With the 2017 NFL Draft only a few months away, it’s time to continue our position-by-position look at the upcoming draft class. Today, we’ll take a look at another very deep position in the class – the edge rushers.
Rankings are subject to change based on player workout numbers and injury updates this spring, but for these early rankings, I go solely off of the film grade.
When evaluating players, I use an 11-trait system with certain traits weighted more than others depending on the position. The scoring adds up to 100 possible points. I also watch a minimum of four games per-player before assigning a player grade.
Whether they play 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, an edge rusher’s primary role is to generate pressure. And while certain players are more effective rushing from a two-point stance or with their hand down in the dirt, the basic traits of athleticism, off-snap explosion, and length hold true for success on the edge regardless of the defensive scheme.
The 2017 draft class of edge rushers is full of long, athletic defenders with an acumen for getting after quarterbacks. The Green Bay Packers could certainly target at least one in the early rounds this spring.
Headlining the position is the draft’s top overall player, Myles Garrett. The Texas A&M product holds the highest film grade of any player I’ve evaluated so far, but this should come as no surprise to any following the draft.
Garrett is a special talent with incredible athleticism and speed around the edge, especially for a defensive end measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. While effective in a 4-3 front, Garrett can also excel at the next level as a standup rush backer in a 3-4 scheme.
After Garrett, Tim Williams and Carl Lawson are top-20 talents and fit well as 3-4 outside linebackers, but they both come with red flags and could fall in the draft because of it. Williams has several off-field concerns to answer for, including repeated failed drug tests.
Lawson ascended as a very well respected player at Auburn his senior year, but he has suffered several major injuries and it’s not clear at this point if there’s long-term damage.
College defensive ends Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, and Taco Charlton could all also go in the first round. However, even though they’re probably athletic enough to play upright as 3-4 outside linebackers, they’re best suited as 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL.
Takkarist McKinley and Charles Harris are likely second-round guys that could sneak into the end of the first round with good workout numbers this spring. They both have the build and athletic traits to excel as 3-4 outside linebackers.
Even after naming all of this talent, there are still several other intriguing Day 2 edge rushers that translate well to outside linebacker, like Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel, Ryan Anderson out of Alabama, and Ohio’s Tarrell Basham.
And yet, we’re still just scratching the surface when it comes to what the 2017 edge rusher class has to offer. More names will emerge in the coming months as more people dive into the film of this position group.
The following is the breakdown of my top-ten film grades for the 2017 edge rusher class.
Most Underrated Edge Rusher: Vince Biegel
Most Difficult Edge Rusher to Project: Demarcus Walker
Edge Rusher that needs Further Evaluation: Tanoh Kpassagnon