James Pearce Jr.’s Draft Profile | Tennessee, EDGE Scouting Report

Does Tennessee edge rusher James Pearce Jr. have the scouting report to be one of the first players off the board in the 2025 NFL Draft?

As another cycle approaches, the 2025 NFL Draft edge rusher board is wide open. With his scouting report, can Tennessee’s James Pearce Jr. be the first EDGE prospect taken next April? Here’s a look at what Pearce brings to the table.

James Pearce Jr.’s Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 242 pounds
  • Position: Edge Rusher
  • School: Tennessee
  • Current Year: Junior

Pearce was a four-star recruit in the 2022 cycle, and somehow the billing undersold the amount of raw talent that he brought to the table.

As a senior at Julius L. Chambers High School in Charlotte, N.C., Pearce racked up 14.5 sacks. He fielded offers from a host of high-prestige schools, including Georgia — one of the top NFL Draft producers of defensive linemen.

Instead, however, Pearce chose to sign with the Tennessee Volunteers, and he’s now morphed into a dominant defender for Josh Heupel’s squad.

As a freshman in 2022, Pearce flashed promise with two sacks in limited action. In 2023, he earned first-team All-SEC honors while accumulating 10 sacks, 14.5 total tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a pass deflection, and a pick-six.

Now, he’s an early favorite to lead off the defense in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Pearce’s Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Sports a long, streamlined frame with lean mass and swarming range in pursuit.
  • Fleet-footed accelerator with hyper-elite explosive capacity and a brutal first step.
  • Instantly creates angle disadvantages for blockers with his searing speed up the arc.
  • Smooth, fluid, and energized lateral mover who can capitalize on over-setting blockers.
  • Can sink and roll his hips with startling quickness and ease on successive transitions.
  • Has shown he can leverage his burst and length into devastating point-of-contact power.
  • Legs are always active and churning on power rushes, which can help pinch the pocket.
  • Has the hip flexibility to adjust his rushing track mid-rep and bait tackles out of position.
  • Possesses the high-end ankle flexion to navigate past blockers while maintaining speed.
  • Can sink hips to feign arc runs to then levy forceful long-arms and inside-swim counters.
  • Proactively uses his length to pry through gaps and make the passer uncomfortable.
  • Has shown he can win quickly off the snap with efficient double swipes and push-pulls.
  • Flashes the necessary hand strength to break stalemates with brisk cross-chops.
  • Acquires leverage effortlessly and flashes the ability to stack, shed, and deconstruct.
  • Has good instincts for timing the snap with which he can generate immediate pressure.

Weaknesses

  • Despite the high-end length, is noticeably underweight for the position.
  • Leaner frame and lighter lower body can put a cap on maximum power exertion.
  • Lean and narrow frame can render him easily engulfed on counters by wider blockers.
  • Lighter lower body can, at times, work against power sustain on bull rushes.
  • Has the tools to threaten the outside shoulder with bend but leaves chances untested.
  • Can be easily folded by opposing strength and torque when attempting outside counters.
  • More powerful blockers can shock him and latch at the apex, suffocating leg churn.
  • Can improve sturdiness, as maintaining balance through power reps can be an issue.
  • At times, can improve quickness and precision of stacked counters off initial power.
  • Doesn’t have the strength or mass to consistently set the edge against pulling blockers.
  • Lack of lower-body strength and mass can yield easy displacement in the run game.
  • Had 2023 arrest for driving with suspended license after being pulled over for speeding.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

Entering the 2025 NFL Draft cycle, Pearce grades out as a mid-to-late first-round prospect. That said, he has the upside of potentially reaching the blue-chip tier — particularly if he can improve his play strength and ability to sustain power throughout the 2024 season.

Pearce is a special talent. His hyper-elite explosiveness alone creates so many power and inside-counter opportunities, as his speed incites impulsive panic in tackles to retreat up the arc.

With his hip flexibility, bend, and twitch, Pearce can constantly manipulate angles, and he thereupon has the length to capitalize with power. If that’s not enough, he’s also shown he can drop into coverage and patrol the flats when needed.

Speed — and speed-to-power, consequently — are large parts of Pearce’s game, but he’s not just an energized battering ram. He has a working arsenal of rush moves — from swipes and rips to cross-chops to swim moves to power components like bull rushes and push-pulls.

Already, Pearce is a prospect worthy of Round 1 capital. The next step in his development — whether he hits that step in college or the NFL — is adding more mass to his frame, improving his play strength, and completing the process of becoming a well-rounded EDGE.

Heading into 2024, Pearce is listed at 242 pounds, which is notably underweight for his frame. That weight correlates with and corroborates issues seen on film — issues with hand strength and recovery late in reps, sturdiness in run defense, and power sustain against anchors.

At his current weight, Pearce would likely translate best as a stand-up EDGE in odd- and hybrid-front looks at the NFL level. However, he can rush from any stance, and if he can improve his play strength, he has the dynamic tools to be a blue-chip EDGE prospect with his dangerous gravity as a pass-rush threat.

Related Articles