The '20 Draft: Edge

Chase young

JACKSONVILLE – The 2020 NFL Draft is considered very, very deep at many positions. It's also considered very, very good at many positions.

Then, there is edge rusher.

To hear analysts tell it, it's not an awful year when it comes to edge rushers. The draft's best edge rusher might even be the draft's player. But beyond that?

"It's not great," CBSSports.com NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson told jaguars.com recently.

What is considered great about the edge class is the position's premier player: Chase Young of Ohio State, a player many analysts compare favorably to former Ohio State edge rushers and recent Top 5 selections Joey and Nick Bosa.

But Young doesn't just compare favorably to former Buckeyes edge rushers.

He also compares favorably to any other player in this year's draft – enough so that multiple analysts consider him the draft's best player, though he is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Washington Redskins with the Cincinnati Bengals expected to select Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Young "the best player in this draft class," and NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks agreed.

"Chase Young is far and away the best edge player in the draft; I would say he's the best player in the draft," Brooks said. "It's hard to find a player who has his combination of size, strength and athleticism and technical skills.

"He's very polished coming out and he's very productive. The guy had 16.5 sacks, six forced fumbles [and 21 tackles for loss]. He was disruptive. He was freaky. He has everything you want at the position.

"He's going to be a star."

It's not out of the question the Jaguars could go edge rusher in the draft. They traded Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens for a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and end Yannick Ngakoue has expressed dissatisfaction about the team using the NFL's franchise tag on him this offseason. But trading up for Young from No. 9 overall would be expensive – perhaps too expensive.

Analysts say the draft's edge rushers after Young are good. And they have potential. But analysts question whether they are special.

"You can get into Rounds 2 and 3 and find guys to fill needs, but they're not going to be as explosive or as good as the class we had last year," Wilson said, referring to a '19 class that included Nick Bosa and Jaguars defensive end and No. 7 overall selection Josh Allen.

Among the edge players who could be selected later in Round 1: K'Lavon Chaisson of Louisiana State, A.J. Epenesa of Iowa and Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State.

"After Young, it comes down to what style player you want off the edge," Brooks said.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah praised Chaisson's explosiveness, noting that he improved throughout last season after a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2018. A slow 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February could hurt Epenesa's status, though EPSN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he expects him to be selected no later than early Round 2.

"You're not going to miss on A.J. Epenesa," Jeremiah said. "Now whether or not you're going to get a 14-sack guy or eight- or nine-sack guy, I think that's the debate."

POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND EDGE DEFENDERS

Chase Young, Ohio State; K'Lavon Chaisson, Louisiana State; A.J. Epenesa, Iowa; Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State.

CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE AN EDGE DEFENDER IN ROUND 1

Decent, though it could depend on Ngakoue's status.

JAGUARS AT EDGE

Josh Allen, Yannick Ngakoue, Dawuane Smoot, Cassius Marsh, Lerentee McCray, Chuck Harris.

OEHSER ANALYSIS

This is a tricky spot for the Jaguars. The positive for the team is Allen is one of the NFL's best young edge players and appears to be a foundation player. But with Campbell gone and Ngakoue's status uncertain, the starter opposite Allen is uncertain. Dawuane Smoot registered six sacks last season, but must prove himself in an expanded role. The team also signed former Arizona Cardinals edge player Cassius Marsh as an unrestricted free agent, but replacing Campbell/Ngakoue with what's on the roster will be difficult – as will finding immediately edge help in the draft. The guess here is the Jaguars will address the position somewhere in the draft – possibly as early as Day 2 – but it's probably unrealistic to get the immediate impact they received from Allen and his 10.5 sacks last season.

SEXTON ANALYSIS

Allen put the Jaguars in a plum position last season when he proved himself to be a defensive end around which they can build. Pairing him with Ngakoue gives them a fast, powerful and dangerous pass-rush combination but we're not sure that will happen. If Ngakoue is shipped out for more draft capital, then the Jaguars will need to search for his replacement and history shows you can find pass-rush specialists from the third round on. Justin Houston, Robert Mathis, Jared Allen, Justin Tuck and Ngakoue himself prove that. If they wanted to pull the trigger on the first night of the draft, Epenesa or Gross-Matos from Penn State have the skill to rush the quarterback plus the size to play the run. Waiting until the third or even the fourth round, where they have three selections, could produce a Curtis Weaver from Boise State, Josh Uche from Michigan or Julian Okwara from Notre Dame. Allen gives them breathing room and the talent on the board says they can find a way to replace Ngakoue's eight sacks from 2019.

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