The Edge Rushing group in the 2022 NFL Draft Class is particularly strong, and there may well be a record number drafted in the 1st round. The class this year stacks up pretty well against 2019 (where a record number of nine Edge Rushers were selected in the 1st round). Some names in the top half of the 1st round discussion include Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson, David Ojabo and George Karlaftis. In the next tier of pass rushers, we see a congested group of Drake Jackson, Arnold Ebikietie, DeMarvin Leal and Travon Walker. And looking further, there is another group of players such as Cameron Thomas, Kingsley Enagbare, Myjai Sanders and Boye Mafe who will most likely be drafted anywhere from the end of the 1st round to any time on Day 2 of the draft.
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Hutchinson formed one part of a dominant EDGE duo at the University of Michigan this fall with David Ojabo on the other side. Hutchinson is one of the most refined pass rushers in the class with superb pass rushing moves such as the cross-chop move, swim move and converts his speed to power nicely to win some reps against OTs via bull rushing too. He takes a great, explosive first step and defends well against the run (penetrating and anchoring). The power that comes from his hands and his initial strike wins a lot of reps, knocking the OT slightly off-balance before then using his array of moves to breeze past. Just needs some work on ankle flexibility to flatten his path to the QB, which would lead to more sacks and TFLs, sometimes overpursues where he is so eager to get round the OT and opens running lanes wider, the occasional rising of pad level is also a minor point of note to work on.
Normally I circle players on these cut-ups to identify a player – Aidan Hutchinson makes it futile.
His motor, power and first step explosiveness jump off film and he penetrates well to stop running plays, showing good anchor too.
– hip/ankle flexibility to flatten path to QB? pic.twitter.com/5R8sva1FkP
— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 11, 2022
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux was tipped as an early candidate for the #1 overall pick before the 2021 College Football season. He continued his fine form at Oregon in 2021, recording 49 tackles, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He is a taller than average DE, while maintaining an extremely dense, muscular frame. His flexibility is superb, and he utilizes the “ghost” pass rushing move to get under OTs to get an easy path to the QB. He uses that wide frame to anchor well in the run game and the closing speed he demonstrates is impressive. Also shows off impressive lateral mobility, getting back inside OTs easily after he starts his initial speed rush, while keeping his hips fairly square (North-South). Would like to see a bit more effort on zone runs away from him, to surf down the LOS; squeezing the backside of plays, and to fight to get off kickout blocks a little harder – in order to get involved with the play.
Why Kayvon Thibodeaux (@kayvont) is one of the best draft prospect this year
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) February 10, 2022
David Ojabo, Michigan
Ojabo was the other half of the EDGE duo at the University of Michigan with Aidan Hutchinson, where he amassed 11 sacks and 5 forced fumbles on the year. Ojabo is the EDGE with arguably the most upside in this year’s draft, considering he only started playing the sport when he was 17 years old, after moving to the USA. To learn a game, and excel at it so much to the point where they are a potential top 10 pick in the draft is an incredible feat and he has refined his game hugely under Shaun Nua; his D-line coach. Ojabo possesses great length, insanely good ankle and knee flexibility to make him a great athlete and speed rusher, and quick hands to clear any resistance from the OT on his path to the QB. Naturally, projecting any player in the draft is a hard skill, but especially one with such raw talent and ability who could be nurtured into an All-Pro caliber EDGE. There are question marks around him in the run game and lacking the functional strength to set the edge and anchor. General diagnosis of plays needs work, appearing hesitant to strike occasionally.
Finished up David Ojabo's film today, left as impressed as I expected. Has the full arsenal of pass rush moves & sets up OTs so well. Great example of jab step (after some inside rushes) before bending the edge for a sack.
Solid first round grade on him, bet on traits at EDGE! pic.twitter.com/QqNzxIY0zh
— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) December 20, 2021
George Karlaftis, Purdue
Karlaftis is a huge DE at 6-4 and 275 pounds and his power is his best trait, combined with his strong, well-placed hands and he makes for a difficult matchup against any O-lineman. His versatility is also an asset as he can cause havoc from 3-tech and 5-tech; projecting well as a DE in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense allowing the OLBs in the scheme more freedom. For his size he moves superbly and shows nice speed and burst off the mark. As with any EDGE, motor is a huge trait and Karlaftis certainly doesn’t lack it – flying around on the backside of plays and hunting down ball carriers to record TFLs and make big time stops. His lack of bend is a concern, as if he doesn’t win with his hand and power combo in the rep, he doesn’t win outside the OT often. Karlaftis also needs to disengage quicker in the run game to get into a better position to finish tackles, wrapping up is a slight issue.
George Karlaftis is an incredible athlete – great blend of size, power & burst.
✅Upper body strength and hand placement wins a lot of reps for him, always hustles to the ball. Plays 3/5-tech.
❌Question marks on flexibility, bend and wrapping up on tackles. pic.twitter.com/LD0c9dbisO
— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 11, 2022
Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Johnson transferred to FSU from Georgia ahead of the 2021 season, which gave him a full-time starter role and Johnson is a definite 4-3 DE. His above average height and arm length aid his pass rush ability, especially seen on his bullrush, where he is able to maintain good distance between himself and the OT, while using good leverage with a low pad level to walk O-lineman back into their QB. Has a great arsenal of pass rush moves, with the aforementioned bullrush, a great cross-chop and a nice rip move. One of the best run defenders at the position this year, anchoring really well, and reading the flow of blockers well to blow up plays in the backfield. Athleticism really jumps off film, great in open space and his motor is incredible. He had a great Senior Bowl week and really boosted his stock in front of the NFL scouts. One drawback to his game is that the lack of bend and flexibility is very noticeable, making it hard for him to flatten his path to the QB unless he beats the OT with his hands or power.