2021 NFL Draft Edge Rankings Re-Evaluated

As we move through the pro days and hear the noise of outlandish forty times and verticals through the roof, I have personally gone through and done more research on every position.


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What I look for when evaluating a Edge.

The Role In a 3-4 (Edge Players)

An edge defender in a 3-4 scheme is often in a two-point stance, like a LB. They are to be versatile; needing them to be able to pass rush and pass cover on any given down is a big deal in the NFL. You will also hear terms such as rush LB or sam LB. The rush LB always lines up on the weak side (opposite TE side). Their primary goal is to rush the QB.


The Sam LB lines up opposite of the Rush LB. They play on the strong side of defense (TE side). The Sam LB must be strong at the point of attack; the Sam LB focuses on stopping the run while accounting for their area in pass coverage, often against the TE. The Sam LB can be a situational pass rusher, where the coordinator will surprise an offense when sending him after the QB.


Other 3-4 edge rusher depictions are ROLB and LOLB. Like the rush LB and the Sam LB, they are more designated to their area and move less with the strength of the offensive formation (where TE lines up doesn't always dictate where they line up). When they are designated to be less dependent on the offensive formation's strength, they have to be versatile enough to be a Sam or a rush style player on any given play.


The Role In a 4-3 (Edge Players)

The 4-3 edge player is considered a more traditional DE who is responsible for the defense's edge while playing with their hand in the dirt. Some edge rushers can play in either style, while some are scheme dependent and play better with a hand down than in a two-point stance. 4-3 edge players are ordinarily bigger than those in a 3-4 scheme and are more involved as run stoppers and pass rushers and rarely are asked to drop into coverage.


Player Traits and SkillSet

Some of the traits I look for, speed, power, and push. The players who have both speed and power are high-level players. How they use their hands to disengage with a blocker is essential. And the last but not least area is awareness and IQ. A guy who is a student of the game, who can recognize pre-snap movements or player positioning and make adjustments to their movement post-snap are the best defenders in the NFL. Once again, Aaron Donald possesses all of these traits.


2021 NFL Draft Edge Rankings

Okay, so let's dive into the Edge rankings;


1) Michigan Edge Kwity Paye 6-4 277 lbs Potential Upside Player

Paye is an explosive athlete who has yet to reach his full potential. He uses a blend of speed, power, and hand usage to defeat blockers. His game is not perfect, but his ceiling is very high. Paye was not a full-time starter at Michigan until 2020. He is a player with a lot of drive and motivation that we believe can fuel him at the next level.


2) Miami Edge Jaelan Phillips 6-5 258 lbs Potential Upside Player

Phillips is an exciting prospect. He was a five-star recruit who had a lot of ability when he arrived at UCLA; he had a few injuries that sidelined him and forced him to retire from football. Phillips questioned his passion for the game at one point. Phillips un-retired and transferred to Miami to get a fresh start; he had an excellent 2020. Phillips is a physical player at 6-6 260 lbs. He shines when pass rushing and against the run. He is a versatile defender who has that rare blend of speed to power off the edge that is eye-opening. He can play with his hand in the dirt or a two-point. He can rush from the interior when needed, which adds to his versatility. The big questions are, does he love the game? Can he remain healthy, and his experience. He has the tools to be a high-impact NFL starter.


3) Wake Forest Edge Carlos Basham Jr. 6-3 280 lbs Potential Upside Player

A big play waiting to happen, Basham compiled 19.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles from 2018-20. He was also a force in the backfield, collecting 32 TFL's in that same span. Basham plays with power and wants to win by bullying his blocker into the QB's lap. For him to be an elite edge player in the NFL, he has to get stronger to match NFL tackle strength; he cannot try to win with power at all times if he is not stronger. He is not a flashy edge guy with many moves, which is an area where he can improve. He has what it takes to be a starter at the NFL level. He projects as a 4-3 edge player.


4) Georgia Edge Azeez Ojulari 6-3 240 lbs Potential Upside Player

Azeez Ojulari is a 3-4 style Edge player who has good wheels and body control. He has a high motor and can use his speed to put tackles in conflict. He is a strong run game defender who can track down the ball carrier with his short-area quickness. Ojulari still must improve in many areas, and his projection across all NFL draft boards is based on upside. His size is a big question mark where he might not win consistently on edge vs. more physically and fleet-footed tackles.


5) Miami Edge Gregory Rousseau 6-5 260 lbs Potential Upside Player

A long player who can slide inside when needed. He is not yet fully developed, but his upside is what scouts might be eyeing. He uses quick hands to disengage with blockers and can set the edge and force runs back inside. He does need to work on his strength at the next level. He was a high school WR, which explains his hand usage and his raw ability as an edge defender. His pass-rush ability might be more suited on the inside rather than trying to win the edge. He is an outstanding prospect who has the NFL size and ability to develop into an impactful starter. Another item to keep in mind, he only has one year as a starter, injured in 2018, and sat out 2020.


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