2020 NFL Draft edge rusher rankings: Chase Young in a class by himself, but there could be many early picks
The 2020 edge rush class will be hard-pressed to match what last year's group accomplished
The edge rush class was elite a year ago. Kentucky's Josh Allen, Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Florida State's Brian Burns led a talented group, only to see Eastern Michigan's Maxx Crosby nearly surpass all of them in NFL productivity. The 2020 NFL Draft edge rusher class is not as deep but it may include a prospect more talented than any of the aforementioned names. It's time to dive into the edge rush class and break down the top 17 into categories.
We recently updated our composite rankings, providing a big picture view of the prospects available at the edge rush position. The pass rushers will be broken down into four tiers for the sake of this article. Tier 1 is Ohio State's Chase Young and no one else. Tier 2 includes the players projected to be taken in the first round or who are on the edge of being taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Tier 3 includes the other Day 2 players. Tier 4 consists of potential fourth and fifth-round picks. There are several players who would fall beyond the latter category, and you can see them all in our composite rankings.
Chase Young, Ohio State
Young is a really special talent. He should be regarded as the top prospect regardless of position. The Maryland native combines athleticism with refined technique. Young has adopted the Bosa club rip that the brothers made so popular in Columbus. NFL fans have seen the impact elite pass rushers have had recently. He should be the first non-quarterback taken in the 2020 NFL Draft.
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A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Epenesa is unique because he could be classified as a defensive lineman at his size. He is not as quick or explosive, but he is strong and polished. The Illinois native could do a better job developing counter moves, but his hand fighting is some of the best in this class. The Falcons make a lot of sense as a landing spot for him.
K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Chaisson was given the No. 18 jersey in Baton Rouge, which is reserved for team leaders. He was well-respected by his teammates and coaches. The Texas native has a natural feel for the game and looks fairly comfortable in coverage. He is a twitchy player who plays with maximum effort. There are concerns with his durability, but there is no denying the talent. NFL teams in need of pass rush assistance will be drawn to Chaisson in the first round if medical checks turn up fine at the combine.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Gross-Matos is a long, fast player with fantastic sack production over the past two seasons. He is probably best-served as a 4-3 rush defensive end at the next level. There will likely be plenty of suitors for his talents in the first round. The Virginia native has adopted a solid counter move and works tirelessly.
Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Lewis oozes potential. He is long with an athletic build. His sack production will not impress anyone but he is fast. Lewis is a quick twitch player who displays great balance and a promising war chest of pass rush moves. The D.C. native is so fluid for his size and that should pop off the charts at the NFL scouting combine later this month.
Curtis Weaver, Boise State
Weaver is a little heavier than some of these other edge rushers but not at the expense of explosiveness. He does a fantastic job shedding defenders and getting around the edge. Over the past three seasons, he has accumulated 31.5 sacks. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find another college player with equal or better production during that time frame. Weaver is such a strong player but is not comfortable in coverage. The California native is destined to be a 4-3 defensive end. The Bills make a lot of sense as they potentially look to replace Jerry Hughes.
Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
Okwara could stand up at the next level because he does look accustomed to dropping in coverage. He is a lean looking player who flashes a lot of pass rush tools but he needs to put it all together to realize his potential. The emphasis for him should be developing some counter moves and working to get off blocks.
Josh Uche, Michigan
Uche is a really intriguing prospect. He has risen up the boards lately and it is easy to see why. He is a quick, strong player around the edge who also shows a suitable skill set in coverage. The Florida native relies a lot on leverage and can improve his use of hands. Michigan is a bit conservative with their edge rushers so Uche could have been sent on blitzes a lot more last year, similar to Rashan Gary the prior year. For that reason, he is a bit more of a projection than other players. There are flashes of his game that lead me to believe I should be higher on him. Stay tuned for a potential move into Tier 2.
Jonathan Greenard, Florida
The Louisville transfer had his best season to date. He shows good awareness and a good football IQ. Greenard is most comfortable as a 4-3 defensive end. He needs to remove the inside spin move because it has not worked. The Georgia native has been more effective using a club rip to gain leverage inside. The spin move has been more effective outside.
Jabari Zuniga, Florida
Zuniga is a player that some were projecting in the first round shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft. He looked faster coming off the snap in 2019 and was already a strong player. The Georgia native does a good job getting his hands high and establishing leverage. He can improve as an edge setter.
Bradlee Anae, Utah
Anae stole the show at the Reese's Senior Bowl with a couple of sacks in the game. He is an active player that explodes off the line of scrimmage. The Hawaii native is best suited as a 4-3 defensive end and could be a long-term starter there if he refines his pass rush. Anae needs to do a better job of containing the edge and maintaining gap discipline. He gets washed out far too often for the liking of NFL coaches.
Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Taylor may have more upside than anyone at this stage. He is versatile enough to play standing or with his hand in the dirt. The Virginia native is really explosive but needs to develop his pass rush moves. He does as well as anyone to get his hands on the football coming around the edge similar to Josh Allen and Brian Burns last year. Against BYU, he was consistently one of the last to react to the snap, which will have to improve. Milliseconds count in the NFL.
Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame
Kareem needs to test well at the NFL combine. On film, at least, he looks to have average to below average speed. He does a good job setting the edge but needs to develop more counter moves. Kareem is likely destined to be a 4-3 defensive end as of now.
Alton Robinson, Syracuse
Robinson also impressed at the Reese's Senior Bowl. He had a really odd pass rush technique in 2018 where he essentially went straight up field rather than in an arc. His agility is a bit of a concern because it looks like he is playing flat-footed in spurts. The Texas native does show good range and plays the game with maximum effort. He is a disciplined, aware football player that contains the edge. The explosive pass rush traits needed to be included among those early tiers is just not present.
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Jennings looked to be best suited as an outside linebacker but he needs to improve in coverage. His football IQ is really good and he has developed a decent arsenal of pass rush moves but is more quick twitch than fast. Someone will take a chance on him Day 3.
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Willekes is another player who was mentioned as an early draft pick around this time last year. He explodes off the line of scrimmage but does not have a lot of bend at the waist. The Michigan native is active and does well to strip a lineman's hands off of him. However, he is known to get too wide on his pass rush and could develop more moves beyond the standard speed rush.
Jonathan Garvin, Miami
Last year, Garvin reacted to the snap well and showed no wasted movement. He has quick hands but needed to develop more as a pass rusher. He has good size but is lacking in the flexibility department. The sack production was simply not where it needed to be in order to be considered an early pick.
To see more of the edge rusher class and where each of these players are rated, check out the CBS Sports composite prospect rankings.
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