Scouts say this may be best draft class of edge rushers we have seen in a long while. My series on evaluating each positional group in the NFL Draft continues with the defensive lineman. Who is the best player in the position group? Safest pick? Boom-or-bust pick? Underrated? Sleepers? Let’s dive in!
Best Player in the Position Group: Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)
Is there really a question? He is the best edge rusher in the draft since Von Miller in 2011, also from Texas A&M. Cleveland is going to have a future All-Pro player to have in its rebuild process. He is an elite athlete along with the production to go with it. He is a freak athlete and I hope he likes wearing the orange and brown.
Safest Pick: Solomon Thomas, DE (Stanford)
He is only 21 years old and already possibly one of the most explosive true 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL. The key for me why he will be a safe bet is his work ethic and high motor on the field. He doesn’t take plays off and knows how to attack the edge and collapse the pocket. I think he should (and will) be taken second overall by San Francisco to help the rebuild process. I’m sure Chicago sitting at three, would love to have a hometown native drop them as well.
Boom-Or-Bust Pick: Malik McDowell (Michigan State)
On talent alone, a Top 8 pick. With questions about his character, coachability and work ethic, he drops down the board. With solid structure, veterans around him and coaching, he could blossom into an elite defensive lineman in the league. The problem is the willingness of general managers and head coaches whose jobs are at stake when taking players like McDowell.
Underrated: Jordan Willis (Kansas State) & Derek Rivers (Youngstown State)
These two are the players I would definitely look at on Day 2 of the draft as possible edge presences on my team. They both have great demeanor’s playing the game and have elite burst skills. The beauty of these two players is they just need some coaching and better understanding of the game at the NFL level. Both very productive in college and well respected on their teams and by their opponents. I would not hesitate to draft these two in Round 2 and be happy to reap their rewards as first-round type talent in a few years.
Sleeper: Tarell Basham (Ohio)
If his college added the word “State” on the end, he would likely be taken in the first three rounds. He has a very quick get-off and quick twitch, but lacks some technique and finer aspects that are coachable. If he spends some time learning how to make NFL type moves in the pass rush, he could be a very good player. The athletic traits and motor that cannot be taught are there, but he just needs coaching to have a chance of becoming a decent NFL prospect.