Top to bottom, this edge defender class is one of the more loaded groups we have seen in recent years. I think we could see about 6 or 7 go in the first round and they are going to go sooner than later. How do they all stack up against each other? Let’s find out. Without further ado, here are my top 10 edge edge defenders in the 2019 class.
10. Christian Miller, Alabama: Christian Miller was a hard player for me to evaluate. And when I say that, I don’t mean that it was difficult to understand his strengths and weaknesses on tape. The challenging part for me, was where to value his skill set in comparison with the other players in the class.
Watching #47 Christian Miller. Could be a solid day two option, has bend and athleticism to play Edge/OLB. pic.twitter.com/4B4PNPao01
— RealBucsTalk (@RealBucsTalk) April 17, 2019
As a pass rusher, Miller possesses a tantalizing set of skills. He is very nuanced with his hands and is extremely flexible in his ankles (good bend). I stood out of my chair in awe when watching him flatten out to ground level (I am talking inches away from the ground) and still being able to turn the corner.
That said, he isn’t as explosive as you would want him to be and false steps contribute to this issue. As a run defender he is an assignment sound edge setter but won’t make many splash plays.
My biggest dilemma with him is the extensive injury history and the limited amount of snaps he played at Alabama. The injuries don’t pertain to where he is at in my rankings, so I will just shed some light about his role in Nick Saban’s defense.
Miller was used solely as a pass rusher for much of his time at Alabama. Meaning his snaps were limited. Leaving me with the question, “Am I getting an every down player or a situational pass rusher if I draft Miller?” The answer to that question will be a huge indicator of how much a team values him and where he ultimately gets drafted.
Grade: Early 3rd Round (Injury Red Flags)
9. Rashan Gary, Michigan: Many probably think that this is way too low for Rashan Gary. He has been considered a top 10 pick for quite some time now, so to have him 9th might seem crazy.
I’m not Rashan Gary’s biggest fan, but it’s so easy to identify the potential that’s going to get him drafted high. Freak athlete who makes splash plays. pic.twitter.com/60S8Om7lAs
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) April 11, 2019
Lets make one thing clear, he isn’t this low on my rankings because I dislike him as a player. Because frankly, that just isn’t true. He is a top 50 player on my board. But in order to be considered as a top 10 pick you must be have 0 major concerns and I have a couple with Gary.
I know he is big. I know he is athletic. But his technique and effort need work! His low sack production can be directly linked to these factors. Also, Gary doesn’t seem to have the necessary flexibility to win on the edge as a pass rusher.
I believe he can play on the outside on early downs but must kick inside on passing downs to be maximized as a pass rusher. He just doesn’t have the bend to corner at a high level.
These are the reasons why I would not draft Gary in the top 10 and why he is my 9th edge. He has the talent to be a special player, he just isn’t there yet.
8. Charles Omenihu, Texas: Charles Omenihu fits the same mold as Rashan Gary in terms of the role he will play in the NFL. Meaning he should also play on the edge on early downs and kick inside on pass downs.
— Hookem Football (@hornsfootball) September 17, 2017
The difference is, Omenihu isn’t the caliber of athlete Gary is (still a good athlete just isn’t elite) but is much more refined as a pass rusher. He is extremely versed with his hands and might be the most versatile run defender in the class. Not only can he pass rush from the interior but he also showed that he can two gap against the run.
I believe that Omenihu is a plug and play starter that can wear many hats along a defensive front. He might not have a supper high ceiling but projects favorably as productive pro for years to come.
7. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson: Clelin Ferrell is the definition of pro ready. He is an excellent run defender, a master with his hands, knows how to use his length, and plays with a non stop motor.
Clelin Ferrell: good first step, stab/chop/rip, gets the strip sack. pic.twitter.com/2CsHFVkx65
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) June 21, 2018
In terms of his physical skill set, he demonstrates an explosive first step and does an excellent job of converting speed to power. He does seem to have some physical limitations though. Ferrell isn’t very bendy or flexible in his lower half. And his lack luster agility testing proved that to be true.
That said, I don’t see him being this dynamic pass rusher at the next level but still a very good one. Meaning, he might not be 12-15 sack a year type of player More like 8-10 sacks a year and who can go wrong with that.
Grade: Early 2nd
6. Jachai Polite, Florida: I am just going to start by addressing the elephant in the room. If there is a “How to Prepare for the NFL Draft for Dummies” book. Than Jachai Polite clearly did not read it.
Florida DE Jachai Polite was turning it upppppp in the 2nd half! pic.twitter.com/ng1Wl8saDM
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 30, 2018
From gaining 20 lbs of bad weight, preforming terrible at the combine, preforming even worse at his pro day, bombing his private interviews with teams, and saying all of the wrong things to the media. Polite did just about everything he could’ve to drop a nuclear bomb on his draft stock.
However, his talent is undeniable on film, which is why he is still this high in my rankings. His rare combination of burst, bend, and quick hands make him one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the class. But with all of the red flags, is he worth the risk?
Teams are going to have do their do-diligence to answer that question. But if the light bulb ever comes back on for Polite, he can be a special player at the next level.
Grade: Early 2nd (Character Red Flags)
5. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State: Unlike Polite, Montez Sweat has been the darling of the pre-draft process. He had a stellar showing at the Senior Bowl and followed it up with an even better performance at the combine. Not to mention that he was extremely productive this year with 11.5 sacks. So, why isn’t he higher?
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 22, 2019
The lack of bend he shows on tape really worries me. I know his 20 yard shuttle and 3 cone times were awesome but that did not match what he illustrated on tape. He looked stiff to me and demonstrated no reps of him turning a tight corner.
That said, he will have to make a living greasing angles with his speed and rush moves. The question is, is that sustainable enough to have elite production in the NFL? We shall see. Don’t get me wrong, I still like him a lot. I am just not on board with him being a 1 size fits all/consensus top 10 prospect.
Grade: Early 2nd
4. Chase Winovich, Michigan: I bet you weren’t expecting a player from Michigan not named Rashan Gary to make my top 5. Welp, here we are.
Team Chase Winovich 😤 pic.twitter.com/jsZeVRBC9L
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) March 22, 2019
The draft world has billed Chase Winovich as a good college player that hustles his ass off but can’t translate to the NFL. Well, his tape contradicts that narrative but he really silenced the doubters with his insane athletic testing. Proving that he had more than enough athleticism to play in the pros.
Winovich is about as polished as you can be at every technical aspect of playing edge defender. He is excellent with his hands, a sound and disruptive run defender, and phenomenal at anticipating the snap. He also has enough bend to be able to corner at a favorable rate.
I truly believe that many people are over looking how good Winovich actually is and I will continue to pound the table for a team to take him in the 1st round.
Round Grade: Early 2nd
3. Josh Allen, Kentucky: Josh Allen is not edge 2? My top 5 is just full of surprises huh? Josh Allen is most people’s edge 2 and third overall player in the class. Which makes sense when you look at what he has to offer.
Kentucky LB Josh Allen is a Round 1 lock in the 2019 NFL Draft, but how far can he climb? pic.twitter.com/F8tRO6iarE
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 17, 2018
His athletic traits obviously stand out on tape and were confirmed at the combine. Allen has the burst, bend, and a never ending motor that make him a nightmare for offense lineman to block. Also, he illustrated multiple impressive reps in coverage. He gives teams the versatility to drop back and be effective in shallow zones.
All of this being said, Allen still isn’t a finished product yet. He uses his hands like a boxer when pass rushing. Meaning he is more erratic than methodical with his process. He must develop a more consistent plan and add moves to his arsenal. If he can do this, there is no telling how good he can be.
Grade: 1st Round (Top 10 Player)
2. Brian Burns, Florida State: I am about to rant, so get ready. The fact that Brian Burns is not being talked about as a top 10 pick by the national media blows my mind. Most draft pundits talk about Allen, Sweat, Gary, Ferell and than Burns is at the end of the conversation. Why!?
Everyone’s concern was his weight, which he alleviated at the combine by weighing in at 250 lbs and testing like an ELITE athlete. Also, the media always talks about Josh Allen’s and Rashan Gary’s physical traits but according to the combine, Burns has better traits than both them! And they have good traits!
The film says that Burns is the best pure pass rusher in this class. His combination of flexibility and ball get off paired with nuanced hand usage and pass rush counters is second to none.
He might not offer much as a power rusher or crash the edge against the run. However, he looks like he has added some good mass this off season and on NFL Network’s Path to the Draft he said he is working on adding some power moves to his arsenal. If he does add more power to his game, I would not be surprised if he ended up being the best edge rusher from this class.
Grade: 1st (Top 5 player)
1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State: No more surprises, Nick Bosa is edge 1. He is the most complete edge defender in the class in terms of run defending and the many ways he can win as a pass rusher. Now, Burns is a better pure pass rusher in terms of traits but they are on same level with moves and counters.
Nick Bosa – still a problem. Strip sack. pic.twitter.com/YaBT95POy5
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 16, 2018
Bosa trumps Burns because of his power and even though he might not have elite physical traits, they are still really good. It is extremely difficult to find any major flaws in his game, which is why he is edge 1.
Grade: 1st Round (Top 3 Player)