EDGE Rusher Prospects for 2022 NFL Draft

Kayvon Thibodaux (Oregon)
6’5 249

kayvon thibodaux edge

In his short career, Thibodaux has been a dominant player off the edge. Thibodaux has long arms that help him quickly get to the opposing offensive linemen and win the leverage battle. He also has an extremely fast get-off, within the tier of Brian Burns. Presently, Thibodaux is expected to be the best EDGE prospect in the draft and a top 4-10 pick.

George Karlaftis (Purdue)
6’4 275

Karlaftis is one of the strongest prospects in the draft this year. His only move is a bull rush but it is very effective. Thus far Karlaftis has not shown much bend. With his level of athleticism, he is likely going to be mostly a Calais Campbell type of prospect where teams mostly play him at 3-tech but can move him inside and out. Overall he will be best suited as a 3-4 DE.

Zach Harrison (Ohio State)
6’6 269

Zach Harrison edge

Harrison has not produced much just yet but he has elite athleticism and body frame. Harrison is expected to be the next great EDGE rusher to be developed by Larry Johnson and Ohio State. He has long arms and has the strength to bull rush from the outside or inside as a 3-tech. He has clocked in at 4.47 40 yard dash and you can see the explosiveness on tape.

Drake Jackson (USC)
6’4 255

Drake Jackson edge

Jackson brings great size, explosion, agility, and versatility to the table. He has an amazing wingspan that should help him greatly to win the leverage battle in the NFL. Jackson is the type of defensive linemen that you can play in any system and should be able to play inside or out effectively. Furthermore, He is a fluid enough athlete to drop in zone coverage and not cause problems. This April you can expect Drake Jackson to be in contention for a high draft pick.

Aiden Hutchinson (Michigan)
6’6 269

Hutchinson is a freak athlete off the EDGE and has a lot of promise to be an elite edge rusher. Due to injuries, Hutchinson was not able to make any type of impact last season and decided to return to Michigan. As long as Hutchinson is healthy he should be expected to be an impact player. He has shown great hand technique already and explosiveness already. Also already an established run-stopper, hence he should already be able to come in as a three-down edge rusher.

Zion Tupuola-Fetui (Washington)
6’3 280

Even though will not be playing this year because of a ruptured Achilles, he will still be in contention for a top draft spot because of his 2020 season. Tupuola-Fetui is a really fluid mover for such a big man. He is great at using the dip and rip move. Tupuola-Fetui has a great leveraging ability and a strong initial punch. With what we have witnessed from Tupuola-Fetui already he should be a first-round prospect. No doubt, Tupuola-Fetui will be a three-down player.

Brenton Cox (Florida)
6’3 250

Cox is another former five-star recruit but has not totally lived up to his billing yet. He does have athleticism and great size. He is not an amazing run stopper but he is good enough to be a three-down player. Cox also has a plethora of moves but favors a spin move. This year he should be able to show polish in his technique and ability. In conclusion, Cox Should have himself in the conversation for a first-round pick.

Nolan Smith (Georgia)
6’3 235

Smith has a great frame and agility so far. He will certainly need to gain 10 to 15 pounds to be a three-down player in the NFL. Nevertheless, Smith is best suited to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. For now, he just wins with get-off or is stuck. This season he will need to gain that mass, show a rush plan, and some type of specialty move. Overall he has potential but has not shown enough flashes to put him higher than a day 3 pick at this point.

Adam Anderson (Georgia)
6’5 230

Anderson is an amazing pass rusher, but he lacks any showing of being able to stop the run. He could definitely be drafted as a rotational pass rusher. Anderson needs to show in this upcoming season that he can be a three-down player.

Ali Gaye (LSU)
6’6 250

Ali Gaye

Gaye is a JUCO transfer that was an impressive pass rusher last year in the jump to SEC. He had a great start to the season but eventually, his production fell off as the season went on. He did not show much in the way of being a run stopper but with his athletic traits, he should be able to improve in that aspect.

Nik Bonitto (Oklahoma)
6’3 240

Bonitto is one of the edge rushers that has a smaller frame and on the field, he looks like a linebacker. He will need to add size to become a consistent contributor in the NFL. However, Bonito shows the ability to be a highly productive speed rusher. Due to his lack of weight, he lacks any type of power moves. In essence, Bonitto will come into the NFL at least a productive pass rusher.

Xavier Thomas (Clemson)
6’2 270

Thomas is a five-star player that came in and made an immediate impact as a true freshman. He has all the athletic traits to be a dominant outside and inside threat, but did not make the jump his sophomore in a full-time starter role. Then, he was injured for his junior year. Thomas is expected to redeem himself this year with a breakout season as the guy on Clemson’s defensive line.

Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina)
6’4 270

Kingsley Enagbare

Enagbare is a monster of a man. He has a really initial strong punch but does not have a plan of attack afterward. He has really fluent movements for a man his size. Enagbare has also shown the versatility and strength to play on the outside and inside. Although you do not want him doing it often, Enagbare has shown the ability to drop in coverage well. He also has shown an extremely high motor; no matter where the ball is heading you will see him chasing the ball.

Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati)
6’5 258

Myjai Sanders

Sanders has the prototypical size and length scouts are searching for. He is definitely the best EDGE rusher that the group of 4 conferences will offer this year. For now, Enagbare does not show much technique and just wins off his size and athleticism. He did get a chance to play against Georgia in the peach bowl, and he looked great in that outing. He will absolutely need to improve his hand placement and move repertoire to be a top draft pick, but he is at a great point in his development so far.

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Accolade Grading: The 2018 NFL Draft

Football is a fascinating sport from a statistical perspective. The NFL is filled to the brim with endlessly quotable stats that can craft any narrative your heart desires. However, these stats never seem to truly tell the whole story. Base defense, blocking schemes, and other intangible aspects of America’s most popular sport distill the image that these concise numbers provide you. Football by no means a solved sport, lacking the sabermetric statistics that have a stranglehold on the present-day MLB. DVOA and QBR are nice benchmarks but don’t pack the same punch as the BABIP’s, WRC+’s, and wOBA’s of the baseball world. This ambiguity is what has always fascinated me about the NFL.

One aspect that brings attention to this conundrum is judging a team’s rookie draft. A popular aspect of these discussions, and one that I personally agree with, is the three-year wait. A player needs to finish out his first three seasons in the league before you can truly start to gauge his potential. It gives the players time to work through the playbook, learn their assignments, and hone the raw abilities that made them so electric in college. To test out this unwritten rule of armchair scouting, I devised my own system for grading players coming off their first three seasons after being drafted. As a test run, I ran this system for the 2018 draft class from three years ago.

The Premise

The purpose of this scoring system is to award points for players who not just played most of their games, but also give out bonuses for personal player achievements. This includes things such as making the All-Rookie Team or earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. The weighting of the scoring system heavily favors these types of personal accolades. These awards make them stand out not just among their draft class peers but among the best players today. Players that accrue a large amount of these accomplishments should be celebrated and will therefore be scored accordingly. Before getting into the highest scoring players, I’ll give a quick outline of the point system and how it’s weighted:

The Negatives:

0 points for games spent injured, -1 point for each year on the practice squad, -5 points for each year without making a roster

You never want to hold injuries against a player, but they shouldn’t get any points for it. This is especially true if a team drafts a player with a known history of injury. Only making it onto a practice squad, or getting cut entirely, is going to count against the player. Thankfully this is rarely seen amongst the early-round draft picks.

The Ability of Availability:

.1 points per game played, .2 points per game started

Your player is on the field and contributing to your game plan, congratulations! Most rookies are role players their first couple of years, and the scoring helps emphasize this. Doing the bare minimum will only net you 9.6 points total for starting all 48 games.

The Eye-Catcher:

2 points per Player of the Week (PotW) award, 4 points per Player of the Month (PotM) award, 10 points per Pro Bowl or All-Rookie Team selection

Your guy is turning heads in the league his first year, enough to earn some weekly awards for standout games. If they’re lucky, they may even make enough of a name for themself to go enjoy a week-long vacation in Disney World. Worth some respect, but not anything groundbreaking.

The Future Legend:

15 points for individual NFL records broken, 20 points for All-Pro, Player of the Year (POY), or Rookie of the Year (ROY) awards, 30 points for Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards

By the end of the season, your promising rookie is a burgeoning NFL star. He’s already making an impact on the league, drawing comparisons to his multi-year contemporaries. He may even already be better than them! The league will watch his progress with great interest as he continues to grow.

With the criteria established, let’s take a look at the top 10 players of the 2018 NFL Draft Class:

1: Darius Leonard, LB, IND: 127.4 points

Incredibly, the Colts didn’t take our first-place player in the first round of the draft. The Colts found an absolute goldmine out of the Defensive ROY and twice first-team All-Pro out of South Carolina State. While he has yet to play a full 16-game season, he’s still made his presence known at his position. This only helps to further prove how special of a player he is.

2: Quenton Nelson, OG, IND: 109.6 points

The top-ranked offensive lineman going into the draft emerged as arguably the best interior offensive lineman in today’s NFL. A perfect three-for-three in Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections highlights the best start the Colts could have hoped for. There’s no question that Indianapolis absolutely killed this draft with just its first two picks.

3: Lamar Jackson, QB, BAL: 105.7 points

The last pick of the first round turned in a 2019 MVP campaign becoming the most electric QB in the NFL overnight. The accolades compiled during that magical season put the Baltimore offensive leader into second place in our ranking. He struggled more in 2020, but he’s still earned the respect of opposing defenders.

4: Josh Allen, QB, BUF: 73.5 points

Our first steep drop in points results from a quarterback who had a bit of a slower start coming into his own in the NFL. Allen has taken tremendous strides in 2020, setting franchise records left and right and earning the respect he deserves from the rest of the league. He’ll be looking to build onto his phenomenal third season in 2021 and cement his tier 1 QB status.

5: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, MIA/PIT: 68.6 points

One of the few bright spots on a terrible Dolphins team, Fitzpatrick found himself on the wrong end of a team looking to blow up and rebuild after years of disappointment. Through that adversity, he established himself as a leader on a defensive stalwart and has collected a couple of Pro Bowls and All-Pros along the way.

6: Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG: 61.2 points

You never want to see a player as electric as Barkley succumb to relentless injuries, even though it happens so often with running backs specifically. The Offensive ROY in 2018 is eyeing a comeback in 2021 after recovering from a torn ACL. A return to his rookie year form that brought him the scrimmage yard record in his first season would be a welcome sight in New York.

7: Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL: 46.4 points

2018 NFL Draft Pick Calvin Ridley.

Another tier break in our rankings lands us at a player with some of the largest upside in the list. With Julio Jones taking up residence in Nashville, Ridley has a direct path to top-tier wide receiver status. This year, he’ll need to prove he can continue to find success as the team’s top target with Jones gone.

8: Derwin James, S, LAC: 44.2 points

2018 NFl Draft pick Derwin James.

James is an example of another amazing start to a career cut short by multiple injuries. James needs to stay healthy all through camp if he wants to secure his spot in the secondary that produced an All-Pro level rookie season.

9: Jaire Alexander, CB, GB: 43.6 points

Jaire Alexander, the 18th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

After a relatively quiet rookie year, the top corner in Green Bay’s defense earned his own spotlight with a 2nd team All-Pro season in 2020. With or without Aaron Rodgers in the future, Alexander will play a pivotal role in the team’s continued success.

10: Baker Mayfield, QB, CLE: 38.1 points

2018 first round draft pick Baker Mayfield prepares to throw.

The #1 pick of the NFL draft came down to earth after hitting the ground running his first year in Cleveland. While the team has continued to improve around him, the former Oklahoma star must put it all together to complete the Brown’s transition into an AFC North force.

As it stands, the scoring system passes the quick eye test based on the players highlighted. All ten players are stars in the league heading into the new season and represent a bright future for their respective teams. I constructed the system in a somewhat arbitrary way, but it presents a concise way to perform a topical assessment of any draft class. By giving a new perspective on past draft classes as well as analyzing all future classes, we can better contextualize early success with building everlasting legacies in the NFL. 

For more analysis and thought-provoking content, check out the rest of our draft content and opinion pieces. Otherwise, head home for our entire array of articles.