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NFL Draft Big Board: Ranking Edge Prospects By Tier

As the NFL becomes more and more of a pass-first league, teams are always looking to build a defense that prevents opponents from letting it fly. A great way to do this is to stockpile Edge talent, and fortunately for teams that have a need at that position heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, they’ll have plenty of options.

The latest edition in our tiered Big Board series takes a look at some of our favorite Edge players available. There is a very obvious No. 1 player here — spoiler alert: it’s Chase Young — but heading into Days 2 and 3 of the draft, there are guys who have what it takes to make an impact at the next level, even if they’re not a finished product just yet.

Tier 1

Chase Young: Arguably the best prospect in the entire 2020 NFL Draft, Young is an absolute beast on the edge. He had a preposterous 21 tackles for loss with 16.5 sacks for Ohio State last year despite the entire world knowing they needed to send help his way if able. He has the measurables and the skillset to be a dominant edge rusher in the NFL for a decade-plus.

Tier 2

K’Lavon Chaisson: The second edge rusher expected to go in this year’s class is the LSU outside linebacker, who had 60 tackles, 13.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks as he burst on the scene this season for the Tigers after missing most of the 2018 season with an ACL tear. He’s got tremendous get off on the edge and bounced back well from that injury to show that he’s worthy of a first-round pick. He’s a superb athlete and if he taps fully into his potential could be a serious problem at the NFL level.

Tier 3

A.J. Epenesa: Scary size and length — 6’5, 275 pounds — dude just looks like he should be an All-Pro defensive end. As technically sound as you’ll find coming out of college and quite powerful, Epenesa put up big numbers the last two years, racking up 86 tackles with 30.5 TFLs and 22 sacks. Is hardly the quickest guy at the position, nor is his bag of tricks on pass rushes all that deep. The power he is able to generate, though, is special, and he know how to use his hands. So smooth that you wonder if things just come easily to him or if he’s not trying, but man, he could be a load if properly coached up. Hey, on that note…

Yetur Gross-Matos: Another guy who passes the eye test: 6’5, 266 with arms that look more like helicopter propellers. Has some weird tape in that he struggled against a number of good teams Penn State played last year, but had his best games against bottom feeders and, for some reason, Ohio State. Good flexibility for a guy of his size, he’s still a bit of a work in progress in terms of diagnosing plays and having a plan beyond his initial plan — James Franklin has stressed that he believes Gross-Matos’ best football is ahead of him. Quite talented, though, and productive the last two years: 94 tackles, 34.5 TFLs, 17 sacks.

Zach Baun: Can just copy and paste everything that gets written about Wisconsin edge rushers and apply it to Baun. Not the most physically imposing guy — 6’2, 238 pounds — but his motor is startling, his football IQ is off the charts, and he puts himself in position to make plays. Was everywhere for the Badger defense his senior year, accruing 75 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, and 12.5 sacks. If he can overcome his merely ok athleticism, he can do some things in the league.

Marlon Davidson: The big Auburn defensive end had some wondering if he needed to move inside as he was up to 303 pounds at the Combine, but there’s some question about whether he has the size to stick as a tackle. We’re putting him with our Edge group because he’s a gifted pass rusher (7.5 sacks a year ago for Auburn) and most seem to peg him as an end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. There’s serious buzz about him cracking into the first round, as he’s a great athlete for his size and has tremendous burst off the ball to go with great strength.

Tier 4

Joshua Uche: A dynamite athlete, Uche is still a bit of a work in progress out of the University of Michigan. Hasn’t played a ton of football, seems like he could be the type of guy who gets molded into a pass rusher. Of his 33 tackles last year, 10.5 were for loss and 7.5 registered as sacks. A quick and twitchy rusher who lacks the size you might like (6’1, 245 pounds), Uche isn’t a plug-and-play guy, but you see the flashes of a potential situational nightmare.

Julian Okwara: Exciting prospect. Okwara mixes the physical profile you want from an NFL DE (6’4, 252 pounds) with the flexibility and burst to eat up opposing offensive tackles and a switch that never is flipped off. A broken left fibula prematurely ended last season, and as such, he had 19 tackles, seven TFLs, and five sacks in nine games. As long as he doesn’t consistently get overpowered by offensive linemen at the next level, he’s a guy who can stick around for some time.

Darrell Taylor: The Tennessee standout led the Vols in sacks and tackles for loss last season (8.5 and 10.5, respectively) and is a phenomenal athlete. He’s got the prototypical build with the mixture of speed and strength teams want out of a rush linebacker, and the big question for him is putting it all together. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear his name called relatively early on Day 2 because his highs are very high and some defensive coach is going to be convinced they can tap into his full potential and make him a star.

Curtis Weaver: Weaver presents one of the Draft’s oldest conundrums, in that the Boise State end was highly productive at the college level thanks to a great motor and technique, but lacks the high-end athleticism desired by the NFL. He’ll likely be a later-round pick due to that, but based on college production, he absolutely belongs on the board.

Terrell Lewis: Lewis is red-flagged by some teams due to his medical history and that will push him down boards as he missed most of 2017 and 2018 due to injury (upper arm and ACL). However, he’s a terrific athlete and a great frame at 6’5, 262 with some room to fill that out if needed. Adding more strength would benefit him and some team in the mid-to-late rounds will be intrigued enough by the raw talent and potential to take a risk on his injury history and relatively low experience at Alabama.