2022 NFL Draft EDGE Rankings & Grades

On this week’s Bucs Briefing, I launch my 2022 NFL Draft edge defender rankings and spherical grades. There are just a few professional days left, so a pair issues should still shift earlier than the draft. However that is more likely to be my closing rating of the category.

Bear in mind, my spherical grades are handed out in a vacuum. Every spherical grade is tied to the caliber of participant I consider every prospect shall be within the NFL. It’s NOT a projection of the place I consider they will and even ought to be drafted within the precise draft. As a substitute it’s a degree of valuation I’ve tied to every participant’s outlook for the NFL.

If you wish to see my previous NFL Draft edge defender rankings, right here they’re:

2020 NFL Draft EDGE Rankings
2021 NFL Draft EDGE Rankings

Listed here are the 2022 NFL Draft edge defenders I nonetheless want to finish evaluations for.

Drake Jackson, USC
DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
Josh Paschal, Kentucky
Sam Williams, Ole Miss
Alex Wright, UAB
Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Dominique Robinson, Miami (Ohio)
Jesse Luketa, Penn State
Cam Thomas, San Diego State
Tyreke Smith, Ohio State

10. Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina (6-4, 258, 4.87)

Enagbare is large and lengthy with robust palms. These traits ought to assist him survive within the NFL, however they aren’t tremendous helpful as a cross rusher with out extra juice behind them. Enagbare bullied his option to six sacks this previous season, and there’s no query he was a bodily problem for some faculty linemen. However within the NFL, you may’t win on the sting by bullying individuals. There are only a few exceptions to that rule. You merely should have the juice.

You’ll hear me discuss quite a bit about The 4 Pillars of Go Rush Athleticism on this article.

1. Explosiveness/Go off the ball
2. Pace up the arc (are you able to maintain that burst in your subsequent few steps?)
3. Bend/Flexibility to show into the pocket on the high of the arc
4. Change-of-direction

Enagbare is an effective instance of what it seems to be prefer to be a strong faculty participant, however not have the identical ceiling within the NFL. And it’s largely as a consequence of traits. Nonetheless, the senior may change into a very good situational inside rusher with additional growth and added muscle.

Yr 1 Outlook: Backup

Yr 3 Outlook: Good Backup

Grade: 4th Spherical (Good Backup)

9. Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma (6-3, 248, 4.54)

Bonitto is a silky easy pace rusher who wins with burst, pace and bend. “These are three of a very powerful issues an edge rusher can possess, proper Jon?! Why isn’t he increased up the checklist?”

Oklahoma OLB Nik Bonitto – Photograph by: USA At present

As a result of I simply don’t suppose Bonitto presents a lot else. He moved round Oklahoma’s protection, performing as a spy, dropping into protection, and so forth. Bonitto wore quite a lot of hats, and solely one in every of them was edge rusher. When it was, he typically relied on beating tackles off the snap for wins. Even along with his explosive first step, Bonitto was so predictable as a rusher that he was fairly blockable one-on-one. He has no semblance of energy to his sport as a rusher. It’s actually laborious to win by simply finessing your option to the pocket within the NFL. Plus, he will get beat up approach too typically on the level of assault within the run sport. It’s going to be a tricky promote to make him an every-down participant until that modifications.

I like Bonitto as an athlete although. I may see him as a flexible No. 3 exterior linebacker in a 3-4 scheme that likes to drop their edge defenders. He’s terrific in house, and will nonetheless act as a situational rusher on lengthy and late downs. On tape, he’s most likely a fourth-round grade. However I like his potential as a chess piece in the best protection sufficient to maintain him in Spherical 3. If Bonitto can land on a group with a harmful entrance, his athleticism could be a enjoyable asset for that squad.

Yr 1 Outlook: Rotational Defender/Chess Piece

Yr 3 Outlook: No. 3 OLB/Lengthy-and-Late Downs Defender

Grade: third Spherical (Strong Starter)

8. George Karlaftis, Purdue (6-4, 266, 4.78)

Karlaftis’ draft hype began sizzling, however I believe it can fade to no less than the underside of Spherical 1 by late April. This can be a robust edge defender class, and Karlaftis simply isn’t the athlete the remainder of these guys are. He’s not a horrible athlete, no less than by way of cross rush athleticism. Karlaftis’ burst, pace and bend are sufficient in a category the place most edge defenders verify these packing containers emphatically. His change-of-direction is just not nice, however there’s sufficient purposeful mobility that he can pull off the occasional counter transfer.

Purdue DE George Karlaftis

Purdue DE George Karlaftis – Photograph by: USA At present

However Karlaftis goes to get picked on within the NFL greater than he did in faculty. His open 2-point stance may give him a greater pre-snap angle to the pocket in faculty, however on the subsequent degree professional offenses will come for him. Ohio State did it, leaving Karlaftis in no man’s land and working inside him when he couldn’t get down the road of scrimmage from his large stance. Then, when he crashed laborious, they optioned him off and ran exterior of him. It was clear Karlaftis couldn’t play in house like the highest guys on this class.

Additionally, tackles within the NFL are simply higher athletes. Karlaftis received’t hesitate to convey energy rushes, however the outcomes are fairly blended. Hardly any edge rushers on the professional degree win totally on energy. They should threaten the sting to be efficient. I’m unsure Karlaftis can try this at an elite degree. Nonetheless, he does have good palms and cross rush instincts. I nonetheless suppose he could be a strong point-of-attack run defender who will kick inside sometimes on lengthy and late downs. If there may be expertise round him, Karlaftis shall be productive as a professional. His motor alone will preserve him in competition for taking part in time.

Karlaftis will help an NFL group as a part of a rotation, maybe from a wide range of alignments sooner or later. However I don’t see a first-round caliber expertise once I watch him. Within the NFL, it takes extra juice than he has within the tank.

Yr 1 Outlook: Rotational Defender

Yr 3 Outlook: Strong Starter

Grade: third Spherical (Strong Starter)

7. Travon Walker, Georgia (6-5, 272, 4.51)

Walker’s climb to a possible High 5 decide is likely one of the extra unlikely rises I’ve seen in my time learning draft prospects. The junior notched simply 9.5 sacks in his faculty profession. Nearly all of these have been as a consequence of protection or quarterbacks stepping up into his lap within the pocket. I’ve by no means seen an edge rusher destined for the High 5 with much less cross rush wins than Walker on tape. There are a number of layers to his analysis, however it’s laborious for any draftable edge defender prospect to go a whole faculty profession with out greater than a handful of one-on-one wins. Not to mention a High 5 decide.

Georgia DE Travon Walker

Georgia DE Travon Walker – Photograph by: USA At present

However Walker shall be one of many extra uncommon dimension/athleticism freaks within the league from day one. His testing numbers at 6-5, 272 kilos are jaw-dropping. And when he’s taking part in in house, you may see Walker’s athleticism. He’s received vary in his protection drops, and he covers a ton of floor in pursuit. His lengthy strides enable him to chase down runs to the boundary or quarterbacks rolling out. And when performs break down, Walker is a good nearer on quarterbacks attempting to flee the pocket.

However proper now … that’s just about it. Walker doesn’t have a go-to transfer, he doesn’t have counter strikes and he can’t bend on the high of the arc. There are flashes of him being explosive off the ball, however not sufficient reps to rely on it within the NFL. For all his athleticism, Walker seems to be stiff when attempting to nook, and he performs upright on the snap too typically. Working in opposition to smaller offensive linemen, that wasn’t a priority. However within the NFL, his pad degree and approach will matter extra.

Proper now, Walker is a mission. At full growth, maybe he’s a good higher Za’Darius Smith or Jadeveon Clowney. However he’s not on the extent of these guys proper now. Can he get there? I’m truthfully unsure. He’s quite a bit much less skilled as an edge rusher than these guys have been popping out of school.

Sure, Georgia’s scheme had an impression on this. Walker was typically aligned within the B-gap and over tackles. Generally they dropped him into protection, and typically he had containment tasks as a rusher. However Walker nonetheless acquired virtually 400 snaps exterior the sort out final season. He had ample alternative to indicate extra as a cross rusher. He simply by no means did. I perceive the upside is important. However I’d be fairly nervous about taking Walker within the vary he’s anticipated to be drafted in.

Yr 1 Outlook: Rotational Defender

Yr 3 Outlook: Strong-Good Starter

Grade: Early third Spherical (Strong-Good Starter)

6. David Ojabo, Michigan (6-4, 250, 4.55)

When you may erupt off the ball like Ojabo, you at all times have an opportunity. In any case, burst and pace up the arc are two essential components of cross dashing on the subsequent degree. Ojabo clearly has each of these traits, even when they don’t present up each rep. He must be slightly extra conscious of snap timing, slightly than being caught off guard by the play’s begin so typically. However when Ojabo will get a leap, he has the stop-start quickness to create house on the high of the arc.

Michigan DE David Ojabo

Michigan DE David Ojabo – Photograph by: USA At present

However proper now the positives virtually finish there. Ojabo has little or no speed-to-power in his sport, and his upright dashing model exposes quite a lot of his body to soak up punches. If tackles landed their palms on him, the rep was over. Ojabo depends quite a bit on having the ability to use hesitation strikes to win the sting. He has to get tackles out of place first, as a result of he lacks the bend to dip below them on the high of the arc.

I like Ojabo, however there are quite a lot of dud cross rush reps on tape. When he meets his match athletically within the NFL, I’m unsure how he wins proper now. The excellent news is that Ojabo didn’t even play 600 snaps of soccer in faculty. Along with his dimension and size, it’s potential his greatest soccer is forward of him. He may by no means repair the pliability problem, however he can discover methods round it. The traits he does have – burst, pace and a few wiggle – are an incredible beginning place.

Proper now, Ojabo profiles as stylistically just like Yannick Ngakoue in how he must win as a rusher. That looks as if the ceiling for him within the passing sport. If he bulks up and improves as a run defender, Ojabo may very well be a mash-up of Bud Dupree and Ngakoue. However Michigan didn’t even absolutely belief him on run downs in 2021. I’m not even factoring the Achilles damage into my grade, however NFL groups will care about it. I believe Ojabo will slide out of Spherical 1, however hopefully that fall received’t impression his progress within the NFL an excessive amount of.

Yr 1 Outlook: Injured/Go Rush Specialist

Yr 3 Outlook: Strong-Good Starter

Grade: Early third Spherical (Strong-Good Starter)

5. Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (6-2, 250, 4.66)

I needed to watch extra sport of Ebiketie than each different edge rusher on this checklist. In the long run, I made a decision he was an excellent instance of a participant who doesn’t look tremendous athletic when he strikes, however has superb purposeful athleticism for his place. Ebiketie possesses the very uncommon mixture of common burst with superb pace up the arc. He doesn’t erupt off the ball, however he nonetheless threatens the sting with a very good five-yard burst. Due to that, his entire cross rush sport opens up.

Penn State DE Arnold Ebiketie NFL

Penn State DE Arnold Ebiketie – Photograph by: USA At present

From a course of and execution standpoint, Ebiketie is likely one of the high rushers within the class. He’s artful, instinctive and is aware of how you can use his palms. He can bull rush, cross chop, swim inside or snatch the surface arm of the sort out. And Ebiketie thinks on his toes too, taking a look at rusher’s set factors and constructing his rush plan as he goes. No, he received’t blow any opponent away with explosiveness. However he’s mild on his toes and manipulates house to get what he needs. Not many faculty rushers are equally threatening inside and outside like Ebiketie confirmed on tape. His various method retains opposing tackles on their toes.

Though his athleticism is the query mark I had on tape, Ebiketie posted robust testing numbers. He additionally didn’t shrink back from the agility drills, pulling in a top quality 3-cone and quick shuttle. That impressed me. The largest weak point with Ebiketie is that he’ll most likely by no means be an incredible point-of-attack run defender. I don’t care that a lot about that, however groups will. He competes laborious, and can make performs as a consequence of effort, particularly on runs away from him. Ebiketie’s profession may begin as a chosen cross rusher, however I’ll be stunned if he isn’t a very good starter ultimately.

Yr 1 Outlook: Strong Starter/Go Rush Specialist

Yr 3 Outlook: Good Starter

Grade: Late Second Spherical (Good Starter)

4. Boye Mafe, Minnesota (6-4, 261, 4.53)

Sure, I’m increased on Mafe than consensus. And the reasoning is fairly easy. I believe his mixture of burst, pace and bend is uncommon for a person his dimension. And his hand utilization took a late faculty profession leap that may give him an opportunity to be a stud within the NFL. There simply will not be many 6-foot-4, 263-pound edge rushers working 4.53 and leaping within the ninetieth percentile.

Minnesota DE Boye Mafe NFL

Minnesota DE Boye Mafe – Photograph by: USA At present

However whereas Mafe has athleticism and dimension that has drawn comparisons to Rashan Gary (Gary was heavier), the Minnesota edge has room to enhance. His counter sport is principally non-existent, and it may very well be a lethal weapon for him. Mafe may be very bodily and performs laborious, however must preserve getting higher at holding tackles off of his body. Some will query his cross rush manufacturing (15 profession sacks) throughout a principally quiet faculty profession. There is no such thing as a query Mafe’s breakout got here later than you’d like, however the tape clearly reveals a gifted rusher with nice upside.

Mafe took over the Senior Bowl sport with two sacks, three tackles-for-loss and a compelled fumble. He compelled a number of different sacks and throwaway as effectively, wreaking havoc along with his explosiveness, bend and a new-found cross chop transfer. If he can construct on that transfer, the sky is basically the restrict. Rushers who get off the ball like Mafe does drive tackles into deeper cross units. Get him to acknowledge inside paths to the pocket and it’s a wrap.

Mafe can even rush inside situationally, and is a monster on video games up entrance. Possibly he by no means reaches his peak and turns into a group’s No. 1 edge rusher. However Mafe will virtually definitely contribute to a high three, and might achieve this from a wide range of alignments. Plus, he’s a robust run defender, too.

Yr 1 Outlook: Rotational Defender/Strong Starter

Yr 3 Outlook: Good-Very Good Starter

Grade: Second Spherical (Good-Very Good Starter)

3. Jermaine Johnson, Florida State (6-5, 254, 4.58)

My largest frustration with Johnson is that his greatest reps don’t present up typically sufficient as a cross rusher. In the event that they did, he’d be in competition for EDGE1. After all, the shortage of consistency is forgivable while you bear in mind this previous season was his first as a starter. Johnson left essentially the most loaded line of defense within the nation (Georgia) to play a serious position at Florida State this previous season. With 12 sacks and an ACC Defensive Participant of the Yr award, Johnson is likely one of the high edge defenders within the class.

FSU DE Jermaine Johnson NFL

FSU DE Jermaine Johnson – Photograph by: USA At present

The excellent news with Johnson is that his ground appears remarkably excessive. He’s such an incredible run defender and relentless competitor that the NFL transition ought to be easy for him. Johnson bullies tackles on the level of assault, exploding off the ball and rocketing into contact. A number of gamers play laborious, however Johnson takes that to a different degree. His power and physicality are eye-popping at occasions. On the Senior Bowl in late January, the Seminoles star brutally received virtually each rep over the primary two days. It was extremely apparent he was the perfect participant there.

Now Johnson simply must put all of it collectively as a rusher constantly. His first-step burst is apparent, and he’s capable of carry that pace up the arc. His counter sport must develop, however that’s regular for younger rushers. Johnson may by no means have the elite traits to be an annual Professional Bowler, however he’s going to be a productive starter within the NFL. And a big a part of will probably be the distinctive mixture of his quickness, energy and continuous motor.

Yr 1 Outlook: Strong Starter

Yr 3 Outlook: Good-Very Good Starter

Grade: Second Spherical (Good-Very Good Starter)

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (6-4, 254, 4.58)

Probably the most irritating factor about Thibodeaux is what I don’t know. I do not know what the story is with him off the sphere. After all, I’ve heard all of the reviews on the market. And I’ve achieved loads of my very own digging, too. These inquiries have led to much more affirmation of the reviews you’ve all heard: Thibodeaux doesn’t care about soccer like a professional must. The bust potential is sky-high regardless of the expertise.

Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux NFL

Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux – Photograph by: USA At present

I don’t know. Possibly it’s true. In truth, often smoke means hearth in these conditions. I’ll admit that. There may be probably no less than a disconnect between Thibodeaux and the frequent tradition of the NFL (which has loads of its personal faults). However I don’t see something on tape that may lead me to consider any of that. Once I watch Thibodeaux, I don’t see the loafing others discuss. What I do see is likely one of the most explosive cross rushers I’ve ever scouted. When evaluating by the 4 Pillars, Thibodeaux’s go off the ball is otherworldly. He’s so constantly explosive, I believe he could be a menace with simply that weapon within the NFL.

However ultimately, it’s going to take greater than that. Thibodeaux’s complete cross rush plan is constructed on profitable the sting with burst and bend. Sometimes some hand work is thrown in there to assist him out, however he’s very a lot a finesse rusher. After all, profitable exterior the sort out is a very powerful aircraft to dominate as an edge rusher. So Thibodeaux already has that going for him. Now it’s nearly rounding out his sport.

Does he have to be an incredible energy rusher? No. Does he have to develop a counter sport? To a level, sure. However Thibodeaux will instantly be a menace to each sort out within the NFL due to his explosiveness. Now, some athletes throughout from him within the NFL will match him off the ball. So his all-around sport might want to take steps ahead. And if he doesn’t care sufficient to place the work in, that shall be a difficulty.

However I don’t base any of my grades off “character issues.” I don’t have entry to the type of data I have to constantly make correct character assessments. If Thibodeaux busts due to that, I’ll dwell with it. On tape, he’s a simple first-round prospect.

Yr 1 Outlook: Good Starter

Yr 3 Outlook: Excessive High quality Starter

Grade: First Spherical (Excessive High quality Prospect)

1. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (6-6, 274, 4.74)

Once I watched Hutchinson’s tape from early within the 12 months, I didn’t suppose he was going to get a primary spherical grade from me. him by means of the lens of the pillars of cross rush athleticism was a bit regarding. Given how Hutchinson wins as a cross rusher, with energy, hand utilization and selection, his first step is essential to his success. With out explosiveness off the ball, speed-to-power rushes don’t exist. And Hutchinson wants them to exist, as his rush package deal is constructed off of these exchanges.

Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson NFL

Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson – Photograph by: USA At present

However early within the 12 months, Hutchinson was massively affected by false steps. Working predominantly from a 2-point stance, Hutchinson would step in place when the ball was snapped, earlier than taking off. On many reps he would raise his complete again foot earlier than shifting ahead off the ball. This wasted motion delayed his get-off significantly, which restricted his entire arsenal. In consequence, Hutchinson was good, however not nice on tape.

Till round midseason. Then, it appeared like one thing clicked. Hutchinson lower down considerably on his false steps, erupting off of the ball with excellent first step burst. Instantly the ability strikes and hand work to win the sting clicked into place. Hutchinson may now threaten tackles out of their stance, which opened up inside counters. When Ohio State’s tackles began over-setting on him, Hutchinson crossed their face all day, piling up three sacks.

Within the NFL, the assessments will get more durable. Hutchinson examined like an elite athlete at edge rusher, however he doesn’t at all times appear to be one on tape. Nonetheless, neither did T.J. Watt in faculty. Even now within the NFL, Watt wins extra off of a wide range of strikes and quickness, together with absurd energy. After all, Watt additionally checks the packing containers athletically, even when he isn’t a freak on the sphere.

Now, will Hutchinson match Watt’s manufacturing or accolades within the NFL? Solely time will inform. I don’t suppose Hutchinson is the run defender that Watt is. However there are sufficient stylistic similarities in how they rush to see the comparability. When Hutchinson wins off the ball, he’s a drive. When he doesn’t, he could be managed. Hutchinson is just not as constantly explosive as Kayvon Thibodeaux, and he’s positively not as flexible. However he wins in a larger number of methods, even when he’s depending on his first step to make all of it work. I believe he’ll be a top quality NFL participant for a very long time, even when he by no means cracks the Tier 1 edge defender group.

Yr 1 Outlook: Good Starter

Yr 3 Outlook: Excessive High quality Starter

Grade: First Spherical (Excessive High quality Prospect)


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