Like in yesterday's safety rankings, I'm going to break it down these players in specific roles but also with their specific movements. So you'll see who is the best at what specific trait as well.
Outside of Quarterback, pass rusher is the most important position in the sport. You can never have enough. Whether you are a power rusher, speed rusher, win from outside or inside, who cares, just get after the quarterback and finish. You have to have some value against the run as well, though. Even in today's game where "2 down players" are backward from yesteryear, you can't be worthless. That is will knock some guys down the list, but not necessarily the guys you think.
Let's start it off.
This is just pure explosion. It won't be the guys who ran the fastest 40/10. It's the guys who cover the most ground. The ones that can get the tackle to open up and panic. The rushers that can dip around the edge and run "the hoop" as if the tackle isn't there.
6)Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic
5) Derek Barnett, Tennesee
4) Charles Harris, Missouri
3) Tim Williams, Alabama
2) Derek Rivers, Youngstown St.
1) Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
I didn't want to do him a disservice so I added 6 here. Hendrickson jumped off a few rushes in the all-star game circuits and when I went back and saw him in a couple games, he did the same there. He has a chance to be this year's sleeper and could thrive in a sub-package role.
Everyone knows about Barnett. While his 1st step isn't great, he covers plenty of ground by step 3 and that allows him to finish.
Harris can get going in a hurry. One of the better pure pass rushers in the draft. Harris jumped a 37.5" vertical at his pro day which was more in line with what he showed during games.
Williams is a missile off the line of scrimmage. When he can pin his ears back and go he was a nightmare. Watch the 3rd play of the game against Mississippi State.Or the 2nd half against Kentucky.
The casual fan has no freaking clue who Derek Rivers is. You will in two years. Rivers Burst off the edge is closer to rare than good. He can execute head fakes and moves on the fly that allow him to get around the edge in a hurry. Rivers uses his hands to keep himself clean as well. It's impressive.
The ground Garrett can cover is not normal. His ability to get to the quarterback in a few steps while disregarding the tackle make it tough to bet against Garrett. He has rushes off the edge where he is literally touching the ground.
I usually gravitate to power rushers more so than speed rushers. These are usually the guys with fast 40's and high verticals/long broad jumps. The explosive type. Not so much the speed, jumping snap type. A power rusher can embarrass you quick. He gets his hands inside and walks you back into the lap of the quarterback. If you're lucky, you don't end up on your back. Think speed to power that puts the lineman on skates.
5) Taco Charlton, Michigan
4) Joe Mathis, Washington
2) Jordan Willis, Kansas State
1) Takk McKinley, UCLA
Charlton does a very good job of winning with leverage and then converting that and speed to power.
Mathis looooves the bull-rush. It's his go to as he fires off low. Whether it's 1 or 2-arms he showed he can win with it. The 1st plays against Portland State and Oregon are good examples of Mathis winning.
Willis has the length and explosion to effortlessly walk tackles back. The TCU game is the best example to see this. He won 4 times with it against the Horned Frogs.
In TCU game he walked the RT back into the QBs lap w/ a 1 arm bullrush 4x. Had a nice TFL setting the edge. Had a batted pass. Impressive pic.twitter.com/YURSVV4Rg4— KP (@KP_Show) December 19, 2016
Takk doesn't always know what he's doing but when he gets his hands inside it's like there's a magnetic force that draws him to the QB. Check out his sack against Washington State. His length and speed help him a lot here.
Stops are a big part of this. I love guys that can finish. In college, though, not all guys are asked to do the same. Some guys reading the lineman instead of the ball and have to maintain their gap responsibility. So it doesn't show up on the stat sheet. I look for players that can set the edge while keeping their outside shoulder free. At the same time are able to disengage and make the tackle if the ball carrier makes it their way. You have to be able to hold your ground at the point of attack. The best run defenders reset the line of scrimmage or play on the other side of it. Discipline is a big deal when watching guys against the run.
5) Ryan Anderson, Alabama
3) Chris Wormley, Michigan
Anderson is such a sound player. Subtle things like taking on the pulling lineman with the correct shoulder. Squeezing and not running upfield on runs his way. He has great technique and he does a good job of winning with "first hands." Anderson made plenty of plays against the run, too.
Willis was a guy that was asked to read tackles so on the surface it looked like he wasn't doing a good job. But he remained gap sound and did his job. His strength really shows up as a run defender.
Wormley is a guy that fights and fights to make sure he maintains his responsibility. He has a mean streak in him as well.
What the DE to the top of the screen #43. That's Chris Wormley. That's how you football. pic.twitter.com/jr5lkG9nN2— KP (@KP_Show) April 8, 2017
Wormley has surprising athleticism for a 298-pound man and that allows him to move up and down the line of scrimmage to make plays.
Because Bama played in a heavy front on base downs people immediately jumped to "Williams is a part-time player" or flat out "Williams is a bad run defender." No. He just didn't play on 1st down. Watch LSU. Watch Washington. Watch Clemson. In their biggest games, he's out there every snap. LSU was one of the most dominant performances against the run by an edge rusher this year. He's so much stronger than people think and that helped him make plays against the run.
Rivers shows up again. For some of the "shades" he was asked to play, Rivers did a great job of not getting reached against the run. Polished is a good way to describe him. I said I liked "stops" and Rivers wins within the scheme but most importantly he finishes.
The best pass rushers in the NFL all have a signature move. Whether it's a dip/rip, an arm-over, a spin. They have something that you know it's coming and you just can't stop it.
1) Carl Lawson, Auburn
Willis has a go-to move that nobody really mentions but it's highly effective. His arm-over. He sets tackles up and bursts by them with it.
Garett will be under to dip under even the best tackles in the NFL because of his flexibility.
Everyone knows Barnett is going to "dip and rip." It seems like it's all he does. Tackles still couldn't stop it. It's a fantastic move that he's perfected the timing of.
Harris has the best go to move in the class. His spin move is devastating. It's a blur. Because he can beat you to the edge with his speed he works back to the inside and tackles over-set and are left in the dust.
Lawson is the best technician when it comes to rushing the passer. He doesn't have a "signature" move but it's his hands that earn him the number one spot. If I needed to get after the quarterback I'd probably count on Lawson over anyone. He is advanced with his hand usage. He has an array of pass rush moves and knows how to keep himself clean.
Putting it all together
Now that we've gone through each trait we can judge where each of them. Here's how I'd rank the best edge rushers in the class.
10) Takk Mckinley
9) Charles Harris
8) Carl Lawson
7) Derek Barnett
6) Tim Williams
5) Chris Wormley
4) Solomon Thomas
3) Derek Rivers
2) Jordan Willis
1) Myles Garrett
It's the stupidest thing in the world that the first time me mentioning Thomas is here. But if you look at him as a football player, he has a ways to go. He's such a dynamic athlete that, inside, he's borderline unblockable. As a pass rusher on the edge, you're underwhelmed. As a run defender inside, you're terrified. It's about projections though and combining that with his flashes I can't help but think he'll produce.
Mckinley has the best effort out of all these guys. He plays 100 mph all the time. Has a ways to go technique wise but his effort and explosiveness should get him somewhere.
Speaking of effort, Lawson's is abysmal against the run. Harris is just flat out bad against the run. Both are high-end pass rushers, though.
Barnett is better against the run than given credit for, much like Williams. He just lacks a counter. But his signature is so good.
Wormley is the opposite of Mckinley in the sense that he does everything right. I think we've yet to see the best version of him.
I've yet to see any reason why Rivers won't be successful at the next level. Willis, Too.
Garrett has the explosion and flexibility to be dominant. He has a ways to go has far as using his hands, and he's not great against the run. But guys his size that can move like he can don't come around often. Getting by on athletic traits when you have those athletic traits isn't all that bad.