Depth of Edge Rushers Impressive in 2015 Draft Class
One of the best all-around positions in the 2015 NFL draft is the edge rusher group. Not only is there impact talent at the top, but there is quality depth throughout the draft, including a number of mid-to-late round prospects with the potential to become starters at the next level. Teams in need of pressure from the edge are in a strong position this year to find one or two guys who can fill that need and play at a high level.
Now the edge class is always an interesting one to look at as teams will have different needs based on what type of scheme they are looking for, which can drastically change how they value these prospects. But in general this is one of the stronger edge rusher classes from the past 5 years. At the top Vic Beasley and Dante Fowler Jr. have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and look like a safe bet to both go in the top 10 (if not the top 5) picks. Both project to be impact rushers at the next level, with Beasley probably a bit more advanced, but Fowler looking like the more complete player if he reaches his potential.
After Beasley and Fowler, three other prospects look like pretty surefire first round picks in Randy Gregory, Shane Ray (even after the injury concerns), and Alvin Dupree. In addition Eli Harold, Preston Smith, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Danielle Hunter could get late first round consideration. When you have 7 guys or more being drafted in the first round from one position group that is pretty impressive. In the top 3 rounds (99 total selections) there could be as many as 18-20 edge guys selected, giving teams plenty of options in the early rounds even if they pass in the first round. Typically you might see just 4-5 first round edge guys and 12-15 in the top three rounds, so this definitely is a stronger class at the top. What really separates this draft class at the edge rusher group is two things; first the number of right-side rushers and secondly the intriguing late round depth.
While it is generally known the difference in talent needed to play either left or right tackle in the NFL, people don’t always recognize that there is a difference in rushing from the right side (vs the LT) and left side (vs the RT) from a pass rusher standpoint. While a defense may scheme to have their best pass rusher to rush from the left side at times to exploit the weaker offensive tackle, for the most part they still are looking for a right side rusher with the skill set to win at a high level versus left tackles. Typically there are just a handful of guys in the draft with the skill set to win on the right side, and those guys are usually gone at the top of the first round. This year you can make a strong case that Beasley, Fowler, Gregory, Ray, Dupree, Harold and Hunter can play on the right side among the guys looking like first round picks. In addition there are 4-6 other guys who show the promise to be at least situational right side rushers. That is where the later round depth becomes pretty interesting in terms of this class.
Even when teams get to Saturday of the draft they should have some interesting edge options (including some guys with the potential to play on the right side). Guys like Shaquille Riddick, Marcus Golden, Max Valles and plenty others are very unlikely to hear their name called in the top 100 to even top 125 selections, but these guys have shown some promise in getting after the quarterback and could return excellent value in the NFL.
The mix of quality right side rushers and late round depth will allow teams to be perhaps a bit more patient in the draft after Beasley and Fowler are off the board. Most years we see edge rushers get overdrafted, but this year since teams can find value later they can wait and still get a quality rusher. Also it wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of these teams to double-up on edge rushers in the early-to-mid rounds as they look for a cheap, but effective way to put pressure on the quarterback. This edge rusher class likely won’t be the biggest storyline throughout draft weekend, but don’t be surprised if they make their mark on the field this coming season.