Before I hop into any analysis, I must make it very clear that the edge rusher is my favorite position on the football field. With this being said, the upcoming class does not disappoint. It’s headlined by a player many see being fit to be the best defensive player in the draft (Kayvon Thibodeaux), but there are various talents not far behind him.
Best Player: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux is one of the most athletic players in the draft class. He has a sizable frame (6’5”, 250 lbs) and plays a lot stronger than his weight might suggest. He’s the best edge-bender in this draft class and will continue to be the best. He knows how to smoothly dip his shoulder and create dynamic pathways to the quarterback. Thibodeaux might not be a high-sack player in the NFL, but his ability to crush the pocket and use his elite athleticism will certainly make him one of the biggest impact players on any defense.
Most Overrated: Drake Jackson, USC
I’ve seen Drake Jackson drafted in the top ten in some mocks. I’ve found this utterly blasphemous based on the film I’ve seen. He’ll find the most success being a powerful defensive end, as he’s shown solid strength against opposing linemen. However, Jackson lacks a motor and any legitimate speed to be a threat on the edge.
He’s slow off the line of scrimmage and he’s only going to continue to get bigger (he only weighs in at 250 lbs). Unless he shows major improvement on his speed, I don’t consider him a top-five edge rusher in this class.
Most Underrated: Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Sanders has steadily improved over his career in Cincinnati. He’s a 6’5”, 260-pound edge rusher that shows aggression and the ability to use his hands to maneuver himself around his arc. He’s very instinctual, and overall a very smart player. Sanders can also get his paws into the equation, as he deflected five passes at the line of scrimmage last season. He has very good length to propel his body around opposing offensive tackles and has an advanced arsenal of bull-rushing moves and swipes to get to the quarterback.
Watch Out For: Adam Anderson, Georgia
You can’t talk about speed in this edge class without bringing up Adam Anderson. Georgia sources have indicated that he’s capable of running a 4.4 forty-yard dash. Anderson measures in at 6’5″, 230 pounds. He has a great frame but still needs to add a lot more size to compete along the edge.
His tape shows a very explosive player capable of breaking out into a new and impressive player in 2021. According to PFF, Anderson pressured the quarterback on 23 of his 86 pass-rushing attempts last season, and with more snaps being added to his plate, expect that number to skyrocket.
Preseason Top 5
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon – A big-impact player defensively. Stats don’t show how important he is for Oregon’s defense. Physically and mentally gifted athlete with tons of room to grow.
2. Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati – A well-rounded bull-rusher. Has great hands and an NFL-ready frame. Always finds creative ways to penetrate himself into the pocket.
3. Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma – A fluid and quick athlete that shows twitch in his movement. He’s a bit undersized for an edge rusher but makes up for it with his finesse.
4. Aiden Hutchinson, Michigan – Hutchinson is a freak athlete. End of discussion. He’s extremely fast for his size and can easily become one of the top defensive prospects in the draft class.
5. Adam Anderson, Georgia – Has all the tools necessary to be a dominant edge rusher. Explosion and length are his strong suits, but he needs to add more weight and fill out his frame.
This upcoming class has a lot of positive notes. The 2022 Edge Rusher class is surely one to look after as the college football season begins, as most players have game-changing traits that mesh well with their defense.