2021 NFL Draft Preview – Edge

Last but certainly not least, the final position we previewed was the Edge Rushers. This was an interesting group of high ceiling prospects, but they are all high risk as well. There isn’t a Myles Garrett or Chase Young of this class, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a prospect who shines and finds similar production. These prospects all carry a lot of risk, but could flourish if drafted into the right situation.

Day 1 Talent

Greggory Rousseau – Miami, SO

Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, but he was one of the most feared edge rushers in the nation in 2019. Rousseau recorded 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss while causing 2 fumbles. He was second in Hurricane history for sacks in a season and trails just Danny Stubbs who had 17 in 1986. At 6’7″ 265 lbs he has the length and power to be a premier edge rusher in the NFL. As a redshirt freshman in 2019 he was named First Team All-ACC and Second Team All-American, while also being named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is young and his game shows that he leans on his size and athleticism, but that should be refreshing if anything. If he was able to record 15.5 sacks at such an undeveloped age as a player imagine what his ceiling will be in the NFL. Rousseau will fit into any scheme that is looking to attack the quarterback in multiple ways and is locked in as our top rated defensive end.

Azeez Ojulari – Georgia, SO

Azeez Ojulari had very little hype coming into the season, but may have turned himself into a top 10 pick. In a weaker edge class Ojulari made some noise this season and finished as one of the best players in the SEC. He finished the 2020 season leading the SEC with 8.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He was the top rated SEC edge rusher on PFF with a grade of 90. Despite leading the conference in two key categories, he was snubbed 1st Team All-SEC honors and found himself on the 2nd Team. He demonstrated great bend on film and is one of the quickest speed rushers in the country. He is closing in on first round lock status following a strong performance against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Listed at 6’4″ 240 lbs he is a bit undersized to be a traditional defensive end, but he is young and will likely still put on weight at the next level.

Kwity Paye – Michigan, SR

Paye didn’t have the production up to par with some of the top prospects, but his technique and power combine to make him a first round project. He stuck it out four seasons with the Wolverines, but only combined for 11.5 sacks, 6.5 of those coming as a Junior. He only played in 4 games in 2020, but had tremendous tape in all of those. He is more stout than most of the edge rushers, but still has the speed to get around the outside and the power to stuff the run. He is a versatile defensive lineman who will likely play up front with a hand in the grass, but is too light right now to truly play the nose tackle position. He will fit well as a 3-4 end, but could also play as a 4-3 tackle.

Jaelan Phillips – Miami, JR

Phillips transferred from UCLA to Miami and before this season had last seen action on the field in 2018. After knocking off the rust in the first four games, Phillips exploded with 8 sacks in the final 7 games. At 6’5″ 265 he has ideal size to be a dominant edge rusher in the league and was proved to be one of the most well rounded defensive lineman in the nation. Phillips filled in perfectly when Rousseau opted out and has played himself into the first round discussion.

Carlos Basham Jr. – Wake Forest, SR

Basham was at the top of our board to start the season, but has fallen a bit in 2020 due to other breakout stars. He finished the 2019 season as one of the best edge rushers after recording 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He is a decent athlete with a perfect NFL frame at 6’5″ 285. He struggled in 2020 against the run, but his 33.5 career TFLs suggest otherwise. Basham is a risky pick, but could emerge in the NFL as a solid starter with tremendous upside. He isn’t the quickest rusher, but has great technique and IQ. He will likely play as a traditional defensive end.

Joseph Ossai – Texas, JR

Ossai is a fine prospect out of Austin who has had steady production in the last two seasons. He is closer in stature to an inside linebacker, but spent most of his snaps at the line of scrimmage. He finished 2020 being named First Team All-Big12 and has been mentioned in the All-American talk (was already named 2nd team by USA Today). He recorded 16 tackles for loss and 5 sacks this season. It will be interesting to decide what scheme he will fit in the NFL, but likely will be a standing end and outside linebacker. He has the versatility and skill to be taken in the first round.

Day 2 Prospects

Rashad Weaver – Pittsburgh, SR

Weaver is one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft but is also a late bloomer, which may deter teams away in the early first. Weaver has great size at 6’5″ 270 lbs and displayed that when he deflected 9 passes in his 3 years. He missed the 2019 season due to injuries, so that is always a deterrent, but his bounce back season should boost his stock into the first two days.

Quincy Roche – Miami, SR

The Temple transfer was a key addition to the beastly Hurricanes Defensive Line. Roche had an amazing 2019 season where he posted 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, but struggled to repeat that production in 2020 and only finished with 4.5 sacks and 14 tackle for loss. If the jump to power 5 was that tough it will be even harder to the NFL, as Roche already faces an uphill battle at 240 lbs, as he is extremely undersized to play his natural position on the defensive line. Roche has been a great pass rusher, but will need to improve on his run stopping abilities.

Hamilcar Rashed Jr. – Oregon State, SR

Rashed was one of the best edge rushers in 2019, but struggled to produce much in 2020. His dominant 2019 season finished with 14 sacks and 22.5 tackle for loss, which both were at the top of the country. His 22.5 tackles for loss ranked first in the country and broke an Oregon State record. He was ranked as a First-Team All American as a Junior by various sources, but didn’t even make the All-Pac12 team in 2020. This type of regression is scary as a prospect, but at the end of the day he has the amount of upside to be drafted by the end of Day 2.

Patrick Jones II – Pittsburgh, SR

The senior out of Pittsburgh has developed through his career and finished his last two seasons with 17.5 sacks. He has great size and power, but will need to work on his technique to make it in the NFL. He has a great first step, but isn’t the all around fastest prospect. He led the ACC defensive lineman in All-ACC votes and was named to the First Team along with teammate Rashad Weaver.

Joe Tryon – Washington, JR

Tryon didn’t play in 2020, but had solid production in 2019 with 8 sacks. He played a hybrid LB/DE role in the Washington defense, but had a knack for finding the ball carrier in both the pass and run game. Tryon could go by Day 2 but could carve himself a role in the NFL.

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