Ranking the best edge defenders in the 2016 NFL draft

Thomas Maney breaks down and ranks the top edge defenders available in the 2016 NFL draft.

| 8 months ago
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Ranking the best edge defenders in the 2016 NFL draft


Continuing our position-by-position look at the top draft prospects, we focus on the nation’s top edge defenders. There’s a clear favorite at the top in Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, but otherwise this year’s group doesn’t look quite as deep as the 2015 class. Notably there are some strong pass rushers that have question marks in run defense.

Here are the top edge defenders in the 2016 draft:

[Be sure to check out the rest of our positional rankings: (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs]

Day 1

Joey Bosa, Ohio State

PFF’s highest-graded edge defender overall for the last two college seasons, Bosa is the marquee name in this year’s edge group and PFF’s top player overall on our latest draft board.

Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Lawson graded well in limited snaps in 2014 and maintained that production over a much larger workload last season (760 snaps), finishing 2015 with the third-highest overall grade among edge defenders and ranking right behind Bosa as the No. 2 run defender. He’s not quite in Bosa’s class as a pass rusher, but Lawson still compiled 50 total pressures, showing impressive strength and relentlessness while working his way toward opposing quarterbacks.

Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Floyd might be the most explosive athlete in the class and he uses that athleticism to great effect, setting up a devastating inside counter and spin move. His pass rush grade ranked fifth on the season, but no player won to the inside more frequently than Floyd, who picked up inside pressure once every 11.2 snaps.

Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

Calhoun can rush the passer – only one player racked up more total pressures than his 76 (11 sacks, 17 hits, 48 hurries), which was good for a top-two grade. He was similarly productive in 2014 (fifth-ranked overall grade), but he regressed in run defense with just an average grade there in 2015, in part due to 13 missed tackles. Penalties were also an issue – Calhoun led the class with 11.

Day 2

Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

Spence logged only 122 snaps against FBS opponents last season, but graded well in those games and had a dominant Senior Bowl week, capping it off with one sack and six pressures in the actual game. Like Calhoun, Spence is a somewhat one-dimensional player with just average production in run defense. However, he has the tools as a pass rusher to warrant a pick on Day 1.

Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

Ogbah is a big, powerful end that finished with the third-ranked pass rush grade in the class and was the only player with more total pressures than Calhoun (78), using the rip as his go-to move getting to opposing quarterbacks. However, he comes with similar issues in run defense as the two players above him on this list. He graded below average against the run in 2014 and only slightly improved in 2015 (+1.7, 90th-ranked run grade).

Joe Schobert, Wisconsin

No player was more productive on a per-snap basis than Schobert, who collected 53 pressures last season and 40 in 2014. He’s a slippery rusher with active hands and the athleticism to bend the edge and punish opposing offenses when left unblocked. Concerns include his size and play strength, which contributed to 13 missed tackles — the fourth-highest total in the class.

Carl Nassib, Penn State

After more than doubling his snap count in 2015, Nassib led the FBS in sacks and finished right behind Schobert at No. 2 in pass rushing productivity. He carried that regular season performance into a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, where he had the highest grade and win percentage during one-on-one drills. Although he doesn’t quite stack up athletically to some of his peers, Nassib sets a strong edge in the run game with good power and hands. In the passing game he flashed the ability to dip the shoulder on outside pass rushes. Not always pretty, but productive.

Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

We highlighted Fackrell’s play during the season and he ended up with the no. 7 overall grade in the class with a similarly impressive pass rush productivity rating. He’s a fluid athlete with ideal length for an OLB, which he uses well when rushing. Negatively, his play strength is somewhat of a problem, and it contributed to a fairly high missed tackle count (11, tied for 7th-most among edge), something that’s more concerning given a lower level of competition than many of his peers.

Kevin Dodd, Clemson

Not quite as good as Shaq Lawson in either facet, but Dodd still finished with the ninth-best overall grade. He’s a disruptive run defender with the second-most defensive stops in the class (44), but on second look wasn’t quite as consistent as a pass rusher. Much of his grade came in the team’s two playoff games, where he compiled 19 combined, while his regular season production was less impressive.

Kamalei Correa, Boise State

Correa is an impressive athlete with two years of good grades, although he’s somewhat raw as a pass rusher. Correa shouldn’t have much issue transitioning to 3-4 outside linebacker after compiling 36 pressures in 250 pass rushes last.

Day 3

Ronald Blair, Appalachian State

Blair displayed op-tier production in both 2014 and 2015, although he faced just two Power-5 teams (96 snaps) over that span, one of them a +2.2 effort against Clemson last season. He finished with a top-six pass rush grade among interior linemen both years, and improved greatly against the run in 2015 after an average grade there in 2014. Blair topped the edge group in both total defensive stops (50) and run stop percentage (13.8).

Will Anthony, Navy

Anthony was an undersized interior lineman at Navy, but will likely move to the edge in the NFL. He’s a disruptive player with the fifth-best overall grad among interior defenders. Graded well in both areas, but was most impressive against the run, where his grade bested bigger name players such as Buckner and Sheldon Rankins.

Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

Another pass rush specialist, Ngakoue had the seventh-best pass rush grade against Power-5 teams, but had issues against the run that are difficult to overlook. He graded negatively in run defense in 2014 and was actually w last season, finishing with the 145th-ranked run grade and a position-low run stop percentage.

Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

Jenkins likewise had solid production in a Power-5 conference, finishing last season with the 21st overall grade in 553 snaps, although he’s a more limited athlete than Ngakoue and teammate Leonard Floyd. He’s a strong, long run defender that bullied opposing tight ends and was one of the best bull rushers in the class.

Alex McCalister, Florida

McCalister played just 612 snaps over the last two seasons, but he’s an impressive athlete and one of the best in the class at bending the edge. However, he graded just average in run defense and as a rusher he does not win inside or on bull rushes at all – McCalister ranked seventh in the class in productivity on outside rushes, but 108th for inside pressure.

 

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