My NFL Draft Board: DE/EDGE

Now comes the time for what might be the most universally expected position needed for the team. I hesitated writing this because this class is abnormally complex. There is a lot of variation in types of EDGE defenders available. Essentially there is the perfect fit defender for every team available this draft, but what type(s) do we need? Plus there is not one but two pass rushers going in the top three. Hutchinson and Thibadeuax WILL be taken in the top three. If this was literally any other draft, they would both be considered the best pass rusher in their draft class. Hutchinson compares (highlight reel) to TJ Watt when he was coming out of college. He honestly has a very similar tape, and might even be a better run defender. Thibodaux is maybe the most well refined and NFL ready pass rusher I've seen coming out of college (highlight reel). He makes his opponents look bad, and gives the "man amongst boys" vibe when playing that says he will be something special. So what I have decided for this is I'm not counting either of the two previously listed players. Unless we trade into the top two, there is only the smallest of chances that we have a shot at them, and its simply not on my radar that they will make it to number eight. So this top five list will be my top five DE/EDGE candidates realistically available at the eighth pick.

George Karlaftis: He is number one on my board but only by a small margin. He gets the nod because he is a more complete EDGE defender than the next guy on the list (highlight reel). Karlaftis will almost definitely have an early impact on the run game. He is a big OLB, or small 3-4 DE, but he makes up for the odd fit for position with ample strength and IQ. He's got the strength to push NFL o-lineman around. So, if he were to play with his hand in the dirt, I feel confident he can get the job done. Plus, he isn't the most physically gifted player, but he makes up for it with intelligence and effort. He doesn't quit on plays and definitely puts himself into places to succeed. He has decent hand usage, and uses his bullrush converting speed to power very well. He doesn't have the bend and flexibility that some of the top end pass rushers have and sometimes struggles to recover from being wiped out of running lanes by crafty o-lineman. Outside of that he is the complete package. He is pretty much a fit for every team in need of help along the front seven.

David Ojabo: While Karlaftis mirrors Hutchinson, Ojabo mirrors Thibodaux. Ojabo and Thibodaux both are pass rush specialist that have outlandish speed and flexibility. They are very hard to stop coming around the edge and are heat seeking missals for QB's. Ojabo comes up short and lands himself at this place because he isn't as refined as everyone above him. He has only been producing for one year, which is a red flag for a lot of people. He could be a one hit wonder in college who just happened to produce at the right time and it earned himself a big fat NFL contract. Plus, he is still raw with his toolkit of pass rush moves on top of his run defense not being top notch. Outside of that, the kid is magic. I hesitate to even call him a pas rush specialist because he is more like a strip sack specialist. If you haven't already, stop right now and watch this. If you want to get really really drunk, take a shot every time you see a strip sack. Its outlandish. He is constantly reaching for the football when he gets close to the QB. It is a gift he has. The rate at which he has a sack to a strip sack has to be far above everyone else. Plus, to get a strip sack you have to...get a pressure. He is constantly in the backfield. To explode in a big year, he shows surprising refinement. He bends naturally well. He has great speed. He definitely has the football IQ to plan his moves beforehand and uses them very well. He has a spin move to the inside that he times perfectly, which is usually a very hard pass rush move to get right in college. So, he is a natural for the role. He is the perfect size for a 3-4 OLB at 6'4" and 250lbs. He might be the best fit if we want to directly address pass rush, instead of looking to fix the overall defense.

Cameron Thomas: This man isn't listed so high on a lot of lists, but in my own vain opinion, I think he definitely deserves to be here. He has the size of Karlaftis, but might be a better pass rusher. His biggest detractors aren't even necessarily in his control. First, he comes from San Diego State, which isn't exactly a powerhouse. So his competition isn't as high as other players. Second, he doesn't specialize in anything in particular. He isn't going to be labeled the best pass rusher or run stopper in this draft because...well...he isn't. The criticism stops there for me though. I have seen him described as "unblockable" on multiple sites (highlight reel). If you want to see a sign that someone from a small school would have been successful at a bigger school, then look for a player who dominates his competition to a point of blatancy. He has absolutely abused the o-lineman he has faced for multiple years running now. He is really long for a man his size, so his long arms and strong lean frame, he can lock down a whole side of the offensive line. He actually reminds me a lot of Patrick Kearney. The length and strength that can rush the passer very well, as well as stop the run with equal success. With his frame and size, you could play him all over the place. He can win standing up or hands in the dirt, even on an odd-front. His arm length and strength combination allows him to win on the inside of offensive lines very well despite being smaller in weight than most odd-front defensive lineman. Now you can only beat the opponents that they put in front of you, and this kid has just done that for four years running. There is literally nothing he does badly, he just isn't the best in the class at anything specifically. He might be one of the best can't miss prospects in this draft.

Kingsley Enagbare: This player is definitely one of the most fun to watch. Enagabare isn't just a pass rusher, he is a bowling ball coming at QB's. He is capable of working his way through a 900lb mass of o-lineman to find a QB. I really like that about him. Plus, he is a hometown boy. Enagbare is an Atlanta native, that would probably love the chance to play back at home. When watching this highlight reel notice how many of his sacks come after he has made contact with an o-lineman already. That is high effort sacks. He gets those far more often than just beating the o-lineman off the edge. If you are looking for an immediate impact player, look for the guy who has made it a habit of beating the competition with effort. That's him. He is a really really twichy player, that has a great first step, and has the flexibility off the edge to make plays happen, and he is very useful in the stunts and inside blitzes that would make him very useful. He is another prototypical 3-4 OLB in size, and would definitely be a day one contributor with the Falcons roster. His biggest detractors are that his run defense definitely needs work. He is always looking to get into the backfield and some plays simply pass him by. He will need a team who can teach him to control his aggression with pass rush. If they can do that he will definitely find a starting role for a long time coming.

Nik Bonitto: My final player in the top five should be a bit of a surprise for most people. He narrowly beats out the likes of Drake Jackson, Logan Hall, and Myjai Sanders. The reason being is Bonitto isn't the best pass rusher, or run stopper, or coverage OLB, or anything really. Despite that though, he IS all of those things. What I mean by that is you get a reliable run stopper, pass rusher, coverage OLB, and everything with him. His playing IQ is awesome. You can see in his highlights where he stops rushing and getting into the backfield because he kept his eyes up and kept thinking as the play unfolded. He puts himself into really good positions a lot. He is a capable pass rusher, so on the Falcons he would instantly become a starter at OLB, but he would also serve as a reliable piece that can open up the playbook. He has a lot of work to do. He is stiff, he needs to get a bit stronger, and he gets washed out of plays at a slightly higher rate than you would hope. With that in mind, he is coachable. He is a high effort, high IQ player that looks like he could take a season to reach his potential, but would have a fairly high ceiling if given the proper environment. He would be a second or third round pick, but if we got him there he would probably push any OLB we currently have on the roster for a starting role right off the bat.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>