Mandrew’s Summer Edge Rusher Rankings

Andrew Harbaugh \ Aug 2nd, 2019

Monday everyone was introduced to a fun defensive line class headlined by Derrick Brown. Today we introduce you to the guys benefitting from the big guys in the middle, the edge rushers. While players like Derrick Brown and Raekwon Davis will be coming barreling through the middle, these guys will be coming off the edge with both power and finesse like a Russian Ballerina.

Below is a recap and links to all the previous positions I have ranked so far.

This edge class doesn’t have the top to bottom depth that last years class did, at least not yet at this point in the draft process. There are some names however outside the top five that can be fun to watch and monitor as the year progresses. 

Now, keep in mind while reading to let me know what players I’m missing out on, what players I’m low on, and what players I’m too high on. The beauty of the NFL draft is everyone has an opinion and it is important every gets a chance to share how they feel on players.

The quarterback reigns king in the NFL so why not introduce you to the nightmares they will be facing in the coming years.

1) A.J. Epenesa

School: Iowa

Year: Junior

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 280

Epenesa may have suffered statistically with Iowa Head Coach starting Seniors over him out of respect. This year though, the saddle is coming off the horse that is A.J.Epenesa.

Epenesa has that rare breed of true bull-rushing ability paired with a talented finesse skill set of pass-rushing. Going against top offensive tackle Tristen Wirfs will do that for you though. He is benefitting from a true iron sharpens iron scenario while he is at Iowa. 

He didn’t start last year as I mentioned not because of talent but because they had other Hawkeyes on the roster at his position who were Seniors. This year with the secret being out on him it will be interesting to see if he can build on his sack total of 10.5 from last year or will the extra attention drop those? Regardless, it shouldn’t affect his draft stock much just ask Myles Garrett if sack totals affected his draft position.

2 ) Chase Young

School: Ohio State

Year: Junior

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 265

Tell me if you have heard this before, Ohio State has one of the top talents in the upcoming NFL Draft and he is an edge rusher? You have? Figured, only difference this guys name isn’t Bosa and he may be the proud owner of the best nickname in college football, the Predator.

He earned the nickname The Predator in part due to his aggressive play and his fantastic dreadlocks that mirror the movie icon. In the movies, the Predator has weapons like blades, lasers, and insane strength to take out others. Chase Young has less deadly weapons but they don’t lack any effectiveness. His hand usage, motor, and drive are the among the best in college football, if he can have a strong year, as he did last year filling in for Nick Bosa, then Young will be the top edge rusher and possible the top pick in the draft.

3) Kenny Willekes

School: Michigan State

Year: Senior

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 262

A player I had a ton of fun watching his tape this summer was Kenny Willekes. When I gave him his grade I didn’t realize how high he would be but it is much deserved.

Willekes doesn’t have the same flash that a Chase Young or A.J. Epenesa has at this point but he probably is the biggest dog in the yard. What do I mean by that? I think that if there was one player in this class to never quit and never get discouraged by how the game is going its Willekes. His heart is something most people don’t look for when grading players but when you see it play after play along with his raw, pure strength it’s hard to ignore.

If he can add some more tools to his shed like a few finesse pass moves it would go a long way. At times he uses his strength too much and relies on it to make plays. At the next level, the 6’6” and 320 plus pound tackles will not be moving back as much as some of these college tackles have been for him.

4) Curtis Weaver

School: Boise State

Year: RS Junior

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 264

Boise State has been quietly producing quality NFL defensive talent despite being known for its explosive offense in past years. They have had Dexter Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch as of late, Curtis Weaver is the latest in that line of defensive talent.

Weaver is able to get into the backfield with a lethal efficiency that not many prospects can claim. His fast hands and his first step is what I noticed when watching him when he got caught up in a block he always kept moving and showed a motor that edge prospects only dream of.

In two years he has compiled 28 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks if he can keep that type of freaky production up he is sure to grab people’s attention come draft season. For now, he has my undivided attention, he should have yours too.

5) Bradlee Anae

School: Utah

Year: Senior

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 265

Rounding out my top five is another high motor guy who is pretty raw but has the size and technique to make an impact in the NFL. Bradlee Anae is just one of the many talented defenders that Kyle Whittingham has on his team this year but he has a hidden gem in Anae.

Anae is on an extremely talented defensive front seven that allows him to face one on one blockers where he can showcase his talented pass rush and run-stuffing ability. That being said it will also be something no people may hold against as the process rolls itself out. Him showing he can handle the tag team blocks and keeping a high motor will be crucial to his stay in my top five.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

 

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