The 2021 NFL Draft brings an intriguing group of edge rushers with it. It is not as good as some past classes, but there is an undeniable upside with a lot of this group. Something that furthers upside is an edge rusher’s first step. In particular, the explosiveness they have directly off the snap, an explosiveness that can cause a multitude of problems for opposing offensive linemen. So, who are the guys in the class with the best first step?
The most explosive edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft
Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Guys that are 6’5″, 258 pounds should not be able to move as this man does. When it comes to explosiveness, no one in this class is more explosive than Penn State’s Jayson Oweh. With freaky athleticism, Oweh has insane natural tools. When it comes to that explosiveness, Oweh reportedly owns a 36.5′ vertical and a 10’7″ broad jump. For an edge rusher, those are insane numbers. On film, it looks like he has rockets attached to his cleats just by how springy his get off is. No one else in this class is going to even sniff the reported numbers that Oweh has put up.
Even still, the value comes in how deadly that burst is on the football field. Oweh is a pure speed rusher at this point with little to no pass rush plan. He is an extremely raw football player.
However, when he can win simply because he has so much juice in his first step and has great natural pure speed rushing ability that even some NFL tackles will not be able to handle, Oweh brings a lot of initial value due to that explosiveness even as he learns the technical side of things. Also, if he does become technically proficient, lookout. With that explosiveness, Oweh’s ceiling is through the roof.
Patrick Jones, Pitt
While not as insanely explosive as Oweh, Jones, who is of a similar body mold at 6’5″, 260 pounds, moves in a special way as well for his size. The breakout edge rusher for the Panthers came almost out of nowhere as a former two-star rated recruit, but the Panthers have turned natural tools into paydirt with Jones. His delightful combination of first-step explosiveness, bend, and length makes him a dangerous pass rusher for any team to face.
Going back to the burst, he has great snap anticipation in addition to his natural explosiveness. That gives Jones almost a head start to winning around the arc. When that burst and bend are combined perfectly together, it is tough for an offensive tackle to get to their spot and beat Jones around the arc.
Jones is not one-dimensional either, which gives some nuance to his pass-rushing ability and makes his explosiveness even more potent as it is converted into power for a bull rush. All in all, while not as freaky as Oweh, Jones has great burst and uses it as a potent weapon.
Victor Dimukeje, Duke
The lesser-known of the edge-rushing duo at Duke, Dimukeje is one of the more slept on edge prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for little to no reason. With a thick and stout build, Dimukeje is a firecracker off the snap. With excellent burst and a relentless motor that has no limits, Dimukeje is a very dangerous pass rusher to face for any offensive tackle simply because of how easily he messes up pass set angles for an offensive lineman.
The fire Dimukeje plays with is admirable, but it is his sneaky versatility and ways in which he uses his explosiveness that make him a potent pass rusher. There is a developing bull rush that he uses on top of the traditional speed rush, but he also does a nice job of counter tackles that overset for his burst and winning inside with nifty hand usage. That is just another example of using high-end explosiveness as a weapon and a threat. Dimukeje is a potent, versatile rusher who uses his superb explosiveness extremely effectively to win.
Chris Rumph, Duke
Rumph is the other Duke edge rusher, and he is garnering some first-round hype, partially because he is a technician, but also because his athleticism is eye-popping. The first step explosiveness that Rumph showcases it what raises his ceiling from good, technically proficient starter to a disruptive, potential first-round draft pick. It is also his athleticism that allows him to be deployed as a defensive chess piece and matchup problem.
Duke lines Rumph up all over the defensive formation. From the traditional edge rusher spot, off-ball linebacker, a standing blitzer over the A gap, and more, Rumph is known for his gap penetration skills due to a dazzling combination of elite explosiveness and terrific hand usage. Rumph’s certainly among the most athletic edge rushers in the class, and it only helps to heighten the upside to his game.
Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)
Roche’s game is predicated upon his explosiveness out of his stance. When looking at what Roche does so well, you can build everything in some way as a supplement to his first step. He beats tackles to their spot and can bend fluidly up the arc. Roche gets tackles rushing their footwork to get to their spot and has some nifty moves of deception to set tackles up and use his burst as a weapon.
Even more so, his explosiveness turns into pop extremely well. Whether it is a potent long arm that Roche uses so well or a full out extension to engage the tackle, Roche packs a real punch through his legs due to his explosiveness right off the snap. His length, as a result, becomes a valuable asset as well in tandem with his first step. Roche, like all the others, is not on the freaky level Oweh is, but it would not be surprising at all if Roche tests like the second most explosive edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft.