Breakdowns

Top 20 EDGE Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft

With so many pass rushers getting signed early in free agency, there may be less of a demand for EDGE rushers in the draft. That said, there are plenty to choose from. Here are the 33rd Team’s top 20 EDGE players available:

 

1. Kwity Paye, Michigan, 6-4, 272

Kwity Paye is a thickly-built, muscular player with outstanding athletic traits and good technical ability. He fits best as a 5-technique in an odd scheme or as the big end in an even scheme, though he has the versatility to play as a 9-tech or kick inside on a situational basis. He will fit best as a gap shooter, but has the ability to function as a two-gapper as well. This is an extremely sudden player with excellent change of direction who has improved on his pass rush moves to become an all-around player. He can be a three down player immediately at the next level and has minimal weaknesses to his game. This is a player who can be a 10-sack guy early in his career.

 

● Best Game – Indiana (11/7/20)

● Worst Game – Michigan State (10/31/20)

● Best Trait – Change Of Direction

● Key Stats – 11 career sacks, 87 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 20/38

● Pro Comparison: Justin Houston

 

2. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia, 6-3, 240

Azeez Ojulari is a lean, muscular edge rusher who profiles best as a 3-4 outside linebacker or 9-technique in a 4-3 scheme. This player wins with a combination of leverage, flexibility, pass rush polish and speed. While his size appears to be a drawback, his explosiveness and ability to win the leverage battle consistently allows him to play well above his weight class. He can be a valued member of a defensive line rotation in year one and play on three downs. Ojulari has the potential to be an excellent NFL pass rusher and high-end starter if he can develop a deeper bag of pass rush moves and counters. He is the youngest player among this group of edge rushers.

 

● Best Game – Cincinnati (1/1/21)

● Worst Game – South Carolina (11/28/20)

● Best Trait – Flexibility/Bend

● Key Stats – 15 career sacks, 80 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 23/26

● Pro Comparison: Bruce Irvin

 

3. Gregory Rousseau, Miami, 6-7, 265

Greg Rousseau brings elite size and length to the position, and has a rare ability to disengage due to his length and strength. He is new to the defensive end position after playing receiver and safety in high school, and is clearly behind his peers in his pass rush repertoire and hand usage. Rousseau has the ability to thrive as a 4-3 defensive end as a strong side 5-technique or weak side 9-technique due to his combination of elite length, play strength, and play speed. He can also function well as a 3-4 outside linebacker due to his coverage chops and ability to spy quarterbacks. He projects as an immediate starter, but may take time to reach his All-Pro potential. He first will need to develop a go-to pass rush move and learn to counter to win head-to-head matchups against the more athletic OTs in the NFL. After opting out with only seven starts under his belt, he is very inexperienced and has a lot of room for improvement.

 

● Best Game – Florida State (11/2/19)

● Worst Game – North Carolina (9/7/19)

● Best Trait – Size/Length

● Key Stats – 15 career sacks, 41 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 7/15

● Pro Comparison: Montez Sweat

 

4. Payton Turner, Houston, 6-5, 270

Payton Turner is a long, explosive and polished pass rusher with natural block shedding ability who struggles with gap discipline and run recognition. He profiles to fit best as a 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme, but has a lot of versatility to play as a big end in a 4-3, rush from a wide 9 alignment, or kick inside to the 3-technique. He projects to come in as an immediate contributor who can start and play all three downs. This player has a Pro Bowl ceiling and has the ability to continue to bulk up his frame and become more of an interior player if asked of him. After coming into Houston at only 217 pounds, he was a bit of a late bloomer, looking significantly more filled out between 2019 and 2020. He still has room to add to his frame, giving him true positional versatility.

 

● Best Game – Tulane (10/8/20)

● Worst Game – Navy (10/24/20)

● Best Trait – Length/Hand Usage

● Key Stats – 10 career sacks, 75 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 27/39

● Pro Comparison: Justin Tuck

● Senior Bowl Participant

 
 

5. Jayson Oweh, Penn State, 6-5, 252

Jayson Oweh is an athletic anomaly off the edge with excellent speed and hand quickness who needs to refine the technical aspects of his game and improve his instincts. He came to the game of football as a junior in high school after primarily focusing on basketball. Oweh currently fits best as a 4-3 edge rusher in a Wide 9 scheme and could thrive as a 3-4 rush linebacker if his coverage skills are up to snuff. If he can improve his ability to set the edge, he could function as a big end at times in a 4-3 as well. This player projects to contribute immediately as a pass rusher and has the truly elite athleticism to become an All Pro in time.

● Best Game – Indiana (10/24/20)

● Worst Game – Ohio State (10/31/20)

● Best Trait – Speed

● Key Stats – 0 career sacks, 59 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 8/24

● Pro Comparison: Faster Takk McKinley

 

6. Jaelan Phillips, Miami, 6-5, 266

Jaelan Phillips is an outstanding athlete with the length and pass rush skills to be an immediate pass rushing threat. A 5-star pass rusher coming out of high school who was lauded as the No. 1 player in the country, Phillips struggled through myriad injuries at UCLA that nearly ended his career before he transferred to Miami. He has excellent athleticism and technical skills for the position, but his durability and discipline are in question. Phillips projects best as a 4-3 defensive end who can play as the strong side or weak side, though he could be a capable 3-4 rush LB as well. Phillips’ inconsistent motor may hold him back, but the main thing that will keep him from his high potential is his horrid injury history.

 

● Best Game – Virginia Tech (11/14/20)

● Worst Game – Florida State (9/26/20)

● Best Trait – Speed/Explosiveness

● Key Stats – 15 career sacks, 71 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 16/21

● Pro Comparison: Bud Dupree

 

7. Joseph Ossai, Texas, 6-4, 253

Joseph Ossai wins with violent, accurate hands, excellent short-area quickness, and an insatiable tenacity. After switching from more of an off-ball role in 2019 to an on-ball role, he improved significantly as a pass rusher and run defender. He profiles best as a 3-4 outside linebacker based on his body type, but has the ability to play as a 7- or 9-technique in a 4-3 scheme as well. With his motor and play temperament, this is the type of player who helps teams build a fast defense and a culture of high-effort and intensity. He can be an immediate three down starter and should be able to grow into an impact player by year three.

 

● Best Game – Oklahoma (10/10/20)

● Worst Game – Texas Tech (9/26/20)

● Best Trait – Effort/Motor

● Key Stats – 11 career sacks, 76 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 24/36

● Pro Comparison: Oshane Ximines

 

8. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest, 6-3, 281

Carlos Basham is a very large and muscular edge rusher with short arms who ideally fits as a 4-3 Big End, but could also work as a 5-technique in a 3-4 as well. He is a good athlete for the position for his size and brings the necessary power to be a force on the edge. This is an experienced player with over three years as a starter who is ready for a three down role immediately in the NFL. However, he did take a slight step back in his performance from 2019 to 2020, leading to the question of whether he’s reached his peak already. This player has a very high floor, but does not have the elite ceiling of some of his peers.

● Best Game – North Carolina (11/14/20)

● Worst Game – Clemson (9/12/20)

● Best Trait – Play Strength

● Key Stats – 25 career sacks, 160 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 33/45

● Pro Comparison: Cameron Jordan

 

9. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 264

Patrick Jones is a big, lean edge rusher with a good first step and excellent instincts. He mostly lined up as a 5- or 9-technique in Pat Narduzzi’s 4-3 scheme at Pitt, and fits best to stay as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will likely start out as a rotational pass rusher and has the potential to become a starter in the future. His subpar length and lack of flexibility may hold back his ability to ever be more than an adequate starter, but his instincts and developed pass rush arsenal give him a high floor and the ability to contribute immediately.

 

● Best Game – Boston College (10/10/20)

● Worst Game – NC State (10/3/20)

● Best Trait – Effort/Motor

● Key Stats – 26 career sacks, 139 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 24/48

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

10. Quincy Roche, Miami, 6-3, 243

Quincy Roche is an explosive edge rusher who wins with speed, change of direction and short area burst. He has the physical tools to be a productive pass rusher early in his NFL career, but does not have the heft to play against the run at this point. His build looks more suited for a 3-4 OLB role, but he has had very minimal pass coverage experience. This player’s high-end pass rushing traits and low-end effort make him better suited for a rotational role, whether as a 3-4 OLB or weak side 4-3 end. He is likely to top out as a high-end role playing pass rusher.

 

● Best Game – Duke (12/5/20)

● Worst Game – Virginia (10/24/20)

● Best Trait – Pass Rush Repertoire

● Key Stats – 35 career sacks, 187 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 35/49

● Pro Comparison: Vic Beasley

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

11. Joe Tryon, Washington, 6-5, 262

Joe Tryon is a lean and muscular edge rusher with an excellent pass rush repertoire and high-end first step who can struggle with play recognition and lacked the ability to set a hard edge at Washington. He has the body type to be able to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 weak side defensive end, but will likely fit best in a 3-4 due to his high-end range and ability in zone coverage. Tryon will likely step into the NFL as a team’s third rusher, and has the ability to develop into a high-end pass rusher starter as he develops instinctually. After opting out and taking a year off from the field, there are questions surrounding how ready he will be for the NFL.

 

● Best Game – Oregon (10/19/19)

● Worst Game – California (9/7/19)

● Best Trait – Explosiveness

● Key Stats – 12 career sacks, 51 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 14/25

● Pro Comparison: Tarrell Basham

 

12. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma, 6-3, 247

Ronnie Perkins is an athletic, undersized edge rusher with a good bull rush and good instincts who lacks a pass rush repertoire. At Oklahoma, he played as the strong side defensive end, playing in a 3- or 4-point stance frequently and operating anywhere from the 9-technique to the 4i-tech spot in both even and odd fronts. His body type and athleticism may be better suited for a 3-4 outside linebacker role, though Perkins had very minimal pass coverage reps in his career. He profiles best as a 4-3 weak side defensive end or 9-tech who comes on in pass rushing situations at this stage, and can become a three down player if he adds weight or learns to defend the run with better pad level. This player likely will enter the league as a high-end backup, and has the chance to become a starter if he develops his pass rush repertoire.

 

● Best Game – Kansas (11/7/20)

● Worst Game – Baylor (12/5/20)

● Best Trait – Speed/Range

● Key Stats – 15 career sacks, 88 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 25/33

 

13. Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State, 6-3, 254

Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is a long-armed rangy edge rusher with a great first step who struggles as a tackler and can shy away from the more physical aspects of the game at times. He profiles as an ideal 3-4 weak side outside linebacker with the ability to rush the passer and cover. He showed good flashes of pass coverage ability that could potentially allow him to contribute as a 4-3 SAM if necessary. This is a player whose production fell off a cliff this past season after adding weight and dealing with injuries. His pressure rate from the previous season was unsustainable, but his ability to hold his outstanding explosiveness at this higher weight is currently unknown. He likely will start as a third down rotational player, and has the potential to eventually become a starter.

 

● Best Game – California (11/21/20)

● Worst Game – Stanford (12/12/20)

● Best Trait – Speed/Range

● Key Stats – 17 career sacks (0 in 2020), 55 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 28/43

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

14. Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 265

Rashad Weaver is a very natural block shedder with a good pass rush repertoire, but is held back by suboptimal athleticism and a lack of lower body power. Weaver can play strong side end in a 4-3 or as a 3-4 5-technique in the NFL, but profiles best for a in a two-gapping 3-4 system. He will likely need to add weight to his lower half to become a more consistent run defender at the NFL level, and could become a low-end starter if he does so. Until then, he profiles as an adequate backup who can capably play on all three downs.

 

● Best Game – Boston College (10/10/20)

● Worst Game – Notre Dame (10/24/20)

● Best Trait – Disengage

● Key Stats – 22 career sacks, 127 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 28/35

 

15. Victor Dimukeje, Duke, 6-2, 265

Victor Dimukeje is a tough, stout edge rusher who plays with discipline and has outstanding strength. He can win rush reps with his bull rush, but has not developed an array of pass rush moves he can call upon. At Duke, he was asked to play as a 5- and 7-technique in even fronts and played as a stand up outside linebacker in odd fronts. He projects best to be a two down, run-stopping 4-3 strong side defensive end at the next level and could eventually become a useful three down player once he develops more pass rush moves. This player does not have the ability to two-gap and likely will not be a fit for a 3-4 scheme as a result. He projects to step into the NFL as a good backup, and is unlikely to become a starter unless he develops his hand technique considerably.

 

● Best Game – Boston College (9/19/20)

● Worst Game – Notre Dame (9/12/20)

● Best Trait – Play Strength

● Key Stats – 26 career sacks, 162 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 49/49

 

16. Shaka Toney, Penn State, 6-2, 238

Shaka Toney is an undersized edge rusher with an array of pass rush moves who plays with high-end effort, but lacks the strength and discipline to be a three down player. He played in 5-tech, 9-tech, and outside linebacker alignments primarily in Penn State’s hybrid defense, ascending to a starting role in 2020 after being the top reserve rusher in 2019. He has a good amount of coverage experience and looked relatively comfortable doing so. He profiles best as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL who can only play on third downs, and could potentially play 9-tech in a 4-3 scheme in a pass rush only role. This player will likely be a career backup, and could become a high-end reserve if he further develops his pass rush moves.

 

● Best Game – Indiana (10/24/20)

● Worst Game – Nebraska (11/14/20)

● Best Trait – Effort/Motor

● Key Stats – 22 career sacks, 128 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 22/47

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

17. Jordan Smith, UAB, 6-6, 251

Jordan Smith is a pass rusher with good size, very good closing speed and a growing pass rush arsenal, but his issues with hip stiffness, pad level and hand accuracy limit his impact. This player was able to get away with poor pad level and lack of refinement at the Sun Belt level, and it showed when he played higher competition. He was used as a strong side 3-4 rush linebacker primarily, with occasional snaps as a 5-technique. He looks very uncomfortable in coverage and should not be asked to cover in the NFL. This player is most likely suited for a role as a weak side 4-3 defensive end at the next level, though he has the body type and speed to be able to play as a 4-3 strong side player if he adds weight, or remain as a 3-4 pass rush only linebacker. He projects to enter the NFL as a backup and can become a rotational end by his second season as his hand usage develops.

 

● Best Game – South Alabama (9/24/20)

● Worst Game – Miami (9/10/20)

● Best Trait – Closing speed

● Key Stats – 13 career sacks, 115 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 22/22

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

18. Cameron Sample, Tulane, 6-3, 280

Cameron Sample is a thickly built edge rusher and very good tackler who wins with his play strength and toughness, but lacks a consistent pass rush repertoire and is a relatively average athlete for the position. In Tulane’s hybrid 3-4 front, he typically played as the weak side OLB and slid into a 4- or 5-technique depending on the down and distance. He was asked to drop into the hook/curl zones occasionally, but did not look particularly comfortable doing so. Sample profiles to be most successful in the NFL as a big end in a 4-3 defense. He has the size and strength to play in a 3-4, but is not an ideal two-gapper due to his lack of length and average ability to disengage. He will likely be a quality backup in the NFL and could become a successful run-defending role player with development.

 

● Best Game – East Carolina (11/7/20)

● Worst Game – Houston (10/8/20)

● Best Trait – Point of Attack

● Key Stats – 17 career sacks, 106 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 36/47

● Senior Bowl Participant

 

19. Chris Rumph II, Duke, 6-3, 235

Chris Rumph II is a very undersized edge rusher who wins with good suddenness, short area quickness, and very good hand use as a pass rusher. In Duke’s hybrid defense, Rumph was used most often as a 9-tech in even front looks and as a stand up edge rusher or off-ball blitzing linebacker in odd front looks. He would often line up off-ball over the center before choosing a B gap to shoot and was used often as the loop man on stunts. He does not have the stoutness to play with his hand in the dirt at the NFL level, and profiles to fit as a 3-4 weak side rush outside linebacker. This player will likely only ever see the field on third downs, and has a chance to be productive in that role. He will likely start his career as a backup and depth piece who plays on special teams, and he can grow into a high-end backup role as part of a pass rush rotation.

 

● Best Game – North Carolina (11/7/20)

● Worst Game – Notre Dame (9/12/20)

● Best Trait – Hand Usage

● Key Stats – 19 career sacks, 104 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 11/36

 

20. Patrick Johnson, Tulane, 6-3, 255

Patrick Johnson is a speedy outside linebacker with a developed pass rush repertoire who lacks lower body strength and needs to improve his play diagnosis. In Tulane’s hybrid 3-4, he most often played as the strong side OLB, with occasional snaps at 5-technique or in the slot. He was given some man coverage responsibility against RBs and slot receivers as well. He profiles to fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level, and may have the versatility to play multiple positions. This player has a good chance to make a 53 man roster due to his developed pass rush arsenal and good speed. He can be a functional multi-position backup who could eventually contribute on passing downs.

● Best Game – East Carolina (11/7/20)

● Worst Game – UCF (10/24/20)

● Best Trait – Pass Rush Repertoire

● Key Stats – 24 career sacks, 113 career pressures (per PFF)

● Starts/Games – 37/49