2017 NFL Draft Preview – Top-5 Edge Rushers

As the college football playoff teams sort themselves out, and having advanced past the halfway point of the NFL schedule what better time than now to start focusing our attention onto the 2017 NFL draft. While the draft is not until April it is never too early to start scouting prospects who could turn out to be future NFL stars. This week we preview the top-five defensive edge rushers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017. 1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M Garrett tops my list of edge rushers as the Texas A&M junior possesses the height, length, and speed to present a consistent pass rush threat. While Garrett’s numbers are down in 2016, as he has been dealing with a lower leg injury for the better part of the season (missing two games and limited in many other), he can win off the edge with a quick first step and speed to turn the corner with a burst, and acceleration to close in quickly on the quarterback. He has demonstrated that he can convert speed into power, and bull rush an offensive lineman back into the quarterback. Garrett is a versatile defender who can be used as both a hand in the dirt defensive end or an outside linebacker asked to rush from a two-point stance while also dropping back into coverage. Appearing to finally be shaking off the effects of his leg injuries Garrett put on a one-man show in the Aggies victory over UTSA this past weekend, as he registered 4 1/2 sacks to go along with eight tackles, a pass defended, and a forced fumble. 2. Jonathan Allen, Alabama Unlike Myles Garrett and some of the other top rushers in the country Allen does not win his battles up front with shear athleticism or speed. Instead he uses sound technique, instincts and his strength to dominate at the line of scrimmage. He is a thicker-bodied defensive end who can hold his ground at the point-of-attack. He has strong hands and when he extends his arms and plants them into the offensive lineman’s chest he can knock them back, and get them retreating. Allen displays natural instincts for a lineman as he can quickly locate the ball post snap. He is a versatile defender as he can play both outside as a defensive end or shift inside at tackle. In fact, as a pass rusher Allen is more effective inside as a defensive tackle as his quickness and strength allow him to eat up blockers (drawing double-teams) or split a center and guard combo block to knife through to the quarterback. Jonathan Allen is a defensive force who has produced in a power five conference against some terrific athletes. His versatility, instincts, and overall competitiveness will make him a coach’s delight. In the NFL Allen, should project better as an interior defensive tackle in a four-man front, while also capable of physically playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense. 3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee Derek Barnett has been one of the Volunteers more disruptive defenders the moment he stepped foot onto the Tennessee campus. In his first season Barnett set a school record for the most tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10) by a true freshman. Barnett’s strengths as a pass rusher center around his first step quickness, and the all-out hustle and determination in which he plays the game. As a hand in the dirt defensive end Barnett is one of the first players off at the snap of the ball quickly getting into the offensive lineman, using his active hands to keep them from getting a grasp on him. He displays the ability to bend around the corner, and get below the tackles pad level in route to the quarterback. He is competitive at the point-of-attack and does a good job of quickly locating the ball. Similarly, to Jonathan Allen, Barnett is also very effective sliding inside and matching up against interior offensive lineman. Barnett used his quickness to attack a gap and overwhelm guards, able to sneak through, and helping collapse the pocket. As a tackle, he did a better job of converting speed to power and would usher offensive lineman straight back into the quarterback. Barnett is a physical and efficient player who can affect the game in multiple ways with his scheme, and positional versatility. 4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA As a former high school track athlete McKinley’s speed, and athleticism is one of the first traits you notice when scouting the Bruins senior edge rusher. What is also noticeable is the all-out hustle and effort the 6’2” 265-pound defender exhibits down in and down out. McKinley possesses an active body with good overall thickness, and long arms. He shows good power off the snap, and uses his hands to fend off the arms of offensive lineman. He gains leverage on the tackles outside shoulder and will use a rip under move to clear by him and into the backfield. He also has the quickness to cross the lineman’s face, when he over sets, and beat him to the inside as well. He is quick to locate the ball, and will flatten down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the ball carrier from the back-side. McKinley headed into this weekend’s action leading the PAC-12 conference in tackles for loss with 18, to go along with his 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. McKinley projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, appearing to have the look, and feel of developing into a natural pass rusher. 5. Tim Williams, Alabama While there may be some questions and concern about Williams character off the field there is no denying the talent on it when you see Williams help Alabama dominate opponents up front. The senior outside linebacker, and former four-star prospect out of Louisiana, has a tremendous get-off at the line of scrimmage, and does a good job of using his hands to free himself from the blocker keeping his pad level low to get the outside leverage as he turns the corner. He can combat offensive lineman hands by ripping down or swiping them off his body. He uses a hesitation head and shoulder fake move to get inside leverage on a backpedaling lineman to beat him to his inside shoulder. Williams can quickly cross a blockers face, split the gap, and penetrate the offensive backfield. Williams athleticism and quickness allow him to quickly change directions and chase down fleeing quarterbacks outside the pocket. Williams currently leads the Crimson Tide with eight sacks, and his 14 tackles for loss are second to only teammate Ryan Andersons (14.5) total. With Williams speed, athleticism, and production (having produced against some of college football’s better athletes in the SEC conference) Williams has the potential to develop into a “superstar” at the next level. Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56
Danny Shimon
NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate. Bears writer for www.windy-citysport.com

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