2021 nfl draft prospect Gregory Rousseau Edge Rusher

2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Who is the Next Great Edge Rusher?

  • 2021 NFL Draft
  • Carlos Basham Jr.
  • Defensive End
  • Draft
  • draft prospects
  • Edge Rushers
  • Gregory Rousseau
  • Jaelan Phillips
  • Joe Tryon
  • Kwity Paye
  • Miami Hurricanes
  • Michigan Wolverines
  • Outside Linebacker
  • Pass Rusher
  • Patrick Jones II
  • Pittsburgh Panthers
  • Rashad Weaver
  • Wake Forest Demon Deacons
  • Washington Huskies
By Michael Williams January 17, 2021 0 Comment
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When breaking down the 2021 NFL Draft Prospects, it’s tough to ignore the current crop of edge rushers.

In today’s NFL, defensive ends and outside linebackers have become important spots to fill due to their ability to rush the quarterback. If your defense cannot generate a pass rush, then your team as a whole will not progress. For some teams stuck in this rut, help may be on the way.

These 2021 NFL Draft prospects are a young group of ferocious pass rushers that can be game-changers at the NFL level. Let’s dig in.

1. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

Height: 6’7″ Weight: 260
Projected Round (2021): 1

Player Comp: Jadeveon Clowney

Gregory Rousseau is the most talented player on the defensive line in this draft, making him one of a handful of elite 2021 NFL Draft prospects.  Even though he only has one year of game tape, his talent is undeniable. He decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and prepare for the upcoming draft. During his redshirt freshman year, Rousseau racked up 54 tackles, 15.5 sacks,  and two forced fumbles. The stats prove he is a disruptive player, but with just one year of production, teams may view him as a one-year wonder.

At 6’7″ and 260 pounds, Rousseau definitely passes the eye test. On tape, he jumps off the screen with his get off and the ability to turn the corner on offensive tackles. His pass rush moves will need some development, but his athleticism makes him a special talent.

2. Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 285
Projected Round (2021): 1-2

Player Comp: Montez Sweat

Carlos Basham Jr. is the second-best edge rusher in this talented class. He had a solid 2020 season, recording 28 tackles (four TFL), five sacks, one pass deflection, and one forced fumble in just six games. The stats, however, do not show the full scope of his impact. Basham hoped to show noticeable improvement from his tremendous 2019 season, where he notched 57 tackles (18 TFL), 11 sacks, three pass deflections, and three forced fumbles.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Basham was one of the most relentless pass rushers for offensive linemen to block. His excellent acceleration and burst off the line of scrimmage helps him apply pressure on the quarterback. In the run game, Basham is solid with a high motor to match. If Basham can gain more strength to hold up run blockers, he will be able to contribute right away whether he is a stand-up defensive end or has his hand in the ground.

3. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 272
Projected Round (2021): 1-2.

Player Comp: Robert Quinn

The 2020 season came with some ups and downs for Kwity Paye. It started great, with him having his best game of the season. He recorded two sacks against Minnesota, helping the Wolverines win the game. After the Minnesota game, though, Paye did not record a sack for the rest of the season. Even though he failed to reach the quarterback again, Paye showed improvement as a run defender who is able to set an anchor and hold his ground.

One quality that showed the most during the past two seasons at Michigan was Paye’s versatility. In certain sub-packages, he would line up at defensive tackle and generate a solid pass rush from the inside. As a pass rusher, the former Wolverine shows good acceleration off the line of scrimmage and good use of his hands to beat offensive linemen. He will need to develop more pass rush moves, as he currently depends too much on his speed to get around offensive tackles. With some development and playing experience in the league, Paye can become a solid starter.

4. Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 270
Projected Round (2021): 1-2

Player Comp: Aldon Smith

Rashad Weaver burst onto the scene in 2018 when he had his best year at the University of Pittsburgh. During the 2018 season, Weaver had 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass deflections. He had hoped to build upon his successful 2018 season, but during training camp in 2019, Weaver suffered a season-ending injury. Once he was able to return for the 2020 season, Weaver picked up where he left off for Pitt. He was able to prove that, despite the injury, his athleticism and speed did not disappear.

Weaver’s stats from the 2020 season were comparable to his totals during his breakout 2018 season despite appearing in just nine games vs. 14 games in 2018. He had 34 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and two pass deflections. While showing he did not lose a step, Weaver also proved he could stay healthy for a full season. This was important to show teams so Weaver would not drop down their draft boards. The medical examination during the draft process will be key for him to stay in the first-round discussion.

5. Joe Tryon, DE, Washington

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 262
Projected Round (2021): 1-3

Player Comp: Cameron Jordan

The pandemic really affected Joe Tryon’s chances to raise his draft stock. The Pac-12 at first decided to not have a 2020 season, then after further consideration, decided to have a shortened set of games. Tryon opted not to rejoin the team once the season resumed. He will rely on his 2019 tape and use the draft process to raise his stock.

Tryon burst onto the national spotlight after his dynamic 2019 season where he recorded 41 tackles, eight sacks, and one pass deflection. This was after he spent most of his freshmen season as a role player on the Huskies defense. As a run defender, he will need to improve, but he can hold his ground against moderate linemen. With his great burst off the line of scrimmage, Tryon has great pass-rush ability. He uses his speed and acceleration well to turn the corner and sack the quarterback. Another quality of Tryon’s game is his versatility. He can play defensive end and outside linebacker, something that may appeal to NFL defenses.

6. Patrick Jones II, OLB, Pittsburgh

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 260
Projected Round (2021): 2-3

Pro Comp: Carlos Dunlap

Being one of the best edge rushers in the nation can be checked off Patrick Jones’ list. This season, Jones was one of two players to lead the nation in sacks with nine. This comes after he recorded 8.5 sacks in 2019. Jones has improved each year at Pitt, as his numbers in tackles, sacks, and pass deflections increased from year to year. He and teammate Rashad Weaver combined to make the most dominant pass rush duo in the ACC.

Jones’ power combined with his speed makes him one of the most talented pass rushers in the class. He has the ability to overpower offensive linemen while at the same time being able to use his speed to get a sack. As a run defender, he is physical and able to hold his ground. He will need to gain more weight to do the same in the NFL. Look to see Jones fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

7. Jaelen Phillips, DE, Miami

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 266
Projected Round (2021): 2-3

Player Comp: Maxx Crosby

Jaelen Phillips is among the more interesting 2021 NFL Draft prospects. Coming out of high school, Phillips was the top recruit in his class and among the best high school players ever. But injuries derailed his career. He even retired from football for medical reasons in 2018. During his two seasons at UCLA, Phillips recorded 41 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two pass deflections.

However, Phillips resurfaced after a few years. He transferred to Miami in 2019 and sat out that season due to transfer rules. But in his one season with the Hurricanes, Phillips took over as the enforcer of the defense, leading the team in sacks.

Phillips is both a tough run defender and a good pass rusher.  He shows the speed and athleticism to put pressure on any quarterback with a solid amount of pass rush moves. Phillips’ length and athleticism jump off the screen when you watch him. He is solid at using his hands and he constantly is in the backfield.

He should be able to fit well in any defense — as long as a team is willing to accept the question marks that come with him.

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Seeking employment opportunity in the Sports Management Arena as a NFL Scout or General Manager for a professional NFL team where I can utilize my theoretical and practical knowledgeable skills and work experience; hence having, attained such skills while working various versatile internships while also obtaining my undergraduate degree, having specialized in statistical analysis, reviewing and critiquing football film footage and writing articles for various social media. Along with my internship experiences, I also have 6 years of coaching experience. I have coached both youth and high school sports. I am currently the Defensive Coordinator for Slaughter Community Charter School. I am seeking an opportunity to work in the NFL.

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