2020 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles and Edge Rushers

The Scorecrow Scout Team | April 21st, 2020

We are almost there! The 2020 NFL draft is almost here and it’s going to be a draft like no other in NFL history. However, once the draft starts and the picks start rolling, everyone will forget about how the draft is being done remotely and focus on who is being picked and what team is trading up. Here at The Scorecrow, five of our NFL draft scouts (Givanni Damico, Mason Thompson, Connor Neal, Byron Jewell, Brady Podloski) have put together a list of their top-five at each position.

In addition to listing off their top-fives, each scout will give a quick explanation for what player at the position is the most underrated and most overrated. Part four of the series is on defensive tackles and edge rushers. Remember all of our scouts hate your favorite prospect and rank them too low or not at all just to annoy you. Without further ado let’s get started!

Be sure to take a look at all of our scouting reports here and the rest of our rankings here

Defensive Tackles

Gio Mason Connor Byron Brady
Derrick Brown Javon Kinlaw Javon Kinlaw Derrick Brown Javon Kinlaw
Javon Kinlaw Derrick Brown Derrick Brown Javon Kinlaw Derrick Brown
Ross Blacklock Ross Blacklock Ross Blacklock Ross Blacklock Neville Gallimore
Justin Madubuike Marlon Davidson Justin Madubuike Neville Gallimore Ross Blacklock
Marlon Davidson Justin Madubuike Neville Gallimore Justin Madubuike Jordan Elliott

Most Underrated

Gio – Davon Hamilton, Ohio State

If you need a nose tackle to stuff the run, Hamilton is your guy. He doesn’t do much in the pass-rush game, but he can be a great prototypical run-stuffer for a team on day two or three. 

Mason – Jason Strowbridge, UNC

If Stowbridge can become more consistent, he will find a role for whoever drafts him this weekend. He is a solid developmental piece and could find a role as a rotational piece during his rookie year. 

Connor – Jordan Elliott, Missouri

Elliott has the speed, strength, pursuit, and gap penetration to develop into a starting defensive tackle in the league. The one thing Elliott needs to work on is shedding blocks and using his hands more effectively. If Elliott can learn how to efficiently shed blocks, he will be one of the biggest steals of the draft.

Byron – Jason Strowbridge, UNC

Strowbridge will be a day three pick but that doesn’t mean he’s bad by any means. He’s going to need to add some weight to be more effective inside but he has great height and good length so it shouldn’t be a big issue. He’s a great run defender who is insanely athletic, though it didn’t show on tape that much. He has awesome hand power combined with great short area quickness which should lead to productivity as a pass rusher. Strowbridge is a high upside guy but will need some technical refinement and good coaching in order to be most effective. 

Brady – Jordan Elliott, Missouri

Eliott is a disruptive interior pass rusher who got better over the 2019 season. His pass rushing skills look like they can translate to the NFL, as he has a variety of moves and counters. He has a great burst coming off the ball, but can be inconsistent with his hand usage and is average against the run. If Elliott goes to a team that allows him to be an interior pass rusher first, and a run defender second, then he can be a successful player. 

Most Overrated

Gio – Raekwon Davis, Alabama

Just because you play for Alabama doesn’t mean that you’re worth a day one or two pick. Davis is very strong, but does nothing else extraordinarily well. He’s slow and his counter moves are weak. He will be a rotational player at best.

Mason – Davon Hamilton, Ohio State

While the top five players I listed all have some sort of pass rush presence, Hamilton doesn’t. He didn’t start at Ohio State until this past year which leaves a lot to be developed. He is a run-stuffing one-technique that will need time to develop as a pass rusher. 

Connor – Raekwon Davis, Alabama

Davis is regarded by some as a top-five defensive tackle in this class. However, he isn’t close to that for me. Davis plays with subpar leverage, speed, and pursuit for my liking. He does play with good strength but struggles to put pressure on the quarterback because he is a pretty sluggish athlete.

Byron – Raekwon Davis, Alabama

He had a stellar sophomore season, creating great draft buzz early on in his career. However, his last two years of college didn’t go as planned though and he struggled Just based off sheer size alone. Davis is remarkable and any defensive line coach in the league would love to have a body like his on the roster. Listed at 6’7” with 11-inch hands, he can cause havoc with his upper-body strength but he often loses battles due to leverage and lack of counter moves. I see Davis as nothing more than a rotational run defender in the NFL. 

Brady – Derrick Brown, Auburn

Brown only had five sacks in each year playing against average offensive linemen. The argument against his low sack total is he would see double teams and was asked to defend the run first. Scheme and gap assignments aside, there are some concerns in his game such as his high pad level, which will cause him significant problems in his first year. I think Brown is worth a first-round pick, but to be selected in the top-15 with his limited pass rushing ability is too high for me. 

Defensive Ends

Gio Mason Connor Byron Brady
Chase Young Chase Young Chase Young Chase Young Chase Young
K’Lavon Chaisson K’Lavon Chaisson K’Lavon Chaisson K’Lavon Chaisson A.J. Epenesa
A.J. Epenesa A.J. Epenesa A.J. Epenesa Yetur Gross-Matos K’Lavon Chaisson
Josh Uche Yetur Gross-Matos Yetur Gross-Matos A.J. Epenesa Julian Okwara
Jabari Zuniga Josh Uche Alex Highsmith Zack Baun Yetur Gross-Matos

Most Underrated

Gio – Jabari Zuniga, Florida

Zuniga is a good athlete who just needs a little bit of development. His numbers at Florida won’t jump off the page at you, but he plays with a high motor and has good counter moves. He may not be a day-one starter, but within the first few years of his career, I expect him to put up big numbers.

Mason – Kenny Willekes, Michigan State

Willekes is exactly what NFL teams want. He started as a walk-on and worked extremely hard to be Michigan State’s star edge rusher. Willekes almost never misses on tackles, which is really important for edge rushers. He might not be an above-average athlete, but his football IQ is phenomenal. 

Connor – Alex Highsmith, Charlotte

Highsmith is by far my favorite prospect in this class. Highsmith has amazing burst, bend, gap penetration skills, block shedding, and coverage skills for an edge prospect. I recently interviewed Highsmith which you can view here.

Byron – Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota State

I’m going deep in the position with this pick. The former FCS player was a standout at the combine this year, posting top-five results in almost every category. According to PFF, Tuszka generates pressure on 22% of his reps, which would rank third among FBS defenders. The lower competition helps inflate that number, but he’s a smooth and fluid with his movements, has good bend, can often avoid contact, and has a high motor. He will be a steal for someone late on late day three.

Brady – Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

Okwara has the power and length to be a rotational rusher in his first year in the league. He also has flexibility, bend, and explosive first step quickness to win in one on one situations. If he refines his pass rushing moves, he can be a dominant pass rusher with a number of moves to beat any tackle. Okwara has some of the highest upside out of any edge player this draft and really reminds me of Yannick Ngakoue coming out of Maryland. He’s my bet for an edge defender who can be a consistent eight-plus sack guy year to year.

Most Overrated

Gio – Curtis Weaver, Boise State

Weaver plays a “clunky” style of football. His balance is poor and his motor isn’t great. He gets locked up often and has trouble bursting back through the line. His technique is good and he is a very intelligent player, but he doesn’t have the functional athleticism that it takes to be an every-down pass rusher at the next level.

Mason – Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

I’ve seen varying opinions on Okwara throughout the draft process. He isn’t great in run defense, which could potentially lead to him being a rotational player at first. He didn’t develop as many thought he would from 2018 to 2019. He’s at his best when using his athleticism but he’ll get overmatched by stronger linemen. 

Connor – Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

Okwara is going to strictly be a third-down pass rusher. He doesn’t have the strength, pursuit, block shed, leverage, or gap penetration abilities he needs to have to be a starter in the NFL. The only things Okwara is good at are his first step and bend. However, his bend is often useless and he doesn’t have the strength to fight the offensive tackle, instead he gets pushed back.

Byron – Curtis Weaver, Boise State

Weaver is a technically sound player with great hands who should go sometime on day two. That being said, I’m really concerned about his movement, agility skills, bend, twitch, and frame. Often he got caught up when there was hands set on him first due to his lack of length. He’s a player who has modest upside and an decent floor, just don’t see anything special worth taking in the first couple rounds. 

Brady – Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Gross-Matos has the potential to be a good player but his skill does not warrant the first-round hype he’s getting. He lacks the ability to use his hands effectively, hasn’t refined his bull rush, nor does he have any counter moves. Moreover, he just lacks the consistency to be an effective every down player, something teams hope to get with a first-round pick. If Gross-Matos goes in the first round, teams are getting a decent run defender and a pass rusher with a long way to go. 

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Main Image Credit:

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

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