NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Ben Natan’s Top 10 Edge Defenders


Nov 2, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu (45) in action against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

One of the marquee positions in the NFL,  the edge rusher is the cream of the defensive crop. Of the past Super Bowl teams, each one had a prominent edge threat during their run. Like most of the positions in this class, edge defender has a ton of depth and many different styles of players.

  1. Jadaveon Clowney (South Carolina): The man, the legend, Clowney is an athlete of epic proportions and a historical prospect. He is a freak that dominates the edge and can win with speed and strength. The scary part is, even though he is so disruptive, being more consistent out of his stance and adding moves could make him even better. Any questions about his effort actually stem from an injury hurting him and his play and he playing through it, not him being lazy. If he can get healthy, he is an immediate impact player with hall of fame potential.
  2. Jeremiah Attoachu (Georgia Tech): Attoachu is a long, athletic defender who excels in space but a year as a down lineman has really helped his ability to take on and shed blocks. He is a very instinctual player, which benefits him against the run and as pass defender. He is incredibly versatile and could excel in multiple positions in multiple formations.
  3. Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State): Lawrence is a very good technician which compliments how strong he is and above average speed. He anticipates very well and does a great job of using his hands to shed and makes plays against the run and pass. Boise moved him around a lot and he was disruptive all over the place. He may need to add a bit of weight but I love his relentless style of play.
  4. Kony Ealy (Mizzou): Like a lot of the edge guys in this class, Ealy is a freak. He is a long, relentless pass rusher who does a great job of attacking a play and getting up field. He flashes an ability to anchor that is very impressive, but can get run over. If he can consistently hold his ground and use his natural strength, he could be a very good, versatile player in a front four.
  5. Shaq Barrett (Colorado State): Another stud from the Mountain West, Barrett is a technician more than an athlete, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for with his motor. He never stops driving his legs, attacking the play and he has very strong and technical hand usage that helps him shed blocks. He is very versatile, showing the ability to rush the passer, stop the run and has even held up in coverage.
  6. Aaron Lynch (USF): Throw on Lynch’s freshman tape from Notre Dame and you’ll see one of the most disruptive players in college football. Flash forward two years, and he lost a lot of weight during the transfer process and it hurt his play. Some times there wasn’t a lot of drive behind his play and he’d get pushed around. However, sometimes he would flash that freak strength and speed combo that made him so devastating at Notre Dame. If he can get to a healthy weight and play with a little more fire, I have no doubt he could be one hell of a player.
  7. Marcus Smith (Louisville): Smith is a great athlete who has great quickness and shows a very good ability to convert speed to power. He has very good instincts and burst and can disrupt from all over the field. He may need to get brought along as a role player and develop as a run defender, but his potential is impressive.
  8. Dee Ford (Auburn): The first thing that stands out on tape is Ford’s jump off the ball. Ford has great anticipation and burst to get off the ball and shoot up the field. However, I worry about his ability to anchor or shed blocks. He is relentless, which helps his case, but he is going to need to add functional strength to be anything more than a role player.
  9. Scott Crichton (Oregon State): Crichton is a very strong player who displays strong hands, a great anchor and an ability to bull rush his opponents to create disruption. He has displayed enough speed to threaten the edge, but he consistently displays his strength. I feel he is best suited at 5-Tech, but if he can put everything together, he could end up being a very good player.
  10. Chris Smith (Arkansas): Smith is an explosive athlete who can also fire off the ball to make plays as a pass rusher. He has great length and can bend the edge. He flashes a good anchor but often looks disinterested in defending the run. If he can put his tools together he can be a very good player, but that remains the question.