May 13, 2021


Hub Arkush’s 2021 NFL draft positional preview: Edge rusher

Edge rushers are at such a premium in the NFL today we’ve become accustomed to finding a handful in the top 10-to-15 prospects of the draft every year, but this year’s draft will be different.

The surefire Bosa brothers or the Myles Garrett- and Chase Young-type dominator isn’t there this year. Just outside the top 15, however, this class is rich with great physical talent and traits guys just waiting to be coached up at the next level.

DAY 1 PROSPECTS

1. Kwity Paye, Michigan (6–2 ½, 261, Senior)

Paye is pretty much the consensus top edge rush prospect in this draft because of his character, toughness, leadership qualities and a nonstop motor. But much of his effectiveness at Michigan came from lining up all over the field and the mismatches it created for him. He did a lot of damage lining up inside with a hand on the ground, which may not translate to the next level. He’ll have to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which he hasn’t done much yet, to deliver maximum production.

2. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia (6-2, 249, Redshirt Sophomore)

He’s built to play the outside rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, plays it with a purpose and is a born finisher. He looks like he lives in the weight room and has developed real aggression on the field but actually is somewhat introverted and quiet off it. There is some concern about his ability to shed blockers, but with enhanced technique he may be special.

3. Jaelan Phillips, Miami (Fla.) (6-5 ½, 260, Redshirt Junior)

Phillips missed half his freshman year at UCLA due to injury, decided to transfer to Miami and had to sit out 2019, so last season is his only full year of tape, but he does dominate on a lot of it. His much bigger frame gives him options. He could line up outside in a 3-4 or possibly be a hand on the ground right end in a 40 front. Phillips’ ceiling may be the highest of the top three.

4. Jayson Oweh, Penn St. (6-5, 257, Redshirt Sophomore)

Oweh not only has great size to play either outside linebacker or defensive end, a lot of his 257 pounds have been added in the weight room since he arrived in Happy Valley. His technique is either poor or missing in a number of areas, but his traits are off the charts.

SECOND ROUND PROSPECTS

5. Joe Tryon, Washington (6-5, 260, Redshirt Junior)

If you were building the perfect edge rusher in a lab you might end up with Tryon. But as great as his size, strength and athleticism are, his technique is lacking and temperament uncertain. Will need a little time, but he has the tools.

6. Greg Rousseau, Miami (Fla.) (6-7, 266, Redshirt Sophomore)

A fascinating prospect, Rousseau has snow shoes for hands and the wingspan of an albatross, but after breaking his ankle after only two games as a freshman and opting out last season, he’s only played one season of college ball. He was, however, dominant in 2019, and has several teams drooling over his unlimited ceiling.

7. Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr., Wake Forest (6-3, 274, Redshirt Senior)

They call him “Boogie” because he loves to dance. He’s a 4-3 right end who may slide inside in obvious pass-rush situations. He’s more likely to be a complete edge defender than a dominant edge rusher at the next level.

8. Joseph Ossai, Texas, (6-4, 256, Junior)

Played as much inside linebacker as edge at Texas but looks like a better fit outside, and his character and passion for the game will excite teams with a year or two to be patient developing him.

THIRD ROUND AND HIGH DAY 3 PROSPECTS

9. Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt (6-5, 285, Senior)

Another 4-3 right end prospect but Odeyingbo may even be able to handle the five-technique in 30 fronts. He might have been a Day 2 pick, but a torn Achilles in January just before the Senior Bowl will severely damage his draft stock.

10. Payton Turner, Houston (6-5, 270, Senior)

A long limbed 4-3 right end, Turner is still growing into his body and learning the nuances of the game. He’s a great traits guy who still needs to be developed.

11. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma (6-2 ½, 253, Junior)

He doesn’t have special traits and played with a hand on the ground in Norman, which won’t be an option in the NFL, but his production at Oklahoma was very impressive.

12. Charles Snowden, Virginia (6-6, 243, Senior)

He’s a leader and an athlete, but he may have to add 15 or 20 pounds and put a hand on the ground to compete at the next level.

13. Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame (6-4 ½, 260, Redshirt Senior)

Ogundeji was a slow developer in South Bend, adding weight and muscle every year. He has a great NFL body now but no special traits.

14. Patrick Jones, Pittsburgh (6-4, 261, Redshirt Senior)

Great character and frame but Jones didn’t produce enough at Pitt to project as any more than a rotation guy right now.

15. Chris Rumph, Duke (6-3, 244, Redshirt Junior)

Dad is the Bears new defensive line coach, but he’ll have to play outside linebacker at the next level because of his lack of size. Showed some real pass rush skills at Duke and will be an interesting boom-or-bust pick higher than you might expect.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media