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2023 NFL Draft Rankings: Top Edge Rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft

Analysts are split on the strength of the edge rusher class in 2023 as there's some hit or miss prospects. Let's find out where I stand.
Analysts are split on the strength of the edge rusher class in 2023 as there’s some hit or miss prospects. Let’s find out where I stand.

Analysts are split on the strength of the edge rusher class in 2023 as there are some hit-or-miss prospects. Let’s find out where I stand.

With how important having good edge rushers is today’s NFL they are always amongst the most discussed position groups. This year’s edge rusher class is interesting as it features a blue chip prospect at the top, a few high ceiling prospects, and some good options on day two.

We’ll go through the edge rushers here with a top five ranking, as well as some honorable mentions.

So, without further ado, let’s kick it off with the wide receivers that just missed the top five.

I also want to note that any stats used in this article come via PFF Premium Stats.

Honorable Mentions

There are seven honorable mentions to the top five edge rushers in this class. The reason I chose to list them as honorable mentions and not rank out a top 12 list is because I see them all in a similar tier and their draft position will likely depend more on what type of edge rushers specific teams are looking for.

Derick Hall, Edge, Auburn

The first honorable mention is an intriguing speed rusher out of Auburn.  Derick Hall was Auburn’s leader in pressures in each of the last three seasons.

Hall consistently won as a speed rusher as his quickness, flexibility, and bend are all very good.  He projects well to utilize that skillset in the NFL as well.  

While he’ll have difficulty winning with power against NFL tackles, there will still be plenty of tackles who struggle to contain his quickness and bend.

As a run defender, Hall had some struggles at Auburn.  Over the course of his four seasons the highest run defense grade was just 64.2.  This will hurt his stock, however with how highly valued pass rushing ability is in today’s game Hall most likely won’t make it past the third round.

Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State

The next honorable mention is a similar style of pass rusher to Derick Hall and also projects to come off the board on day two.

Will McDonald IV is one the best edge rushers in the class at winning with bend around the outside against offensive tackles.  

When rushing the quarterback it’s important for edge rushers to be able to flip their hips to close in on the quarterback to avoid going past them and he does that as well as anyone in the class.

McDonald IV is undersized at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds and he lacks power.  This causes him to rely on his quickness and bend to win pass rushes and lose leverage battles in the run game.

Ultimately, his pass rushing ability is enough to make him a solid addition to an edge rusher rotation on day two.

Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State

The next honorable mention is Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison.  He projects as a day two pick as he has potential but struggled with consistency at Ohio State.

Harrison is a former five star in the 2019 class and for good reason as his size at 6-foot-6, 272 pounds and athleticism combination is impressive.

At Ohio State, Harrison made a lot of big plays for the Buckeyes, including six strip sacks with three of them being returned for touchdowns.  He did struggle with consistency however which is why he likely won’t be a first round pick.

This is backed up by his pressure rate which was just 9.0% in 2021 and 12.8% in 2022.  For reference, a good pressure rate is typically around 15%.

With that said, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a second round pick.

Isaiah Foskey, Edge, Notre Dame

My next honorable mention also projects to come off the board on day two.  Isaiah Foskey was Notre Dame’s leader in sacks in each of the last two seasons.

His pass rushing ability projects well to the NFL as he can win with power and explosiveness.  He didn’t win consistently enough to warrant a first round pick as his pressure rate was just 10.51% in 2022 and 11.27% in 2021.  

However, Foskey is good at finishing plays as he had double digit sacks in back-to-back seasons and forced seven fumbles over the last two seasons.

He also projects solidly as a run defender as he leverages his size at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and power to his advantage.

Overall, Foskey makes for a solid addition to an edge rushing rotation on day two.

Andre Carter II, Edge, Army

Andre Carter II will be the first Army player drafted into the NFL since 2008.  Carter was a dominant player for Army, most notably in 2021 when he finished tied for the lead in sacks in college football with 15.

He is unique as an edge rusher as although he’s tall at 6-foot-7, he’s more on the lighter end considering that height at 260 pounds and with his quickness and bend.

In pass rushes he consistently could win around the outside with his quickness utilizing hand swipes and his bend.  He also has the athleticism to drop into coverage as well and did it quite a bit at Army as he had 80+ coverage snaps in each 2021 and 2022.

I don’t expect him to get much first round consideration, but I expect some buzz to build around him after the combine and will be an intriguing addition for somebody on day two.

Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Edge, Kansas State

The last honorable mention on my list is Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah.  Headed into the combine I think he is likely a second round pick.

The biggest selling point for Anudike-Uzomah is that he is capable of winning in multiple ways.  His best trait is his power and strength to push to the pocket or get offensive tackles off balance.  He does also win with quickness as well, which is important when projecting edge rushers to the next level to not just have one way they can win.

The 2022 Big 12 defensive player of the year was a game wrecker at times at Kansas State as he had eight forced fumbles over the last two seasons and had three plus sacks in three separate games.  He wasn’t quite consistently dominant enough as a pass rusher to make the top five of this list, but he’s right on the edge.

While he may not have the upside and athletic ability of some of the player’s in the top five of this list, Anudike-Uzomah is a good value on day two.  He can step in and be a part of an edge rotation right now and projects to develop into a starting quality player.

B.J. Ojulari, Edge, LSU

B.J. Ojulari comes in as the last honorable mention edge rusher in this class. If I had to rank out the honorable mentions he would could in sixth as he projects to come off the board in the late first or early second round.

Ojulari’s ability to win with quickness and bend as a pass rusher, plus his leadership and character will be coveted by NFL teams.

He was a team captain at LSU and is someone who drew a lot of praise from coaches and teammates.(link article). Which is something that is important and will boost his draft stock.

On the field, Ojulari’s ability to win around the outside by flipping his hips and turning the corner towards the quarterback is his best trait and the best of any edge rusher in this class.

The question will be if he can develop more as a pass rusher and win more consistently in other ways.

Ojulari may not have the ceiling of some of the other edge rushers in this class, but he’s still a good player and will be a productive player for someone.

Top 5 Edge Rushers

My fifth ranked edge rusher is someone who I’m not quite as high on as where he currently projects to come off the board in April’s draft.
Top 5 Edge Rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft

5) Myles Murphy, Edge, Clemson

My fifth ranked edge rusher is someone who I’m not quite as high on as where he currently projects to come off the board in April’s draft.

From a traits perspective he’s someone who is going to be coveted by NFL teams.  At 6-foot-5, 275 pounds with long arms he has an impressive blend of athleticism and power he has the tools to develop into a high level pass rusher.

As a pass rusher, Murphy wins with power primarily.  He utilizes the long arm move where he extends his inside arm into an offensive tackle’s chest, knocking him off balance and allowing him to get around the edge.

Murphy still has more development to do as a pass rusher however.  He doesn’t really have inside counter moves as he primarily relies on winning around the outside.  He needs to develop more ways to win as a pass rusher in order to reach his ceiling as a pass rusher. 

I still think Murphy is a first round pick and solid value as a top 20 pick.  However, I think taking him in the top ten is a bit of a reach, which is where he’s been hyped to come off the board.

4) Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia

Nolan Smith is my third ranked edge rusher and I am slightly higher on him than most analysts.  He is currently a stout run defender and has all of the tools to develop into a high level pass rusher as well.

Smith was the number one overall recruit in the 2019 class. He didn’t necessarily live up to the sky-high expectations that come with that, however he was still a phenomenal player for Georgia.

At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds he’s a bit on the smaller end for edge rushers but he uses his explosiveness and quickness to wreak havoc in the backfield.

He’s someone who does play bigger than he actually is however.  That shows up when he’s defending the run as he was dominant as a run defender over his career at Georgia.

His strength and power also shows up in his pass rushes as he utilizes the shrug move very effectively where he puts his hands on offensive linemens shoulders and moves him out of the path to the quarterback.

3) Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa

Lukas Van Ness is one of the most interesting evaluations of any player in this draft class.  On one hand he has top tier physical traits.  However, he also doesn’t have a whole lot of experience playing on the edge and has a lot of developing to do.

From a physical perspective Van Ness has all the tools to develop into an elite edge rusher.  At 6-foot-5, 269 pounds he has good size along with elite power.  That also gives him the versatility to play from the outside and inside along the defensive line.

He’s also someone whose athleticism is apparent when watching him.  Some of his best plays come from utilizing his explosiveness and closing speed looping around on stunts.  This is something he excels at and will be a skillset that can be utilized in the NFL.

Van Ness needs to develop much more as a pass rusher to reach his potential.  At Iowa, he primarily relied on his strength and power to win and didn’t really know how to use his hands properly to beat offensive linemen.

Ultimately, the NFL values traits and potential in edge rushers and he has that, so I don’t think Van Ness will make it past the first 15 picks.

2) Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech

The second ranked edge rusher in this class is seen as a likely top ten pick and is going fifth overall in a lot of mock drafts.  I am not quite as high on Tyree Wilson, however with his upside I still see him as a top 15 prospect in this class.

From purely a tools perspective, Wilson is rare.  To put it simply you just aren’t going to find many edge rushers who are 6-foot-6, 275 pounds with his combination of power and athleticism.

His power is by far the biggest thing he brings to the table as he can out right bully linemen with his bull rush in pass rushes, as well as taking on blockers in the run game.

Because of his physical tools he has a very high ceiling.  Teams will have confidence that with the right coaching over time he’ll develop into a dominant player.

The reason that I’m not as high on him relative to others is a lack of production.  To use a top ten pick on a player you want them to have already dominated at the college level.  However, it took him a while to develop into a productive player in college and even when he did it wasn’t at the level of an expected five or ten pick.

For reference his 74.9 PFF grade in 2022 was his highest, which was his fifth year in college as he was a part of the 2018 high school recruiting class.  This ranked as 98th out of 522 qualified edge defenders.

As a pass rusher he relied a lot on his rare physical tools to win pass rushes.  He developed some technically over the course of his college career, but the question is if he’s developed enough technically to consistently beat NFL offensive tackles who also have elite athleticism and power.

1) Will Anderson Jr., Edge, Alabama

The number one edge rusher in this class is a consensus.  Will Anderson Jr. is one of two blue chip caliber non quarterback prospects in this class alongside Jalen Carter.

Will Anderson Jr. has been one of the best defensive players in the past decade or so in college football. He’s the first two-time winner of the Nagurski Award since 1996, which is awarded to the best defensive player in college football.

Anderson Jr. was completely unblockable over his career at Alabama. His quickness, burst, and get off the line are all elite. He can also win pass rushes with his technical ability as he uses his hands very well and he can just overpower offensive tackles at times. 

Not only can Anderson consistently get to the quarterback, but he’s dominant as a run defender as well. He consistently wins leverage battles at the line of scrimmage blowing up run plays.

He is pretty much a lock to hear his name called very early on draft and will be one of the first two non-quarterbacks off the board.


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