Jon Ledyard’s Early 2017 EDGE Rankings: Part 2

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Here’s my first crack at ranking an incredibly talented edge defender class, with 15 to 17 prospects currently attracting my interest for the first three rounds. Even with Harold Landry, Sam Hubbard, and Bradley Chubb reportedly heading back to school, this edge class will probably be the most talented I’ve ever scouted, both in terms of immediate impact and high ceiling players. Below is Part 2 of my early 2017 EDGE rankings. To read Part 1, click here.

  1. Ryan Anderson – RS Senior – Alabama – 6-2 – 253 – 23

Analysis: Anderson is a high-motor, technically sound defender who lacks the frame and length of a typical NFL edge. I don’t think he’s a great athlete, and cornering will probably be an issue at the next level, but Anderson has good hands and could develop into a solid speed-to-power guy. His best value will come in run defense, but I’m not sure there’s enough upside to really excite teams.

Best Scheme Fit: Some will talk about moving Anderson to an off-ball linebacker role if he weighs in around 240, but that transition is more difficult than people realize. Linebacker is all about reading and reacting to keys and playing downhill, aspects of the game that take time to develop if you don’t have elite instincts. I definitely still believe Anderson can be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL despite his lack of length.

Importance of Draft Season: His measurables will be key, as well as his testing at the combine. But Anderson really has a chance to show up at the Senior Bowl, especially if Williams and Demarcus Walker don’t make the trip. Showing what he can do in one-on-one situations in Mobile could go a long way toward ensuring Anderson locks up a day two selection.

Draft Range: 3rd round[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Deatrich Wise – RS Senior – Arkansas – 6-5 – 278 – 23

Analysis: Wise’s length and power at the point of attack are impressive, and he plays with great leverage for a 6”5’ defender. Like his former teammate Trey Flowers, Wise wins with power moves and intricate hand usage, although not quite with the same consistency yet. He’s not particularly explosive off the ball, and may ultimately end up as a five technique in a 3-4 front on early downs.

Best Scheme Fit: I still like Wise as a 4-3 defensive end who can kick inside on passing downs, with the ability to provide a nice push from the interior if his hands develop a bit more. I think he can be one of the surprises of this class and a very versatile fit at the next level.

Importance of Draft Season: Wise is listed anywhere from 260-280 online, so where he weighs in will go a long way toward determining where teams want to play him. I think he could be a sneaky athlete that had a lot of tackle reads at Arkansas, hiding his burst a little bit. Like Charlton, his physical stature will have teams interested if Wise can show a high athletic ceiling at the combine.

Draft Range: 3rd round[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Ejuan Price – RS Senior – Pittsburgh – 5-11 – 250 – 24

Analysis: Price is going to draw a ton of comparisons to Elvis Dumervil this draft season, but I see a lot of James Harrison in his game, particularly the way he works the edge with his hands and offers a reduced surface area thanks to his shorter frame. Price plays with a lot of bend in his lower half to run through contact and win leverage battles, and while he may not be an elite athlete in terms of flexibility and range, his burst off the ball is impressive. Unfortunately he’ll be 24 this month, having played in college for six years due to an extensive injury history and won’t fit the size thresholds for some teams’ requirements.

Best Scheme Fit: Price is a 4-3 defensive end who may be a pass rush specialist, but could be a quicker contributor than some of the more high upside edge rushers right out of the gate in the NFL.

Importance of Draft Season: Price is not going to blow anyone away with his athletic testing, but he has a chance to turn heads at the Shrine Game, where he just might be the top pass rusher. The most important thing for Price will be his medical checks however, as the defensive end missed the entire 2012 and 2014 campaigns at Pitt with a pectoral injury. A back injury ended his 2013 season just six games into the year, but Price tore through the ACC with 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Proving his health won’t be an issue moving forward is paramount to elevating his draft stock this spring.

Draft Range: 3rd-4th round[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Jordan Willis – Senior – Kansas State – 6-4 – 250 – 22

Analysis: Willis was a very consistent performer at Kansas State this past season, using his hands to create softer edges and help negate his lack of great bend around the corner. Willis isn’t going to test off the charts, but he’s polished and physical, displaying the ability to be a solid run defender and a disruptive power rusher at the next level.

Best Scheme Fit: Willis is a 4-3 defensive end, but I believe he could be a potential candidate as an interior rusher in some defensive packages.

Importance of Draft Season: Willis has plenty of strong tape, good production, and reputable football as well as personal character. Teams will likely fall in love with the type of leader and hard worker he’ll be at the next level, but concerns of a low athletic ceiling could haunt the Kansas State defender if he doesn’t show up at the combine and/or Senior Bowl. Stylistically Willis is somewhat similar to Markus Golden, who is generally considered an outlier based on the athletic standards most productive NFL edge rushers need to meet.

Draft Range: 3rd-4th round

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Haason Reddick – RS Senior – Temple – 6-0 – 230 – 23

Analysis: Reddick is an impressive athlete in space, but he’s built more like a linebacker, and may not have the size to play on the edge in the NFL. He has much more range and quickness than someone like Eric Striker, so I like his projection as at least a situational pass rusher a little more than the Oklahoma product. Reddick isn’t super polished however, and I don’t think he would hold up favorably at the line of scrimmage in the NFL at his listed size.

Best Scheme Fit: Reddick might be a 3rd down pass rusher off the edge, but the big question will be if he can move to an off-ball role on early downs. As I mentioned before, a lot more goes into that transition than many realize, so teams will need to be convinced Reddick has the tools and traits to make the move in the NFL.

Importance of Draft Season: Reddick is going to the Senior Bowl, where he should be open to playing and practicing at as many positions as possible. How he handles coverage and key-and-diagnose situations as a linebacker will be huge, as well as his ability to win one-on-one against bigger offensive linemen.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. DeMarcus Walker – Senior – Florida State – 6-2 – 273 – 23

Analysis: Walker’s motor and leadership make him a tough prospect to dislike, but he’s stiff as a board, can’t work the edge, and doesn’t have the range to be able to make plays in space at the next level. His lack of athleticism and flexibility would ideally push him inside to a three technique, where Walker did his best pass rush work in college anyway, but at 273 pounds, I don’t see how he can be more than a specialist there.

Best Scheme Fit: I think Walker is a third down interior pass rusher who will probably work as part of a rotation. Does he provide enough value to stick on a roster without a true full-time position? That’s a question he will need to answer at the next level.

Importance of Draft Season: Walker’s tape reveals a limited athlete, but anything he can do to alleviate those concerns at the combine will be huge. If I were Walker, I would accept my Senior Bowl invitation as soon as possible, and use every opportunity available to sell myself to teams based on my intangibles and technique.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Daeshon Hall – Senior – Texas A&M – 6-5 – 260 – 22

Analysis: I love Hall’s effort and physicality snap-to-snap, but ultimately the defensive end leaves a lot to be desired. He doesn’t have the burst or quickness to win up the arc with regularity, and he doesn’t convert speed-to-power as effectively as you hope he would. He’s still a bull rush guy at the next level, but he’ll need to learn to keep better arm extension to work off contact, as too often Hall ends up rushing body-to-body rather than utilizing his length. The same is true in the run game, where Hall often plays too high and can struggle to disengage.

Best Scheme Fit: If he can bulk up, or end up weighing more than his listed weight here (I think he will), Hall might be a good candidate to play five technique in a base 3-4 front. I just don’t know how effective he’ll be as a pass rusher, but maybe he pushes the pocket enough from the interior to be a disruptor.

Importance of Draft Season: Texas A&M used Hall on a lot of gap slants and twists to open up lanes for other rushers, so proving he can win one-on-one at the Senior Bowl will be important. Hall has a lot of physical tools with his length and size, but he’ll need to show consistent leverage and technique to maximize his gifts in front of NFL teams.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. T.J. Watt – RS Junior – Wisconsin – 6-4 – 243 – 22

Analysis: I truly believe Watt should have stayed in school another year, enhancing his hand usage and learning to play with better pad level. Watt gets bodied in the run game far too often because of his lack of functional strength and leverage, and is still learning how to win one-on-one as a pass rusher. The rumor is that he’s the most athletic of the Watt brothers, but if so, those traits don’t show up on tape nearly enough.

Best Scheme Fit: If Watt wants to stay at 3-4 outside linebacker, which is probably his ideal spot, he’s going to need to bulk up and refine his technique. He’s a developmental piece who will need time before he’s ready to make an impact.

Importance of Draft Season: If Watt can show out at the combine like his brothers say he can, he may entice teams enough with his athletic potential to be a higher pick than his tape warrants.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Vince Biegel – RS Senior – Wisconsin – 6-4 – 245 – 23

Analysis: A high-energy edge rusher that plays out of control and off balance far too often, Biegel has a motor that coaches love in theory, but it can be counterproductive on gameday. Biegel has a decent first step, but he’ll often take over-aggressive angles as a tackler and pass rusher that run him out of plays. When under control, Biegel has the hand placement and length to set a strong edge and be an occasionally impactful pass rusher thanks to his hands.

Best Scheme Fit: If Biegel can throttle down at times, he can be a third outside linebacker option for a team while starring on special teams. Hand usage will be the key to Biegel’s success in the NFL, so he should get with Chuck Smith and learn every move known to man to make the most of his average athleticism.

Importance of Draft Season: I’ll be shocked if Biegel’s athletic testing turns heads, so he needs to go show out at the Senior Bowl to make himself some money.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

  1. Carroll Phillips – Senior – Illinois – 6-3 – 240 – 25

Analysis: Phillips is an undersized edge who is unrefined as a rusher and will be 25 when his rookie season begins. I need to see more tape, but Phillips will likely need a strong pre-draft process to be anything more than a late day three selection.

Best Scheme Fit: Off-ball linebacker might be Phillips ideal spot, likely as a SAM in the base look of a 4-3 front. Having said that, I have serious doubts about Phillips’s ability to make that kind of a transition, which probably leaves him as an ill-fitting outside linebacker who will need to make strides as a pass rusher to make a roster.

Importance of Draft Season: Phillips somehow secured a Senior Bowl invitation over several edges who were more deserving, so he’ll need strong weigh-ins and standout showings in individual pass rush drills. He could get a look at linebacker as well, and any flashes he displays there could leave an impression on scouts.

Draft Range: Day 3[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

Here’s the edge defenders I still need to spend more time studying before adding them to the rankings:

Josh Carraway, TCU

James McFarland, TCU

Avery Moss, Youngstown State

Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

Deon Hollins, UCLA

Tarell Basham, Ohio

Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado

Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami

Torrodney Prevot, Oregon

Keionta Davis, Chattanooga

Jamal Marcus, Akron

Bryan Cox, Florida

Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern

Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech

Calvin Munson, San Diego State[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

My first impression of these edge defenders was overwhelmingly negative, but I still need to study a few more games to decide if they are draftable or not:

Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova

Corey Vereen, Tennessee

Lewis Neal, LSU

Garrett Sickels, Penn State

Noble Nwachukwu, WVU

Psalm Wooching, Washington

Hunter Dimick, Utah[dt_divider style=”thick” /]

Follow Jon on Twitter @LedyardNFLDraft. Check out more of his work here, including his articles on Todd Bowles and twist stunts, and DeMarcus Ware’s resurgence with Denver.

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