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BD’s Top 5 EDGE players entering the NFL Draft

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders pass rush took a big stride forward last season after an abysmal 2018. That being said, the pass rush could still stand to improve a whole lot more.

There are a few positions in the NFL that are never a bad idea to draft, and pass rusher is one of them. Even though the Raiders drafted two defensive ends last year, that doesn’t mean they can’t take another in this draft.

This article contains TWO two top five lists. One is my list of top 5 rush linebackers (think 3-4 OLB types). And the other is my top 5 4-3 defensive ends. Don’t brush off the first list, because there are players on it with the position flexibility to potentially play defensive end or off-ball linebacker for the Raiders.

*NOTE: All heights and weights are unofficial.

Rush Linebacker

Jonathan Greenard, Florida 6’3 260*

Greenard has the most varied set of pass rushing moves in this class. Stab, rip, chop, spin, fake spin; you name it, Greenard is trying it out on the field. He has a violent and twitchy upper body that allows him to string moves together. Greenard had 10 sacks in 2019, and he could have had 10 more if he finished more regularly. If he gets stronger and develops his speed to power rush, this is a potential 10 sack guy in the NFL.

Best Trait: Pass rush moves

Needs to work on: Converting speed to power

Pro Comparison: Dee Ford

Terrell Lewis, Alabama 6’5 260*

Fantastic length to go along with obvious athletic abilities. Moves incredibly well for a player his size, along with a motor that never stops. Lewis is capable of winning with speed around the corner with a lightning quick first step and flexibility. His technique is far too inconsistent and he plays with too high a pad level at time which can limit his power output. A long injury history is the only thing keeping him out of the first round, the potential is sky high.

Best Trait: Size to athleticism ratio

Needs to work on: Staying healthy

Pro Comparison: Manny Lawson

Josh Uche, Michigan 6’1 240*

Uche is so fast on the field he will fog your glasses. His speed is amazing combined with the flexibility to turn the corner against tackles. He can work on some counters though, and the rest of his pass rush arsenal is a work in progress at this point. The problem with Uche is figuring out how he fits in the NFL. Is he an off-ball linebacker who can rush the passer? Is he a full time edge player? Is he just a sub-package player. Whichever team drafts him will get a demon off the edge on 3rd downs.

Best Trait: Speed rush

Needs to work on: Which position he’ll play in NFL

Pro Comparison: Elvis Dumervil

K’Lavon Chaisson 6’3 250*

Chaisson is about as fun a player as you’ll watch coming off the edge. He has a great combination of tools, including a quick first step combined with power in his hands to win in a variety of ways. Chaisson also has great athleticism and looks natural dropping into coverage. My favorite thing about watching Chaisson is even when the ball goes away, you’ll always see him enter the frame because his motor never turns off. While he does win rushing the passer, his ability to turn the corner is one area he can improve upon. That being said, it’s hard to find many flaws in his game.

Best Trait: Explosiveness

Needs to work on: Cornering

Pro Comparison: Clay Matthews

Zack Baun, Wisconsin 6’3 240*

I was late getting around to Zack Baun, otherwise I would have probably included him in the linebacker article. Baun is my 3rd highest rated linebacker and my 3rd highest rated edge player if that gives you a clue about his versatility. At 240 pounds, he likely will be moved to an off-ball linebacker in the NFL, but he adds value with well established ability to rush the passer. Not a slouch in coverage, Baun has a tremendous ability to change directions and flip his hips. He would be a great consolation prize in the likely possibility that Isaiah Simmons is off the board.

Best Trait: Versatiliy

Needs to work on: Finding his role

Pro Comparison: Jamie Collins

Honorable Mentions

Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

Bradlee Anae, Utah

4-3 Defensive End

Jabari Zuniga, Florida 6’3 255*

Zuniga played opposite from the number 5 Rush LB on this list. Even though he weighs less than his former teammate, his play is much more based on his natural power. Zuniga can unlock his hips and drive blockers into the backfield. When he rushes, he converts speed to power combined with a lower leverage that lets him win. He is a good run defender because is strong base and powerful hands. Can be slow to react to the play, however, and needs to keep vision of the QB better during his rush plan.

Best Trait: Converting speed to power

Needs to work on: Processing

Pro Comparison: Damontre Moore

Alton Robsinson, Syracuse 6’3 260*

Robinson has a good first step that allows him to get into opposing blockers’ chests regularly. He also delivers a great punch and when he gets his hands on blockers, as he is able to lock out and steer the man in front of him against his will. Robinson doesn’t have the top-end athleticism of others on this list but he makes up for it with the violent way he plays football.

Best Trait: Heavy hands

Needs to work on: Pass rush counters

Pro Comparison: Jeremiah Attaochu

AJ Epenesa, Iowa - 6’7 280*

I included Epenesa on this list because A) there is a steep drop-off in DE talent after him, and B) most people consider him an edge player. I’m not so sure Epenesa is a true edge, however, and think he eventually turns into a 3-4 DE at the next level. His power and anchor are unmatched in this class. He tosses blockers aside with ease. He will never be confused with a speed rusher though, and his pass rush repertoire is quite limited right now.

Best Trait: Power

Needs to work on: Speed rush

Pro Comparison: Arik Armstead

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State - 6’5 270*

If you thought Chase Young was the only elite edge rushing prospect in this draft, think again. YGM is filthy as well. Gross-Matos is an accomplished power rusher who has a few winning moves that suit his length and strength. Against the run he can hold the edge when it comes towards him, chase the ball carrier down from the backside, or play both the QB and RB at the mesh point which puts him in a rare category of player.

Best Trait: Speed to power

Needs to work on: Developing more pass rush moves

Pro Comparison: Justin Tuck

Chase Young, Ohio State - 6’5 265*

Chase is a perfect name for him; he’ll be chasing passers down for the next 10 years. I didn’t bother doing a film cut-up of this guy because the Raiders have literally zero chance landing him. Young is prototypical in all categories: size, athleticism, production, and skill level. Entering the NFL, he’s as good as Nick Bosa was but with a higher ceiling.

Best Trait: You name it

Needs to work on: Pad level

Pro Comparison: Jevon Kearse

Honorable Mentions

Kenny Willekes, Michigan State

Darrell Taylor, Tennessee