Like the interior DL class, whose strength and depth I highlighted Monday, the EDGE group is loaded, with two prospects likely to be selected in the top five and perhaps three or four in the top 10 — depending on clubs' needs and respective rankings. There are some very talented players in this group, and we'll take a closer look now at the top eight.
A raw small-school guy whom several high-level decision makers went in to see at Old Dominion, Ximines can play down as a defensive end or on his feet as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Though raw, Ximines still put up 12 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss during the 2018 college season. His Combine performance was also good, and most in the League feel he has excellent upside.
Polite has some issues off the field that could directly affect where he gets drafted. He reportedly struggled with Combine interviews and then didn’t test as well as expected. He ran a very average 4.84 in the 40 and came back at the Florida Pro Day to run 5.00. His other measurable drills were also average.
Polite's tape is very good (11 sacks, 45 tackles, 17.5 TFLs last season), and going into the Combine, I felt he may be a guy who could go in the 20-to-40 range. Now he’s a wild card and there is no telling where he will go. Still, his play on the field is excellent, so regardless of when/where he gets drafted, he will make an impact as a rookie.
Ferguson was not able to workout in Indy because of an arrest and a conviction after a fight early in his career. At his Pro Day, he ran 4.82 and jumped well (32”, 9’9”), but his agility drills were horrible (5.12 ss, 8.08 3c). That causes a problem for clubs because they aren’t sure what they will be drafting. In scouting, it's supposed to be about the tape — and Ferguson's is outstanding (45 career sacks, 66 tackles for loss) playing against mid-major competition.
Ferguson's workout may get him drafted later than he deserves, but the team that pulls the trigger is going to get a hell of a football player.
Ferrell is very talented and productive, totaling 21 sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss over the past two season at Clemson as a defensive end. At 6’4 – 263 (Pro Day weight), Ferrell has the frame to get bigger if he chooses. There are some evaluators (including me) who feel that Ferrell may be best off as a 3-technique in a 4-3. The player he reminds me of coming out of college is former Bear and Cowboy Henry Melton, who became a Pro Bowler playing inside.
Ferrell has not been timed yet in the 40 and looks on tape to be a guy who will run in the 4.80 range. He has strength (25 reps) and change of direction (7.26 3-cone), but is he explosive enough to play outside? The club that drafts sometime in the first round will answer that question.
Watching Burns on tape, my biggest question wasn’t speed or athleticism — it was whether he has the bulk and strength to hold up in the NFL. He looked like he was no bigger than 230-235 pounds. He weighed in at 249 at the Combine, where he ran a blazing 4.63 40. At the Seminoles' March 28 Pro Day, he weighed in at 242. So what is his real weight? Burns did not bench press in Indy or his Pro Day, which tells me he knows he’s not yet quite strong enough.
Like Burns, Leonard Floyd has a long, narrow frame, and it took him some time to develop the requisite strength to compete on a consistent basis at the NFL level. Burns will probably be a 3-4 outside linebacker and has unlimited upside, but he may just be a role player as a rookie DPR (designated pass rusher). Because of that upside, he could go early like Floyd, whom the Bears traded up to select at No. 9 overall in 2016.
Sweat was a member of one of the best defensive lines in college football last year, playing with DT Jeffery Simmons and fellow EDGE Gerri Green and posting strong production with 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
After starting his college career as a tight end at Michigan State, Sweat was moved to defense, leaving East Lansing following the 2015 season to attend Copiah Lincoln junior college before enrolling at Mississippi State. Because he has only played four years on defense, Sweat is still a bit raw but has rare traits, including speed, length and overall athleticism. Sweat’s arms are just under 36” long and he possesses 4.41 speed and a 36” vertical jump. At 260 pounds, he ran the agility drills like a 200-pound wide receiver. Sweat might need some time to totally develop his skills, but there may not be an edge player with more physical upside.
Allen contemplated entering the Draft last year but decided to go back to school and improve his game. He made a wise decision, as he is bigger, stronger and much more productive than he was a year ago. He finished the 2018 season with 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
There is not really a weak part of Allen’s game — he can play the run, rush the passer or drop into coverage. Allen played mostly on his feet at Kentucky but is also very capable of playing down. Allen could very well be a top-5 selection, and some teams may rate him higher than Nick Bosa.
There are many who feel Bosa is the best player in this Draft. At worst, he’s the third prospect overall, and that may be stretching it as there certainly isn’t a quarterback who is a better football player.
Bosa didn’t test as well as some other guys at the position, but when you add his strength, competitive nature and instincts, there are few who can make more plays. His game is very similar to his older brother Joey, and if he turns out to be as good, the team that selects Nick will be more than happy. Nick Bosa is a perfect fit to play right end in a 4-3 but also has the athleticism to play outside linebacker in a base 3-4. Regardless, on pass downs his hand is in the dirt and he’s coming after quarterbacks.