Editor's Note: These rankings were originally published before the combine. We will be updating our position rankings throughout draft season.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have produced three of the past four NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year—Joey Bosa (2016), Marshon Lattimore ('17) and Nick Bosa ('19). Could one of their 2020 prospects make it four of five?
Not only do they have this year's top cornerback (Jeffrey Okudah), but they have the top edge defender (Chase Young). In addition, Young and Okudah rank as my top-two defensive prospects in this year's draft class.
With the NFL Scouting Combine behind us, here are my updated edge defender prospect rankings:
1. Chase Young, Ohio State (JR, 6'5", 264 pounds)
Checking all the boxes teams covet in a pass-rusher, Young's elite traits are matched by elite production. Combining an ideal blend of size, length and athleticism, Young has an explosive first step with outstanding bend and advanced hand usage. Commanding double (or even triple) teams, Young's impact isn't always felt in the box score, but he posted a school-record and FBS-high 16.5 sacks in 2019 after recording 10.5 as a sophomore. As talented as any pass-rushing prospect over the past several draft classes, Young has the potential to become a perennial All-Pro early in his career.
2. K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU (JR, 6'3", 254 pounds)
Chaisson tore his ACL in the 2018 season opener and is one of the younger prospects—turns 21 at the end of July—in this year's draft class. Displaying outstanding burst and bend around the edge, Chaisson flashes elite pass-rushing upside, but he has lacked consistent sack production. That said, he led the team in sacks (6.5) in 2019 and built momentum down the stretch with 4.5 sacks in his final four games. More projection than production at this early point in his development, Chaisson has the elite physical profile to develop into a high-end pass-rusher at the next level.
3. A.J. Epenesa, Iowa (JR, 6'5", 275 pounds)
Epenesa lacks the elite get-off that the other top pass-rushers in this class possess, but he has great size, length and strength. With heavy and active hands, Epenesa has a strong bull rush and a varied repertoire of pass-rushing moves in his toolbox. Highly productive as a non-starter in 2018 (10.5 sacks and 16.5 TFL), Epenesa started 2019 slowly, but closed the year with eight sacks and four forced fumbles over his final five games. While he is a high-floor prospect, the former Hawkeye had a disappointing performance at the combine.
4. Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (JR, 6'5", 266 pounds)
Over the past two seasons combined, Gross-Matos has a total of 34.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. Gross-Matos has tremendous length, violent hands, a non-stop motor and quick first step. While he has the versatility to fit in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, he's best suited for a 4-3 end role at the next level.
5. Terrell Lewis, Alabama (rJR, 6'5", 262 pounds)
Missing virtually all of 2017 (elbow) and 2018 (ACL), Lewis has played a total of only 26 games during his four years in Tuscaloosa. Mostly healthy in 2019, he recorded 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and had a team-high 16 QB hurries over 11 games. Even though he's a little raw in his development given the amount of time he has missed, Lewis has explosive burst off the edge, tremendous length and plenty of upside as he continues to develop.
Here are the next 15 edge rushers:
6. Julian Okwara, Notre Dame (SR, 6'4", 252 pounds)
7. Jonathan Greenard, Florida (rSR, 6'3", 263 pounds)
8. Darrell Taylor, Tennessee (rSR, 6'4", 267 pounds)
9. Curtis Weaver, Boise State (rJR, 6'2", 265 pounds)
10. Bradley Anae, Utah (SR, 6'3", 257 pounds)
11. Josh Uche, Michigan (SR, 6'1", 245 pounds)
12. Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (rSR, 6'4", 264 pounds)
13. Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina (rSR, 6'4", 275 pounds)
14. Alton Robinson, Syracuse (SR, 6'3", 264 pounds)
15. Jabari Zuniga, Florida (rSR, 6'3", 264 pounds)
16. Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame (SR, 6'4", 268 pounds)
17. Alex Highsmith, Charlotte (rSR, 6'4", 248 pounds)
18. Anfernee Jennings, Alabama (rSR, 6'2", 252 pounds)
19. James Smith-Williams, North Carolina State (rSR, 6'3",265 pounds)
20. D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina (SR, 6'5", 258 pounds)
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2020 NFL Draft season. His NFL Mock Drafts have graded as the most accurate over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His 2015 NFL mock draft graded as the most accurate and his 2019 NFL mock draft was the second-most accurate out of 101 draft analysts.
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