2019 NFL Draft: Comparisons for top edge rushers, including a surprising one for Nick Bosa

When it comes to the 2019 NFL Draft class, welcome to the cream of the crop. You'd better get ready for the first round to include six or more edge rushers -- maybe even in the top half of the first round.

Since September you've been hearing it ... along with defensive tackle, this edge rusher group is the best in this draft class. Along with a handful of elite talents, there will be a plethora of high-caliber depth likely available on the second day. It's time to slap comparisons on some of the finest prospects at this premium position.

As for the actual draft, you'll be able to stream our live coverage right here on CBS Sports HQ (or download the CBS Sports app for free on any mobile or connected TV device) breaking down all the picks and everything you need to know during draft weekend. 

It's important to remember NFL comparisons for draftees don't intend to guarantee a prospect will have the exact same career as his professional counterpart. In this series, I'll go through the top prospects at every position and give NFL comparisons -- some current players, some former. These comparisons are not based on size. They're almost solely stylistic. 

Previous installments: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Offensive Linemen, Tight Ends

(Prospects are listed in the order they appear in my draft rankings.)

Nick Bosa, Ohio State

NFL comparison: Joey Bosa

I'll keep this short because it's the easiest comparison in this draft class. From the first step to the bend to the advanced arsenal of pass-rushing moves and speed-to-power capabilities, Nick is basically a carbon copy of his brother, Joey.  

Zach Allen, Boston College

NFL comparison: Cameron Heyward

Coming out of Ohio State in 2011, Heyward was known as a relatively polished, power defensive lineman who could play anywhere near the edge in any type of base alignment. He was pegged as someone who'd fit best in a run-support role as a strongside end in a 4-3 with enough power and two-gapping ability to play the five technique as an end in a 3-4. Allen is very similar athletically, and I love his scheme and positional versatility. Plus, like Heyward, he can win at the point of attack with sheer power or the occasional pass-rushing move. 

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

NFL comparison: Danielle Hunter

Hunter was a tall, somewhat lanky but freaky athlete who many believed had his best football in front of him once he got to the NFL. Despite his twitch and speed-to-power skills, there were questions about his bend around the corner. Everything I just wrote here applies to Sweat, and, he's coming off a 12-sack, 14.5-tackle-for-loss season at Mississippi State. Like Hunter, Sweat deploys his long arms ferociously, and his elite explosiveness translates to serious point-of-attack power. Because he's pretty tall, Sweat isn't the bendiest around the edge, but his motor never stops.

Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

NFL comparison: Chandler Jones

Ferrell is a power defensive end who wins with a long reach, strength, and above-average athleticism. He can be a stellar run defender from the first moment he steps onto an NFL field. Sounds a lot like Jones to me. Ferrell isn't a super-flashy, low-dip-around-the-corner speed rusher. He's a prospect who can instantly overwhelm pro tackles with his length and strength combination, and his pass-rushing arsenal got better as the season progressed in 2018. 

Josh Allen, Kentucky

NFL comparison: Robert Quinn

Quinn was a somewhat raw but super-explosive, bendy rusher with plus strength and the ability to comfortably drop into coverage when he entered the NFL out of North Carolina in 2011. Allen's strengths and weaknesses are comparable He is a large, powerful, speedy, and bendy edge rusher. The vast majority of 255-plus pound defensive ends can't flatten to the quarterback like Allen can. But also like Quinn, Allen relies mostly on his size/athleticism combination to win around the corner. He's sizable and smooth enough to win with that blend alone in the NFL -- a rarity -- but he needs to get much better with his hands to disengage from blocks to live up to the hype that comes with where he's likely to be drafted ... somewhere in the Top 5. 

Brian Burns, Florida State

NFL comparison: Aldon Smith

Smith had more weight on his frame when he came into the league out of Missouri than Burns does now. Stylistically, they're nearly identical. Smith could dip low underneath tackles as flew tightly around the edge. While he was aware he needed to use his hands, he wasn't particularly polished utilizing them. His speed rush was his most dangerous move. All that is true for Burns, a long, Gumby-like rusher who will threaten most pro tackles with his explosive first step, long arms, and ability to dip around the corner. If he develops go-to pass-rushing maneuvers with his hands to counter his outside rush, Burns can be an All-Pro type. 

Jachai Polite, Florida

NFL comparison: Derrick Morgan

Morgan was a pass-rushing ace at Georgia Tech. A stand-up linebacker by trade with a complete edge-rusher tool box, Morgan was highly productive in college and has been one of the most underrated outside linebackers in football over the past decade. Like Morgan as a prospect, Polite is much better defeating blocks while in fifth gear as a pass rusher than he on the edge against the run. More power would help him in that regard too, and it's an area of Morgan's game he improved at the NFL level.

Rashan Gary, Michigan

NFL comparison: Robert Nkemdiche

Hear me out on this one. Nkemdiche is a defensive tackle. Gary's an edge rusher. But the two couldn't be more similar in regards to basically everything else. Both were the top recruits in the country, had relatively disappointing collegiate careers, and crushed their combine workouts. Like Nkemdiche at Ole Miss, Gary leans heavily on his dynamic linear athleticism to win around the corner and simply doesn't feel comfortable using his hands. He will come out on top in some battles because he's a super-freak of an athlete, but until he gets better beating blocks, it'll be challenging for Gary to meet high expectations.  

Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

NFL comparison: Carl Lawson

Lawson is a low-center-of-gravity rusher with a pass-rush plan on seemingly every snap but someone lacking the hip and ankle flexibility to be labeled as "bendy." I see a very similar outside pass rusher with Ximines, who's also a little smaller than Lawson. Ximines is a hand-work master, flashes effective counters, and can convert speed to low-to-the-ground power against huge tackles that beat him to the pass-rushing apex. 

Anthony Nelson, Iowa

NFL comparison: Sam Hubbard

Hubbard and Nelson are nearly replicas athletically, both having superb combines after illustrious careers in the Big 10. Like Hubbard, some thought Nelson should've stayed for his senior year. Can't blame either for declaring early. They're plus athletes who honed their pass-rushing moves in college and efficiently deploy their hands often. While both need more strength to hold down a full-time gig on the edge, Nelson is a tall, long, advanced pass-rusher ready to outperform his draft status.

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