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2021 NFL Draft: Comparing current EDGE rushers to previous classes

2021 NFL Draft: Comparing current EDGE rushers to previous classes
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The 2021 NFL Draft is shaping up as a historic one for the EDGE position as top pass rushers are gearing up for a crack at the first round. More than a handful of edge rushers figure to be selected within the top-32 picks, and possibly, even sooner. Three of those elite pass-rushing prospects are Miami’s long-limbed Gregory Rousseau, Penn State’s versatile Micah Parsons, and Oregon State’s explosive Hamilcar Rashed Jr. This trio of fearsome defenders project as top-20 players and could even find themselves in the top-10 following this season.

To give you a better idea of just how dominant these players can be, I will be comparing and contrasting the best traits and abilities they have to offer against recent top classes. Among those classes is the 2020 group featuring Chase Young and the historic 2014 class featuring former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack. That 2014 group of pass rushers has changed the landscape of NFL defenses, and the 2021 prospects offer the same type of impact.

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Gregory Rousseau – Miami Hurricanes

The first of these three outstanding 2021 edge rushers and maybe the one with the most potential is the Hurricanes’ redshirt-sophomore, Rousseau. I mentioned the fantastic Miami pass rusher back in February while discussing the top edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

At first glance, the most intriguing aspect of Rousseau’s game is his ridiculous length for the position. Rousseau stands at a towering 6’7″ and has bulked up significantly since arriving at Miami before the 2018 season as a 205-pound athlete. His current weight is 253 pounds, and judging by his frame, he could stand to get even bigger.

2014 Class Comparison – Jadeveon Clowney

When discussing past elite edge prospect groups, one of the best comparisons is the 2014 class and former number one pick, Jadeveon Clowney. The former South Carolina Gamecock was considered a top-five candidate from the start of the season, just like Rousseau. While Clowney may offer a bit more in terms of bulk and run-stopping ability, Rousseau improves each game in that aspect. However, when it comes to length and the ability to affect the passing game from the EDGE position, these two players are near-mirror images of each other as prospects.

Both players have the elite college sack numbers, but Clowney has become a much better run defender since entering the league. He is no longer a dominant edge rusher in terms of getting to the quarterback. However, Clowney is an intelligent player that still pressures the quarterback consistently, sets the edge and breaks up plays in the backfield. If Rousseau can continue to develop his game just as Clowney did, he can use his excellent length and athleticism to be a force in the league for a long time, starting as a rookie following the 2021 NFL Draft.

2020 Class Comparison – Chase Young

When comparing Rousseau to the most recent 2020 class, the first and most prominent name that stands out is the Washington Redskins’ first-rounder, Chase Young. These stud edge rushers ranked one and two in sacks in college football last season. With Young gone, Rousseau will return as the top defensive player and will look to continue his dominant play.

Just as did Clowney before him, Young went start to finish as the consensus top defender and ended as a top-two draft pick. If Rousseau can match that same dominant play and production, he will erase any doubt about his standing at the top. With the talent he possesses, he should be a terror once again in the Atlantic Coast Conference and could be in the mix for the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Continue for our break down of Micah Parsons and Hamilcar Rashed Jr.

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