New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Edge
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
The “EDGE” position in this scheme is a bit of a gray area, so you may end up seeing a few names that you thought were defensive tackles. Even on the current NYG roster, Leonard Williams can be considered a defensive end but at the end of the day, the majority of his snaps are spent inside the offensive tackle. In regard to who I am talking about on the current NYG roster, you are looking at more traditional 3-4 outside linebacker types. Lorenzo Carter, who was drafted in 2018, is entering the near-vital third season of his career where it is time to put up or shut up. He is physically gifted but inconsistent. Rookie Oshane Ximines, in less snaps, matched Carter’s impact as a pass rusher with 4.5 sacks but really struggled against the run. Markus Golden, who led the team with 10 sacks, remains a free agent and it appears free agent signing Kyler Fackrell will replace him. He hasn’t missed a game in three years but he took a back seat to Preston Smith and ZaDarius Smith in 2019. Keep in mind that Fackrell had 10.5 sacks in 2018.
It’s important to know what exactly this team is trying to do on defense. I can’t say I know for sure, but NYG already has their “BUCK” and “SAM” candidates. The BUCK is essentially a pass rushing linebacker who can play SAM (strong side linebacker) when the front changes. The SAM plays strong side but can move to MIKE/inside when the front changes. I see Ximines, Carter, and Fackrell being those guys. What I’m not sure I see quite yet on this defense is a guy who can really play the CRASH end. They are hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive end types. Usually these guys need to push 265+ pounds with 34+ inch arms. Can they put Williams in that role, make him more of an edge threat? Sure, but I think there may be better candidates in this draft class for the role. However I will say, it is a hard spot to fill because there aren’t many ideal candidates for that spot.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Chase Young / Ohio State / 6’5 – 264
Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Hyattsville, Maryland. After earning the 5-star recruit label out of high school and coming to Ohio State with sky high expectations, Young finished his career with an All American season and 1st Team All Big 10 honor. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks as a junior despite seeing countless double teams. Young is widely considered the best non-quarterback in the draft and will be a player who a franchise can build a defense around. He is no specialty pass rusher, Young can contribute on and impact all three downs. His tools and work ethic to be great make him the next big thing at defensive end to come out of a program that had produced some recent big time NFL talent at the position.
*Young breaks the 90-point barrier on my grading scale, reserved for guys who I am putting an All-Pro projection on. These aren’t handed out often. Young can do it all, he fits into every scheme, and he is going to be a player right away. I have him slightly below where I had Myles Garrett in 2017 simply because there is a little less juice out of his stance and he doesn’t play as low as I would like at times. But there is no denying how good this kid can be if he comes in and works hard. If NYG could get their hands on him (crazier things have happened), it would be the best-get they’ve gotten in a long time considering the position he plays and NYG’s weakness there. Cross your fingers and pray teams are going to get into bidding wars for the quarterbacks.
- Yetur Gross-Matos / Penn State / 6’5 – 266
Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Spotsylvania, Virginia. When it comes to long term upside and tools, Gross-Matos can be considered one of the top defenders in the entire class. He has the height, length, and speed combination that is considered rare and salivating for coaches. Don’t make the mistake of labeling him just an upside player, however. He recorded 35 TFL and 17.5 sacks over his two seasons as a starter and has more than enough tape to prove he can get the job done early in his career. There are issues with his game, most notably when it comes to power and inside run defense, but Gross-Matos has a top shelf toolbox who may just need some time and strength development before being an every down player.
*If you want to know who I am going to be hoping for at the top of round 2, well here he is. The odds are he will be a first round pick, however. With that said, many have a cluster of edge talent below Young and if he isn’t the flavor other EDGE-needy teams are wanting, he could slip. Gross-Matos has some baby-deer in him still, a kid who simply needs to add core strength and grow into his own body. However I have multiple game notes with the name “Myles Garrett” in them. He plays with that rare combination of explosion, length, leverage, and strides. At his absolute peak, Gross-Matos is closer to Young than people think.
- AJ Epenesa / Iowa / 6’5 – 275
Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Glen Carbon, Illinois. A two-time All Big 10 Defensive Lineman, including a first team honor in 2019. Epenesa is a big, long, and physical lineman who can be moved inside and out for a versatile-front scheme. He brings the proper mix of discipline and effort to the table every play. While he lacks some of the standout traits teams want in a pass rusher, Epenesa does a lot for a defense that won’t always show up in the box score. His ceiling doesn’t look as high as some others, but his floor is raised and will wear several hats at a high level when called on.
*There was a stretch where I thought Epenesa was going to end up as a top 10 prospect. I didn’t up with him there, but I still think he is a solid first round pick if he can find the right scheme. The CRASH end who I spoke of earlier? He is an ideal fit for that role in a defense that can change it’s front without taking guys off the field needs someone like Epenesa on the edge. He isn’t a plus athlete but he can win with his power and advanced hand usage. If he falls into round 2, NYG will be very interested.
- K’Laivon Chaisson / LSU / 6’3 – 254
Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry. Two year starter from Houston, Texas. After a 5-star recruit caliber high school career, Chaisson started week 1 of his true freshman season, a true rarity for the program. He showed off plenty of upside that year but a torn ACL week 1 of his sophomore season caused him to miss the year. He had to fight through an ankle injury early in 2019, thus his experience as he enters the league is limited. With that said, Chaisson’s movement skills and leverage jump off the screen. He is a feisty, explosive straight line edge rusher who can cause the offensive line to change their approach. His body still has a lot of filling out to do, but nobody will question this kids work ethic. After all, he was a permanent team captain as a true junior who wore the heralded #18 jersey for the National Champion Tigers.
*Here is your classic high risk, high reward edge defender. I could see someone using a mid-first on him and while I wouldn’t look down on it, I simply wouldn’t use that early of a pick on someone like this. He has more than enough speed off the edge, he makes a lot of hustle plays. But he had a knee injury, he lacks power, and there isn’t enough advancement in his skill set. I see a 2nd rounder here but one who can easily end up being one of the top 10 players in this entire draft class 3 years from now.
- Zack Baun / Wisconsin / 6’2 – 238
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brown Deer, Wisconsin. Two year starter who ended his career with a bang, earning 1st Team All Big 10 and 2nd Team All American honors. Baun missed all of 2017 with a foot injury but hasn’t missed a thing since. The former high school athlete quarterback made the full time transition to defense during his senior season and evolved into one of the top defensive prospects in the class. He has incredible movement skills as an edge rusher, showing the unique blend of speed, burst, and agility to beat a blocker several ways. He is far along in his development when it comes to technique and mental understanding of the game. He may not be an ideal every down defender right away because of a lack of size against straight ahead run blocking, but his style of play and intentions to mold himself will eventually make him a quality starter.
*A credible case can be made for putting Baun at linebacker, but whatever. He is a 2nd round pick in my eyes, one who could be higher than Chaisson depending on scheme and how you need to use them. Baun isn’t big enough to live on the outside as a pass rusher but he can be moved to an off-ball role. What many don’t see in him is the fact he can cover much better than other off ball linebackers. He didn’t get a ton of action in that role, but the former high school quarterback moves around back there like he really knows what he is doing. I think the versatility will be attractive to the Giants, but does he fit the physical profile of what they are looking for? I think if they go for a front seven defender in round 2, he won’t be at the top of their list.
- Jonathan Greenard / Florida / 6’3 – 263
Summary: Fifth year senior from Hiram, Georgia. Spent four years at Louisville before grad-transferring to Florida. He was a 2 year starter in total and saved his best football for 2019, where he earned 1st Team All SEC honors after leading the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Greenard has the kind of length and fast twitch play who will give tackles a headache off the edge. He plays with the proper blend of speed and power and should have plenty more bulk to add to his wide frame. When it comes to total production, Greenard’s last two real seasons accrued 31 TFL and 16.5 sacks over 25 games across two different conferences. There are some power issues, notably against the run, that need to be looked into but this is the kind of athlete and person a team wants to add to their team. His relentless, hard working style combined with quality tape and physical gifts make him a safe bet to be a productive player.
*I am surprised there isn’t more hype around Greenard. He didn’t have the best workout at the combine and I will say he is less explosive than Chaisson, but he plays heavier, has more length, and seems to have better decision making ability. I have seen some Osi Umenyiora in him for what it’s worth. He has some medicals that need to check out as well but if they do, he is a guy I would keep a close eye on in the 3rd round with the hope if he falls into NYG’s lap with that compensatory pick if they don’t address the EDGE spot by then.
- Marlon Davidson / Auburn / 6’3 – 303
Summary: Senior entry from fro, Greenville, Alabama. A rare four year starter from the Auburn program. Davidson may not be an ideal fit for a cut and dry scheme, but with the amount of teams looking to “get multiple” in relation to their looks, Davidson can be a key target. He is a tweener without a true position and lacks a standout strength, but he can fill into multiple spots and perform well enough. Davidson is a powerful force who can create mismatches and do some of the dirty work to keep others clean and unoccupied. The reliable and caliber of a player who every good defense needs.
*Similar to Epenesa, Davidson appears to be a really nice fit if NYG is looking to add a legit CRASH end to the line. He played all over the edge at Auburn and was equally effective against the run and pass. Combine that with his mindset and blue collar attitude, I can see him being a favorite of this coaching staff during the scouting process to the point of him being in the discussion with their 2nd round pick.
- Terrell Lewis / Alabama / 6’5 – 262
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Washington, D.C. A one year starter. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Lewis was a 5-star recruit out of high school who began his career strong as a rotational edge rusher, ended his career strong finishing second on the team with 11.5 TFL and leading the team with 14 pressures, but missed a combined 25 games over the two middle years with different injuries. He is a tools-rich, versatile athlete who can make things happen from a standup outside linebacker position, but his medicals will be a very important factor to his grade. His aptitude to play assignment football will be a welcomed addition for a defensive coaching staff that can use him on a rotational basis.
*If it weren’t for the injuries, one can realistically say Lewis is a first round prospect. But you can’t look past the fact he was a one year starter and has only played 16 career games. His tools are top notch, he plays a violent game, and he had a really strong Senior Bowl week. He plays a position that every team is looking for and he fits into every scheme, thus I don’t see his stock plummeting draft weekend.
- Jabari Zuniga / Florida / 6’3 – 264
Summary: Fifth year senior from Marietta, Georgia. Started games all four years, but was considered the full time starter in 2018 and 2019 only. Zuniga began playing football as a senior in high school before hitting a growth spurt and evolving into an impressive specimen who had to be developed. His talent alone raised eyebrows in 2016, as he played sparingly but still led the team with 5.5 sacks. Ever since then, he has been used as a versatile inside-out player who can take advantage of interior blockers and tackles alike. He has a style that may be too quick for guards and centers and too powerful for the tackles. The tools are there to be developed and the flashes on tape go to show there is a ceiling higher than most edge prospects in the class. He had a hard time staying healthy but if a team can pinpoint the right role for him and he can stay on the field, watch out.
*Put this kid in the group of prospects who needs to be used correctly for him to reach even somewhere close to his ceiling. I’ve seen a lot of him over the past two years and it is hard to imagine there is a role for him on every defense. It could cause him to drop a bit. Does he fit on he NYG defense? I think he could be an undersized (slightly) CRASH end who I’ve spoken about a few times. If they really want to add a guy to that role but they miss out on one in rounds 1 and 2, check to see if this kid is there end of round 3 / early round 4. I think he can contribute year one.
- Darrell Taylor / Tennessee / 6’4 – 267
Summary: Fifth year senior from Hopewell, Virginia. Three year starter who won the team’s MVP award in 2018. At this point, Taylor has come up a bit short when it comes to consistency and overall production when considering his upside and flashes. When it comes to physical traits, he has all the bend and power that will make him a handful for blockers to deal with off the edge. He makes a powerful impact upon contact and shows the ability to get off blocks with violence. The issues exist in his consistency and instincts. Tennessee coaches have been driven mad because of what he shows in flashes vs. his lack of consistency. He doesn’t react fast enough and will get caught out of position. The physical traits are hard to look past, however, and this is a guy who had 21 TFL / 16.5 sacks over the past two years and played really well against the SEC.
*Don’t sleep on this kid. Something didn’t click for him at Tennessee and I’ve been told it wasn’t all on him. I watch this kid for stretches and wonder why he isn’t dominating. He is more powerful than almost everyone he matched up against, he plays with tremendous leverage, and there is enough juice off the snap. Maybe one of those guys who just doesn’t feel the game OR maybe he ends up being a top 3 edge guy out of this class. I wouldn’t be surprised by either.
- Josh Uche / Michigan / 6’1 – 245
Summary: Senior entry from Miami, Florida. A one year starter who made the 2nd Team All Big in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. Josh Uche was a heavy-rotational player as a junior and led the team in sacks on a unit that included Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich. He repeated as the team’s leading sack artist as the full time starter in 2019 as a senior. Uche has exciting potential that stems from his versatility, explosion, and bend. The twitchy defender plays smart and can be moved around based on the situation, but he will make his money off the edge. He needs to bulk up a bit so he can handle the pro-power game, but at the very least he will be a solid 3rd down defender who a creative mind can use in multiple roles.
*If you like Zack Baun for NYG, you have to like Uche a couple rounds later. Uche had to sit behind some really talented edge rushers at Michigan but when he got his shot in 2019, he proved he can handle it. Some teams hate the 1-year starters and I understand why, but I think he is worth the gamble if he is around at the start of day 3. He would be a perfect BUCK fit in the new scheme as long as his medicals check out.
- Julian Okwara / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 252
Summary: Senior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A two year starter who had his 2019 cut short because of a broken leg. Brother of current Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara. A native of Nigeria who moved to the states when he was 8 years old. Julian will likely grade out slightly better than his brother but there are questions whether or not he will progress in the same manner. He had a very solid 2018 where his burst and bend were able to disrupt the opposition. However he disappeared and seemed like a different player before his injury as a senior. The position he plays, the last name, and his 2018 could cause a team to gamble but he is more developmental than he is ready for NFL action.
*High risk, high reward prospect who I think fits best as a stand up 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he ends up going higher than where I have him pegged right now for what its worth. I really didn’t like what I saw against Georgia, Michigan, and Southern California when he was matched up against pro-caliber linemen. Overmatched when it came to power and strength and we aren’t talking about a special athlete off the ball either. He looks the part and he was good in 2018, that’s all I have to go on really.
- Bradlee Anae / Utah / 6’3 – 257
Summary: Senior entry from Laie, Hawaii. Three year starter who won the 2019 Morris Trophy Award, given to the Pac 12’s top lineman. Two time 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2019 All American. Anae’s production, competitive style of play, and strong week at the Senior Bowl create a lot of arrows toward him being a quality NFL starter. However there are a lot of warts on tape that center around his overall athletic ability and upside. He has tight hips, doesn’t play a good arm extension game, and won’t beat many tackles up the edge. He projects to be a rotational third down player who can be trusted to make things happen on occasion, but not consistently.
*From the beginning of the season through the entire process up to now, I have had Anae as an early day 3 pick. No. I’m not being stubborn. I’ve had dozens and dozens of grades fluctuate up and down multiple rounds since September. I simply just don’t see an every down impact guy here, but by no means do I dislike him. He brings great energy to a defense and he knows how to win in traffic. I just see a limit to how much impact he can make play to play and is best suited for a number three role who comes onto the field in specific situations.
- Alton Robinson / Syracuse / 6’3 – 264
Summary: Senior entry from Converse, Texas. Three year starter for Syracuse after spending his freshman season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2018 after finishing third in the conference with 17 tackles for loss and second with 10 sacks. Took a step back as a senior but still earned Honorable Mention honors. Robinson checks a lot of boxes that coaches and scouts look for in a high ceiling edge rusher prospect. He has a strong presence and showed flashes of proper pad level, agility, and finishing ability. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his arsenal but he has produced enough across multiple years against both the run and pass to show there is something to work with. He can be a rotational player early on with the upside of being a quality starter.
*Robinson is similar to Okwara. He just didn’t look the same in 2019 that he did in 2018, that is a red flag to me. It’s not like he saw a massive amount of double teams or anything but I think coaches saw his 2018 tape when scouting and they found ways to neutralize him. Still good enough to be a 4th or 5th rounder, but I was projecting early day 2 when the season began.
- Alex Highsmith / Charlotte / 6’3 – 248
Summary: Fifth year senior from Wilmington, North Carolina. A former walk on who started for two years. In those two years, he earned 1st Team All Conference USA both seasons while adding a 3rd Team All American accolade in 2019. Highsmith set, and then broke, Charlotte’s single season tackle for loss record over his junior and senior seasons. He showed flashes of dominance and despite the lack of ideal tools when it comes to size and speed, created optimism around what he can be in the NFL. He has a lot of inconsistencies that stem from a lack of power and pure explosion, but in a game and specific role where a lot of the action is played in a phone booth, Highsmith’s quickness and low center of gravity along with crafty hands and footwork could carve out a role for him as a situational edge rusher.
*There are a few scouts who really like this kid and have projected him to go day 2. I liked him enough on tape to recommend him for Shrine week, but I never saw anything more than day three. I then got to see him up close and personal at Shrine and walked away with the same thought, day 3. He is similar to Oshane Ximines but a notch below across the board.
- Delontae Scott / SMU: 74
- Trevis Gipson / Tulsa: 74
- James Lynch / Baylor: 73
- Jonathan Garvin / Miami: 73
- Carter Coughlin / Minnesota: 73
- DJ Wonnum / South Carolina: 72
- Kenny Willekes / Michigan State: 72
- Jason Stowbridge / North Carolina: 72
- Nick Coe / Auburn: 72
- Azur Kamara / Kansas: 71
While it is difficult to exactly pinpoint which kind of edge presence NYG will go after, I think this is going to be addressed with one of their first four picks. As I said earlier, you can look for the BUCK (pass rushing linebacker) or the CRASH (3-4/4-3 DE hybrid). Because of what they have in Carter, Ximines, and Fackrell, I think they are going to lean toward the CRASH end. This is a spot that will demand more size and presence, not just pure edge speed and explosion. I do think they will add both throughout the weekend, however. In addition, if a top value drops to them and it is more of a BUCK type presence, I think they pull that trigger.
Now, I think NYG will lean toward offensive line with their first pick at 4. That approach opens the door for this EDGE presence at the top of round 2. One of the CRASH end candidates could slip through the cracks right into their lap like Epenesa, Gross-Matos, Davidson, Lewis…etc. One of the BUCK guys could slip into their laps like Chaisson or Baun. These stacks (or ranks) could slightly alter based on what NYG feels they need more but no matter the case, there will be someone available who helps this team right away. Remember, this team wants real versatility and I think they will weigh a lot when their second pick is on the clock.