When it comes to breaking down the top edge rushers available in the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s Chase Young and everyone else.
Four edge rushers figure to be in consideration for first-round selections when the draft begins Thursday, but only one is projected to go in the top five—or perhaps even the top 15.
In a special prospect profile series, NBC Sports Washington analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly dove into this group of edge rushers to determine what each player would bring to the table for the team that selects him.
It was clear to Casserly who the best among them was.
“To me, [Ohio State DE Chase Young is] the best player in this draft,” Casserly said. “This guy can rush the passer inside, outside, play the run, set the edge—one of the best defensive ends I’ve scouted in my career.”
The Redskins hold the No. 2 pick in the draft and are projected to land Young after the Cincinnati Bengals take LSU quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall. Young led the country with 16.5 sacks last season, forcing seven fumbles and racking up 21 tackles for a loss.
After Young, there’s no other edge rusher who’s expected to be selected near the top of the draft. It is clear, however, who the next-best option is. LSU outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson didn’t put up the monster stat line Young finished with, but his raw athleticism and two-way ability make him an intriguing prospect for teams to consider developing.
“K’Lavon Chaisson fits more of an outside linebacker at 6-foot-3, 254 pounds in a 3-4 defense,” Casserly said. “But you’ll love his explosion off the ball. This guy can really come off the edge and make that tackle…and he has the athletic ability to cover.”
In NBC Sports Washington’s latest mock draft, Chaisson went to the Jacksonville Jaguars at 20th overall. That being said, there are plenty of teams in need of pass rushers and Chaisson—being the clear No. 2 option off the edge—could entice a team at the top of the draft to trade down and take him while acquiring some additional draft capital.
For teams drafting at the bottom of the first round, there are two pass rushers who Casserly finds to be interchangeable.
“A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) and Yetur Gross-Matos from Penn State…I have both of these guys rated in late first round,” Casserly said. “Both of them, I question if they can win outside. They’re both graded about the same to me.”
Both Epenesa and Gross-Matos figure to slide in as 4-3 defensive ends, but there are questions about their abilities to rush the passer. As Casserly notes, both run well and create plays with inside moves. The teams that draft them will be gambling they can help expand their games and develop them into dynamic defensive ends who can seal the edge.
In the NBCSW mock, the New England Patriots take Epenesa at No. 23 overall before Gross-Matos is selected by the Seattle Seahawks at 27th.
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