I have said this many times in these “Prospect previews”, the NFL is a passing league. The quarterback is the most premium position in the whole sport. In this prospect preview, we will take a look at the second most premium position in the NFL, edge rushers. These guys are paid specifically to disrupt the other team’s quarterback at a constant level. Guys like Von Miller and Khalil Mack are so dynamic that they sometimes can take over entire games including, in Von Miller’s case, the Superbowl. One of the players in this year’s class has the talent and pedigree to be the next dynamic game wrecking edge rusher. The rest of the class is pretty decent as well with some guys who can develop into solid NFL players.
- Nick Bosa/ Ohio State
Nick Bosa is in my humble opinion the best overall player in this draft class hands down. I know I’m spoiling the top player on my big board a couple of weeks early but it’s worth it to talk about Bosa. Bosa can bend the edge like nobody else can. He uses his immense strength and blazing speed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Bosa creates turnovers as well because he is good at stripping the ball once he gets around the edge. Bosa looks great running in space while chasing down screen passes which shows me he is a good athlete. One of my favorite parts of Bosa’s game is watching him kill opposing tackles with a variety of pass rushing moves. He is the rare prospect who has mastered so many parts of his position that he really has no weak points at this time. Bosa should be the first nonquarterback taken come April.
- Clelin Ferrell/ Clemson
Remember on the last prospect preview I said the Clemson D-line is good but maybe overrated? The overrated part does not apply to Clelin Ferrell who is definitely a first-round pick come April. I think Ferrell has some great speed moves that he relies heavily on to beat opposing tackles. He bends the edge well but not as well as the already mentioned Nick Bosa. Ferrell almost always gets out of his stance first which speaks to his great first step. He often ends up already being a couple yards up the field before the opposing tackle gets there hands on him. Some of the negatives I see with his game are common with edge rushers coming to the NFL. The top one being is inconsistent play in the run game. He is so focused on getting to the passer he forgets about the running game. My other concern is that he sees a lot of one on one blocking because of his talented D-line counterparts. It will not always be like this at the NFL level so it is something to watch.
- Joe Jackson/ Miami
Miami had a really good year last year and a lot had to do with the teams D-line. While some of those guys got drafted Joe Jackson has returned for another year in South Florida. Jackson is the edge rushing prospect I am the most excited to watch because of his potential. If you need any proof of his potential go watch the game against Notre Dame where he killed Mike McGlinchey who was selected 9th overall this year. Jackson is most definitely a speed rusher with some solid finesse moves. My concerns with Jackson’s game are mostly based on the fact that he does not seem strong. If he can not beat you with his speed and you get your hands on him he tends to disappear sometimes. His lack strength also shows up in the run game because he really struggles to shed off blockers and make stops. Jackson has a lot of potentials and natural athletic ability and I’m excited to see if he can improve his strength this season.
- Zach Allen/ Boston College
Zach Allen is the best edge rusher in the country that nobody is talking about. The top reason nobody talks about him is because he plays for Boston College but when you pop on the tape it shows a consistent and smart edge rusher. Allen is almost the direct opposite of the already mentioned Joe Jackson. Instead of speed, he possesses great strength which is his go-to move to get to the quarterback. You can tell just by looking at Allen that he has power because he is a big kid who sometimes lines up as a DT. Allen even had some good production at Boston College collecting plenty of sacks and turnovers. My concerns with Allen is that he seems like he has hit his ceiling already. His lack of speed and athletic ability makes it seem like he is gonna have to win with power his whole career which may concern some people but I still think there is a lot of value in an edge rusher who always makes the right play.
- Shareef Miller/ Penn State
I always struggle so much with who I’m going to put down as my number 5 player. Miller created a lot of turnovers and was one of the few guys to show up in the run game so I gave him the benefit of the doubt here. I just highlighted his greatest strengths but he also has a great burst off the line. With that burst, he often gets an early advantage on the opposing tackle. I also like Miller’s ability to drop into coverage on a rare occasion and not look completely out of place in space. My concerns with Miller are mostly based on the fact that he does not have a lot of polish as a pass rusher. He lacks a go-to move to get to the quarterback which also is a slight concern. Overall Miller makes a lot of splash plays but I would like to see some more consistency.