2017 NFL Draft: Edge Rusher Tiers

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AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 17: Defensive lineman Myles Garrett #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates after sacking quarterback Sean White of the Auburn Tigers during an NCAA college football game on September 17, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)

This series will go position by position to look at the tiers of where NFL draft prospects stack up to each other. Rankings are great for discussion, but so many factors such as coaching, scheme fit, and usage will affect who will actually have more NFL success. Every player in each tier could easily be the top player in the tier based on these factors. Any prospect not discussed unfortunately did not have enough adequate tape to have a full evaluation. For this edition, we will look at edge pass rushers.

2017 NFL Draft: Edge Rusher Tiers

Tier One

1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Garrett stands alone as not only the top edge rusher but the top prospect in the class. He’s not necessarily there yet, but his ceiling is higher than any other prospect this year. He checks all of the boxes when it comes to physical size and physical athleticism. He is an off the charts athlete for his size, and when he uses his combination of power and speed he is nearly unstoppable. His motor has run hot and cold, he had dealt with injury and he doesn’t have a complete pass rushing arsenal, but he has the chance to put it all together and become an NFL star very soon.

Tier Two

2. Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Thomas may be a bit of a tweener, but on the edge where he best projects, he has a great chance to be successful. Thomas gets off of the ball very quickly and uses his size and power to bully right tackles. He did not show elite speed or bend off of the edge on tape but did show it at the Combine, which helped answer some big questions as to whether it was his scheme or talent. Being an outstanding athlete for his size, and having great technical movement and jump gives him the most upside outside of Garrett, and makes him a great bet in the NFL.

3. Tim Williams, Alabama

On the field, Williams is a stud. Off the field, he is a fringe top 100 player. Williams is an animal on tape. He is vicious, plays with physical hands, has quick feet and multiple counters and pass rushing moves. He typically has a great motor and plays bigger than his size. Off of the field, he was arrested last off-season and has admitted to failing multiple drug tests. He spent a lot of time in Nick Saban’s doghouse and it will bring questions as to what he can bring in the NFL. Still, without meeting the player, and going based off of the tape he deserves to be in this tier.

4. Charles Harris, Missouri

Harris gets off the ball extremely quick. His first step is great, and with an added spin move he is able to get to the backfield very clean and quick causing pressure. Harris had a really poor combine which brought up a lot of questions about whether that jump was just timing the snap, and whether or not he had the bend to consistently get home. However, it was noted how fluid he looked in off-ball drills at the Combine which kept his stock at bay. He made up for some of his poor testings with a strong Combine, and with a better day, it becomes easier to trust the tape, which says he is a top 20 prospect.

Tier Three

5. Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

Rivers is a small school player, but he plays like a star. He gets off of the ball quick and has an incredible bend to duck and beat tackles with speed and athleticism. Youngstown State is a smaller school, but it is also a school with Jim Tressel and Bo Pelini helping him reach his ceiling. Rivers had a great week at the Senior Bowl and tested above average across the charts at the Combine. He still has some work to do against the run, and with shorter arms, there is a thought he can get eaten up by long-armed linemen. However, his bend and athleticism make him worth a shot as a potential steal in this draft.

6. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Barnett is one of the most productive players in the class at any position. He has the best bend in this class, and his dip move leads to all kinds of success. He also shows up against the run which gives him a solid floor to go with his ceiling. The question with Barnett is whether he has a counter and can use it to be a consistent pass rush. With some NFL coaching, he can really wreak havoc in the NFL.

7. Carl Lawson, Auburn

Lawson dealt with a lot of injuries that have stunted his development a bit until 2016. However, that year he flashed an arsenal of pass rushing moves and showed the ability to get around the edge quickly and dip under lineman for quick pressures, and pocket pushing plays. Lawson has hardly played off of the ball in space, has some issues against the run, and the injuries may have affected his ceiling. However, in terms of getting to the quarterback and pushing the pocket, he is up with some of the elite.

8. Taco Charlton, Michigan

Charlton has great size, and long arms to eat up defenders against the run. He showed an arsenal of pass rushing moves, and in the big moments against Ohio State tore their offensive line up. Charlton is still very raw in his technique and can work on his bend and ball jumping ability. However, for his size and raw tendencies, his upside is very high.

9. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

McKinley is a consistent worker who is always near the ball and making plays. He is a stud athlete with speed to fly all over the field and a motor that never stops. However, he runs upright which tends to destroy his leverage and power when rushing the quarterback. His athletic testing showed that he has an issue with bending to create leverage. Add in that he is in recovery from pectoral surgery right now and he is a high risk, high reward bet in this class.

Tier Three

10. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin

Watt is a player whose Combine numbers show better than what he did on tape. Of course, he has the name value to back up those numbers, and still brings that worker bee mentality that his brother J.J. brings. However, on tape, he is very raw. He has hardly played on the edge and doesn’t show any technique or instincts in his play. Due to his athleticism, he may be better off as an off-ball player in a 4-3 who occasionally puts his hands down to pass rush as he adjusts to the NFL. The ceiling is there, but the play to back it up has not shown yet.

11. Jordan Willis, Kansas State

Willis and Watt are the same tier because they both classify as players whose measurables are there, but the tape is not quite yet. Willis tested as one of the best edge defenders in the class. However, he takes long routes to the quarterback and does not know when to dip, break in and push the pocket. He showed he has bend at the Combine, but until it shows up on tape he is another very high upside player with a questionable immediate impact.

Tier Four

12. Tarrell Basham, Ohio

Basham has great arm length and size to defend the run and eat up runners and opposing quarterbacks in the backfield. He plays with his hands and arms away from his body, and gets a great push, but he still does not have any counters or a pass rushing plan. He also has hardly played off of the ball and in space. Still, he can make an impact against the run which is a solid base to start with.

13. JoJo Mathis, Washington

Mathis is another play who wins with his arm extension and hand fighting. It keeps him clean and gives him that floor as an edge-setting run defender. However, he has dealt with some off-field issues and those ended up taking him a while to see the field. His only real productive season ended short with a foot injury, so while his floor is relatively high, it is very unclear where his ceiling may be and what kind of pass rush he can bring.

Tier Five

14. Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M

Hall is a stud athlete with great size. He plays with power and can set the edge well. Hall has a limited pass rushing arsenal and may have been a beneficiary of playing across from Myles Garrett. He may be best setting the edge on the outside and sliding inside on pass rushing downs, like a poor man’s Solomon Thomas.

15. Ejuan Price, Pitt

Ejuan Price is a small compact player who shoots out his stance with great speed and burst. He doesn’t have the size or functional strength to consistently set the edge and may need more bend to consistently rush the passer. Add in injury concerns throughout his career and his floor is rather low. However, he is a ball of fire who can make impact plays on pass rushing downs.

16. Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic

Hendrickson may turn into the sleeper of the entire class. He tested off of the charts at the Combine, and while he may not have shown it consistently on tape, has the power and burst to find a way into the backfield. His consistency and the fact that he is likely destined to be a 4-3 end who does not play off of the line may limit his ceiling, but he has the tools to be a strong pass rusher.

17. Dawuane Smoot, Illinois

Smoot is a former track athlete and team captain. He’s a capable run defender and has the motor to get into the backfield. However, he lacks great arm length and doesn’t play well with his hands enough to consistently stay clean and away from linemen.

18. Deatrich Wise, Arkansas

Wise is a high upside player with a decently low floor. He has extremely long arms and a great athletic profile. However, it did not show consistently and he was slow out of his stance and slow to diagnose plays. If he can put it together it will be fun to watch, but at this juncture, it comes in splashes and small waves.

Tier Six

19. Avery Moss, Youngstown State

Moss was the big school recruit, and many thought he and not Rivers would be the talk of this class. However, he has off-field issues, injuries and a lack of consistency to get the same recognition as his Penguin teammate. Moss has the profile but does not have the willingness, the arsenal of counter moves or the consistency to bet on to be more than a rotational pass rusher.

20. Carroll Phillips, Illinois

Phillips is a good lateral player and should be able to be scheme diverse and to play in space. However, he lacks strength to hold up on the edge, and his teammate, Dawuane Smoot has a higher ceiling.

21. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova

Kpassagnon stands at 6’7”, 280 pounds which obviously is enticing. He beat up on the lower competition at Villanova, but is slow off of the ball and won with size and power rather than any technical skill. He is a ball of clay and project much more so than a player at this point.

22. Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington

Ebukam is light weight, small school player. He typically won with speed, bend, and burst, but the question is whether he has the strength to hold up against superior competition as he relied on running around slower opponents.

23. Josh Carraway, TCU

Carraway is another lighter player who plays well in space and with speed. However, he does not have the playing strength, nor the toughness to defend the run to see the field much more than passing downs in the NFL.

Tier Seven

24. Bryan Cox Jr., Florida

Cox comes from an NFL caliber bloodline, with his dad playing for the Dolphins as well as other teams. However, he is the definition of a tweener and benefited from a great supporting cast of front seven players to find coverage sacks. He is slow out of his stance and may be better attempting to be a 3-4 defensive end.

25. Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami

Muhammad is extremely raw and has hardly played due to suspensions and off-field issues. On tape, he shines at times but is very inconsistent, doesn’t have a pass rushing arsenal and did not show to be the athlete you wanted to see to take a chance on with his issues and inconsistencies.

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