NFL Draft Position Rankings 1.0: Edge Rushers
By Jim Johnson
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Ranking the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon 2017 NFL Draft prospects.
The 2017 NFL Draft is just a couple of months away and, as always, the bulk of the top talent is coming out of our coverage area -- the ACC and SEC (with some Sun Belt and SoCon players as well) -- so I will be releasing fluid position rankings throughout the run-up to April 27th. This ranking only includes players from teams that we cover, meaning some of the major players from the other conferences will not be included. Curiously, the rankings wouldn't look much different even if they were, though.
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is a superhuman. Big and athletic enought to play defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4. As indicated by watching him, and confirmed by his combine performance, he plays stronger than most of his peers, is shot out of a cannon, as far as explosiveness, changes direction like a ballerina, and can chase down some running backs form behind. As his game becomes more polished, he's as surefire a future All-Pro as anyone has ever been.
2. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
One of the most productive defensive players in an absolutely loaded class of edge rushers. Beats opposing players with fast, violent, yet efficient hand usage. Playmaking mentality. Big hitter. Picks up on play action and adjusts. Good change of direction, for his size. Elite awareness. Does everything well. Occasionally gets caught guessing snap counts. As good as his hand fighting is, he will start right away.
3. Tim Williams, Alabama
Produced at a historically great rate, at Alabama, and showed year-to-year improvement, even as his workload increased. Best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Elite pass rusher. Can win inside or outside, making his moves that much more effective. Better against the run than many think, but there is room for improvement. Questions about his stamina -- his career high 428 snaps in 2016 are still almost 700 fewer than Barnett had last year. Solely as a pass rush specialist, Williams can wreak havoc immediately, but it is yet to be seen if he is an every down player.
4. Charles Harris, Missouri
Possesses the deadliest spin move in the draft. Could be a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 end. Didn't run an incredible 40 yard dash, but his first step speaks for itself. Very consistent, recording at least five pressures in two-thirds of his 2016 appearances. Hand-usage needs to improve. Has a hard time stabilizing against good run blockers. Would do well to improve his playing strength, but it's hard to find athletes of his caliber.
5. Carl Lawson, Auburn
Unassailable talent as a pass rusher. Can be a 4-3 end, but ideally fits as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Very advanced, polished rush moves -- able to attack offensive linemen in just about every different way. Especially incredible when penetrating inside, against slower interior linemen. Injury concerns make him a fairly significant risk. Hard to evaluate because of his limited tape, but the talent is obvious.
6. Demarcus Walker, Florida State
One of the most productive players in college football over the past two years, at Florida State. Uses his hands well to quickly disengage blockers. A true defensive end, regardless of scheme, able to play the three-technique or set the edge in a 4-3. Not as athletic as you would like, but too tall to move inside any more than in sub packages. Lacks the athleticism you would expect given his stats, but the numbers are undeniable.
7. Keionta Davis, Chattanooga
Long arms and powerful upper body make him an asset against the run. Great motor, always plays to the whistle. Good understanding of playbook, takes up to blockers on twists and stunts, allowing his teammates to make plays. Not as quick as one would like. Could be an excellent three-technique if he bulks up some more, and is properly utilized.
8. Ryan Anderson, Alabama
Worked wonders on his draft stock with a fantastic performance against Clemso in the national championship. Like his teammate, Tim Williams, Anderson is a true 3-4 outside linebacker. Plays with great leverage. Has a couple of solid go-to moves that he invokes at the proper moments. Not very athletic. Didn't look good in coverage at the Senior Bowl. A useful pass rush specialist but not a three down player.
9. Devonte Fields, Louisville
Super athlete, can change direction on a dime. Could play as a n outside linebacker in any scheme, but fits best in a 3-4. Great burst to the football. Inconsistent production throughout his college career. Scouts question his effort and work ethic. Talented player, but questions about whether or not he has what it takes to be a pro could make him slide.
10. Ejuan Price, Pittsburgh
An elite playmaker, when healthy. Bulldog mentality, won't take no for an answer when he can smell a sack. Missed a ton of time at Pitt, due to injury. Shorter than most of his peers, his size puts a cap on his draft stock, but the talent is there to be a solid NFL player.