2021 NFL Draft Top 15 EDGE Rankings | Texans Thoughts

Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, Chase Young - the 2021 NFL Draft EDGE class may not have an elite, blue-chip prospect this year, but that doesn't make it a weak class. I have 5 first round grades on EDGE prospects and there are a wide selection of athletic freaks all throughout the draft. I've evaluated 23 total EDGE prospects and will do my best to rank the top 15 - this practice is largely dependent on what I look for in EDGE prospects and think are the best traits to help them have consistent NFL success.

Don't agree with my rankings? I'm expecting that, get at me on Twitter: @Texans_Thoughts and share why! Each player in this ranking has a scouting report linked to their name, so you can read my full thoughts on their strengths, weaknesses, role projection/scheme fit and has a summary of the players' measurables, athletic testing and stats!

Phillips' talent level is near the Garrett, Bosa, Young tier of prospects. He combines elite athleticism with high-level technique, making Phillips a freak on the field. I like to say he has the skill level of TJ Watt, in Montez Sweat's body. That's a scary combination, and Phillips has serious DPOY potential.

It's rare for a guy his size to be so explosive off the snap, and bend the corner like he does. He can win to the outside with long-arm and club moves, or to the inside with a quick arm-over. Like the Watt brothers, Phillips looks to make plays in the run game, albeit playing a bit out of structure. However, his success rate on these risky plays should make any DC happy and allow him to play his game. Phillips will be my favorite for RDPOY and has many Pro Bowl and likely All-Pro seasons in his bright future.

Paye is one of my favorite players in the past few years to watch, enjoying his tape is easy due to his elite intensity and effort on a play-by-play basis. He is an animal on the field with elite athletic gifts, flying around the field like a ball of pure energy. He is an elite run defender who plays with power thanks to natural low leverage, and has a nose for the football. In the passing game, his body sometimes moves quicker than his mind, he looks raw but the flashes of brilliance are so enticing. I love how he baits tackles' punch with a stutter move, then defeats them with his lightning-quick hands. He's not as ready day 1 as Jaelen Phillips but his ceiling is essentially the same.

The first shocker on my EDGE rankings, Turner is being criminally underrated, at least in the media (3rd round projection). I hope NFL GMs are similarly underrating him, so he can fall to the Texans and remain in the H. Turner's tape will make you revaluate all the guys you watched before, and knock them down a peg. He has an incredible mix of athleticism (especially at his size) and technique. In the passing game he wins with a quick first step and great bend for someone who measured at 6'5, 270lbs. The timing and power he showcases with his hands is a sight to see, as he executes the club-arm over and chop-dip moves to near perfection.

His 2020 game vs Tulane is the best example of production (2.5 sacks, 4.5 TFLs) and traits of any defensive prospect this year. If you haven't watched that game, I implore you to, you won't be disappointed. The fact that Turner has also shown he can be successful rushing from the interior continues to boost his stock. There's no glaring issue in Turner's game and he can be an even better rusher playing with his hand in the dirt - his get-off was significantly better in a 3 point than 2 point stance. Turner could end up being the steal of the draft, and will likely be a top 25 player for me in this class.

Three EDGEs back-to-back-to-back that I just love to watch. Ossai shares Paye's intensity and energy on the field that makes you want to root for him. He is a PLAYMAKER with insane production for how raw he still is. He dominates the POA in the run game and violently sheds blocks to bring down ball carriers. In the pass game, the heat of the moment only enhances Ossai's game. They say that pressure either bursts pipes, or makes a diamond. Well in Ossai's case, he does both. The pressure he enacts on offenses is something that will garner game plans in the NFL. He truly lives up to the moment and has many clutch plays in his career (see 2019 Alamo Bowl).

He played OLB for the Longhorns in 2019, and is still learning/mastering DE, which is where I think he projects best in the NFL. Hopefully sticking to one position allows Ossai to focus on improving his get-off, as he has to think less in this role. Lastly, everything that we know about Ossai points to him being the first-guy-in, last-guy-out gym rat who will improve every year. His passion on and off the field is the ultimate reason why I am high on him.

Ojulari exemplifies the Georgia Bulldog culture in that he plays very hard on the field. While he may not have elite length or elite bend, his ability to master his go-to move bodes well for his development at the next level. Ojulari is known for his stab-chop, which he regularly uses to embarrass tackles. He times both components of the move very well and even shows some counters off of it. If Ojulari is able to develop more moves at the same level of proficiency, watch out. On the other hand, if he becomes too reliant on the stab-chop, it will limit his success drastically.

As previously mentioned, Ojulari is a dog in the run game - physically imposing his will on pullers is something he does often. Ojulari could be one of the best #2 pass rushers in the league, like a Bud Dupree or Jason Pierre-Paul, which is nothing to scoff at. I just feel that not being an elite athlete limits him from being an alpha, hence my slightly lower ranking of Ojulari than most.

Ding, ding, ding, shocker #2 has arrived and his name is Quincy Roche. Just outside of my Top-5, Roche boasts some of the most refined technique in the entire class. He has a crazy high-floor because of it and is one of the safest bets to succeed in this EDGE class. His production in 2019 with Temple was truly amazing, racking up 13 sacks and 19 TFLs. He wasn't just dominating weaker competition though, showcasing important traits that will translate to NFL success with Temple and Miami.

Roche's ability to time his moves is beautiful - mastering the chop-rip and snatch-rip on a consistent basis. He is also an underrated athlete in an extremely important aspect - great bend and hip flexibility allows him to flatten to the QB and turn pressures into sacks. Roche takes pride in his run defense, stacking and shedding blocks and getting in on every tackle he can. His ceiling isn't as high as some guys lower on these rankings, but he will be a solid starter for years.

Next on my list is the anti-Roche. Oweh is all flash and no substance, only having 7 career sacks at PSU. While he simply doesn't have good hand technique/usage, he is a historic athlete. Many people point to Danielle Hunter as a comparison and I somewhat agree because of what he shows on film. Oweh has flashes of a dominating speed-to-power bull rush. If he can consistently harness that 34.5" arm length, with his explosiveness evident from a 39.5" vertical and 11'2" broad jump, Oweh will be a Pro Bowl talent.

There is an equally good chance Oweh could bust, if not put in the right situation with a patient head coach and talented defensive co-ordinator with a track record for developing raw prospects. His potential though is high enough where teams should take a chance on him in the early-second round.

Perkins was an interesting study for me, some "draft experts" have him in the late first, and others have him in the third. I landed in between, with a mid/late 2nd on the Sooner. I like his quick hands and well-executed stab-rip plus cross-chop moves to get after the QB. He is also an extremely instinctual and smart run defender, who reads the keys of offensive linemen well, not being tricked by misdirection or pullers.

My worries with Perkins are with his average athleticism - get-off and bend is very up and down for him and pairing that with poor length and size lowers his ceiling. Lastly, a lot of his best plays came versus bad tackle play, I struggle to see him excelling at a high level vs NFL athletes.

Robinson possesses many ideal traits to succeed at the next level. He has freakishly long arms at 35" and he pairs that with low pad level to be a menace in the run game, consistently winning at the POA. He stacks and sheds blocks like teach-tape and defeats pulling TEs with ease. Robinson also has solid get-off and bend which makes him impactful in the pass game, where the bull-rush is his best weapon.

Robinson is a bit raw technique wise, needing to improve on linking his hands to his feet. Far too often his moves will not get him much closer to the QB, despite making good initial contact. Overall, Robinson has traits and athletic gifts you just can't teach, get him with the right coach and he will be a strong starter for years.

Cooper's Top 10 ranking may surprise some, but others will know that his potential is worthy of this position. Cooper boasts great athletic traits - good get-off, bend and a serious level of energy/intensity. In the Senior Bowl he was consistently praised for bringing energy and hustle on every play, and that's an underrated aspect of trench play. He plays like he hates to be blocked, and uses quick hands to disengage from blocks.

His best move in my opinion was a quick inside swipe, but he also loves to convert his speed-to-power. Cooper rotated heavily for the Buckeyes EDGE group and redshirted 2019, leaving his projection a bit cloudy. As an older prospect who has never had more than 3.5 sacks in a season, I see why many are underrating him in evaluations. However, I love his traits and he's one of my favorite Day 3 guys this year.

Potentially the biggest shocker of my rankings, depending on if all you do is watch highlights or not, Rousseau has fallen out of the Top 10! Once projected as the top defender in the class, then a top 10 pick, then a first round pick, he could very easily fall to Day 2. Rousseau simply does not possess the get-off, bend or hand usage to win on the edge. At 6'7, he also plays with a high pad level that makes him weaker than his gargantuan body would suggest. He struggles to defeat the tackle's outside hand as his attacks are often poorly timed. His run defense leaves a lot to be desired and Rousseau's overall effort wanes big time.

Now, I do think he can be an impactful player in the NFL, but more so as an interior pass rusher. Here, he can use his long arms to his advantage, and has shown he can quickly beat Centers/Guards off the snap, wrecking havoc. So the question becomes, where do you draft a rotational interior pass rusher who is meh at best vs the run? Definitely not Round 1 if I'm a GM.

On my first watch of Tryon I was a big fan of his game. He possesses good length, a powerful bull rush and has very active hands. He has elite get-off and was a strong run defender too. The more and more I watched of Tryon the more I picked up on bad habits. He is not a very effective outside rusher at all, struggling to time his moves consistently and his stiff lower body makes it tough on him to bend the corner. He needs to improve on pairing his hands to his feet, as although he is an active rusher, he doesn't cover much ground or gain an advantage often.

Lastly, I found his game to be very predetermined, meaning he will set his mind to a rush/move, and use it no matter what the tackle does. The best rushers have a plan, but react to what the tackles show them and change their move accordingly. Tryon has a high-ceiling, but needs a lot of coaching and refinement to get there. I wish we saw how/if he improved in 2020.

I really struggled to rank these last three players as the gap between each is so miniscule, it really comes down to scheme fit and if you want a high-floor or high-ceiling guy. I like Weaver as a high-floor guy on Day 3 - his mix of power and advanced hand usage intrigues me. His hands are made of dynamite and Weaver times his moves/punches very well.

He is one of the best at his position in terms of shedding blocks, particularly loving to use an arm-over to disengage from blocks. This makes him impactful in the run and pass game from Day 1 in the NFL. He has the positional versatility to play 4-3 DE or DT (3-tech) and 3-4 DE. While his ceiling and finishing ability is limited because of his average at best athleticism, Weaver will make an impact earlier in his career than some EDGEs drafted in front of him.

With a name like "Boogie" it would be a crime for Basham to be left off this list, or any list to be frank. He possesses good length, get-off and a beautiful arm-over move that quickly defeats tackles. He is a high-motor/effort player who is constantly chasing down ball-carriers around the field in the run and pass game. He might not have many moves or counters, but the few he uses are quite refined. I think he can be one of the better rotational pass rusher in the NFL one day.

No matter what position, Jones is one of my favorite players in this entire class to watch and the perfect end to my rankings. My love for him is odd because I typically don't like EDGEs like him very often. He has poor bend and unrefined hand technique, with an on/off motor. However, he reminds me so much of arguably my all-time favorite player, Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney is a big reason for why I fell in love with the Texans (and EDGE players in general) and I see Jones in him because of the elite athleticism and overall raw-ness to their respective games. Jones also shares Clowney's elite first step which leads to highlight plays that engulf ESPN for the next week. I don't know how good Jones will be in the NFL, but if he remains healthy and starts mastering pass rush moves now, he could have similar success to Clowney's peak years. I like to think that the injured Clowney soul left his own body and transferred to Jones, so whichever team drafts him, I will root for.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a pretty deep class in terms of developmental prospects, as the next 8 names I evaluated can all have good success at the NFL too. Just barely missing the cut were some guys I'm relatively high on like: Cameron Sample, Jordan Smith and Chauncey Golston. The Texans could definitely use a boost on the EDGE, maybe they'll find their J.J. Watt replacement this year.