2018 NFL Draft EDGE Rusher Rankings

 

2018 NFL Draft

Harold Landry vs. Bradley Chubb, two future Pro Bowlers in two different packages. (Photos courtesy: Icon Sportswire and Grant Halverson – Getty Images)

 

Stay tuned as these articles will be released on FakePigskin.com throughout the following days:

Interior Defensive Linemen: CLICK HERE

Edge Rushers: Today (4/22)

Off-Ball Linebackers: Tomorrow (4/23)

Cornerbacks: Tuesday (4/24)

Safeties: Wednesday (4/25)

Four Round Mock Draft: Thursday (4/26)

 

The following players are who I consider the top-twenty edge rushing prospects in the 2018 NFL draft, including the scheme that I believe BEST matches with each player’s skillset. I’m very excited to see how this class of pass rushing specialists develops over the next three to five years, as there are some players who have hardly scratched the surface of their potential. EDGE rushers are arguably the second most valuable position on the football field, behind just quarterback, and thusly it is very common to see teams reach for an EDGE a bit earlier than most people anticipate. This year will be no exception as I expect there will be a chance we see up to five or possibly even six players from this list selected on Thursday night alone. Enough with the anticipation, let’s get to this!

 

2018 NFL Draft

Don’t let Harold Landry’s 2017 tape fool you, he’s a monster waiting to be unleashed. (Boston College Athletics)

1: Harold Landry, Boston College

Grade: Top 10

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

*deep breath* …

This will rustle a few jimmies.

Harold Landry, to me, is absolutely the best pass rusher in this entire class. The combination of his off the charts athleticism, otherworldly first move off the line of scrimmage, and ability to finish the play to the ground are what elevates him above NC State’s Bradley Chubb for the #1 spot. Landry is the most likely player to lead this class in sacks in 2018 and if he adds just a little more strength to his frame over the next few years, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be in the top-tier of pass rushers across the entire league. Landry will best fit in a 3-4 scheme where he is allowed the space on the edge to use his speed and angling to his advantage, bending around his opposition to get to the quarterback. Teams that I believe are most likely to draft Landry are the Bears, Broncos (trade back), Redskins, and Packers.

 

2018 NFL Draft

Bradley Chubb will hear his name called in the top 10 this year, and he will be worth it. (Rob Alman – Getty Images)

2: Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State

Grade: Top 10

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

To explain having Harold Landry as my #1 ranked EDGE prospect, I also must go into a few of the flaws that I see in Bradley Chubb’s tape that keep me hesitant from hailing him the king of the class. Firstly is his speed off the line of scrimmage and his ability to turn the corner as a blitzer. Chubb relies on his natural strength and leverage to rush through opposing linemen, and while that has worked very well thus far in his career, he will be in situations in the NFL where he is overmatched and must execute perfect technique. What Chubb does lack in regards to flexibility and control, he does make up for in other assets, such as his superior intelligence and unmatched drive to never give up on the play at hand. I see a bright future for Chubb and any team that drafts him in the top ten will be very happy to have him bolstering their trenches for years to come.

 

2018 NFL Draft

Who will take a chance on one of the rawest prospects in this draft class? (Jeff Huehn – UTSA Athletics)

3: Marcus Davenport, Texas at San-Antonio

Grade: Late 1st Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

Heading down to Mobile, Alabama this past January, small school defensive lineman Marcus Davenport was the player I had circled at the top of my list of prospects I wanted to keep on eye on during practice. There were so many questions that needed answers regarding Davenport’s senior year production (8 1/2 sacks in 11 games).  Was it just a result of beating up on undersized offensive linemen? Was he developed enough to produce against a more advanced level of competition? How would he handle things with the spotlight now in his direction? While it was a slow start to the week for Davenport, looking slightly lost and confused on the first day and a half of practices, you could see the lightbulb go off in his play midway through the week and a beast took over.

Teams in the mid-to-late end of the first round will be targeting Davenport for his high ceiling and athletic skill set that he brings to the table. While he most likely won’t be a starter week 1 of his rookie season, it would not shock me to see him playing over 60-75% of defensive snaps by halfway through the year depending on what team he is chosen by.

 

2018 NFL Draft

Ohio State’s defensive line this past season was one of the best in the nation, Hubbard was a large reason why. (Jay Leprete – Associated Press)

4: Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

Grade: Late 1st Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

Looking for a day-one starter out of your first round draft pick? Go no further down this list than Sam Hubbard. The former Buckeye has the best run-defense skillset of any EDGE rushers in this class, with fantastic play recognition and intelligence to be in the right position to stop the ball carrier. Hubbard changes directions swiftly while attacking in pass rush, but he needs to broaden his repertoire of moves in order to succeed consistently against NFL quality linemen. Hubbard possesses double-digit sack potential upside, with a high floor safety net as an end who excels against the run.

 

2018 NFL Draft

After filling Leonard Floyd’s role at Georgia, can Lorenzo Carter make the transition to the NFL? (Phillip M. Williams)

5: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

Grade: Early 2nd Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter was one of the most hyped recruits in his high school class when he signed with Georgia, but Carter never quite lived up to his 5-star status for the Bulldogs. I usually am against players that didn’t show much production at the college level, but this past season when Carter was let loose and given permission to be aggressive on the field, he flashed moments of brilliance. Carter would be suited best being drafted by a team where he wouldn’t have to play immediately, essentially redshirting the majority of his rookie season while bulking up and adding to his frame. I can see teams such as the Broncos, Patriots, Redskins, and Packers targeting him in the second round.

 

2018 NFL Draft

Combine superstar Josh Sweat might have shot himself into the first round with a great performance in Indianapolis. (Michael Chang – Getty Images)

6: Josh Sweat, Florida State

Grade: 2nd Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

Whenever a 6’4, 250lb prospect runs a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the combine, eyes open and ears perk up. Pair that with a 39.5 inch vertical, 10’4 broad jump, and 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle and if you didn’t have Florida State’s Josh Sweat on your radar before Indianapolis, you knew who he was before the end of the week. Sweat has a great frame that could use some more bulk, but the number one concern around the former Seminole is the health of his left knee, which has been operated on twice. If his knee can handle Sweat adding additional weight, watch out.

 

2018 NFL Draft

If Turay gets his hands on you, he’s going to bring you down to the ground. (ScarletKnights.com)

7: Kemoko Turay, Rutgers

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

With excellent burst off the line of scrimmage, but low-end strength at the point of attack, Kemoko Turay will have to be a creative EDGE rusher in order to succeed in the NFL. Turay enters the 2018 NFL Draft as a fifth-year senior, he possesses long arms to help keep distance between himself and an engaging defender and would fit best in a 3-4 scheme where he can be utilized as a situational pass rusher his first season, then be developed into a 3-down player as he is able to drop into coverage as well. Turay will also be a valuable piece on special teams early in his career, which well slightly improve his draft stock.

 

2018 NFL Draft

How far will injury concerns cause Ejiofor to slip? (Jeremy Brevard – USA Today Sports)

 

8: Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

Missing the entire pre-draft process can really hurt a prospects draft stock and that has been evidenced this spring by former Wake Forest EDGE rusher Duke Ejiofor. He still earns a 3rd round grade on my board, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slip lower than this in the draft due to missing the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine over the past few months. Ejiofor does have a high upside if his shoulder does recover to full strength. His rookie season will see him be used as a third-down pass rushing specialist, but he can improve to become a 3-down defensive end in an even man front by the end of his first contract.

 

2018 NFL Draft

USC’s Uchenna Nwosu’s most natural position in the NFL will come as a hybrid pass rusher/off-ball linebacker. (Kevin Jairaj – USA Today Sports)

9: Uchenna Nwosu, Southern California

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

NFL teams love prospects that fit in multiple schemes and have versatile skill sets and Southern Cal’s EDGE/off-ball LB prospect Uchenna Nwosu is just that. I believe Nwosu’s best fit in the league, at least for year one, is as a situational pass rusher while he works on adding more bulk to his frame. If Nwosu and his new team want him to stay near to his current weight, he could produce as a two-down off-ball linebacker. As an EDGE rusher, the biggest problem I see with Nwosu’s path to the quarterback is his high pad level, but good coaching in the NFL should resolve that problem.

 

2018 NFL Draft

Chad Thomas fits the perfect mold for a 4-3 defensive end and has a good baseline skillset across the board. (Icon Sportswire)

10: Chad Thomas, Miami

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

At 6’5 and 281lb, Miami product Chad Thomas has a perfect frame and base to develop into a pristine NFL defensive end. Thomas has very sound technique concerning his pad level and ability to bend around the edge during his blitz sequences. His rookie year value will most likely be tied to his great ability to set the edge on rushing plays, while also moving laterally and showing a good change of direction to counter against opposing running backs. Thomas’ production at Miami was underwhelming, which is a concern considering he will now be facing an elevated level of competition. My number one worry with Thomas is that he does not engage first well with offensive linemen so that he does not become tied up when pursuing the quarterback. If he can work in hand drills and create an effective pass rushing plan, then he can become a 3-down playmaker by year three or four.

 

Best of the Rest:

11: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

12: Rasheem Green, Southern California

Grade: 3rd Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

 

13: Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Toledo

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

14: Arden Key, Louisiana State

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

15: Dorance Armstrong, Kansas

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

16: Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State

Grade: 4th Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

 

17: Joe Ostman, Central Michigan

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

18: Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

19: Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

Grade: 5th Round

Scheme Fit: 4-3, DE

 

20: Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State

Grade: 6th Round

Scheme Fit: 3-4, OLB

 

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