2022 NFL Draft: Ranking the top-10 edge defenders this year

David Ojabo #55 of the Michigan Wolverines (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
David Ojabo #55 of the Michigan Wolverines (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 2022 NFL Draft is deep when it comes to the edge defender position. Here are the top-10 edge rushers this year.

As we continue our rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft, I continue with the defensive side of the ball and the top EDGE rushers available. Last week, we took a long look at the best interior defenders. This group of EDGE rushers is just as talented and deep overall.

This group has seen some fluctuation since the start of the 2021-2022 college football season, but it has only grown in talent and depth. There are as many as 4 or 5 EDGE rushers that could go in the top-10 later this month. Take a look below at the best pass rushers available and the next potential T.J. Watt or Chase Young.

1. Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan

Until a few months ago, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux was an absolute draft darling and surefire projected number one pick. However, Aidan Hutchinson was a truly dominant and unstoppable force for a playoff-bound Michigan team this past season. He has Nick Bosa-type potential at the next level, and he could help jumpstart a team like Jacksonville or Detroit as early as the 2022 season.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon

Speaking of Thibodeaux, the much-heralded game-changer will be an impact player no matter where he gets drafted. Based on potential alone, Thibodeaux may be the cream of the crop in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The former Oregon Duck is a twitchy athlete with tremendous closing speed and the ability to fit in multiple defensive fronts. If he can avoid injuries and lazy play, Thibodeaux will be a superstar player for the next decade.

3. Travon Walker – Georgia

There may not be a player that has benefited more from the 2022 NFL Draft process thus far than Georgia’s Travon Walker. The star Bulldog was a terror on the edge for the National Champions this season and could continue that in the NFL next season. He’s been projected as early as the top two overall, but likely won’t make it out of the top-10 at the end of this month.

4. Jermaine Johnson – Florida State

A former JUCO transfer and rotational player from the Georgia Bulldogs, Johnson experienced a true breakout season in 2021. He accumulated 12 sacks in a consistent and dominant season for a downtrodden Seminoles team.

At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Johnson is the prototype at the position and could rush from the EDGE or as an outside linebacker. He’s a likely top-15 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

5. George Karlaftis – Purdue

Purdue’s George Karlaftis has been one of the more consistent rushers in the country for the past few seasons. The former Boilermaker has been widely viewed as a consensus top-20 pick for the last year and looks likely to land there this month.

He may not have the same type of explosive athleticism and length as some others on this list, but he is incredibly hard-working with great strength and understanding of the game. A team like Philadelphia or Minnesota makes a ton of sense in Round 1.

6. David Ojabo – Michigan

Despite the late Achilles injury for Michigan’s Ojabo, I believe he is still ticketed for a late first-round selection. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with great closing speed and top-10 ability as a pass rusher. He teamed with Hutchinson to form the most dynamic duo of EDGE rushers in college this past season. He has the type of athletic makeup to play as both a linebacker or defensive end at the next level and could sneak into the back end with a team like Kansas City or Green Bay.

7. Boye Mafe – Minnesota

Mafe is ranked here mostly based on projection, as he possesses the type of tools to become a top-10 pass rusher and elite-level defender. At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Mafe looks the part getting off the bus, but he must work to become a more consistent presence on the field. He’s never topped seven sacks and still appears a bit raw, despite ample playing time in the Big Ten. However, I see an Odafe Oweh-type rise in the first round for Mafe later this month.

8. Cameron Thomas – San Diego State

Thomas is a big defensive end prospect who is extremely versatile and has a relentless motor. A player like this is never out of a play and will give you maximum effort on every rep. He has experience rushing from the inside as well as the edge and could fit in many different defensive schemes. Because of his size and flexibility, Thomas should find a home at the top of round two with a chance at a late first-round call.

9. Arnold Ebiketie – Penn State

The Nittany Lions have been a hotbed for great defensive line talent the last few years, most recently with Baltimore’s Odafe Oweh. Ebiketie could have a similar rise as Oweh in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s a great athlete with outstanding closing speed.

Ebiketie should see immediate playing time in the NFL on special teams and obvious passing downs. He’s an intriguing athlete that could continue to climb boards as we get closer to the big day.

10. Drake Jackson – USC

Jackson is a personal NFL Draft favorite of mine, as an extremely productive player that could be a surprise in the NFL. Once touted as a first-rounder, he will likely fall to the second day due to his lack of size and athleticism.

Next. 2022 NFL Draft: Ranking the top-5 quarterback prospects. dark

Jackson will need to add functional strength to avoid getting washed out of plays in the NFL. His length should help him as a situational pass-rusher on Sundays, but he needs to get bigger to hold up consistently.