Similar to the way I reviewed cornerbacks, I’m now going to focus on Defensive Ends/ Edge Rushers. This article is going to review the NFL’s top 15 defensive ends of the 2016 season. How does the edge rusher group of this year’s draft class match up against the NFL’s best? This article can be used to compare the similarities and differences of the current NFL defensive ends versus the 2017 draft prospects. I will cover height, weight, combine/pro day performances, the rounds they were selected in, and how they each contributed as rookies or in the early parts of their careers.
Mack was a 2014 first-round selection (5th overall) of the Oakland Raiders. He was an immediate impact player for the Raiders as a rookie, starting all 16 games and totaling 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 4 sacks and 59 tackles. In his second and third NFL seasons, he again started in every game and made the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro (2015-2016).
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.65-seconds), Bench Press (23-reps), Vertical Jump (40-inches), Broad Jump (128-inches), 3-Cone Drill (7.08-seconds), and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.18-seconds)
Graham was a 2010 first-round (13th overall) selection of the Philadelphia Eagles. Graham has performed well when on the field for the Eagles, but he has not started many games during his seven NFL seasons. He has only 39 starts out of a possible 96 games. Still, he has has managed 13 forced fumbles (two as a rookie), 29 sacks (three as a rookie) and 179 tackles. In 2016, Graham was a Second Team All-Pro.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.72-seconds), 20-Yard Dash (2.77-seconds) and 10-Yard Dash (1.65-seconds)
Pro-Day Results: Vertical Jump (31.5-inches), Broad Jump (111-inches), 20-Yard Shuttle (4.25-seconds) and 3-Cone Drill (7.01-seconds).
Jordan was a 2011 first-round (24th overall) selection of the New Orleans Saints. As a rookie, he started in 15 games and totaled six passes defended, one fumble recovery, one sack, and 31 tackles. Jordan was a Pro Bowl selection in 2013 and 2015, but has been a constant force on the edge for the Saints totaling 30 passes defended, seven forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 46.5 sacks, and 191 tackles over six NFL seasons.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.78-seconds), Bench Press (25-reps), Vertical Jump (31-inches), Broad Jump (117-inches), 3-Cone Drill (7.07-seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.37-seconds)
Miller was a 2011 first-round (2nd overall) selection of the Denver Broncos. He has been a key part of the Broncos defense since his very first game, and in his rookie season Miller totaled four passes defended, three forced fumbles, 11.5 sacks and 50 tackles. Miller has maintained that high level of performance in each of his NFL seasons and has earned several NFL honors to include Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro selections and Super Bowl MVP.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.53-seconds), Bench Press (21-reps), Vertical Jump (37-inches), Broad Jump (126-inches), 3-Cone Drill (6.70-seconds), 20-Yard Shuttle (4.06-seconds) and 60-Yard Shuttle (11.15-seconds)
Bosa was a 2016 first-round (3rd overall) selection of the San Diego Chargers. As a rookie, he totaled 10.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and 41 tackles. Bosa was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was also selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.86-seconds), Bench Press (24-reps), Vertical Jump (32-inches), Broad Jump (120-inches), 3-Cone Drill (6.89-seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.21-seconds)
6. Melvin Ingram, Chargers (6-foot-1, 264-pounds | 2016 PFF rating: 88.1)
Ingram was a 2012 first-round (18th overall) selection of the San Diego Chargers. It took Ingram a few seasons to produce at a high level. In his first three seasons, he only started a total of 12 games and had a combined total of six sacks. In 2015, Ingram finally had his breakout season, starting all 16 games and totaling six passes defended, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 10.5 sacks, and 52 tackles. Ingram was able to carry on that success into 2016 as well where he again started all 16 games.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.79-seconds), Bench Press (28-reps), Vertical Jump (34.5-inches), Broad Jump (109-inches), 3-Cone Drill (6.83-seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.18-seconds)
Jones was a 2012 first-round (21st overall) selection of the New England Patriots. Jones was productive as a rookie starting in 13 games and totaling five passes defended, three forced fumbles, six sacks, and 24 tackles. Jones was able to build on his early success, totaling no less than 11 sacks in a season with the exception of 2014 where he only started 8 games and totaled six sacks.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.87-seconds), Bench Press (22-reps), Vertical Jump (35-inches), Broad Jump (120-inches), 3-Cone Drill (4.04-seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.38-seconds)
Mercilus was a 2012 first-round (26th overall) selection of the Houston Texans. In his rookie season, he played in all sixteen games but had just four starts. Mercilus still produced six sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Mercilus really hasn’t put up elite numbers since he entered the NFL, but he has been a solid contributor to the Texans defense.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.68-seconds), 20-Yard Dash (2.69-seconds), 10-Yard Dash (1.58-seconds), Bench Press (27-reps), Vertical Jump (32-inches), Broad Jump (118-inches), 20-Yard Shuttle (4.53-seconds) and 3-Cone Drill (7.17-seconds)
9. Jadeveon Clowney, Texans (6-foot-6, 266-pounds | 2016 PFF rating: 87.2)
Clowney was also a first round selection of the Houston Texans. He was the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Clowney struggled with injuries in his first two NFL seasons, but finally had a healthy year in 2016. He produced six sacks, forty tackles, two passes defended and one forced fumble and was a Second Team All-Pro selection.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.53-seconds), Bench Press (21-reps), Vertical Jump (37.5-inches), 3-Cone Drill (7.27-seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.43-seconds)
Wake is the first player on the list not selected in the first round. In fact, he was a 2005 UDFA. He was signed by the New York Giants but was released in June, and in 2007 joined the Canadian Football League. Wake spent two years in the CFL and then gained attention from the NFL prior to the 2009 season, and was signed by the Miami Dolphins. Wake started just one game in his first NFL season, producing just 5.5 sacks but in 2010 he exploded with 14 sacks, 48 tackles, 4 passes defended and 3 forced fumbles.
NFL Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash (4.67-seconds), 20-Yard Dash (2.74-seconds), 10-Yard Dash (1.68-seconds), Bench Press (20-reps), Vertical Jump (45.5-inches), Broad Jump (130-inches), 20-Yard Shuttle (4.11-seconds) and 3-Cone Drill (7.12-seconds)
2002 UDFA out of Kent State, signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2009 UDFA out of Texas A&M, signed by the Seattle Seahawks.
13. Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants (6-foot-5, 270-pounds | 2016 PFF rating: 86.2)
2010 First Round pick (15th overall) of the New York Giants.
14. Olivier Vernon, Giants (6-foot-2, 261-pounds | 2016 PFF rating: 85.4)
2012 Third Round pick (72nd overall) of the Miami Dolphins.
2010 Second Round pick (54th overall) of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Of the top 15 edge rushers from the 2016 season, ten of them were first round selections. One was a second round pick, one was a third round pick, and three were undrafted free agents. The results, statistically, are similar to the results of the previous cornerback article I wrote. Most of the top players come out of the first round, which is no surprise, but just like the cornerback group, it was interesting to see a handful of UDFAs find their way into the NFL’s best.
The Saints will have two first round picks on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, and it would be nice to see one of those used on a pass rusher. It might also be a good idea to sign a few UDFA edge rushers as well. The draft is finally here, and hopefully Sean Payton and Jeff Ireland don’t let us down.