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2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Steelers Big Board, Outside Linebackers/EDGE

Ranking and analyzing the top 34 edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Michigan at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Draft’s class of edge rushers has been called a weak one by many draft analysts, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Despite lacking a top 5-10 talent like a Chase Young or Bosa brother, this year’s class is incredibly deep and still has a solid group of prospects that could hear their names called in the first round.

The Steelers likely won’t be one of the teams picking an edge rusher in the first round, as despite star pass-rusher Bud Dupree leaving in free agency, 2020 third round pick Alex Highsmith seems more than ready to pick up the mantle as T.J. Watt’s partner in crime. However, a lack of depth behind Watt and Highsmith has led many to believe the team will spend a pick at some point on the position as a depth piece behind the two starters.

Further complicating things is the Steelers’ defensive scheme, a 3-4 front, in which the edge rushers are lined up at the outside linebacker position. This position requires a specific skillset, meaning that it won’t be the right fit for every edge rusher in the draft. But in a deep class, the Steelers shouldn’t have any problem finding their guy at the position.

Before checking out this year’s class of edge rushers, make sure you’re caught up on the previous positions. You can check out the first eight installments of the board here: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers (Part 1), Wide Receivers (Part 2), Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Line, Offensive Tackles, and Interior Defensive Line.

As always, the main rankings are steelerfan11’s, while the analysis is a collaborative effort. SNW’s consensus rankings are an average of where the prospects appeared on big boards (ranking all positions) from other draft websites to see where the prospects stack up elsewhere. The websites, in order, are CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon.

We always appreciate hearing your draft takes in the comment section, and if you’d be interested in adding them to the BTSC Big Board we’d appreciate the help. Let us know in the comments below if you’d be interested.

Let’s get to rankings:

1. Kwity Paye — #19, Sr, 6’4”, 272 lbs, — Michigan
Top 15 grade
Consensus ranking: 15 (8, 20, 18, 14, 15)
2020 season stats: (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 50, TFL 12.5, Sacks 6.5 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Paye is a physical specimen that began to blossom in 2020. He is a top-notch run defender who uses his hands well and maintains a good pad level. At over 270 pounds, Paye actually has a legit shot of running 4.4 in the 40. His speed is evident when he beats the tackle to the outside and runs down the quarterback. While he has the trait to become a dominant pass-rusher, he is not quite there yet and will still need to develop more in that area. Nonetheless, he will be an instant impact player due to his ability to play the run at a high level.

Itz JustNoah: Paye is built like a semi-truck. He was incredible against the run in college due to his great feet and hands, and I don’t doubt that that will translate to the NFL. However, he relies too much on his athleticism as a pass rusher and that is something that has to be fixed if he wants to be successful as a true edge. If he can develop as a pass rusher on the technical side of things, he has the potential to be extremely good. Paye is ineffective when dropping back into coverage so a 4-3 scheme, where he can play on the edge while not being asked to drop back in coverage, would work very well.

2. Azeez Ojulari — #13, So, 6’3”, 240 lbs, — Georgia
Top 25 grade
Consensus ranking: 39 (58, 30, 58, 22, 25)
2020 season stats: Tackles 71, TFL 19.5, Sacks 14, PD 3, FF 5, FR 1 (10 games)

steelerfan11: Ojulari has been a favorite of mine for a while. His bend around the edge is terrific, probably the best in the class. His burst off the line makes him difficult to contain coming around the edge, especially for bigger lineman that do not have the lateral quickness to keep up with him. His strength did not seem to be a strength of his on tape, but he impressed at his pro day by putting up 28 bench reps. He has good overall awareness and makes plays in the run game, but he would be even better if he was ten pounds heavier. At 6-2, it is unclear as to how much weight he will be able to add to his frame, but he has the potential to become one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

Ryland B.: I’ve seen some comparisons between Ojulari and former Steeler Bud Dupree, likely due to the incredible athleticism both pass-rushers possess. I was impressed with how fast and twitchy he is on tape, and those traits alone give him one of the higher ceilings in this class. Ojulari isn’t the biggest guy, and he doesn’t have the greatest length, but if he can continue to gain strength it shouldn’t be a problem. He’s not the most polished pass-rusher, but he has the effort and athleticism to succeed, and a decent array of moves already. Ojulari’s athleticism makes him very versatile, and although I see him best succeeding as a 3-4 OLB, others, such as The Draft Network, see him as an off-ball linebacker.

Itz JustNoah: Ojulari has great athleticism and technique. He uses his hands well, he’s quick and he’s got a great bend that helps him stay upright. He has average size for an edge rusher so he could use a bit more strength but his speed off the line has helped him be successful without the ideal size. His major flaw comes as a run defender. When he’s forced outside and has to set the edge, he doesn’t have his burst off the line so he isn’t able to get by blockers. He’s not polished, but he’s got a high ceiling that makes him well worthy of being taken in the first round. He excelled in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense at Georgia and I think that’s where he will fit best in the NFL.

3. Joseph Ossai — #46, Jr, 6’4”, 253 lbs, — Texas
Top 25 grade
Consensus ranking: 34 (34, 36, 29, 38, 34)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 90, 14.5 TFL ,6 Sacks , Int 2, PD 3, FF 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: Talk about a guy who has the feel for getting after the quarterback! Ossai makes it look so easy at times. His quick and violent hands allow him to gain leverage on opponents, and his short-area burst and closing speed help him finish plays. Not only is his motor always running at 100%, but he is also always looking to improve his game. He still needs to become better in coverage, and he is not a perfect run defender yet, but he showed obvious improvement each year in college. I expect that to continue when he is in the NFL.

Ryland B.: Joseph Ossai played as both a pass-rusher and an off-ball linebacker at Texas. He projects best at EDGE though, where he uses his quick first step and array of pass-rushing moves to get to the quarterback. He is fairly new to the position, which makes his mental processing a little slow at times, but overall Ossai is highly athletic, fairly polished, and plays with a high motor. He has a knack for forcing fumbles as well. Never the most productive, Ossai still had a lot of pressures that showed up on tape, and hopefully he’ll be able to hit home more often in the NFL.

Itz JustNoah: I absolutely love Ossai. He has pretty much everything you want in a 3-4 OLB. He’s very quick off the line, his balance is phenomenal, he uses his hands extremely well and he has a wide range of pass rush moves. The stats may not show it but he is almost always in the backfield whether it be a run or a pass. Unlike a lot of the other edge rushers in this class, Ossai is very versatile. He can easily drop back into zone coverage or even play man against some tight ends or running backs, so he is the perfect 3-4 edge. I see a lot of TJ Watt in him because of his quickness, balance and his knack for creating turnovers. I’ve seen him fall out of the first round in some mocks but I think that any team that uses a 3-4 should take him before any other edge rusher.

4. Gregory Rousseau — #15, So, 6’7”, 265 lbs, — Miami
Late 1st round grade
Consensus ranking: 15 (16, 12, 16, 16, 16)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 19.5, Sacks 15.5 (13 games)

steelerfan11: This class is filled with boom-or-bust prospects, and Rousseau is one of those prospects. He was extremely productive in the one year that we have a good sample size of him, but again, it was only one year. His numbers were incredible in 2019, but if you go back and watch his tape, a couple of his sacks were more coverage sacks than anything else. It is also worth noting that a lot of that production came when he was moved inside to rush from the interior. He has the versatility to be moved around on passing downs, but he will occasionally take plays off and be a complete non-factor. I realize that there is a lot of upside here, but if I am given the choice between him and Ossai, give me the guy who has more tape and never takes a play off.

Ryland B.: From a draft perspective, I really wish that Rousseau hadn’t opted out of the 2020 season. He put up 15.5 sacks — as a redshirt freshman — in 2019, and was seen by most as a surefire top 10 pick entering the following season. But after opting out the following season he’s dropped in most rankings. The problem? Despite Rousseau’s impressive production, he’s still very raw, and with only one true season under his belt he’ll be a massive risk for whichever team gets him. He has all of the physical traits you could want in an edge rusher with great size and athleticism, but his game is still fairly underdeveloped. Rousseau has the talent to be a first round pick, but it will be interesting to see if he can live up to that billing.

5. Jaelan Phillips — #15, Jr, 6’5”, 266 lbs, — Miami
Early 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 30 (40, 47, 17, 24, 24)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 15.5, Sacks 8 (10 games)

steelerfan11: Phillips was the top pass-rusher in his class coming out of high school, earning a five-star rating as he entered college. He played his first two seasons at UCLA, but he struggled with concussions, which is probably the biggest red flag for him as a draft prospect. He has all the tools physically, but he never really showed them until 2020. He was a much healthier version of himself at Miami and made the loss of Gregory Rousseau go almost unnoticed. However, he is still undisciplined when it comes to pad level. There are a few other technical issues in his game, but if those can get cleaned up, he has the chance to be an elite defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.

Ryland B.: I hadn’t watched a ton of Phillips until I started analyzing him for this board, but I came away very impressed. He’s a plus athlete with good size, which I had known before, but he seemed to be more technically sound than most think he is. What really stood out to me is how violent of a pass-rusher Phillips is. His hand usage is strong and choppy, his motor is nonstop, and he’s a very disruptive, hard hitter. He’s solid against the run as well. Phillips can still be inconsistent and play too high at times, but he has all of the tools to succeed and should just continue to improve. The only red flag is his concussion issues, which unfortunately, could be quite the issue.

6. Carlos Basham — #9, Sr, 6’5”, 285 lbs, — Wake Forest
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 50 (56, 62, 41, 48, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 28, TFL 5.5, Sacks 5, PD 1, FF 1 (7 games)

Ryland B.: Basham is a powerful edge rusher who has more of a clear fit as a 4-3 defensive end than anyone I’ve profiled so far for this board. He’s not a bad athlete per se, but he lacks the pure agility and bend of some of the others on this list, and his array of pass-rush moves isn’t the strongest. Still, Basham has good strength, plays with good discipline, and has a solid all-around game. He may not be an overly dynamic athlete, but Basham still made his impact at Wake Forest with some big plays. Hell be a good second round pick as he can start right away but he lacks the upside of a first rounder. He’s a good player but probably not a great fit in Pittsburgh.

7. Patrick Jones — #91, Sr, 6’5”, 260 lbs, — Pittsburgh
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 55 (31, 67, 49, 67, 60)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 13, Sacks 9 (11 games)

steelerfan11: When you watch Jones, he reminds you of Bud Dupree or Jadeveon Clowney. He is tight in the hips and plays with his pads too high at times, but he has good functional strength, strong hands, and enough quickness to beat less athletic tackles around the edge. He is not quite as athletic as a Dupree, and the separation in athleticism is what will likely limit Jones to defensive end in a 4-3 system. His repertoire of moves is impressive, as he has shown many different ways of getting to the quarterback. Overall, I like Jones’ potential, but he does not provide the versatility that some of these other prospects do.

Ryland B.: Jones is an athletic pass-rusher with an insanely quick first step. He has solid size, and while he’s still a little raw overall there aren’t any major concerns when rushing the passer or defending the run. As a 4-3 defensive end, Jones is a very solid prospect who will just need some time to grow into his role in the NFL. However, as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position Jones would play in the Steelers’s system (an actual possibility as the team met with him at the Senior Bowl), there would be a lot more to work on. Jones has the ideal size and athletic profile but is severely lacking when it comes to anything besides rushing the passer from a defensive end stance.

8. Jayson Oweh — #28, So, 6’5”, 253 lbs, — Penn State
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 47 (80, 50, 35, 35, 33)
2020 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 13.5, Sacks 0, PD 2, FF 2 (7 games)

steelerfan11: Oweh has as much potential as anyone in the class, but he lacked production in 2020. It is not every day that you see a 250+ pound athlete run the 40 in under 4.4 seconds, but Oweh can do it. However, he has struggled to translate his God-given athletic gifts to the football field. Some scouting reports that you read will say that he is limited to 4-3 schemes, but I believe the exact opposite. I think that he will only have success as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If you watch his tape, you will see that he lacks quickness out of his stance when lined up as a down lineman with his hand in the dirt, but he was a totally different player when he was a stand-up linebacker. He had a quicker first step, and he was more effective using his speed. If a team is willing to be patient with Oweh and not expect much from him in year one, he will have a chance to blossom into one of the top 3-4 outside linebackers in the league. For more perspective on Oweh, here is an interesting scouting report on him from Big Blue View.

Ryland B.: I have a sneaking suspicion that Oweh will be picked much higher than most think he will be due to his blazing 40 time (see steelerfan11’s analysis above). Unsurprisingly, Oweh is a fantastic athlete, but there’s more than just that to being a good pass-rusher, although the upside is undeniably there. Oweh is just incredibly raw, and despite his solid weight at 253 he looks and plays smaller on the field than expected. He got pushed around a lot and didn’t have great awareness either, almost like he was still learning the position. That isn’t to say I don’t like Oweh — I think he’d be a fantastic pick in the third or fourth round as a developmental 3-4 OLB, but he’ll likely be picked much earlier than that.

9. Chris Rumph — #96, Jr, 6’4”, 235 lbs, — Duke
Mid 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 107 (94, 120, 63, 150, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 12.5, Sacks 8, PD 1, FF1 , FR 1 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Rumph’s stock seems to be headed in the right direction. I am not the biggest fan of his, but he may be the beneficiary of what most people consider to be a poor class at outside linebacker. My biggest concern with Rumph is his size. I think that he can get stronger once he is in the NFL, but his frame is very small. This allowed opponents to have their way with him in the running game, as he was oftentimes unable to set the edge. He lined up all over the place for Duke and showed his versatility, but he will need to settle into one position in the NFL. He is best suited for a team that plays a lot of subpackage defense and moves their linebackers around.

Ryland B.: If Rumph was just a little bit bigger and stronger I’d think he’d be ranked a lot higher on this board. He’s an explosive, versatile pass-rusher with fantastic bend around the edge. He was very disruptive and fairly productive while at Duke, but he’ll have a much harder time in the NFL. Rumph lacks ideal size and strength, and even in college he could get swallowed up by bigger offensive tackles. Thanks to his versatility and athleticism, Rumph might be able to find a spot as an inside linebacker in the NFL, but it remains to be seen how that transition would work out.

10. Joe Tryon — #9, Jr, 6’5”, 262 lbs, — Washington
Mid 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 53 (65, 72, 31, 53, 46)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 61, TFL 14.5, Sacks 9, PD 2 (13 games)

Ryland B.: Tyron is a very athletic presence on the edge with good size and strength. He has impressive hand usage and some good pass-rush moves, and when paired with his speed and agility it can be quite the combination. Against the run Tyron is solid, but he can get pushed back a little more often that you’d like and isn’t the strongest tackler. It’s also worth noting that Tyron sat out the 2020 season, which might drop his draft stock a bit as 2019 was really his only good year in college.

steelerfan11: I like Tryon best as a 4-3 defensive end, as he is one of the few edge rushers that actually seem to get a better start off the line when his hand is in the dirt. He has the frame to add even more weight, if he wanted to. He does a great job of setting the edge in the run game, and he has decent bend around the edge. Coverage is not Tryon’s specialty, but his schematic versatility and three-down value makes him worthy of a day two pick.

11. Ronnie Perkins — #7, Jr, 6’4”, 248 lbs, — Oklahoma
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 70 (NA, 98, NA, 59, 52)
2020 season stats: Tackles 24, TFL 10.5, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: Perkins is a strong, aggressive EDGE with good athleticism. He has violent hands and a good collection of pass rush moves, although there is room to develop in that area. For someone listed at under 250 pounds, Perkins plays much bigger than he is and I can’t stress enough how impressive his strength is. He’s a good tackler and has all of the tools to be a good run defender, but hasn’t completely arrived there yet, with The Draft Network noting that he is “wildly undisciplined” when defending the run. A suspension at Oklahoma could be a red flag as well.

12. Daelan Hayes — #9, Sr, 6’3”, 266 lbs, — Notre Dame
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 142 (NA, 163, 77, 185, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 17, TFL 6, Sacks 3, PD 0, FF 2, FR 1, Int 1 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Hayes is the 4-3 version of Joseph Ossai, except he does not have the high ceiling that Ossai has. He is a natural pass rusher and looks very fluid coming around the edge, but his athleticism is not eye-popping. He never eclipsed three sacks in one season at Notre Dame, but he had a good Senior Bowl week which was highlighted by a strip sack in 11-on-11 drills. He is a solid run-blocker and sets the edge well, but there are still questions as to whether he can be a three-down player in the NFL.

13. Jordan Smith — #22, Jr, 6’7”, 255 lbs, — UAB
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 136 (NA, 150, 133, 126, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 17.5, Sacks 10, PD 1, FF 4, FR 0 (14 games)

Ryland B.: Smith is an interesting prospect simply due to his impressive length at 6’7”. He has a lean, athletic build for a pass-rusher, and while it helps with his agility and overall athleticism, he would still ideally bulk up some more in the NFL. Smith plays with great effort and has excellent physical traits, but his game is still very raw all around. Smith has impressed in coverage though, and could be a versatile 3-4 OLB on the next level. There are red flags though, as Smith was involved in a credit card fraud scheme during his freshman year at Florida. His lack of top competition at UAB may lower his draft stock as well.

14. Quincy Roche — #9, Sr, 6’3”, 245 lbs, — Miami
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 102 (91, 87, 163, 78, 91)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 49, TFL 19, Sacks 13, PD , FF 1, FR 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: Roche’s quickness off the edge and excellent hand usage give him the upper hand against tackles that only have average athleticism. He lacks the strength to bull rush and is forced to rely on his quickness to beat the tackle around the edge. That lack of strength also hurts him as a run defender, as many tackles were able to push him around at will. However, he is a smart football player that overcomes his lack of strength with good technique. Although he will get pushed around at times, he is still solid against the run. His ceiling is not quite as high as some of the other rush linebackers in this class, but if he can add some weight to his frame, he will provide a team with value on all three downs.

15. Hamilcar Rashed Jr. — #9, Sr, 6’4”, 235 lbs, — Oregon State
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 103 (110, 86, 127, 98, 94)
2020 season stats: Tackles 23, TFL 2, Sacks 0, PD 1, FF 1, FR 0 (7 games)

Ryland B.: Rashed’s 2019 season was incredible, as he garnered 22.5 tackles for loss, leading the nation and being named a First Team All-American. Despite being widely considered a fringe first round talent, Rashed decided to return to school for his Senior year in 2020, a well-intentioned move that didn’t work out for the star outside linebacker. Known for his high motor and production, Rashed showed neither in 2020, often looking disinterested in the game and spending more time than usual on the sidelines. He only recorded two tackles for loss the entire season, and his lack of polish really showed. There’s a possibility Rashed was fighting through an injury, but regardless it was a big step back for him that sent him tumbling down draft boards. Still, there’s reason to hope that Rashed can regain top form in the NFL, as he has incredible athletic upside and has shown the capacity to be both effective and productive when defending the run and rushing the passer. The other major concern with Rashed is his weight, listed only at 235 lbs. However, Rashed has the frame to bulk up and size was never a huge issue for him in college. He’ll probably be limited to a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but Rashed has the potential to be an elite pass-rusher on the next level.

16. Shaka Toney — #18, Sr, 6’3”, 252 lbs, — Penn State
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 143 (NA, 166, 138, 126, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 7.5, Sacks 5, PD 4, FF 4, FR 1 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Toney was expected to be overshadowed by Yetur Gross-Matos in 2019 and Jayson Oweh in 2020, but both seasons Toney was the more consistent and more productive player. He has elite quickness off the line of scrimmage, but much like Rumph and Roche, he does not have a big frame. If he is going to become a three-down linebacker, he will have to add weight to help him set the edge better as a run defender. Nonetheless, he will be a good situational player who can excel as a speed rusher.

17. Dayo Odeyingbo — #10, Sr, 6’5”, 279 lbs, — Vanderbilt
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 107 (NA, 103, 112, 107, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 13, TFL 8, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

Ryland B.: Odeyingbo is a big, athletic defender with some of the most impressive versatility in this class. He’s played on both the interior and edge of defensive lines, and despite his weight at nearly 280 lbs, he has the ability to play as an DE/OLB in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Despite his size, however, he doesn’t have the greatest play strength, and he’s still very raw as a pass-rusher. Odeyingbo is a player best selected to develop into a star over the next few seasons, not contribute right away. However, his impressive size/athleticism combination may make it hard for coaches to keep him off the field.

18. Rashad Weaver — #17, Sr, 6’6”, 274 lbs, — Pittsburgh
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 88 (NA, 94, 87, 84, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 35, TFL 14.5, Sacks 7.5, PD 2, FF 3, FR 1 (9 games)

steelerfan11: In only nine games in 2020, Weaver accumulated 7.5 sacks across from Patrick Jones, who had a breakout season of his own. He does not have elite speed or explosiveness, but he has decent bend, which was evident at his pro day when he ran a 6.98 in the 3-cone drill. He has good length and hand usage, and he displays great awareness as a run-blocker. What lowers his floor is a knee injury that he suffered in 2019. If he can remain healthy, he could be starting caliber defensive end in a 4-3 system.

19. Patrick Johnson — #7, Sr, 6’3”, 255 lbs, — Tulane
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 229 (NA, 244, NA, 214, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 39, TFL 14.5, Sacks 10, PD 2, FF 2, FR 0 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Johnson is a versatile pass rusher who lined up all over the place for Tulane. While he did not always play against elite competition, he was successful in every aspect of his game for Tulane, whether it was rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or stopping the run. He has tremendous hand usage and a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves, but his biggest strength may be his ability to process information quickly as a run defender. His pro day numbers will be telling as to how high his ceiling is athletically, but Johnson will be able to step in immediately as a 3rd or 4th outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He may be able to fight for a starting job on a team as early as year two.

20. Chauncey Golston — #57, Sr, 6’5”, 274 lbs, — Iowa
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 235 (NA, 353, 145, 206, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 8.5, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 1, FR 0 (8 games)

Itz JustNoah: Golston is one of my favorite late round guys in the entire class. He has defensive tackle size, with defensive end pass rush ability. He has a good first step, his hand placement is great and he plays with a high motor. He doesn’t have much to offer in the run game though. Despite his quick first step, he’s not super fast so he doesn’t have the ability to get to the edge well. And he only put up 22 reps on the bench, which is good but not great especially for a guy his size. Golston rarely dropped into coverage while at Iowa so his best fit is in a 4-3. If he can improve as a run defender, he has a great shot at being a steal for any team that wants to take a chance on him.

21. Malcolm Koonce — #50, Sr, 6’3”, 250 lbs, — Buffalo
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 200 (NA, 200, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 30, TFL 6.5, Sacks 5, PD 2, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: Another highly-athletic pass-rusher, Koonce brings a lightning-fast first step and an incredible motor to the table. He also has a good array of pass-rush moves, but despite his solid size he’s lacking in strength and can be moved out of the way a little too easily by a good offensive tackle. Koonce’s lower level of competition could be a concern, but it also serves to keep him as an underrated prospect with the tools to succeed in the right scheme on the NFL level.

22. Chris Garrett — #52, Sr, 6’4”, 245 lbs, — Concordia St. Paul
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 402 (NA, 443, NA, 361, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 69, TFL 20.5, Sacks 14, PD 5, FF 7, FR 2 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Garrett is my favorite sleeper in this class of edge rushers. Playing Division II football, he obviously did not play against excellent competition, but let’s not forget that it works the other way as well. He did not exactly have a group of all-stars playing alongside him on defense. In 28 games in college, he racked up 36.5 sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss. Garrett’s burst off the line is excellent, and he always flies to the football to make big plays. He will need to get stronger in the lower body if he is going to be able to hold up against the run in the NFL, but I would love it if the Steelers took a late round flier on this guy. He has a chance to be special.

23. Victor Dimukeje — #51, Sr, 6’3”, 265 lbs, — Duke
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 169 (NA, 178, NA, 160, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 11.5, Sacks 7.5, PD 1, FF 2, FR 1 (11 games)

Ryland B.: Dimukeje is a strong, physical defensive end who is best suited for a 4-3 scheme. He doesn’t have great size but is built well enough for his position, and similarly his athleticism is solid yet nothing to write home about. He’s a good, technically-sound run defender, and as a pass-rusher he has a good motor but simply isn’t as dynamic as some of the others in this class. Dimukeje will likely be a solid depth piece for a 4-3 team in the NFL.

24. Tarron Jackson — #9, Sr, 6’2”, 273 lbs, — Coastal Carolina
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 210 (NA, 288, 154, 189, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 14, Sacks 8.5, PD 0, FF 3, FR 1 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Jackson was a big part of Coastal Carolina’s 2020 success, displaying his ability to dominate lesser competition as a pass rusher. He has violent, strong hands, but his hand usage is still inconsistent at times. He has the size and skill set to be a top-notch run defender, and his relentlessness helps him recover after a bad rep, but he lacks bend and is very tight in the hips. It is difficult to project where he fits in the NFL, but he has some intrigue if he can overcome his technical issues.

25. Payton Turner — #98, Sr, 6’6”, 289 lbs, — Indiana
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 161 (NA, 294, 78, 110, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 25, TFL 10.5, Sacks 5, PD 0, FF 1, FR 0 (5 games)

Ryland B.: At nearly 290 pounds, Turner is likely too big and lacks the ideal athleticism to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. As a 4-3 defensive end, however, Turner would be a really good run-stopping piece due to his great size, strength, and high-effort style of play. He lacks the ideal speed, burst, and bend to be much of a pass-rushing threat, however. Technically sound and a good run defender, Turner will be a good late-round pick for a team that can use him correctly.

26. Janarius Robinson — #11, Sr, 6’5”, 258 lbs, — Florida State
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 242 (NA, 325, 165, 237, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 7, Sacks 3, PD 2, FF 0, FR 0 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Robinson has good lower body strength to set the edge against the run, and his long arms help him win the battle for leverage, but the natural ability did not always match the production at Florida State. His contributions against the run will go unnoticed by simply looking at the stat sheet, but he was a bright spot on a Florida State defense that was very inconsistent the past couple seasons. If he can reach his athletic ceiling, he has the chance to become a very good starting defensive end in a 4-3 system.

27. Jonathan Cooper — #0, Sr, 6’4”, 257 lbs, — Ohio State
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 208 (NA, 221, NA, 195, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 20, TFL 2.5, Sacks 2.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: He may not be a Chase Young or Nick Bosa, but Jonathan Cooper is another quality pass-rusher from Ohio State. While not a freak athlete, Cooper has good athletic traits, showing a quick first step and good speed and agility. He’s very technically sound, playing with good effort and impressive hand usage. He’s best suited as a pass-rusher but had his fair share of good plays against the run as well. He’d be a good fit in a 3-4 or 4-3.

28. Elerson Smith — #16, Jr, 6’7”, 254 lbs, — Northern Iowa
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 222 (NA, 309, 213, 143, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 21.5, Sacks 14, PD 4, FF 5, FR 0 (15 games)

steelerfan11: I imagine that Ellerson Smith and Spencer Brown were fun to watch going against each other in practice. Having an NFL prospect to go against every day will help Smith down the road, but what is ironic is that both Brown and Smith are incredibly long prospects, and neither do a great job of using it to their advantage. He needs to get stronger and lower his pad level if he is going to become a good run defender, but he has the technique and athleticism to become a solid pass-rusher in a 3-4 defense.

29. Wyatt Hubert — #56, Jr, 6’3”, 270 lbs, — Kansas State
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 198 (NA, 171, 223, 200, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 27, TFL 13, Sacks 8.5, PD 1, FF 2, FR 0 (10 games)

Ryland B.: Hubert was quite productive at Kansas State, but his physical limitations may prevent him from replicating that in the NFL. AT 6’3”, 270 pounds, Hubert is more compactly built than the average NFL pass-rusher, and paired with his below-average athleticism (for the NFL), I see him having a hard time against offensive tackles on the next level. Hubert would win reps with a relentless motor and good technique, which makes me think he could be an excellent special teamer in the NFL .

30. William Bradley-King — #7, Jr, 6’4”, 254 lbs, — Baylor
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 221 (NA, 295, 143, 226, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 49, TFL 13.5, Sacks 8.5, PD 0, FF 3, FR 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: As a run-blocker, Bradley-King has good awareness and anticipation, but he does not always do a great job of setting the edge. He does not have the quickest feet, nor does he have the ability to process information quickly, which will sometimes prevent him from making the tackle on an elusive defender in open space. He will overthink things instead of simply making the play. Nonetheless, he is a solid athlete who can become a contributor on passing downs if he becomes more consistent.

31. Adetokunbo Ogundeji — #91, Sr, 6’4”, 268 lbs, — Notre Dame
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 220 (NA, 291, NA, 148, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 23, TFL 7, Sacks 7, PD 0, FF 1, FR 1 (12 games)

Ryland B.: Nothing really stands out with Ogundeji’s game, which is both a good and bad thing. He has a solid game all-around, with solid size, strength, athleticism, technique, and production. However, he has no particularly dynamic elements to his game to separate him from the rest of the pack. Due to his size and lack of top-tier athleticism I see Ogundeji as a 4-3 defensive end, who has enough potential to potentially be a starter on the right team.

32. Joshua Kaindoh — #13, Jr, 6’7”, 261 lbs, — Florida State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 157 (NA, 176, NA, 137, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 13, TFL 3, Sacks 0, PD 1, Int 1, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

steelerfan11: Kaindoh had some really good reps against Dillon Radunz at the Senior Bowl, but he never really reached his full potential at Florida State. Much like his counterpart Janarius Robinson, he may have been a victim of poor coaching and a lot of turmoil within the football program. He relies on his length and quickness too much, which allows tackles to simply push him away from the pocket. His 2019 season was cut short due to a lower leg injury, and he was plagued with hamstring problems the year previous. There are a lot of concerns with Kaindoh, but if he does not get drafted, it would be wise for some team to give him a shot and see if he can develop.

33. LaRon Stokes — #96, Sr, 6’4”, 278 lbs, — Oklahoma
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 257 (NA, 257, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 12, TFL 2.5, Sacks 0, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

Ryland B.: Stokes is a versatile defensive lineman with experience on the interior defensive line as well as at EDGE. Due to his build and strong bull-rush I think he’d be best suited for the interior, as he looked pretty good there on tape as well. His athleticism isn’t great for an edge rusher but it’s impressive for the interior defensive line. No matter what position he ends up at, I think he’d be best suited for a 4-3.

34. Shane Simmons — #34, Sr, 6’3”, 247 lbs, — Penn State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: NA (NA, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 4, Sacks 3, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Yet another edge rusher that will likely be limited to a situational role, Simmons lacks the quickness that you would like to see from him coming off the line of scrimmage. One major concern is that he does not always seem dedicated to football, and that is why I do not think he will be drafted. He gets good leverage, maintains a consistent pad level, and moves with good fluidity, but all of that means nothing if he is not dedicated to the game.

Notable prospects who decided to return to school for 2021:

Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders

Clemson EDGE Xavier Thomas

Ohio State EDGE Tyreke Smith

Auburn EDGE Big Kat Bryant

Western Kentucky EDGE Michael Pitts

Should the Steelers draft an EDGE rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft?

steelerfan11: Based on the current roster, I would be shocked if the Steelers did not draft an edge rusher at some point. The Steelers literally have nobody behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. There are still a couple of reasonable free agents that could be viable #3 outside linebackers, but we will have to see where the Steelers stand in terms of the salary cap a month from now. Joseph Ossai and Azeez Ojulari are two of my personal favorites, but as I have stated before, the Steelers are going nowhere until that atrocious offensive line is fixed. Generally speaking, the middle rounds would be the right time to draft a #3 outside linebacker, but I do not see any guys who will provide excellent value until maybe round four. That is when I would consider a guy like Rashed if he happens to be available. If I am the GM, however, I am trying to find my #3 edge in free agency and drafting Chris Garrett from Concordia St. Paul in the 6th or 7th round as the #4 edge rusher. I believe that he has starter potential but will need a year or two to develop. If we can add a veteran in free agency such as Ryan Anderson and follow that up by drafting Garrett as a developmental linebacker, I would feel pretty confident in our depth at the position.

Ryland B.: The Steelers starters are set at outside linebacker for the 2021 season in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. However, the depth behind them is incredibly weak, and with the team’s dependence on a situational third pass-rusher, outside linebacker is actually a rather large need for the Steelers in the upcoming draft. However, with positions like running back, center, and cornerback being even bigger needs, I wouldn’t expect the team to draft an outside linebacker until round 4 at the earliest, unless an incredibly talented EDGE falls into the team’s lap earlier. In the rounds 4-5 range, Shaka Toney and Hamilcar Rashed are both pass-rushers who I really like, while Daelen Hayes is someone who the Steelers have shown some interest in during the draft process. While it’s not a top-heavy class at the position, EDGE is one of the deepest this year, and I fully expect the Steelers to find a quality backup for Watt and Highsmith at some point in the mid-to-later rounds.


When should the Steelers draft an edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Round 1
    (4 votes)
  • 29%
    Rounds 2-3
    (34 votes)
  • 58%
    Rounds 4-5
    (68 votes)
  • 8%
    Rounds 6-7
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    UDFA/Don’t draft and edge rusher
    (1 vote)
117 votes total Vote Now

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