When projecting college players to the NFL, a big part of the evaluation is centered around traits. One of the more traits-based positions is edge rusher. Athleticism plays a big part in determining success for edge rushers and we see that play out on draft day. Just last year, a supremely athletic edge rusher, Travon Walker, was drafted first overall over Aidan Hutchinson, who was thought to be the more complete pass rusher.
So, what are the traits that can predict edge rusher success in the NFL? Well, according to the Move the Sticks podcast, hosted by former scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, burst, pass rush plan, finish, and motor are the most important traits edge rushers can possess. After adding power and bend, there are six traits that stick out when evaluating edge rushers.
After reaching out to some talented evaluators on Draft Twitter and tallying votes, we can now get to the edge rusher superlatives.
Make sure you’re following the voters: Cory Kinnan, Devin Jackson, Tyler Browning, Alex Katson, EJ Holt, and Pat Pryor.
Get-off: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
There is a reason that whenever edge rushers run the 40-yard dash, people pay more attention to their 10-yard split. How quickly they get off the line of scrimmage and how much ground they cover in their first few steps matters.
According to the voters for this article, the pass rusher with the best get-off is non-other than Will Anderson Jr. Perhaps the best player in the entire class, Anderson was bound to lead in at least one of these categories.
The clip above shows exactly what type of get-off Anderson possesses. Anderson just blows by the offensive tackle on his way to the quarterback. You can see that he is significantly quicker off the line of scrimmage than any of the other defensive linemen.
Others receiving votes: Nolan Smith, Georgia
Finishing: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Well, it did not take long for Anderson to pop up again. This should be to the surprise of nobody, however. Anderson is the best edge rusher in the class and possesses multiple elite-level traits.
Listening to the Move the Sticks podcast, Jeremiah and Brooks highlighted finishing as one of the skills that mark a good edge rusher. Previously, this was something that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, but bringing the quarterback to the ground is most definitely a skill. There are plenty of edge rushers that are always getting pressure but can’t get the QB to the ground, that is where finishing is important.
The clip above shows the level of finishing that propels Anderson to the elite tier. He beats the offensive tackle and is able to hunt down the QB trying to escape the pocket. He knows he can reach for the ankle tackle and shuts the play down in the blink of an eye. The awareness to know exactly how to bring down the quarterback in that situation is the level of finishing that NFL teams are going to love.
Others receiving votes: Derick Hall, Auburn; Lukas Van Ness, Iowa; Zach Harrison, Ohio State
Pass Rush Plan: Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Yeah, he’s the best in the class.
Pass rush plan is knowing how to attack the offensive tackle in different situations. It is knowing what to do with your hands when the offensive lineman has them in a better position. Anderson has speed, power, and elite hand usage that makes him the perfect candidate for this superlative.
Anderson approaches the offensive tackle with a clear finesse plan. He is able to make the offensive tackle reach for him, easily swat his hands away and then turn the corner to get to the quarterback. This is just one of the many different examples of Anderson’s stellar pass-rush plan.
Others receiving votes: Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame; Derick Hall, Auburn
Power: Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
The first non-Will Anderson trait ends up being power, and it makes a lot of sense. Wilson is able to generate power in virtually any scenario and has won reps all across the defensive front. Texas Tech has lined him up at many different techniques and he has most likely won a rep there. That power and versatility profile makes him an attractive option for NFL teams as an edge rusher.
The clip above shows just how powerful Wilson is. He is just playing contain in this play, but once he sees the running back come out to block, he engages with the pulling guard and generates enough power to push him back into the quarterback’s lap. What makes this rep even more impressive is that he generated that amount of power with virtually no run-up.
Others receiving votes: Myles Murphy, Clemson
Motor: Myles Murphy, Clemson
Motor is the trait that received the most votes for the most players. Murphy won the superlative with just two votes, but it is quite deserved.
There is a lot to be said about a player with a good motor. They are relentless and always want to make a play. From the time the ball is snapped to the time the play is blown dead, players with elite-level motors are running to make the play, and Murphy shows that on the defensive line.
The play above is just one example of Murphy’s motor. He recognizes the play as a screen and high-tails it to the receiver to bring him to the ground. Recognition and relentless effort allowed him to make that play. The motor is not a make-it-or-break-it kind of trait for some people, but a high-running motor is definitely something that will attract a lot of teams.
Others receiving votes: Lukas Van Ness, Iowa; Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame; Nolan Smith, Georgia; Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Bend: BJ Ojulari, LSU
The only clean sweep of the edge rusher superlatives was by BJ Ojulari and his ability to bend around a corner. Elite bend is one of the traits that can really catch the eye of an evaluator, and Ojulari can definitely bend with the best of ‘em.
The clip above shows Ojulari’s ability to get near parallel to the ground to bend around the corner to beat the offensive lineman. Ojulari has a well-rounded skill set for the NFL but is headlined by his bend.
Once again, thanks to the voters who participated in this. Make sure you follow them on Twitter, they are all very talented evaluators and will give you a comprehensive look into many of the 2023 NFL Draft prospects.
I will be doing a superlatives article for each of the positions prior to the draft. The next one will be on the offensive tackles of the 2023 NFL Draft. Thanks for reading and hope you will come back to read the rest of them as well.
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