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Top Five 2020 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive End

Updated on March 7, 2020
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TT is an online writer with over six years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.

These guys will look to become the future pass rushers of an NFL franchise. Today I rank the top five defensive end prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.

1. Chase Young- Ohio State

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

Bio: A top 10 recruit out of high school, Chase Young chose Ohio State over Alabama. As a sophomore, he became a starter and earned second team All-Big Ten accolades after leading the Buckeyes with 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. The following year he led the nation with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 12 starts while also tying for fourth in the FBS with 21 tackles for loss. He won the Chuck Bednarik, Ted Hendricks and Bronko Nagurski Awards as the top defender or defensive lineman in the country.

Strengths: Rare physical build with long, muscular frame. Huge leaps in production over the last three years. Great combination of aggression, fluidity, and explosiveness. Rush speed increased from sophomore campaign. Quick burst from first step out of stance. Quickly responds and evades initial punch. Balance and momentum adds life to his rush. Turns frames and flexes hips to bend around offensive tackles. Enough size and strength to power through blockers edge. Consistently target's quarterbacks arm to force fumbles when collapsing the pocket. Quick hands are always moving. Speed and length allow for increased playmaking potential. Nearly impossible for teams to run around him. If he gets his hands on the ball carrier, the play's over. Long, lateral slides to get to the edge on stretch plays. Rocket off the edge with good change of direction ability.

Weaknesses: Below average awareness and anticipation. Loses track of the ball on draws and play action. Gives some ground when trying to set the edge. Anchor in his lower half could improve. Pass rush is dependent on athleticism rather than technique. Initial hand placement is lacks urgency. Poor instincts for a pass rusher. Rush needs to create bore space for incoming blitzes. Inside counter moves are easily read. Needs to develop more moves to be less predictable in the NFL. Nit much of a factor against Clemson. Suspended for two games in 2019 because he received a loan from a family friend.

Pro Comparison: Julius Peppers

Projected Round: 1

Possible Landing Spot: Washington Redskins

2. K'Lavon Chaisson- LSU

K'Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
K'Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU

Bio: Despite playing just two years of high school football, K'Lavon Chaisson played in 12 games as a true freshman for LSU, posting 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two pass breakups coming off the edge. By 2019, he helped the Tigers take home the National Championship by garnering first team All-SEC honors with a team high 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

Strengths: Good lower body thickness for a longer bodied edge rusher. Smart player on and off the field. Above average quickness off the snap and laterally. Extremely agile and fluid. Has a good two hand swipe and spin counter move in his arsenal. Conceals play side shoulder to get around the edge and past blockers. Inside counters are low and deadly. Converts speed to power with long bull rushes. Consistently gets to the quarterback on twists. Range to disrupt meet point on zone reads and draws. Smooth change of direction quickness to chase ball carrier. Wore #18 at LSU, which is given to the high character leader.

Weaknesses: Strong, well placed punches stall his rush plan. Balance waivers when he dips to the edge. Hand fighting is undisciplined occasionally. Still learning to read and react to over sets. Takes blocks to the frame rather than punch back and stack. Pushed around the edge by strong, run blocking tackles. Not aggressive on pull and trap blocks. Inconsistent at maintaining fits on downhill assignments. Injury concerns. Missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL and missed two games in 2019 with an ankle injury.

Pro Comparison: Bud Dupree

Projected Round: 1

Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets

3. AJ Epenesa- Iowa

AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa
AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Bio: A three time high school All-American, AJ Epenesa recorded 15 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a true freshman for Iowa. The following year, he led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks and leading the Hawkeye's with 16.5 tackles for loss. As a junior, he earned second team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten accolades with 49 tackles, 14.5 for loss, four forced fumbles, and 11.5 sacks.

Strengths: Capable of playing outside or inside. Excellent size with great combination of length and mass. Impressive production from year to year. Great physical tools to set the edge. Flexes hips for long, lateral slides down the line. Forces gap runs wide of the mark. Great first step quickness given his height and weight. Rush plan already has several moves. Gets under inside hand to lift and push aside overreaching tackles. Can get around the edge or slide inside to make a play. Uses two hand swipe and chop, to loosen the edge. Syncs up arms to go for strip sack opportunities.

Weaknesses: Only one year as a starter. Slow to recognize and change direction. Below average knee bend for the position. Technique needs to be more consistent against double teams. Poor athleticism for attacking on the move. Needs better anticipation and response on contain duties. Slow to neutralize blockers. Speed rush is lacking. Could struggle against quick footed offensive linemen.

Pro Comparison: Cam Jordan

Projected Round: 1

Possible Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons

4. Yetur Gross-Matos- Penn State

Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

Bio: A four star recruit out of high school, Yetur Gross-Matos played in every game as a true freshman. The following year, he earned Penn State's Defensive Lineman of the Year award after leading the team with 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. As a junior, he was named first team All-Big Ten with 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.

Strengths: Ideal build with good combination of size, athleticism, and agility. Fluid hips with the athletic ability of a linebacker. Keeps composure when attacking the backfield. Great stat production in two years as a starter. Good range to chase down ball carrier at the line. Quick stunts to close down the gap. Easily jumps over low block attempts. Serviceable burst when rushing upfield. Good hip flexibility to work around the edge. Quick to alternate to a different pass rush move. Twists are smooth and fast. Works into the frame of tackles at the top of the rush.

Weaknesses: Hands have to be faster and more aggressive for the pro game. Bad placement on initial punch allows blockers to get into his frame. Struggles to maintain position against strong tackles. Has to do a better job on contain duties. Takes time to get free when engaged. High pad level slows down burst at the top of rushes. Speed to power changes need more urgency. Rush attack lacks power and explosiveness. Plan needs more improvisation when attacking the edge.

Pro Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence

Projected Round: 1-2

Possible Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills

5. Terrell Lewis- Alabama

Terrell Lewis, DE, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, DE, Alabama

Bio: A five star recruit and Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, Terrell Lewis played in 11 games as a true freshman. By 2019, he was a second team All-SEC selection after racking up 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and two pass breakups.

Strengths: Long, athletic frame with room to bulk up. Intriguing physical tools for defensive coordinator to work with. Eyes stay on the ball carrier through blocks. Above average awareness in his play. Can get into blocker's frame when ever he wants. Long strides cover a lot of ground when going for the ball. Huge upside. Slaps and gets inside blockers on counter moves. Spin move became a dangerous weapon for tackles to handle. Builds up momentum when attacking downhill.

Weaknesses: Long legs on a short torso. No anchor to hold the edge off the snap. Needs to spend time in weight room to build upper body strength. Average burst around the pocket. Not a natural knee bender to redirect at the top of rush. Stronger tackles bring his rush plan to a halt. Knowing when to start of counter isn't second nature. Hands need to be quicker and stronger. Balance and technique are poor when tackling. An arm injury and a torn ACL erased most of 2017 and all of 2018.

Pro Comparison: Tyus Bowser

Projected Round: 1-2

Possible Landing Spot: Baltimore Ravens

Other Notable Prospects

Bradlee Anae- Utah

  • Technically sound, average size and speed

Jabari Zuniga- Florida

  • Athletic with terrific closing speed, raw tools

Darrell Taylor- Tennessee

  • Easy lateral movements, better athlete than football player

Curtis Weaver- Boise State

  • Explosive around the edge, poor against the run

Jonathan Greenard- Florida

  • Scheme versatile, doesn't win physical tools

Khalid Kareem- Notre Dame

  • Keeps frame clean, slow burst off the snap

Nick Coe- Auburn

  • Great play strength, lacks length

Oluwole Betiku Jr.- Illinois

  • Great athletic, raw in technique

Kenny Willekes- Michigan State

  • Tackling machine, poor athleticism

Marlon Davidson- Auburn

  • Compact and powerful, below average explosiveness

Alton Robinson- Syracuse

  • Long and lean, one trick pony

DJ Wonnum- South Carolina

  • Looks the part, not a natural bender

Christian Rector- USC

  • Acceptable anchor, strictly a run defender

Trevis Gipson- Tulsa

  • Sturdy build, lacks fluidity

Houston Miller- Texas Tech

  • High effort, never cracked the starting lineup

Jonathan Garvin- Miami

  • Good instincts, poor effort

Tipa Galeai- Utah State

  • Solid footwork, slender body build

Alex Highsmith- Charlotte

  • Highly productive, needs to get stronger

People's Poll

Which defensive end will have the most success in the NFL?

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