Landing Spots for the Top 10 EDGE Rushers in the 2018 Draft

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]The draft came, saw, and conquered our timelines and now it’s up to the fans to sit back and watch their favorite teams selections; will they develop? How’s their situation? What can we expect? Just a few days ago, I released my final Top 10 EDGE rankings, so I figured I would throw my two cents into the twittersphere, so here are my top 10 EDGE players and the situations that befell them.    

1. Broncos: Rd 1, Pick 5: Bradley Chubb, NC State

I pity the tackles in the AFC West; not only do they have to account for the talent of Von Miller, but now they have to worry about Bradley Chubb. Talk about an ideal situation for first time defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Chubb is a two way, interchangeable piece who can scream around the edge from a two point stance, while showing the ability to move in space and put his hand in the dirt. The addition of Chubb helps the secondary of the Broncos as well. Aqib Talib is now in the City of Angels, which leaves Chris Harris and Bradley Roby as the top cover men in the secondary; while both are talented, the loss of Talib is still significant and adding a dynamic pass rusher can help cover up a secondary that possesses a lot of younger talent. Von Miller, Shaq Barrett, Shane Ray, and now Bradley Chubb means good luck to the AFC West tackles. The infusion of new pass rushing blood comes at the right time for Denver, as the Broncos are indecisive on picking up the fifth year option on Shane Ray. I suppose Chubb will be compared to Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, since the Browns passed on the former for the latter, but I’m sure the Broncos do not mind that decision. Someone very wise once stated, experience is the teacher of all things and Bradley Chubb has a ton of experience, and it shows.  

2. Titans: Rd 2, Pick 41, Harold Landry, Boston College

It was great for the Tennessee Titans to land an incredible talent like Harold Landry at pick 41. There were rumors circulating that his medicals did not check out, but there were other rumors refuting those claims and it just had me sitting on my couch wondering “why the hell is Harold Landry still around?” The Titans obliged and knocked it out of the park. Derek Morgan and Brian Orakpo are both aging and they will both be free agents next offseason, so you best believe new head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson loved this value. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees can play Landry in space, put him on the line of scrimmage in a three point stance, or line him up wide and send him flying up the arc. The Titans nailed this draft and continue to build a quality roster that will contend in the AFC South.

3. Bengals: Rd 3, Pick 77, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

Over the last two drafts, the Bengals have surrounded star 3 technique Geno Atkins with several EDGE rushers. Carl Lawson played exceptional as a rookie last season and Jordan Willis will look to progress this season as Carlos Dunlap still provides an imposing presence at the end position. The Bengals give new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin an incredibly smart and technically sound player. Hubbard maintains his assignments while showing a rare ability to change direction at the line of scrimmage. He will be very valuable on stunts/twists for the Bengals. His size, motor, and use of hands will earn him early snaps on what is becoming a formidable defensive front for this season. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Michael Johnson will all be free agents next offseason, so developing the last two year’s defensive line draft picks will be a key task for Teryl Austin. In Hubbard’s case, the task is made simpler, I guarantee that.

4. Giants: Rd 3, Pick 66, Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

The Giants need all the help they can get on the EDGE and at the linebacker position. Carter provides the versatility to play both. Bettcher ran base 3-4 personnel 26% of the time in 2017 according to PFF, and this versatile chess piece will be used all over the defensive formation in base or nickel. Carter is an incredibly athletic, fast, and rangy piece for a defense that needs some retooling. Carter’s length, movement skills in space, and flexibility make him a very unique tool for this bright defensive coach. Carter can line up in the nickel ILB role, in the slot on TE/WR, or as a pass rushing OLB (the Cardinals were in nickel 48% of the time in 2017). Carter’s range, pursuit, and burst would make him a scary blitzing weapon on twists (Cardinals blitzed 37% of the time in 2017) and he is fluid enough in space to play man coverage on TEs (Cardinals were in Cover 1 34% of the time). Carter is a wonderful addition to a defense that likes to blitz, play man coverage, and of course get after the quarterback. He will slide in, along with another former Bulldog in Alec Ogletree, and be used in creative ways to get after the quarterback. I loved this pick for the Giants.    

5. Eagles: Rd 4, Pick 130, Josh Sweat, Florida State

The rich get richer and this is yet another luxury pick for the Eagles. But guess what, they can afford it; Howie Roseman has dominated the NFL and has assembled such a deep and talented roster, which has already resulted in one Super Bowl championship in the Carson Wentz era. Jim Schwartz has pass rushers for days and the only reason a talent like Sweat was around at pick 130 was because of his medicals. Sweat had a devastating knee injury in his senior year of high school and a clean up surgery on the same knee while at Florida State. Sweat possesses fluid hips and has good ankle flexibility, while showing the ability to convert speed to power. He utilizes very good rips, clubs, and swims while flattening the edge and putting stress on tackles at the top of the arc. The Seminoles used him as a 3/4i technique at times, in a four point stance, and while he was solid in this position it is not his natural fit. Jim Schwartz is going to let Sweat come off the edge and wreck havoc, while utilizing his excellent athletic ability and burst. His snaps can be limited in a deep rotation that features last year’s first round pick Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and potentially Michael Bennett. Graham and Long are both headed to free agency at the end of the season, so it must be encouraging for Eagles fans to see their general manager have the foresight to locate a talent in a potential position of need down the road. A high upside pick by Howie Roseman, which will pan out for the better, if his medicals don’t haunt him.

6. Texans: Rd 6, Pick 177, Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

I expected Ejiofor to fall due to the lack of athletic testing because of shoulder surgery, but all the way to pick 177 is insane. The best use of hands in the class was not enough to entice a team to draft him on day two, let alone in the first two rounds of day three. Here’s a phrase from a sage individual, “It is better to create than learn, for creating is the essence of life.” No pass rusher creates moves and counters like Duke, and the man fell all the way to round 6. This must have made defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel very happy; Ejiofor can kick inside in Nickel situations and play behind J.J. Watt in base a base 3-4. The Texans found someone who will provide disruptive ability around a very talented front 7 that features JadeVeon Clowney, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus. If I am a Texans fan, I applaud this pick.      

7. Saints: Rd 1, Pick 14, Marcus Davenport, UTSA

Alas, the die is cast. Trading next years first round pick in order to move up for a defensive end is peculiar, especially when you consider the fact that they may be looking for a franchise signal caller in the near future. The Saints have been looking for a quality pass rusher opposite Cameron Jordan for quite some time and Davenport has that potietnal, but he still needs to adapt to the NFL’s speed and strength, while learning the nuances of being a pass rusher. Dennis Allen does acquire a player that has exceptional movement skills in space, while having rare size/athletic traits. You bet your buns that the Saints will do everything in their power to develop Davenport, but it may take some time. Hau’oli Kikaha has dealt with injuries and will be a free agent next season and I’m sure Mickey Loomis took a look at Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston and thought damn, we need to pressure these talents, but spending two first round picks on a high upside, but raw, player? Too rich for me.    

8. Raiders: Rd 3, Pick 87, Arden Key, LSU

The Raiders have always been known to “live life on the edge” and this came back to life when they drafted the “Curious Case of Arden Key.” Arden Key is an enigma. He never lived up to all the hype at LSU. He looked like he was a star in the making, but it didn’t exactly come to fruition. He struggled to keep his weight in check, reportedly coming in at 280, and while he improved his run defense, he struggled with his burst. Weighs in at 238 pounds at his pro day and puts up a lackluster 40 time. Left LSU’s program for undisclosed reasons and there are just tons of red flags that surround Key. He needs a stable environment to keep him in check. Head coach Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have to do everything to assist Key as he transitions into the NFL. Men freely believe that which they desire and I’m sure the Raiders brass believe they can get the best out of Key. Another high upside pick that has high bust potential. He is an excellent athlete, with length and exceptional explosiveness that can compliment Khalil Mack. The questions will surround him, but if they can extract his natural talent and keep him focused, they may have found a quality piece to Guenther’s defense.  

9. Rams: Rd 5, Pick 160, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma

Leave it to the Rams to not have a first or second round pick, but still do very well in the NFL Draft. Wade Phillips will maximize Okoronkwo’s skill set and use him in so many different ways on a defense that is already absolutely stacked. He can come in on passing downs and scream off the edge, while also showing a good ability to drop into coverage and utilize his speed/explosiveness to execute different assignments for the Rams. Plays with excellent leverage and a low center of gravity. Does a very good job timing and shooting gaps. Good wrap up tackler with very good short area burst to close width and locate. Has the spatial awareness and movement ability to drop into coverage. A bit short, but he landed in the 3-4 scheme that I feel he could thrive in, while also falling into one of the best defensive minds in football. Good landing spot and great value for the Rams.

10. Colts: Rd 2, Pick 52, Kemoko Turay, Rutgers

Thanks to the trade with the Jets, the Colts possessed a bunch of day 2 picks. They spent one of them on the Jersey product we know as Kemoko Turay. The Colts also drafted fellow linebackers/EDGE Darius Leonard and Tyquan Lewis in the second round. I feel Lewis is much more well rounded than Turay, but he doesn’t have as much upside. Turay however offers a unique blend of size and explosiveness, while possessing excellent overall length. Excellent first step, bursts off the line of scrimmage low, while doing a very good job getting skinny through interior gaps. Excellent ability to move laterally and work through trash, while displaying excellent pursuit. He has a lot of upside, but he is still raw, especially when it comes to strength at the point of attack and his ability to shed blocks. He struggled against the run, but it will be up to new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to teach him these nuances. He must stay healthy and continue to develop. I felt he was a better fit as a 3-4 OLB, but he’ll find a home in Indianapolis and that roster needed as much help as possible on defense.

Nick Falato wrote this article. Follow him on twitter @nickfalato and check out his other work here, including his breakdown of Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor and a look at USC quarterbacks of the past and how it applies to Sam Darnold.

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