The on-field workouts at the Combine are only a few days away, which means that we’re getting closer to the end of prospect previews. Today’s featured group is EDGE—a relatively new term that is used to describe both DEs and OLBs that primarily rush or defend the edge. If you missed any of the previous entries in the series, you can find them here: OL, RB & FB, WR, TE, DT.
Check out my breakdowns on some of the most interesting EDGEs for the Falcons below.
LORENZO CARTER, Georgia
A player that many of you are already familiar with, Lorenzo Carter was one of the best pass rushers on Georgia’s defense in 2017. He’s got fantastic length at 6’6, 242, and his frame can undoubtedly hold more good weight. Carter is very athletic and offers a lot of potential as a pass rusher, but his run defense needs considerable work. As a Day 2 addition, Carter could begin his career as a rotational pass rusher and develop into a more well-rounded starter with time.
MATT DICKERSON, UCLA
An intriguing late round depth addition, Matt Dickerson has great size (6’4, 290), strength, and technical ability. He’s a high-motor player that offers some inside-outside flexibility, but his best fit is likely as a base package EDGE that can stop the run effectively. Dickerson is a limited athlete and isn’t much of a factor in the passing game, but if he can play the run at a high level, he could potentially be a cheap replacement for someone like Derrick Shelby.
DUKE EJIOFOR, Wake Forest
A player I’ve often seen mocked to the Falcons, Duke Ejiofor is a good fit in Atlanta for a lot of reasons. His size (6’4, 270) allows him to play the “Adrian Clayborn” role of a DT on passing downs and an EDGE in base packages. Ejiofor is strong and physical at the point of attack, and his hand usage and tackling ability are both quite advanced for a college prospect. As an early Day 3 pick, Ejiorfor could likely come in and contribute in Atlanta right away. He’s a fantastic value in that range and fits the Falcons’ scheme well.
RASHEEM GREEN, USC
Another guy that fits the mold of an “Adrian Clayborn” role, Rasheem Green has prototypical size (6’5, 280) and pretty impressive athleticism to go along with it. He’s got all the tools to be a high-level starter in the NFL, but he’s raw in his technique and there are concerns about his ability to hold up against the run. Green will likely demand a Day 2 pick, but he’s got tantalizing potential—and Atlanta’s coaching staff might be the ideal group to help him unlock it.
JALYN HOLMES, Ohio State
Holmes has been generating a lot of buzz lately due to his impressive frame: at 6’5, 270, he looks the part of an NFL defensive end. That length and his solid play strength make him an interesting prospect, but his lack of production and relatively lackluster athleticism add an element of risk to the equation. As an early Day 3 selection, Holmes provides interesting potential as a rotational inside-outside player—but he’s unlikely to ever turn into anything more than an average starter.
SAM HUBBARD, Ohio State
Hubbard checks a lot of boxes and can do just about everything well: he’s got good size at 6’5, 265, he’s got advanced technique and uses his hands extremely well, he can stop the run, and he can harass the QB. Hubbard is a high-motor player and has exceptional football IQ, too. His main weakness is his athleticism: while he’s not a poor athlete, he lacks the high-end measurables that are required of elite pass rushers in the NFL. Still, as a Day 2 prospect, Hubbard offers the ability to start immediately. He may not ever be a double-digit sack player, but as a well-rounded #3 EDGE behind Takk and Beasley, I think he’s a great fit.
HERCULES MATA’AFA, Washington State
A player I’ve already scouted for The Falcoholic, Hercules Mata’afa is a bit of a strange evaluation. He spent his entire college career at DT despite his size (6’2, 255), and dominated there. That’s due to his plus athleticism and strength—even at 255, he was difficult to move off the line. At the NFL level, there’s no way Mata’afa can play on the interior on base downs—but as an inside-outside “Clayborn” type player, Mata’afa could excel. He’ll need to adjust to playing on the edge more often, but I think Mata’afa would be a great selection for the Falcons early on Day 3.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO, Oklahoma
Okoronkwo is an interesting player to scout. On one hand, he had excellent production at Oklahoma and was looked like one of the best pass rushers in college football. On the other hand, he’s got a tiny frame at 6’1, 242, and he doesn’t appear to be an elite athlete. So what do you do with him? I like Okoronkwo as a situational pass rusher and blitzer, and I think he could have potential at SLB. He’s gotten buzz as a Day 2 pick, but I think his value is more in the early Day 3 range.
JAVON ROLLAND-JONES, Arkansas State
If you’ve never heard of Javon Rolland-Jones, I don’t blame you. You don’t get many accolades when playing at Arkansas State. However, Rolland-Jones is actually—production wise—one of the best pass rushers in college football. He’s certainly on the small side at 6’2, 244, but his athletic ability and incredibly advanced technique—he might be the most polished pass rusher in this class—offset those difficulties. He’s not likely to ever be effective as a run defender, but Rolland-Jones could be a great fit as a situational pass rusher for the Falcons. For a mid-to-late Day 3 pick, I really like his value and potential.
CHAD THOMAS, Miami
For those looking for a high-ceiling project that could be had late on Day 2, Chad Thomas might be your guy. At 6’6, 275 he’s got ideal size for an EDGE and looks like a pretty good athlete to boot. He’s physical at the point of attack and looks like a dominant player at times. However, he’s never really converted his ability into consistent production. Thomas is raw in his technique and there are concerns about his love of the game. He’s intriguing, because if you can harness that ability and get him on track, Thomas could be a high-level NFL starter. His interviews at the Combine will be big for his draft stock.
KEMOKO TURAY, Rutgers
A player that has been on the rise since an impressive performance during the Senior Bowl, Kemoko Turay certainly looks the part of an NFL edge defender at 6’5, 252. His burst off the line is very impressive and his potential as a pass rusher is quite high. However, Turay is very raw in his technique and there are concerns about his ability to bend. As someone that could be had late Day 2-early Day 3, Turay is an intriguing project—although he’s not likely to be able to contribute much in his rookie season.
What do you think about the Falcons adding an EDGE in the 2018 NFL Draft? Where do you think the value is best, and who are some of your favorite players? Do you think the Falcons elect to move on from Reed and/or Shelby this offseason?