Scouting Report: 2022 Rookie Edge Rushers (Part 1)
In the first of a two-part series, Jon Macri gives us his thoughts on the bottom half of the top 12 incoming edge rushers for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Guest host Evan Ronda recently had Joey the Tooth on The Big Nickel IDP Podcast to preview the incoming crop of rookie edge rushers. In this article, we’ve included Jon Macri’s notes (which Evan used for the episode) to give you some insight into how Jon views this talented class and where he’d like to see them end up. In this first installment, we’ll hit the guys Jon ranked 7-12. In Part 2, we’ll hit 1-6.
Let’s get into it, starting with #12.
12: Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
89.3 pass-rush grade
86.8 run defense grade
Production: 77 pressures, 12 sacks
RAS: 8.68 (24th in class)
He’s a wrestler
Not always the prettiest pass-rush moves but he will fight his way through blocks and find a way to win.
This actually helps him win a fair bit of his reps, they’re just not the clean, quick, explosive wins off the line that translate a bit better to the NFL.
I look at his pass-rush grade (89.3) and the way he got there was by chipping away at every snap with “eventual” wins—a real slow burn type of player.
Plays in the A gap, B gap, and outside.
If he gets those one-on-ones with guards or centers then those are the guys that he’s fast enough to beat but if they double him then he’s just done.
Not a lot of clean wins on tape
Stunts, second effort, cleanups, a good deal of that. Does it pretty consistently though which helps his grade.
A TON of inside moves.
Doesn’t provide much else.
He’s a thicc EDGE so I get that he doesn’t have great bend but he leans so heavily on that inside move that it’s gonna be easy to scout
Thomas’ tape took me the longest to watch of these pass-rushers. Not only is he all over the defensive line so it takes longer to pinpoint where he’s lined up, but it feels like every single play he’s bouncing around like a pinball between blockers, and just all over the place. He definitely wins more to the inside, really leans on it, but I have my doubts that that’s going to get it done at the next level.
If he is going to play 3 downs then maybe I’d have him inside on run downs and outside on pass downs, just not sure that there’s a team needing that.
Ideal Landing Spot: Seattle Seahawks
I think playing a rotational role is his best bet to start his NFL career at least. Seattle could use someone with his motor and playing a similar role to a Kerry Hyder or Rasheem Greene for them makes a lot of sense to me.
11: David Ojabo, Michigan
89.7 pass-rush grade
72.1 run defense grade
Production: 39 pressures, 11 sacks
RAS: 9.41 (10th in class)
Speed and explosiveness
Relies heavily on his physical attributes, which allowed him to win in college but could take some time to translate to the NFL.
Feet never stop
Call it what you want: high-motor, will to win, 2nd effort, that type of drive will help him land fantasy points even if he can’t win on the initial step.
Does a good job disengaging blocks.
It’s all about potential with him. Barely saw the field before this past season but is a traits-y edge that will be coveted due to his upside.
Of course, the Achilles injury is a big one. That will drop him down boards quite a bit, I’d imagine.
Plays a bit out of control
At least, it looks that way in how he rushes and flails all over the place.
Doesn’t win with strength a lot.
For a physically gifted edge, I would want to see more from a power perspective.
Barely played before this 2021 season (something like 26 snaps total).
It does show a bit in that you can see him trying to catch up to the game mentally on certain plays.
Want to see him get more reps in the run game because for now he just kind of feels like a designated pass rusher (DPR).
Ojabo definitely feels like a project. He’s super raw, which you can tell just in his movements rushing the passer and the specific playing time that Michigan gave him in-season. He’ll be a coveted asset as someone who can develop into a big-time player but it’s hard to imagine that it happens right away for him.
Ideal Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns
If he lands in Cleveland, Ojabo can learn from Myles Garrett. Maybe they bring Clowney back as well, or another veteran free agent who can start ahead of him and give him time to develop, but ideally I don’t want him being thrown to the wolves right away going to Atlanta or an edge-needy team like that.
10: Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
73.7 run defense
Production: 52 pressures, 8 sacks
RAS: 9.37 (11th in class)
Dip, bend, pursuit
He’s quick off the edge and that speed rush is a thing of beauty
Explosive first step
Gets off the line quickly and consistently
The outside move is his best.
Similar to Azeez Ojulari last year, albeit Ojulari has the best outside move from these past two years of draft prospects. Ojulari had the better size but Bonnito is the better athlete.
Bonitto also has a couple more moves, inside and outside.
He’s 6’3”, 248lbs
Might project to be more of a pass-rush specialist
Gets moved fairly easily off the line vs. the run
Because of that size, once the offensive line goes on the attack, he doesn’t necessarily have the size and speed to get off those blocks which leads to him getting washed out.
An ideal fit would be in a Micah Parsons-type role on a team that might utilize him in the box. He doesn’t have a ton of experience there but he’s a good open-field tackler and in the one year (2019) where he played the most amount of coverage snaps in a season (117 - 28%) he earned an 88.5 coverage grade.
My main thing is that he’s a smaller player for his position but has a really explosive first step and shows off great speed around the edge. Doesn’t win a ton with a repertoire of moves, utilizes the outside speed quite a bit, but has shown an ability to do so and can develop there. I don’t know that he’ll hold up on run downs in the NFL given his size and strength but there could be other ways to utilize him (off-ball).
Ideal Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
The reason being, let either Zaven or Simmons play more in the box, even though they’ve shown they can be effective blitzers, but with Bonitto you can get someone who plays that role much better, attacking off the edge. This can free up Collins and/or Simmons to play in coverage and rack up tackles.
9: Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
68.1 run defense
Production: 45 pressures, 4 sacks
RAS: 6.21 (45th in class, due to poor agility)
Inside cross chop
This is his go-to move, no doubt about it.
Appears to really have perfected that inside move, some really nice reps of him swimming offensive tackles to the inside and even turning them inside out on 2nd effort plays.
Can win on 2nd effort + strong counter
Which he often has to do when the outside move doesn’t work.
Also wins with strength and has the power to pull OLs to the ground if they try to lock him up.
Some really nice bull rush reps
Speaking of his power and strength, there are some awesome reps of him just rocking offensive tackles off the line of scrimmage and into the quarterback's lap.
Doesn’t have the bend
Gets off-balance when he tries to win around the edge with speed.
Setting the edge
The tendency to try and win inside translates to the run game as well, which often ends with him losing contain on the edge.
There’s a need for discipline there and that’s certainly something that can be coached up.
Feels like there’s a decent amount of work to be done with Enagbare’s game.
Needs to develop his speed rush if he’s going to be that stand-up edge or line up against OTs and TEs.
I like the grades for Enagbare as a pass rusher, but watching the film—an exercise that illustrates why we combine grades with film rather than relying on just one—he doesn’t always look great doing it. His wins are not always pretty.
And there are definitely a decent amount of reps where he’s bull rushing or that inside move, but it just feels like he’s very much missing that level of polish still and might take some time and the right coaching staff to get there.
Ideal Landing Spot: Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb hasn’t been great since being the 5th overall pick for Denver a few years ago. They’re pretty barren at the position right now and need to take swings on players like Enagbare maybe day two and try and develop him.
8: Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
78.3 run defense
Production: 52 pressures, 8 sacks
RAS: 9.15 (15th in class)
His hands are OK, not great.
Utilizes his reach as well and can rock offensive linemen as they come out of their stance
His pass-rush plan allows him to quickly switch up his attack if the first step doesn’t work.
Sets up well
Deliberate movements in his pass-rush repertoire and clearly has a plan of how he wants to attack
Wins in a variety of ways
Inside, outside, bull rush—he puts all of it on tape in 2021
Doesn’t do it a ton but I like his bull rush quite a bit. There’s a really nice one in the Ohio State game where he sets up the left tackle with a shimmy, gets him off-balance, and then just drives him back. I’d love to see him do that more. And he does more towards the end of the year, which is a great sign.
Good pursuit in the run game
When left unblocked on the backside of run plays, he closes quickly and makes a good amount of plays against the run
Lines up against the left tackle
This is important because college teams still put their best offensive tackle on the left side of the QB
So, Ebiketie’s wins become a bit more impressive as a result.
Consistently the last one off the ball at the snap.
He still wins even when he’s late but that explosive first step doesn’t show up a ton
When a split second is crucial to getting a sack or not in the NFL that stood out to me as something to work on.
When that late timing really becomes a problem is in run defense and against offensive linemen or TEs who are quicker off the snap blowing him off the ball.
Wins consistently thanks to his pass-rush plan. I felt there were times when he showed really good hands but noticed some inconsistency there as well. I think as far as being a pure pass-rusher the only thing really missing is just getting that timing/get-off down to a science because he’s just so late on almost every play it’s hard to miss, really. But other than that he’s a big reason why people point to this edge class being so deep because he’s just such a strong talent and isn’t talked about amongst the top 4-5 guys, really.
Ideal Landing Spot: Chicago Bears
Round 2, pick 39 feels like a decent spot for Ebiketie to me. I don’t really know what the consensus is on him overall but I think he’s a strong enough pass rusher, can hold his own in run defense, sets the edge incredibly well that early 2nd round is perfect and the Bears could certainly use the help after losing Khalil Mack.
7: Boye Mafe, Minnesota
70.3 run defense
Production: 42 pressures, 7 sacks
RAS: 9.92 (2nd in class)
Loves his jab move
Sets up his pass-rush really well and when he chooses to go jab he’s shown that he can rock offensive tackles.
Has a pass-rush plan and can adapt on the fly
Again, sets up well and then he shows that he can counter and switch things up if he doesn’t like what he sees.
Excellent first step
Explodes off the line and flies downhill. Shows up a lot on his stunts where he’s jumping gaps, he’s just so quick off the line.
Moves really well
Stunts, in space, chasing down RBs - his athleticism jumps off the screen.
Swipes down hands of blockers quickly and efficiently all in one motion
Sets the edge really well
Defends the run with discipline
Inside is his go-to pass-rush move but my favorite rep from him came against West Virginia where he grabs the left tackle by the neck with one hand and throws him to the ground, winning to the outside and getting the sack.
Slightly below average size
Makes up for that with elite athleticism
4.53 40 time
125” broad jump
Doesn’t show a ton of bend off the edge.
Wins more to the inside
Might be something to work on is that outside speed move, but he’s shown flashes that it exists so I’m not overly concerned there.
Explosive edge with good hands, great movement, and elite athleticism. Wins a ton to the inside with quickness, can work on that bend on the outside, but doesn’t necessarily have the length or size to be a consistent run stopper in the NFL. I came away really liking Mafe a fair bit. Unfortunately, some of his negatives like size aren’t fixable but that athleticism could be strong enough to make up for it.
Ideal Landing Spot: Kansas City Chiefs
I’ve fallen in love with this spot. Frank Clark is ass and Melvin Ingram is gone, so there is a desperate need for someone like Mafe to come in. If he does, I’d imagine that’d be in for a high-volume role for him to rack up production.
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