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2020 NFL Draft: Chase Young and A.J. Epenesa lead EDGE class

The most important position on the defensive side of the ball is the rush defensive end, also known as EDGE defender. In the landscape of today’s NFL, the best representation of the league’s best EDGE defenders are players such as Danielle Hunter (Vikings), Khalil Mack (Bears), Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys) and Joey Bosa (Chargers) to name a few.

Given that EDGE is a premium position, it is paramount that NFL General Managers find elite-level players at the position. The two players that stand out who are eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft are Ohio State’s Chase Young and Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa. Both players have the talent and skill-set to be top-five draft selections. However, neither are finished products.

Before we take a deep dive into the 2020 draft class, let’s take a look at my rankings for the last few draft classes:

2017

  1. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)
  2. Derek Barnett  (Tennessee)
  3. Taco Charlton (Michigan)
  4. Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
  5. Charles Harris (Missouri)

2018

  1. Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State)
  2. Harold Landry (Boston College)
  3. Marcus Davenport (UTEP)
  4. Arden Key (LSU)
  5. Sam Hubbard (Ohio State)

2019

  1. Nick Bosa (Ohio State)
  2. Josh Allen (Kentucky)
  3. Brian Burns (Florida State)
  4. Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
  5. Clelin Ferrell (Clemson)

Now, let’s dive into the 2020 NFL Draft Edge class.

5. Curtis Weaver (Boise State)

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 266 lbs.

Year: Junior

ESPN had Curtis Weaver as a three-star recruit coming out of St. Anthony high school in Long Beach, California. It didn’t take him long to surpass this ranking, as he was named a USA Today All-American after his freshman season in 2017.

Since arriving at Boise, Weaver has been a productive sack machine. In two seasons, Weaver has accounted for 20.5 sacks, making him 6th all-time in school history. He is explosive and has a natural bend but needs to improve against the run, as he has a tendency to get washed out.

4. Nick Coe (Auburn)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 281 lbs.

Year: Junior

According to Rivals, Nick Coe was a four-star recruit coming out of Asheboro high school. He was able to play his way onto the field quickly and was named to the SEC all-freshman team in 2017.

He will not generate the headlines that his teammate Derrick Brown will. However, Nick Coe is an upper-echelon draft prospect as well. He is not an explosive pass-rusher with natural bend but is able to win with power, technique, and leverage. He also presents value as a plus run defender, utilizing his quickness to consistently make plays behind the line of scrimmage. A good NFL comparison for Coe would be Calais Campbell.

3. Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 265 lbs.

Year: Junior

Yetur Gross-Matos was rated as a four-star recruit coming out of Chancellor high school, per 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals, and Scout. He is a terrific athlete that lettered in basketball and track in addition to football.

Heading into the 2019 season, expectations are sky-high for Gross-Matos. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has Gross-Matos ranked 6th overall on his initial 2020 big board. Gross-Matos is the complete EDGE defender as he excels as a pass-rusher and also against the run. In 2018, he accounted for 8 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss.

When the dust settles, it would not be surprising to hear Yetur Gross-Matos name called in the first ten selections of the 2020 NFL Draft.

2. A.J. Epenesa (Iowa)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 277 lbs.

Year: Junior

A.J. Epenesa was a highly-touted five-star recruit coming out of Edwardsville high school in Glen Carbon, Illinois. Like Yetur Gross-Matos, Epenesa lettered in football, basketball, and track in high school.

What is there not to like when it comes to A.J. Epenesa’s game? He is powerful, quick, productive and plays with a non-stop motor. In addition to exhausting high levels of effort, he dominates the line of scrimmage and can overwhelm offensive tackles with pure power.

He was very productive in 2018, accounting for 10.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles which led to him being named first-team All-Big Ten.

Overall, A.J. Epenesa is the complete edge defender and is a likely top-five selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. Chase Young (Ohio State)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 265 lbs.

Year: Junior

Chase Young, a five-star recruit of out powerhouse Dematha high school in Maryland, has superstar potential. Young is an exciting edge prospect as he has tremendous athleticism and speed to consistently burn offensive tackle. He explodes off the ball and his elite quickness allows him to chase down quarterbacks.

There is no doubt that Young will be a top-five selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. In the year 2022, Chase Young will be in the discussion of best pass-rushers in the National Football League. My colleague, Matt Valdovinos, did an intriguing and detailed write-up on Chase Young. And he, too, agrees – Young is destined to be a top 5 pick and star in the NFL.

2020 NFL Draft Edge Rankings

Rank Player School Year Height Weight
1 Chase Young Ohio State JR 6″5 265 lbs.
2 A.J. Epenesa Iowa JR 6″5 277 lbs.
3 Yetur Gross-Matos Penn State JR 6″5 265 lbs.
4 Nick Coe Auburn JR 6″5 281 lbs.
5 Curtis Weaver Boise State JR 6″3 266 lbs.
6 Isaiahh Loudermilk Wisconsin JR 6″7 306 lbs.
7 Terrell Lewis Alabama SR 6″5 257 lbs.
8 Kenny Willekes Michigan State SR 6″4 260 lbs.
9 Anfernee Jennings Alabama SR 6″3 260 lbs.
10 Khalid Kareem Notre Dame SR 6″4 265 lbs.
11 Jabari Zuniga Florida JR 6″3 248 lbs.
12 Marlon Davidson Auburn SR 6″3 279 lbs.
13 Jaelen Phillips Miami rSO 6″5 255 lbs.
14 Julian Okwara Notre Dame SR 6″5 240 lbs.
15 Christian Rector USC SR 6″4 273 lbs.
16 Kylan Wilborn Arizona JR 6″2 248 lbs.
17 Carter Coughlin Minnesota SR 6″5 248 lbs.
18 Joshua Kaindoh Florida State JR 6″7 256 lbs.
19 Trevis Gipson Tulsa SR 6″4 255 lbs.
20 Alton Robinson Syracuse SR 6″4 251 lbs.
21 Joe Gaziano Northwestern SR 6″7 274 lbs.
22 Reggie Walker Kansas State SR 6″0 247 lbs.
23 Jonathan Cooper Ohio State SR 6″4 257 lbs.
24 Keisean Lucier-South UCLA SR 6″4 235 lbs.
25 Trevon Hill Miami SR 6″5 245 lbs.
26 JaQuan Bailey Iowa State SR 6″2 252 lbs.
27 Marquiss Spencer Mississippi State SR 6″4 283 lbs.
28 Darrell Taylor Tennessee SR 6″4 257 lbs.
29 Michael Clemons Texas A&M SR 6″5 272 lbs.
30 Daelin Hayes Notre Dame SR 6″4 269 lbs.
31 Kendall Coleman Syracuse SR 6″3 252 lbs.
32 Mykal Walker Fresno State SR 6″3 227 lbs.
33 Kyahva Tezino SDSU SR 6″0 230 lbs.
34 Alex Highsmith Charlotte SR 6″3 244 lbs.
35 Carlos Davis Nebraska SR 6″2 265 lbs.
36 Dylan Jackson Stanford SR 6″6 261 lbs.

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