Early look at the 2019 Edge rushers

NFL offensive tackles aren’t ready for the swarm of outstanding 2019 Edge rushers coming for them in next year’s NFL Draft.

Rankings: 2019 Edge rushers

Rank Player Grade* Team Height Weight Year
1) Nick Bosa Top 5 Ohio State 6’4 263 JR
2) Rashan Gary Top 15 Michigan 6’5 283 JR
3) Clelin Ferrell Top 15 Clemson 6’4 265 rJR
4) Brian Burns R1 Florida State 6’5 235 JR
5) Jalen Jelks R1 Oregon 6’6 245 rSR
6) Joe Jackson R1 Miami 6’5 265 JR
7) Anfernee Jennings R2 Alabama 6’3 266 rJR
8) Josh Allen R2 Kentucky 6’5 260 SR
9) Montez Sweat R2 Miss. State 6’6 245 rSR
10) D’Andre Walker R2 Georgia 6’3 245 SR
11) Shareef Miller R2 Penn State 6’5 260 rJR
12) Zach Allen R2 Boston College 6’5 285 SR
13) Anthony Nelson R2 Iowa 6’7 271 rJR
14) Chase Winovich R3 Michigan 6’3 255 rSR
15) Trevon Hill R3 Virginia Tech 6’3 245 rJR
16) Jaylon Ferguson R3 LA Tech 6’5 262 rSR
17) Jabari Zuniga R3 Florida 6’4 257 rJR
18) Ben Banogu R3 TCU 6’4 249 rSR
19) Austin Bryant R3 Clemson 6’6 280 SR
20) Carl Granderson Wyoming 6’5 261 SR
21) Landis Durham Texas A&M 6’3 255 SR
22) Curtis Weaver Boise State 6’3 266 rSO
23) Sutton Smith Northern Illinois 6’1 237 rJR
24) Charles Omenihu Texas 6’6 275 SR
25) Porter Gustin USC 6’5 260 SR
26) Breckyn Hager Texas 6’3 255 SR
27) Jon Greenard Louisville 6’4 263 rJR
28) Malik Reed Nevada 6’2 235 rSR
29) Cece Jefferson Florida 6’1 252 SR
30) Kenny Willekes Michigan State 6’4 260 rJR

*The early “grade” for each Edge rusher above is somewhere between their preseason resume and 2019 projection.

2019 Edge rushers superlatives

Most NFL-ready: Bosa

Best Pass Rusher: Bosa

Best Run Defender: Z. Allen

Highest Upside: Bosa / Gary

Riskiest: Bryant

Underrated: Hill

Sleeper: Zuniga

“My Guys”: Bosa, Burns, Jelks, Jackson, Jennings, Hill, Zuniga

Get your popcorn ready

Because whew! The class 2019 Edge rushers is freaking loaded top-to bottom. You’ve got a top-tier talent in Nick Bosa, several more first-round candidates, and ridiculous depth projected throughout every stage of the 2019 NFL Draft. It’s arguably the best group of Edge rushers since the 2011 class, when we were graced with the likes of Von Miller, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan and Cameron Jordan.

Sidebar for the 12th man: The Seahawks have set themselves up perfectly to take advantage of the class of 2019 Edge rushers. The only players under contract beyond 2018 are rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin. Depending on what they do with UFA’s Frank Clark and Dion Jordan after this season, Seattle could have a massive need at DE come draft day. I’ll identify top Edge targets for the Hawks over the next few months, just like HawkTalk did last year with Green & Martin.

2019 Edge rushers player profiles

Nick Bosa | Ohio State, JR

  • Former 5-star recruit who’s picked up right where brother Joey left off at Ohio State. Followed up exceptional true freshman season with a dominant campaign last year. Posted 34 tackles, 16 TFL, 8.5 sacks and 66 total QB pressures. And he did so as part of a rotation with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis & Jalyn Holmes. His numbers could explode now with that trio all moving on to the NFL.
  • #14 on Feldman’s 2018 Freaks list – OSU strength coach called him the most explosive Buckeye, while Urban Meyer raved about his combination of speed & power.
  • Appears just as agile as his brother, who posted ~90th percentile marks in the 3-cone & short shuttle. Their movements are strikingly similar as well, both having tremendous technique at virtually everything a DE is asked to do. If anything, Nick might be a little more explosive than Joey.
  • Maintains balance and torque while achieving terrific bend around the edge. Highly flexible hips. Outstanding hands. Typically gets a good jump off the snap.
  • Creates incredible leverage through an elite combination of power, low pad level, purposefully heavy hands, stability through contact, and quickness.
  • Pretty much has it all as a pass rusher. 1) Enough burst when combined with his bend, balance & hand use to be a terror around the edge. 2) Fluid & controlled footwork to counter with the strength to prevent getting washed inside. 3) And frightening speed-to-power working off virtually any move of his. He switches on the power with impeccable timing if/when blockers adjust to his rush. It’s simply unfair – like his opponents are on skates and he gets to wear cleats.
  • Excellent run defender as well. Sets a hard edge, holds his ground, and easily disengages & tackles when the opportunity arises. Racks up plenty of TFL’s in the backfield.
  • Ideal combination of high floor & ceiling. Truly elite edge rushing prospect. Right up there with the likes of Bradley Chubb, Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and brother Joey. He’s my early favorite to be the first non-QB drafted next year.

Rashan Gary | Michigan, JR

  • Possibly the freakiest physical specimen in the country. His spring testing numbers were all elite: 4.57 forty (96th percentile among DE’s), 6.79 3-cone (98th), 4.22 short shuttle (88th), 10’4 broad jump (91st), all at 287 lbs (90th).
  • Former #1 overall recruit who’s mostly lived up to the billing through 2 years at Michigan. Flashed in a bit role as a freshman before breaking out to the tune of 58 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks a season ago.
  • Versatile athlete who can fit within any defensive scheme. Still something of a tweener, as it’s unclear whether he projects best as a 5-Tech DE or pure Edge. Best chasing the action in space, where his athleticism & motor shine brightest.
  • Inconsistent get-off. His first step is lightning quick when applied correctly, but his snap reaction can be slow. He also tends to merely pop up rather than explode forward initially.
  • Mental processing on the field isn’t where it needs to be. Shaky block recognition, slow to pick up misdirection, and lacks awareness of where the ball is going in the run game. Releases his gap far too often in search of a path upfield and peeks inside rather than setting the edge.
  • Limited pass rush repertoire. Gets by with his tremendous athleticism, physicality & motor at this point. Struggles to run the full arc with the necessary bend to turn the corner & flatten, even when exploding off the snap with great burst. Unpolished technique, especially with his hands. Doesn’t seem to have much of a plan if he can’t physically overwhelm blockers.
  • Currently wins with pure burst off the edge, a long arm bull rush, devastating speed-to-power, and quickness knifing inside. A notable portion of his pressures/sacks came unblocked or off twists.
  • That Gary’s been so impactful despite being so raw speaks to his physical superiority over everyone at the college level. He’s huge, very strong, and he never stops hustling. He radiates power, explosiveness and speed in all facets, but his skills are wildly inconsistent at this point.
  • Little flashes here and there of heavy hand counters, swat & rips around the edge and quickness through inside gaps.
  • While he’s maddening to watch, I love the foundation he has already of an outstanding athlete and worker. He can go top-5 next spring with some improvements to his game, though he’s not there yet.

Clelin Ferrell | Clemson, rJR

  • One of the standout performers on Clemson’s elite defensive line. Chose to return to school after compiling 66 tackles, 18 TFL and 9.5 sacks a year ago. Exclusively lines up at right Defensive End, across from Left Tackles.
  • Prototypical combination of size, length and athleticism at DE. Impressive lateral quickness for a DE his size, with the corresponding strength.
  • Terrific overall athletic profile, though appears to lack the elite flexibility of most top-notch NFL Edge rushers. He’s made up for that so far with an explosive get-off, quick feet and powerful hand-use.
  • Fluid rusher with long strides, working hands & feet together to execute his rush plan. Vicious chop-rip move around the edge with enough balance to turn the corner. Keeps his pads clean, working half-a-man to get to the QB.
  • An impact run defender with his size, strength, quickness, technique & improving discipline. Sets the edge and takes advantage of opportunities to splash in the backfield. Finds the ball with strong instincts. Bailed out by Clemson’s defense when he got too aggressive.
  • Dropped into coverage a few times in most games last year and didn’t look out of place.
  • I liked the decision to come back, even if the class of 2019 Edge rushers is stronger than this past Draft’s. Ferrell’s 2017 season was somewhat marred by inconsistency, despite the great overall numbers. He mixed some huge games in between relatively quiet performances and benefited from the immense talent on the Tigers’ DL.
  • I think he was generally overrated a year ago, and likely would have been a mid 1st-round pick if he declared for the 2018 Draft. That said, I like Ferrell’s NFL-potential. He could rise into the top-10 with another strong year.

Brian Burns | Florida State, JR

  • Exploded out of the gate as a true freshman in 2016, finishing the year with 8.5 sacks in only 8 games. Took a step back in the sack department last season with only 4.5, yet he probably made a greater overall impact. He posted 48 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 4 PD’s, 3 FF’s and 1 recovery.
  • Supremely long, fluid & talented edge rusher. The definition of a traits guy, from both a physical standpoint AND in natural skills.
  • Special ankle flexion & hip flexibility – leans with uncommon bend as he runs the arc. Exceptional get-off with great burst upfield.
  • There is a rare fluidity to his movements, almost like a pure-edge version of Malik McDowell. His hands & feet are so loose, but he lets them fly with a purpose.
  • Sidesteps blockers in the blink of an eye with his upper & lower body synched together. Shows some nuanced footwork to get blockers off balance and he’s already effective at using his hands to keep blockers off him in space.
  • Too weak to consistently hold up against the run on the edge, but he feels the play and gets himself into the right spots. He’s a menace in space though. Attacks gaps and covers a ton of ground when the play strings out in either direction.
  • Played at ~210 lbs as a freshman and ~220 lbs last year, which is clearly far too low for an Edge defender. He’s bulked up to 235 lbs this offseason, while appearing to have maintained (or even improved) his explosive athleticism. Easily has room on his frame to get up to 240-250, which will be necessary at the very least to reach his NFL potential.
  • Only Bosa & (possibly) Rashan Gary surpass Burns’ upside among 2019-eligible edge players. He’s so naturally gifted and doesn’t turn 21 until next April. However, he needs to keep getting bigger & stronger while retaining his electric movement skills. I’m banking on continued (good) weight gains and overall progression as he enters his Junior season.

Jalen Jelks | Oregon, rSR

  • Lengthy, high-cut defensive lineman with untapped potential, who’s arguably held back by Oregon’s usage of him. Used primarily as a DE in a 3-man front last year, typically from a 4 or 5-Tech alignment. Still thrived in that role, earning high marks from PFF while recording 59 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 7 sacks & 7 PD.
  • Only rushed 81 times off the edge in 2017 (per PFF) but recorded 16 pressures and an elite 17.0 PRP from that alignment. Which is where he projects in the NFL.
  • Unsurprisingly gets overpowered at the point-of-attack on some reps when interior OL’s get under his pads, particularly vs. double-teams. Jelks gets good ankle/knee flexion and understands how to use his length to create leverage, but he’s simply too thin to play inside vs. the run in the NFL.
  • Projects as an effective (or even dominant) run defender from the edge however. It’s remarkable how much of an impact he’s had playing at such disadvantage inside. Guys his size shouldn’t be able to stack & shed interior OL’s so easily. Expertly wins inside hand position and locks out to create space. Digs deep into the ground to maintain leverage vs. the brutes inside.
  • Heady pass rusher – keeps his eyes up & aware of QB’s pocket movement. Adept at using his length to create space and shed vs. bigger linemen. He’s also a savant at batting passes down at the line. Always gets his hand up on passes when he doesn’t reach the QB.
  • His pass rush repertoire is fairly limited right now, though there’s something to work with. He mainly uses speed-to-power rushes off the edge, and a go-to right handed club to set up other moves. Not much of a counter beyond that and struggles to consistently pressure the pocket from inside. Haven’t really seen him bend & flatten around the edge.
  • Does he have any elite athletic traits besides height & length? I see flashes of burst, power, quickness & explosiveness, but his overall mobility might be one of two potential roadblocks to 1st-round consideration. Combine testing will be key, especially if his role stays the same this season. If I knew he was a Marcus Davenport-level athlete, I’d have him as a 1st-rounder right now.
  • The other potential roadblock is Oregon’s strange deployment of him. It’s not a straightforward evaluation with so many of his snaps coming inside, because he looks like a pure Edge for the NFL. Is that cause for concern? Or will he be undervalued as a result? I’m leaning heavily to the latter.

Joe Jackson | Miami, JR

  • Jackson’s made an early impact through his first two years at Miami, with 82 tackles, 21 TFL, 14 sacks, 3 FF & 2 FR through 23 games. Early 1st round physical profile with skills that are still catching up. Raw in most aspects of the game at this point, yet he flashes a ton of pure talent just waiting to be unleashed with further development.
  • Imposing figure off the edge with terrific size and length. And he’s an explosive fast-twitch athlete to boot. Fires off the snap with swift upfield burst. Very strong as well, generating considerable power when his technique is right.
  • Not much plan of attack as a pass rusher. Often gets the OT’s on their toes with his initial steps up the edge, but he fails to take advantage. Struggles to get his pads down and sync that with strong hand position, negating his athletic advantage on the edge. Doesn’t really know how to use his hands to buoy his rush at this point. He was able to physically overwhelm average college LT’s, yet he wasn’t a big challenge for the better guys last year.
  • The length, strength, physicality and motor are all there in spades as a run defender. However, the leverage is not. Doesn’t bend at the knees nearly enough on contact, and it holds him back quite a bit.
  • Jackson’s weaknesses are clear and potentially fixable: 1) pad level 2) Hand precision & activity. Already a striking prospect – his production & Draft stock will skyrocket if he shows the necessary improvements in those areas this season.

Josh Allen | Kentucky, SR

  • Exploded out of the gate to start the 2017 season, accumulating 7 sacks and 10.5 TFL in his first 8 games. Then slowed considerably, blanking in those categories over his final 5 games of the year.
  • Massive weight gain over the last year. Kentucky listed him at 230 lbs last fall, and 260 lbs this fall. He was obviously too skinny for an edge rusher at 230, so the gain was necessary. And it looks like it was good weight that he needed to fill out his frame.

Montez Sweat | Mississippi State, rSR

  • Long, rangy & fluid edge rusher coming off a big season for MSU, recording 48 tackles, 15.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks. Pressured the pocket at a very high rate working from either side of the formation, though sack numbers may be a little inflated (unblocked, coverage, etc).
  • Decent first step off the edge. Not a dip, rip & flatten guy, but uses his hands & length very effectively to get by Tackles. Has a non-stop motor and seems to have a knack for timing moves during his rush. Hesitations, head-fakes & balance.
  • Smart, disciplined run defender off the edge who competes despite lack of bulk at 245. Needs to get stronger though, as he gets buried without proper leverage. Keeping his pads down can be difficult at 6’6. He generally does so, but the leverage disadvantage is compounded the strength deficiency.
  • Not a particularly explosive athlete.

Shareef Miller | Penn State, rJR

  • Posted 37 tackles, 11.5 TFL & 5.5 sacks as a starter in Penn State’s DE rotation last year as a redshirt sophomore. Made a greater impact as a pass rusher than the sack total indicates.
  • Stands out on tape with his get-off, athleticism and motor. It starts with his rapid first steps off the snap, and everything else in his repertoire works off that.
  • He can win the edge with pure burst and has enough flexibility to bend & flatten to the QB. Puts pressure on OT’s off the jump, and he utilizes some violent hand counters back inside when they overset or get off balance trying to match his speed.
  • Somewhat of a one-trick pony as a pass rusher. If he doesn’t win with pure speed or off his initial counter, then he doesn’t have much else to go to. Doesn’t possess the strength, power, or advanced hand use to shake free without early momentum. He’s the type of edge rusher who typically wins early, or not at all.
  • Competes hard in run defense. Scraps to hold the edge as best he can, while looking to attack gaps whenever possible. Again, he’s held back by strength/power limitations though.
  • Fair to question his upside a bit despite his athleticism & size. Not especially long or strong, and he doesn’t appear to have much more room on his frame to add good weight. Can he add more to his game this year to offset that? While guys like Brian Burns & Joe Jackson may not have reached Miller’s consistent level yet, I like their potential a lot more.

Zach Allen | Boston College, SR

  • Massive production vs. the run during his Junior season, totalling 100 tackles & 15.5 TFL. Also recorded 4 sacks & 3 PD’s. Played a ton of snaps, starting at DE and shifting inside a bit in obvious passing situations
  • The tape matches the stat line, as Allen is an absolute beast vs. the run and very limited as a pass rusher. He does offers some scheme flexibility.
  • Has some burst off the snap, which helps him rushing from the inside. However, he’s a much more a size/strength guy than one who wins with mobility/athleticism.
  • Plays with incredible intensity, strength & physicality when attacking the run. NFL teams will love his motor, intelligence, and sure-fire NFL projection as a run-stuffing end.
  • Very low pressure rate for a top DE prospect, which reflects the lack of juice he has pushing the pocket. Lacks the quick footwork or flexibility to consistently attack the corner or counter inside. He leverages his bull-rush well, but that’s pretty much all he’s got off the edge.
  • He’ll be an interesting case study come Draft season next year. There was a time where Allen would be a definite 1st-round pick, but I can’t get there on him. He’ll probably be the worst pass rusher of any DE drafted in the top 3 rounds, yet also the best run defender. How will teams value that? He’s more of a R2-3 guy for me until he improves his weakness.

Anthony Nelson | Iowa, rJR

  • Posted 41 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 5 PD’s and 2 forced fumbles in only 11 games last year as a redshirt sophomore. Which followed a productive freshman season where he recorded 33 tackles, 8 TFL & 6 sacks.
  • Hulking figure at 6’7, 270+ lbs. And he uses that size to win on the edge at a high rate, especially rushing the passer. Likely projects inside as a DE in 3-man fronts, but he’ll need to gain weight over the next 1-2 years.
  • Drops his pads with good balance to create decent leverage for such a tall DE. Lacks the burst, flexibility & overall athleticism you expect from productive edge rushers, but he’s a former high jumper with some lower body explosiveness to work with.
  • The real key to his success is upper body technique though. Shoots heavy hands inside with great extension. Skillfully sheds blockers in the run game and wins with active hands rushing upfield.

Trevon Hill | Virginia Tech, rJR

  • Fast-twitch athlete with impressive mobility in space. Covers a ton of ground in a hurry. Plays exclusively on the edge for Virginia Tech, but he has all the athleticism necessary to be a drop LB.
  • Explosive get-off leading to fast upfield burst. One of the more athletic edge rushers I’ve seen on tape this year.
  • Limited skillset right now, mainly relying on edge speed to hard swat, dip & flatten. Not big or strong enough yet to win with power, and his inside counters are too deliberate (and lack requisite hand use).
  • Gets handled far too easily in the run game right now. It’s a realistic area of improvement however, with further strength gains and technical development.

Jabari Zuniga | Florida, rJR

  • Athletic profile borders on elite territory. Bulked up to 255-260 since last season yet carries only 7.9% body fat. Long, rangy athlete with tremendous quickness – timed at a ridiculous 4.12 seconds in the short shuttle this summer, and 6.97 in the 3-cone. Reps 225 lbs 27 times with long arms and posted solid explosive marks as well (9’11 broad jump, 33” vertical).
  • Outstanding combination of burst, agility & overall athleticism as a pass rusher. Capable of winning outside, inside & straight through OT’s off the edge.
  • Proficient rushing from both the right & left side at the college level, though still raw in most respects. Often slow to react to the snap, and too high-cut in his movements.
  • Knows how to use his length & footwork to shake free of blockers and attack the ball, despite lacking bulk the last two seasons. Possesses a very fluid swim move.
  • Disrupts the run game with burst. Often re-directs runs or produces TFL’s with his slashing style.
  • The offseason weight gain was necessary after playing at 245-ish last year. His frame is exceptional, but he struggled to set the edge with leverage & finish plays. Suffered an ankle injury mid-way through last season & wasn’t quite the same player when he returned.
  • More disruptive as a pass rusher than the raw numbers suggest. 2-year, 22-game total of: 59 tackles, 16.5 TFL and 9 sacks, as part of a DE rotation. Played fewer than 800 snaps over that period.
  • Rarely mentioned as a top NFL draft prospect on the edge, yet his game is brimming with upside. Just starting to scratch the surface of his talent. Still has a lot to prove this fall (improved productivity, stoutness in run-defense, and health) but he’s got early-round potential in 2019.

Ben Banogu | TCU, rSR

  • Explosive edge rusher who’s held back by an inconsistent get-off (like Josh Sweat, though not quite that athletic). Transferred to TCU and named captain before ever playing a snap.
  • Produced as a pass-rusher vs. Big-12 offenses, totalling 55 tackles, 16.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks in his first year for the Horned Frogs.

Austin Bryant | Clemson, SR

  • Matches the impressive size, length & instincts of teammate & DE-partner Clelin Ferrell, likewise emerging as a highly productive defender on Clemson’s vaunted DL last year.
  • However, he lacks Ferrell’s strength, leverage and standout athleticism, and he gets hoofed in the run game far too much for my liking. Driven off the ball by Tackles & TE’s alike.
  • Easy to see on tape how he benefitted game after game from the Tigers’ superb DL talent.
  • More of a late day-two / early day-three guy for me.

Carl Granderson | Wyoming, SR

  • 2017 Junior production: 78 tackles, 16 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 INT’s, 2 FF, and 1 recovery for a TD.
  • Faced two power-5 opponents in Iowa & Oregon, both of which had strong offensive lines. He managed 15 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks & 2 forced fumbles against them.
  • Sneaky athletic with long strides and decent agility for his size. Gets a nice jump off the snap when rushing the passer. Can’t teach 6’5 with long arms.
  • 1-gapping slasher at DE. Looks like he’s given free reign to attack at will, giving up gap integrity for the chance at splashing in the backfield. Also plays too high against the run, so he needs improvement as a run defender in general. Gets widened out or turned around far too often by decent OL’s. Content to go around blocks rather than through them. More style than substance with his hand use. Has great size, but leverage/discipline issues may be compounded by a lack of functional core strength.