2017 NFL Draft: Finding Your Edge Rusher

Every team in the 2017 NFL Draft would love to fill their roster with a player like Myles Garrett. However, the consensus first overall pick won’t be available. What are the alternate edge rushers for the 2017 NFL Draft?

The edge rushers in this class run deep. No matter what round you’re in, you could find an adequate player at the position. The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft could see as many as 10 defensive linemen taken. None of them match the skill set of Garrett but here are a couple of names your team should pay attention to.

Derek Barnett, DE from Tennessee: Here’s a player who doesn’t have ideal length at 6-foot-3 and isn’t the most athletic player on the field. He only ran the 40-yard dash in 4.88 seconds at the Scouting Combine but he was recovering from a virus that held him out of action the day before. One timed drill that should stand out for you and your team is what he did during the 3-cone drill. Finishing that drill in 6.96 seconds is a nice time and does show the hip flexibility that Barnett displays.

Something that I love about Barnett is how productive he was at Tennessee. Over the last three years, he tallied up 52 tackles for loss and 32 sacks. Seeing him play against some of the best talent in the country and display that production shows that he belongs on the field on Sunday.

Personally, I think Barnett should be a stand-up end in a 3-4 defensive scheme and would be a fit for a team like the Baltimore Ravens. He could hear his name called much sooner than that but if not, it seems ideal for him to hear his name called around picks 15-20. Barnett plays with natural strength and he follows it up with a solid edge rush by his hand usage and fluid hips. He seems sluggish at times so there will be questions about his motor or overall conditioning, but over time, that should change. He could become just as productive or more productive than any edge rusher in this class.

Carl Lawson, DE from Auburn: Stronger than you would think is this player. At the Scouting Combine, Lawson racked up 35 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press. On film, Lawson displays that strength with an explosive burst off the line and powerful punches at the point of attack. Despite running well at the Scouting Combine, Lawson has stiff hips and lacks a proper bend down the line of scrimmage.

Other than what you see on tape or numbers from the Combine. The number one thing that stands out about Lawson is his injury history. Can he withstand the everyday grind of the NFL? During the 2014 season, Lawson suffered a torn ACL and missed the season. Coming back for the 2015 season, Lawson then missed six games with a hip injury. I’m fearful of players with that tape of injury history, especially when playing such a physical position like defensive end. However, Lawson did have a nice finish to his career at Auburn with 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss during the 2016 season.

Overall, Lawson looks the part of another 3-4 edge rusher. He has that quick burst and strong punch off the snap. He could find a spot in the backend of the first round but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s available on the start of Day Two. If so, I’d hope your team looks to find a spot on their defense for him.

Derek Rivers, DE from Youngstown State: Every NFL Draft evaluator loves long and athletic defensive ends. At 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds, Rivers is one of those types of players. Playing for one of the small schools, Rivers displays big time upside and has shown great production.

Over the last three seasons, Rivers has produced 36 sacks and over 70 career tackles. While some would consider him a fit as a linebacker, Rivers should play with his hand in the dirt. He plays well off the edge, has a quick burst and is consistent with his pursuit angles.

While I’d be shocked if Rivers went in the first round, he should be a day two lock for the 2017 NFL Draft. I’d like to see him have a dominant move off the edge but with time, he should find his niche for what works for him in the NFL.

DeMarcus Walker, DE from Florida State: We all talk about players like those above but not enough of us are talking about this one. Walker doesn’t have ideal speed but he’s a versatile defensive end who could find himself as a 3-tech on certain pass rushing situations.

On film, you’ll consistently see him setting the edge with a nice spin move. He’s becoming a great player to watch and if you’re a coach, he has the tools you can work with to become a consistent edge rusher at the next level.

During his first three seasons at Florida State, he was consistent but the 2016 season is when he came into his own. Walker tallied up 19.5 sacks and 16 sacks. Keep in mind, he also had eight pass deflections over the last four seasons. There are questions about his overall football shape but I like the motor he shows on tape and how he plays at pad level. Walker is the type of defensive end you find on the second day of the draft who becomes a consistent player on Sunday’s for years to come.




About Russ Brown 1 Article
I started covering the NFL Draft in 2010. Sam Bradford was who everyone loved and I told them why they were wrong. Don't ever sit on the fence about a player.

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