Ranking the top-15 defensive end prospects who may interest the Eagles

Vinny Curry’s spot is open, Derek Barnett’s future with the team is not guaranteed, Brandon Graham won’t be here forever, and who knows if Shareef Miller will ever contribute?

Although Josh Sweat looked the part and will likely be a full-time starter in 2021 if he progresses to year 3 as he did to year 2, the Eagles still need talent at defensive end.

Here are my scouting reports of the 15 best players available on the edge:

1. Chase Young, Ohio State

For: Good size. Uses one arm stab on OTs really well, both to keep leverage against the run, and push in pass rush. Fantastic balance, bend, and lean. Contact doesn’t derail him during pass rush moves and in traffic. Strong hands, has good placement, can bullrush an OL to the ground. An awesome combination of speed, strength, and mobility. Absurd 27% win rate on pass rushes.

Against: Average run stop percentage. Doesn’t play as dominant when lining up in 5 and 4 technique as wide-9.

Draft: Top 3

2. A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

For: Out of this world strength, moves OTs back consistently, has good hand placement, one-arm extension, and leverage. Has reps where he drives both OG and OT back at the same time. Despite size, he is pretty explosive on push-pull and swipe moves on some snaps. Usually has a counter move, although he does take time to pull it off. Can play inside in 3 and 2 techniques.

Against: Lacks speed in general. Usually too late in stunts due to lack of explosive first step and change of direction. Rounds edges off too much, frustrating to see as he shows ability. Getoff is slow despite on time. Lacks a dominant pass rush move, usually relies on collapsing pocket through the OL with strength and not around.

Draft: Mid-end first round.

3. Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

For: Really good arm length (82nd percentile), understands to use it to his advantage. Really good one arm punches, good hand = placement, drive, and leverage. Really good speed to get to edge, explosive in moves. Getoff is NOT on time, but has plenty of speed once he gets going (ceiling once he gets that going is scary). Occasional good bend. Has pop and power in moves. Can drop in coverage and pursuit on outside well.

Against: Need consistency in moves. Too often bangs his head into the OL and doesn’t follow it up with a move. As mentioned needs timing on getoff. Hasn’t been dominating whatsoever. Needs coordination between punch and bend on the edge, usually only does 1 of the things well. Gets wiped in the run game too often. Broke leg recently.

Draft: 2nd round talent, injury could push down a bit to 3rd

4. K’lavon Chaisson, LSU

For: Has snaps with legit punch, bend and drive off the edge. Displayed a good spin move and swim move at times. Consistently good get-off. Athletic, used a lot in coverage. Has a good motor. Explosive in his initial move.

Against: Gets taken out by Wings, TEs, and RBs in the run game and isn’t convincingly dominating against them in the pass rush. Rounds edges off, lacks coordination in punch and bend. Needs strength in lower body to not get driven to the ground off the edge. Lacks counter moves, stops after first attempt. Needs strength to hold up outside leverage in the run game.

Draft: 2nd round

5. Josh Uche, Michigan

For: Awesome get off. Good pursuit, good speed. Has success both from inside and outside. Has shown the ability to bullrush well with good hands placement and leverage. Has pop and power. Wins some snaps with good punch and bend. Explosive first step makes OTs set deep, allowing Uche to go inside. Is versatile, can plays LB easily. Incredible pass rush win rate.

Against: Doesn’t have the size to consistently set the edge on outside runs. Technique is shaky at times from edge, but very consistent when blitzing from depth. Very little experience relative to rest of class.

Draft: Late 2nd round

6. Alex Highsmith, Charlotte

For: Best get-off in the draft class, consistently dominant, timing is perfect. Super active and strong hands. Always has a counter move, rarely stalls. Good bend and rip. Keeps balance well whether it be run support or pass rush. Good first step and speed on stunts. Shows variety of moves: spin move, inside swim, push-pull, and bend-rip. Attacks with good leverage, understands to use one arm. Can move OTs.

Against: Will be 23 before first snap in NFL. The competition level was really shaky, although one of his best games was against Clemson.

Draft: 2nd round talent, but will likely fall further

7. Zach Baun, Wisconsin

For: Consistent good getoff. Shows good flashes in spin and bend. Understand to use one arm and length to keep OLs at distance. Can stone fat pulling guards on power. Athletic, can drop well into coverage.

Against: Needs to flip hips on swipes when coming off edge. Has OK strength but needs better hands placement, sometimes has bad leverage. Haven’t seen him get 1 pressure using bull rush. Needs overall balance through contact. Consistently needs technique in his pass rush moves.

Draft: Late 2nd round

8. Jabari Zuniga, Florida

For: Incredibly moveable considering his stupid size of 6’3″ 264 lbs. Often explosive get-off, good physicality, and tackles well. Is explosive enough to win on the edge. Has shown he can play B-D gap. Strong at point of contact, can hold up a gap well.

Against: Often plays too high, limited leverage in bull rush. Not any elite moves, very raw. Can disappear in games. Needs to counter move better.

Draft: Early 3rd round

9. Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

For: Super annoying because he shows he can push around big OL, but just hits with limited pop and power too often. Shows ability to bend in a few snaps, often doesn’t get hips turned or get to the hands of the OT on punch. Has an awesome inside move and club, puts a lot of power on the club. Crashes LOS well against run. He has natural block sheds and surprisingly explosive move and swipe, especially for his size. Can play inside.

Against: Very average get-off. Needs coordination to win off the edge. Takes a long time to execute his moves too often, becomes predictable. Really slow, everything around him looks to be going 1.5x speed at times. Horrible balance.

Draft: Early 3rd round

10. Curtis Weaver, Boise State

For: Built solid. Plays hands of OL well, has a violent punch. Moves well and can play inside. Good production in back-to-back seasons. Has decent balance. Has occasional good bull rush.

Against: Athletic ability very inconsistent. Lacks diversity of moves: Swipe move was pretty much the only thing that worked well. Limited burst off the line, lacks explosiveness in moves. Plays with poor leverage. Poor level of competition.

Draft: 3rd round

11. Jonathan Greenard, Florida

For: Built really solid. Can play inside. Decent get-off. Sets up OTs well. Plays the run really well. Sets the edge well and crashes LOS. Has good hands. Very productive in 2019 and 2017.

Against: Zero ability to win on the edge in pass rush, gets pushed too deep down the field. Plays with limited explosion and burst. Disappears in games. Missed entire 2018 season due to injury.

Draft: 4th round

12. Kenny Willekes, Michigan State

For: Despite short arms, he does have a good use on extending one arm in pass rush to collapse the pocket at times. Very short arms (3rd percentile) and undersized makes him less likely to get off blocks when engaged, but he hits with so much power that he usually gets the blocker out of balance. Has good play recognition and rarely false steps too much. Has a good motor.

Against: Gets tossed around by OL in pass rush. Lacks explosiveness in getoff and when making moves. Doesn’t turn his hips well and moves are uncoordinated. Very raw. One of the better run defenders but has a lot of work to do to become much of a pass rusher.

Draft: 4th round

13. Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame

For: Surprisingly good use of his body, has the arm length and strength to throw off OLs against run, disengage well in run game. Sets edge well. Occasionally good get-off. Has good strength on bull rushes and sometimes gets good leverage and hand placement. Can play inside.

Against: Lacks moves in pass rush. Stall too often and doesn’t use counter moves. Athleticism is not good and he lacked dominant performances. Explosiveness is missing in just about any pass-rush related aspect.

Draft: 4-5th round

14. Darrell Taylor, Tennessee

For: Works well on bull rushes and against the run. Has good hands placement and can get leverage. Good size, is built really well. Has a few flashes in pass rush both on the edge and with inside moves, although limited.

Against: Too often blocked to irrelevance by TEs both in run and passing game. Doesn’t disengage well after contact established. Stops after initial move, rarely counters. Not explosive off the snap. Hands are strong but uses them too little. Rarely shows off moves. Overall athleticism is not above average. Motor is not good.

Draft: 4-5th round

15. Derek Tuszka, North Dakota State

For: Has a really good punch and rip around the edges, drives legs well in bend to not get rounded and pushed off balance. Athletic, can drop into coverage. Very productive. Smooth transitions in both stunts, inside transition when setting up on upfield rushes, and open field pursuit. Unbelievable 3-cone (97th percentile).

Against: Lacks power. Doesn’t get a consistent push and won’t be relied on to push the pocket. Get-off is not good. Lacks explosiveness in moves, which is weird considering his size. Thin frame. Competition level was poor.

Draft: 5th round.

Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Leave a Reply