[In this NFL Draft series, we will spotlight several positions of interest for the Dallas Cowboys. Scouring the landscape of draft gurus, we will put together mini scouting reports and weigh the pros and cons of many available prospects to find the right fit for the Dallas Cowboys come April 2020.]
Now, let’s shift our focus back to the defensive side again and look at this year’s edge rushers. The Cowboys have DeMarcus Lawrence locked up for a while but the same cannot be said for Robert Quinn, the team’s sack-leader in 2019. The front office has been vocal about the desire to keep Quinn but the market will ultimately decide that. The Cowboys also have Michael Bennett and Kerry Hyder set to hit free agency too. All in all, there is a lot of work to be done and the Cowboys might want to consider spending a pick or two.
Let’s first look at the big picture for the top names in this year’s edge rushing class.
|EDGE RUSHER||SCHOOL||CBS RANK||PROJ. RD||TCKL||TFL||SCK||FF||PD|
|CHASE YOUNG||OHIO STATE||1||1||98||40.5||30.5||9||8|
|YETUR GROSS-MATOS||PENN STATE||19||1-2||111||36.5||18.5||2||0|
|CURTIS WEAVER||BOISE STATE||39||2||128||47.5||34||3||6|
|JULIAN OKWARA||NOTRE DAME||40||2||79||24||15.5||4||1|
|KHALID KAREEM||NOTRE DAME||99||3-4||108||26||13||4||8|
A.J. EPENESA, IOWA
13 GP, 49 TCKL, 14 TFL, 11.5 SACK, 4 FF, 3 PBU (2019)
A.J. Epenesa is a pretty complete defensive end prospect. He has the NFL build with the desirable length at the position. He has already developed a devastating bull-rush move though he needs much more than that to win consistently at the NFL level. Epenesa doesn’t have the bend or burst you want but he extends well and destroys gaps routinely with his heavy mitts. He does have a few technical refinements to make but his balanced skill set will win you over.
|JR-IOWA||6'6 280 LBS||PROJ. RD: 1|
|Exceptional length, impressive power, heavy-hands, good timing, devastating bull-rusher, developed counter moves, great extension, good speed-power ratio, gap destroyer||Lacks burst & bend, lateral mobility is less than desired, won't play well in space, needs to work on recognition to not lose outside leverage, needs to work on pad-level|
K’LAVON CHAISSON, LSU
13 GP, 60 TCKL, 13.5 TFL, 6.5 SACK, 1 FF, 2 PBU (2019)
K’Lavon Chaisson would be the perfect twitchy fit for a more versatile defensive scheme that the Cowboys want to implement under Mike Nolan. He can seem effortless with his ability to move, there are NFL traits all throughout his game. He’s speedy, explosive, and very athletic. Chaisson was very productive this past season after missing all but one game in 2018 with a torn ACL. His lack of refinement in many key areas is a direct result of him missing so much time. Still, this is an ascending player that could flourish as a pass rusher at the next level.
|JR-LSU||6'4 250 LBS||PROJ. RD: 1|
|Great & thick build, outstanding mobility, springy & loose, supreme flexibility & bend, first-step explosive, great closing burst, shoots gaps in two & three-point stance, unrelenting motor, athletic & fluid||Production lacking due to ACL tear in 2018, needs to develop as pass rusher, vision needs improvement, still developing timing of pass rush moves, needs to add bulk & functional strength|
YETUR GROSS-MATOS, PENN STATE
11 GP, 40 TCKL, 14.5 TFL, 9 SACK (2019)
Nobody is going to beat out Yetur Gross-Matos in terms of effort or motor. He doesn’t know the word ‘quit’. His motor is relentless and you can easily fall in love with a guy who gives you A+ effort while possessing A+ athleticism. Gross-Matos is a freakishly talented edge defender, which makes him versatile in terms of how he is deployed. Like many thinly-build pass rushers, he will have to gain some strength in the weight room but this guy makes incredibly difficult tackles. Yetur Gross-Matos has the tools to become an absolute monster in the NFL with the right coaching.
|JR-PENN ST.||6'5 264 LBS||PROJ. RD: 1-2|
|Freakish athleticism, never out of the play, relentless pursuit, lots of sack & TFL production due to effort alone, can manipulate body & make plays, can't attack his perimeter, versatility to play OLB or DE||Severely lean build, hips & legs too thin for NFL, needs to improve play strength, needs to add more ingredients, technical work ahead as he relies heavily on up-field burst & motor too much, needs to learn counters|
TERRELL LEWIS, ALABAMA
10 GP, 31 TCKL, 11.5 TFL, 6 SACK, 1 PBU (2019)
Terrell Lewis looks like the prototypical NFL edge rusher with a muscular build and length in his extremities. He has a few injury concerns to clear up as he missed some time but there is little doubt that he can become an explosive NFL pass rusher. Lewis will need to clean up technical errors but he’s got plenty to work with including power, length, and he knows how to win with leverage. All of the above will be especially beneficial for him in the pros.
|JR-ALABAMA||6'5 258 LBS||PROJ. RD: 2|
|Looks of NFL DE, muscular, long limbed, good flexibility, violent rusher, well-versed in stunts, true disruptor, high-intensity, good length & powerful hands, great hand placement, explosive rusher||Needs pass rush plan, too frantic right now, must learn how to win with technique, tendency to late-step in latter portion of games, needs conditioning, some injury concerns|
CURTIS WEAVER, BOISE STATE
14 GP, 52 TCKL, 19.5 TFL, 13.5 SACK, 3 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF (2019)
Curtis Weaver is built very thick but he still possesses a great first step. He has some explosiveness that meshes well with his upper body strength and power. He does a nice job of making himself slippery for blockers but he still has a lot of room to grow. Weaver is not going to wow you with athleticism but his effort to succeed is incredible and he’s been very productive.
|JR-BOISE ST.||6'3 265 LBS||PROJ. RD: 2|
|Thick, powerful base, strong anchor, initial burst in step, explosive off ball, natural disruptor, great in leverage & proper usage, disengages easily w/ punch, explosive upper body power, smart & slippery||Bend is less than ideal, doesn't flip hips & turn corner w/ consistency, flashes but can't be trusted snap-to-snap, gets pushed out of play, must develop pass rush moves & counters, lacks hip & ankle fluidity|
ZACK BAUN, WISCONSIN
14 GP, 75 TCKL, 19.5 TFL, 12.5 SACK, 2 PBU, 2 FF, 1 PICK-SIX INT (2019)
Zack Baun is all about the hustle game and being a balanced defender. His tape shows a dynamic edge rusher but also a guy that can help in run support. Baun is over-productive and possesses the bend and closing speed most teams will love. He does have a lot to clean up as his over-aggressiveness gets him turned around on occasion, he also doesn’t have the fluidity in his lower body. It’s hard to argue against his production though and that’s what will get him early consideration.
|SR-WISC.||6'3 240 LBS||PROJ. RD: 2|
|Hustle & effort unquestionable, high-character, sufficient as rusher & in run support, hands deliver pop, great pursuit, dynamic edge athlete, elite wiggle & bend, effective 3-down player, good special teams value||Perimeter shows weaknesses, must develop pass rush moves, hand placement is poor at times, loses football in mis-direction, poor tackle angles, may only fit 3-4 OLB, struggles w/ longer tackles on edge|
JULIAN OKWARA, NOTRE DAME
9 GP, 19 TCKL, 7 TFL, 5 SACK, 2 FF (2019)
Julian Okwara is another guy with the build of a prototypical rush end in the NFL. He does a good job of recognizing his gifts and using them sufficiently. His long limbs create a large tackle-radius but he doesn’t always make the tackle, which is a bummer. To his credit, he is very crafty in creating penetration. Though his length is great, his frame could use some added bulk before he takes on the punishment at the next level.
|SR-N. DAME||6'4 248 LBS||PROJ. RD: 3|
|Great NFL frame w/ length, bendy, shifty at point of attack, solid in run def, good penetrator, big tackle radius, plays small around edge & flattens QB, terrific crasher in subs, good balance & power||Needs to add mass & bulk for 4-3 teams, lack of weight in base shows, can be displaced at times, over-commits to penetration hurts him, poor tackler, needs to drop hips, novice in hand usage|
BRADLEE ANAE, UTAH
12 GP, 41 TCKL, 14 TFL, 13 SACK, 1 FF (2019)
Since the Senior Bowl, Bradlee Anae has been on the rise. Another high-character, high-motor guy that never stops attacking, Anae is also very balanced in run defense and has a little polish as a pass rusher, too. He is still developing his attack plan and will need to learn a few more tricks of the trade. At the same time, his burst, speed, awareness, and versatility will get him on the field rather early.
|SR-UTAH||6'3 257 LBS||PROJ. RD: 3|
|Most versatile DE in class, consistent edge setter, equally effective up or down as rusher, great get-off, burst, & speed, super-tough, relentless motor & attacker, high-IQ on & off field, great hustle||"Try hard" label, not overly athletic, loses control & balance on occasion, tends to lose leverage, gets fooled on mis-directions & boots, has great counter move but fails to use it consistently|