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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
Top 10 Edge Rushers in the 2015 NFL Draft
By Matt Horkman

1. Dante Fowler, Florida
It wouldn’t be wrong to classify Fowler as a one-year wonder, though it was a heck of a season. Fowler has a great first step and violent punch. He has good size and physicality, especially against the run. His athleticism is scary good. He’s versatile enough to play outside linebacker, defensive end or even defensive tackle in the right scheme. He could develop into a more consistent version of former NFL linebacker Adalius Thomas.

2. Vic Beasley, ClemsonVic Beasley
An elite athlete, Beasley blew up the NFL Scouting combine with an amazing workout. Heading into the event, many questioned whether he had enough bulk to play outside linebacker. He checked in at the combine weighing a healthy 245 pounds. More important, he maintained his elite athleticism at that weight. This reinforced his status as a top 15 pick. Beasley uses his long arms to get off blocks. He anticipates the snap count well, and knives his way through blockers to make plays. He also has fantastic hand usage. Despite his combine performance, it’s still worth noting that he doesn’t play with a lot of power. Instead, he relies heavily on his athleticism. His lack of power was really evident against Georgia last year, a game in which struggled. If he drops out of the top 10, people will point to this tape.

3. Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Gregory is a nimble athlete. He showed terrific movement skills throughout his career, and is an ideal candidate to play 3-4 outside linebacker. He likely dropped weight in advance of the NFL Scouting combine, so he could produce his best possible forty. He delivered, clocking in with a 4.64 forty. At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds, Gregory is severely undersized. He must bulk up. Will he maintain his athleticism at 250 pounds? He also needs to show more toughness against the run. A failed drug test for marijuana could also hurt his value.

4. Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
Dupree demonstrates the versatility to play in a 3-4 or 4-3. In fact, he could probably thrive as a Cover 2 defensive end. Regardless, most teams will probably view him as a standup 3-4 outside linebacker, which is the position he at the University of Kentucky. He is a terrific athlete. His movement skills are very smooth, and he’s shown the ability to drop in coverage. He also explodes off the edge as a pass rusher. There are some inconsistencies, though. He disappears throughout long spurts and he must improve his physicality against the run. Right now, you could argue he’s just a pass rush specialist. If he were to improve against the run, he could emerge as one of the drafts best defensive players.

5. Shane Ray, Missouri
A toe injury prevented Ray from working out at the NFL Scouting combine. He did manage to workout at Missouri’s pro day, but his performance was underwhelming. Nevertheless, Ray’s tape is very good. He’s highly active at the line of scrimmage, showing terrific burst off the edge. His pursuit is terrific. He’s relentless once he locks onto the ball carrier. His production was also off the charts. He was first-team All-American, and earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Size could be a major red flag, as larger offensive lineman overwhelmed him on tape. 

6. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
After an injury plagued 2013, Odighizuwa is a 4-3 defensive end who is strong and athletic. In addition, he also disengages from blocks well. He looks the part on paper, but he’s simply too inconsistent to use a first-round pick on. Therefore, he’ll come off the board on day two. 

7. Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
An ideal 3-4 outside linebacker, Kikaha was a first-team All-American after a very productive 2014 season (19 sacks). He’s a good pass rusher, and sets the edge well against the run. He has very raw pass coverage skills, however. While he’s a smooth athlete on tape, he looked stiff at the combine.

8. Trey Flowers, Arkansas
Flowers has amazing length; his wingspan is 84 ½ inches. He’s a 4-3 defensive end who could kick inside during pass situations. He has a chance to hear his name called on day two.

9. Preston Smith, Mississippi State
Good size, length and power make Smith likely to come off the board in the second round. He’s a 4-3 defensive end who’ll move inside in sub packages. As a pass rusher, he does a nice job of getting off the ball. He also holds up well against the run.

10. Eli Harold, Virginia
Inconsistencies against the run make Harold unlikely to play in non-passing situations. Still, he’s fluid in space and has shown the ability to produce as a rusher off the edge. In a league desperate for rushers, Harold will find a role.

On the Bubble
Anthony Chickillo, Miami (FL)
Frank Clark, Michigan
Markus Golden, Missouri
Nate Orchard, Utah
Davis Tull, Tennessee-Chattanooga

@RowTwelve

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