Over the summer it is important to establish a baseline for the up and coming potential NFL draft class. You scout the players and take notes on what their strengths and weaknesses are as well as what they can improve on to increase their potential draft stock. This is how you can better access a player’s growth over a season. It also gives you a better understanding of who they are as a player.
Below I have highlighted my early top EDGE players for the 2019 NFL draft going into the college football season. It is important to remember that these rankings are subject to change throughout the season and most definitely will as players either improve or decrease their stock based on in-season performance.
Way-Too-Early 2019 NFL Draft Edge Rusher Preview
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Nick Bosa is the clear top guy in this year’s EDGE class. Yes, the same school that produced All-Pro pass rusher Joey Bosa now has his younger brother Nick. “Baby Bosa” will look to officially get out of his brother’s shadow and make a name for himself this season.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Bosa is his bend. He does, however, make up for it with his elite hand use and ability to align his feet and body towards the quarterback. This ability allows him to always take the shortest and quickest angle to the quarterback. His loose hips and hands allow him to limit his pass rush arc and get to the quarterback at a fast rate.
Bosa also possesses the innate ability to understand blockers attacks and execute a proper pass rush move. He can take advantage if the offensive lineman gets flat-footed or is late off the snap and turns it into a positive play for him.
He is not very explosive off the snap and often his first step can be off. He also can get a little too high in his pad level at times. His lateral movement tends to suffer as well. This can prohibit him from moving left to right in a swift movement to change gaps or close on the runner at a fast pace.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Montez Sweat is my personal favorite EDGE player in the class. He hasn’t put up the biggest numbers but possesses the traits to do so at the next level. He is still unrefined as a pass rusher but has a lot of growth ability.
Sweat can process plays very fast and effectively. He also provides good run support and understands how to counter opposing offensive tackles’ hands. Sweat also has good arm extension and keeps good separation from the offensive lineman. He recognizes the hand setups of opposing linemen and can counter those moves quickly.
Sweat lacks good functional strength to get off the block efficiently. He has good bend, but it isn’t great. He could benefit from adding some more pass rush moves into his arsenal.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Clelin Ferrell is the top ACC pass rusher at the moment but the gap between him and Brian Burns is closer than many think. That’s not saying Ferrell isn’t good because he is. Ferrell uses his hands good and always has a plan of attack. He is reliable in the run game with pro-level speed and strength. Ferrell does, however, struggle to corner very well in his pass rush arc. He seems to lack the flexibility to drop his hips and turn the corner consistently at the top of his arc. He is also inconsistent with properly timing the snap counts. When he is right you can see him explode off the ball and work the offensive tackle well. But when he is wrong he tends to be the last one out of his stance which allows the offensive tackle to get set.
Brian Burns, Florida State
Unlike Ferrell, Burns has naturally fluid hips that allow him to dip under or get away from opposing offensive tackles punches. Burns also has the speed to beat most offensive tackles off the line. Combine that with his plus length and Burns can create separation very well.
Another thing Burns does very well is his ability to manipulate the offensive lineman’s body distribution. With his combination of speed and length, Burns can get initial separation. From there he can process and understand how and where the O-lineman’s body weight is distributed. Then with his speed, he can quickly change directions and get around the offensive lineman with what looks like ease.
Burns isn’t a player I would put in a two-point stance. Or at least early on I would avoid it. He tends to false step a good amount coming from a two-point stance and fails to get settled before the ball is snapped at times. This causes him to float around and be late off the snap. However, put Burns in a three-point stance and watch him work. Out of a three-point stance, Burns looks more explosive and is able to gain more ground efficiently. Most of his first step concerns go away if played predominately with his hand in the dirt.
Rashan Gary, Michigan
Gary is a guy who wants to play EDGE at the next level but might be better suited for an interior position. At this time I still have him as a pass rusher but he is more of a tweener who could do a little of both. There are teams who look for this type of player so he may be kind of scheme specific. That is something to monitor as the season goes on and through the draft process but for now it’s just a good thing to note.
Coming out of high school Gary was the number one overall recruit and he has ridden that ever since. He was listed as this great athlete who can dominate any offensive lineman wherever you play him. While he hasn’t quite lived up to that yet he still has shown glimpses of how great he can be. The crazy part is because of how he has been used at Michigan he hasn’t fully been developed to reach his maximum potential.
Gary is highly athletic and has shown he can win with quickness on the interior to manipulate angles and speed off the edge. He has an unbelievable motor as well. He is relentless to get to the passer and will chase runners 20 yards down the field to make the tackle.
While Gary does have All-World potential he does need to improve in a few categories. The first of which is the need for him to develop more of a pass rush arsenal. By learning more pass rush moves and having a plan of attack it will allow him to get an advantage over offensive tackles. Gary also needs to learn how to process and recognize plays at a faster level. Often he is late to recognize plays and misses opportunities because of this. He also needs to be more consistent with his pad level, run support, and block shedding.