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2018 NFL Draft EDGE Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Ranking the draftable edge defender prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These rankings are comprised of what are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, from the pre-combine rankings, plus new round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes an updated mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S

EDGE DEFENDERS

1. Bradley Chubb, NC State: 6’4, 269

Strengths: Physically the prototype. Nice size, speed, and strength for the position. Probably the best run stopping edge defender in college football over the past two seasons. Very effective pass rusher be it off the edge or bull rushing, but especially off the opposing tackles’ inside shoulder. Has shown steady year-to-year improvement.

Weaknesses: Sometimes plays out of control -- led to too many missed tackles in 2016. Would like to see him convert a higher rate of his pressures into sacks.

Player Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney

IMO: Chubb is a day one starter and potentially an immediate impact player because of how developed he already is, both physically and technically. There have been a lot of comparisons to last year’s number one pick, Myles Garrett, but that’s not fair. Garrett was a generational talent, plus he and Chubb are different players. Chubb may nothave the long term pass rushing upside as Garrett, but he could be similarly productive as a rookie, although perhaps not in the same way.

Round Grade: Early 1st

2. Harold Landry, Boston College: 6’2, 252

Strengths: Long, in spite of height, with great burst and speed. Arguably the most well rounded high end edge defender in 2016. Elite outside pass rusher. Able to chase down running backs before they turn the corner.

Weaknesses: Not quite ideal size. Above average bullrush efficacy in college but that could change against NFL play strength. Took steps back last year.

Player Comparison: Jerry Hughes

IMO: Landry took a step back in 2017, but let’s just chalk that up to the ankle injury that sidelined him for a handful of games. Even the lesser version of him was better than most players could hope to be. He’s so lightning quick and his first step so devastating that he’ll be effective even as he continues to develop his pass rush repetoire. His athletic measurables at the combine were off the charts and he projects as one of the best sack artists in football for the forseeable future. Even with his length limitations, I love him as a hand in the dirt defensive end more so than a standup edge defender, but he can do either with great success.

Round Grade: Early 1st

3. Arden Key, LSU: 6’5, 238

Strengths: Has added weight to his long frame without really sacrificing any of that elite athleticism that makes him so deadly. Extremely consistent, productive pass rusher both inside and, even more so, off the edge. Converts pressures into sacks at an above average rate.

Weaknesses: Never been much of an asset against the run. Less than reliable tackler.

Player Comparison: Jeff Bezos’ Barkevious Mingo

IMO: Key was a tough comp becuase he’s so physically unique. He’s probably the most gifted athlete within the position group and, as such, has the highest ceiling, but whether or not he gets there is another thing. There have been some off the field issues and his apparent disinterest in run stopping is mildly worrisome. Taking Key is a home run swing but the thing about home run swings is that when they connect they hit home runs.

Round Grade: Mid 1st

4. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest: 6’3, 264

Strengths: Strong and powerful with prototypical size. Violent cinder blocks where most people’s hands are. Has the tools to be an effective run stopper and is usually in the right place but needs to finish more plays, although he did improve that last year. Good inside pass rusher.

Weaknesses: Decent quickness but lacks overall athleticism for the position. Does his job against the run up until it comes time to make the play. Not explosive enough to be very effective as an outside pass rusher.

Player Comparison: Vinny Curry

IMO: Oh, those hands. Ejiofor is already super polished and looks the part of an NFL defensive end. He even moved to the interior on some third downs for Wake Forest, which is a hige asset in this ever evolvong NFL. He’s athletic enough, but not so athletic that you would look at him as having All-Pro potential. He’s round one ready, but has only day two upside.

Round Grade: Mid 2nd

5. Lorenzo Carter, Georgia: 6’5, 250

Strengths: Long body. Long arms. Long speed. Long. Explosive burst and speed off the edge allows him to turn the corner on most anyone. High upside after finally coming into his own, especially if he can continue to add weight.

Weaknesses: Failed to live up to his five-star billing until last season. Only one year of high level production. Sideline to sideline range but doesn’t often make the solo tackles. Needs to finish higher rate of tackles.

Player Comparison: Danielle Hunter

IMO: Throughout his career, Carter has at times looked like a surefire first rounder, and at other times, a late round flyer, at best -- often in the same game. Last season was easily his best, but even still was inconsistent. When he’s good, he’s really good, though. He’s got great length, racked up a ton of pressures (although he failed to finish at a sufficient rate), and was even a more than serviceable option dropping into coverage for Georgia. He’s a second round pick because of what he can do, but a hesitant one because of the questions as to what he actually will do.

Round Grade: Mid 2nd

6. Josh Sweat, Florida State: 6’4, 251

Strengths: Nice size for the position with all the physical tools one could ask for. Good feel with disruptive explosiveness against the run. Long arms and adequate edge setting upper body strength. High sack to pressure conversion rate. Great tackler. Good pursuit speed.

Weaknesses: Slow out of his stance -- inconsistent pass rusher. Needs to finish more plays against the run. Not really an inside pass rush threat. Injury concerns.

Player Comparison: Jordan Willis

IMO: Sweat may not have met the expectations he had coming into Florida State but the physical traits that made him so highly touted are still there. He’s been great against the run his enitre career and finally started to put the pieces together as a pass rusher last season. He’s still got plenty of work to do with respect to the latter, but last season was promising even if he was only slightly above average, relative to his peers. He’s a project but one worth taking on.

Round Grade: Late 3rd

7. Chad Thomas, Miami: 6’5, 281

Strengths: Great size for the position with ideal physique and athleticism. Potential-over-production candidate. High run stopping upside with his smooth hips, lateral agility, and change of direction ability.

Weaknesses: Only an average pass rusher at Miami despite going almost exclusively against right tackles. Slightly more developed as a run defender but still needs to finish more plays.

Player Comparison: William Gholston

IMO: Thomas won’t be drafted for what he did at Miami, but for what he could do in the NFL. There were flashes of the player he could become but he could never show that dominance with any consistency. He did get progressively better, across the board, from one year to the next for the Hurricanes, which is a good sign. Maybe he just needs more time, and if he follows on his current arc could turn out to be the player the teams that drafts him is hoping for. His lack of production should push him to day three, but the potential might just snea him into the end of day two.

Round Grade: Late 3rd

8. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State: 6’2, 253

Strengths: One of the great pass rushers in college football history. Shoots out of his stance. Highly effective off either edge. Inside-outside threat. Skilled pass rusher with great instincts, feel, and a deep repertoire of moves. Plus speed.

Weaknesses: Undersized for the position. Play strength will challenge his ability against the run.

Player Comparison: Dee Ford

IMO: Rolland-Jones was far too athletic for most Sun Belt tackles to even phase him. There me be a considerable learning curve as he adapts to not being the freakiest player on the field anymore. Still, his production is undeniable and he still developed the more nuanced facets of the game, as shown by his steady, if incremental, imporvement at Arkansas State. He may be a one down player as he bulks up, but offers starter potential down the road.

Round Grade: Early 4th

9. Jeff Holland, Auburn: 6’1 249

Strengths: Smart, technically sound pass rusher with nuanced understanding of the position. Good initial burst with plus play strength. Could make a case that he was the best pass rusher in college football last season.

Weaknesses: Athletically limited without ideal size. Only an average run stopper. Relatively few pass rush snaps against left tackles -- typically the better pass blockers -- over the last two years.

Player Comparison: Noah Spence

IMO: Holland and Rolland-Jones share a lot of the same positive characteristics, although Holland really only has the one year of elite production. However, he does not share the same athletic upside of the aforementioned. His time at Auburn has probably better prepared him to contribute earlr and he’s a little more polished, but physical limitations, at least for the time being, will cap his potential as well.

Round Grade: Early 4th

10. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: 6’2, 235

Strengths: Explosive burst off the edge with the speed to turn the corner. Gets under tackles on the bullrush to consistently get pressure. Above average sack conversion rate. Extremely reliable tackler.

Weaknesses: Undersized. A non-factor against the run. Not much of an inside pass rusher.

Player Comparison: Nate Orchard

IMO: Haynes will be limited to a specific role in the NFL, largely as a third down pass rush specialist off the edge. He showed good speed and explosion numbers at the combine, and finished sacks at a high rate throughout his career. Even at Ole Miss, though, he pretty much just won with his first step to the outside and rarely if ever managed to create pressure with an inside counter. There’s a place for Haynes on almost any team, but he’s probably capped as a specialist.

Round Grade: Mid 5th

11. Trevon Young, Louisville: 6’3, 258

Strengths: Long and athletic. Above average pass rusher. Really closed out the season strong for Louisville.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal play strength. Medical concerns going back to a hip injury at the end of 2015. Below average against the run.

Player Comparison: Shilique Calhoun

IMO: If teams are comfotable with Young, medically, he has value as a pass rush specialist. He does a really good job utilizing that athleticism with a strong inside pass rush move. He’s not flexible enough to turn the corner against NFL tackles, but with proper coaching could develop moves to keep them off balance. He will probably be limited to single downs, though.

Round Grade: Mid 6th

12. Marcell Frazier, Missouri: 6’5, 255

Strengths: Very skilled and technically sound edge defender with good size for the position. High motor. Utilizes a variety of pass rush moves.

Weaknesses: Only average strength, athleticism. Inconsistent run defender.

Player Comparison: Stephen Weatherly

IMO: Frazier doesn’t take plays off, his motor is always running, and he could absolutely endear himself to any position coach. His play strength leaves something to be desires, but he uses his hands pretty well, and has a deep bag of rush tricks. His ceiling is lower than most of the guys on this list, but his polish and work ethic could ultimately make up for all of it.

Round Grade: Early 7th

13. Davin Bellamy, Georgia: 6’3, 255

Strengths: Great length for the position. Very good against the run in 2016 before a slight regression last year. Underrated pass rusher.

Weaknesses: Took steps back last year. Less than ideal play strength. Could serve to bulk up.

Player Comparison: Jeremiah Attaochu

IMO: Bellamy’s got four years of good, not great, but solid tape on him. He does a lot of things well but doesn’t possess any elite traits. Bellamy could turn into a reliable backup for a few years, but the lack of any standout abilities could see him struggle to stick in any one place.

Round Grade: Late 7th

14. James Hearns, Louisville: 6’3, 239

Strengths: Good combination of burst and natural pass rush moves. Saw significant improvement against the run last season.

Weaknesses: Took a step back as a pass rusher in 2017. Not very fluid.

Player Comparison: Kasim Edebali

IMO: Hearns’ overall lack of explosiveness limits his pass rush potential, long term, but he could be a decent NFL backuo in the right situation. He could offer some value on special teams.

Round Grade: PFA

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP