabs well and finds a good landing spot.
Victor Dimukeje, Duke, 6’2, 262lbs
Straight off the bat I’ll admit that watching Duke tape isn’t my favourite past time! Aside from Tight End Noah Gray, the offense is poor, and the defense is on the field way too much and ends up giving up big plays consistently. However, when you do sift through the horror of it all, a couple of Duke players do seem to stand out. You have the very undersized edge rusher Chris Rumph, and the nicely sized, more refined edge Victor Dimukeje.
I caught two games in 2019, Alabama (wasn’t good) and Virginia Tech (was really good), so I went into this season thinking consistency may be a problem. This year I got to see the Notre Dame and Miami games, and whilst he struggled with the Notre Dame Offensive Tackles, he was superb against Miami, seemingly the only Duke defensive player to actually care as they were blown out 48-0. Dimukeje was all over the field, trying to contain Miami’s dangerous and exciting Quarterback D’Eriq King. The score line is absolutely no reflection on how Dimukeje played, but I think that’s been the story of his 4-year career at Duke.
Now, unlike Herring, Dimukeje has production to die for. He has 36 career tackles for loss, and 21.5 career sacks, that’s just less than the combined career sacks of Kwity Paye and Jaelen Phillips! But here is where stats can be a bit misleading. As I said earlier, that Duke defense is on the field a lot due to the incompetence of the offense, so over his 4-year career he has played a whopping 2603 snaps. To put that in perspective, top edge prospect and 4-year player at Michigan Kwity Paye has played just over half that amount, 1326!
So, his numbers are a by-product of being on the field so much, rather than actual elite ability, but he still has a good skill set to create a role for himself in the NFL and will probably be selected in the mid rounds.
Best of the rest
Here’s a few more guys that have caught my eye but are looking like day 3 picks right now.
Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina, 6’2, 254lbs
Everyone loved watching Coastal this past year, a real fairytale type season, and although the offense was the main attraction, that defense certainly played its part. The standout player was Edge Tarron Jackson, who looked and played much bigger than his confirmed Pro Day measurables. Clearly the leader of that defense, he flies around with plenty of effort and the occasional “wow” play but is pretty unrefined right now. He showed nice flashes in the amazing BYU game, helping inflict the loss on Zach Wilson’s team. Jackson is not a great athlete or technician right now, he is certainly worth a mid round gamble on, to see if NFL coaching can bring him along.
Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State, 6’6, 260lbs
I’m a sucker for these long, athletic edges, and Kaindoh certainly fits that description. A 5-star recruit, Kaindoh was just beginning to show what he could do before suffering a severe ankle injury three games into the 2019 season. Kaindoh missed the remainder of that year but managed eight games this year and showed flashes of elite athleticism in the games I saw (Pittsburgh, North Carolina State and North Carolina). There are obvious comparisons to former Seminole Edge Brian Burns, but that’s just from an aesthetic point of view really, as Kaindoh needs much more game time to start being as productive as Burns was. He had an extra year of eligibility remaining, but chose to leave early for the NFL, and with the great Pro Day numbers he put up, he should hear his name called in the mid-rounds.
Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo, 6’2 ,249lbs
Koonce flashed every time I caught a Buffalo game, which admittedly wasn’t often. Played as more of a true outside linebacker, who put his hand down to rush on passing downs. Koonce looked incredibly smooth and slippery when rushing the passer, but the lack of mass did mean he needed to win quickly, or he was out of the play. Not as lengthy as Kaindoh, but with very long arms (over 33inches), he too looks easy on the eye and can either bulk up and be a base end or stay as a pure pass rush specialist in the NFL. Very much a late round guy at best, he’s one I’ll be keeping an eye on, as I think he has the tools to create some sort of next level role for himself.
In all honesty it’s not a great Edge class, everyone seems to have some kind of risk about them, but there’ll always be those late round gems to find and I think there’s a few to be had this year as usual, you’ve just got to get lucky!
Follow Keith on Twitter @LordLucken
and read about all of these players in the Full 10 Yards Scouting Reports and if you’d like to buy a copy head here!