2024 NFL Draft Rankings: Edge Rushers

The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 25th, and the Bears, at least for now, have two of the first ten picks. After Justin Fields’s departure, it’s clear that the first overall selection will be a quarterback, but what will the Bears do with pick nine? Many people think they should go wide receiver, but the addition of Keenan Allen may have shifted the focus to an edge rusher. I continue my positional rankings for the 2024 draft with edge rushers, and this group is ready to make an impact.

Let me start with Chicago. The Bears have had many top-tier edge rushers in their storied history and continue to add to their legacy. They have had Doug Atkins, Julius Peppers, Khalil Mack, Richard Dent, and Ed Sprinkle, and they alone account for 22 Pro Bowl and four All-Pro seasons. Peppers will be going into the Hall of Fame this year joining Devin Hester and Steve McMichael. I could continue getting into additional top-tier edge rushers, but that could be an article in and of itself.

Last season, the Bears continued to add talent in the form of their newest pro-bowl edge rusher, Montez Sweat. Ryan Poles traded away a second-round pick in the 2024 draft to acquire Sweat, and then Poles immediately extended Sweat to a long-term contract. Sweat led the team in sacks last season with six, and only played half the season with Chicago. Yannick Ngakoue hasn’t been re-signed but the Bears still have DeMarcus Walker and Dominique Robinson. Walker and Robinson underwhelmed last year, and with a combined four sacks, neither can be trusted to start opposite Sweat. The Bears need help to elevate the team’s production, and this draft should have an answer.

Bonified First-Round Talents:

1.Laiatu Latu UCLA 6’5″ 259lbs

Laiatu Latu tops my board and has the toolkit to prove why he deserves it. He’s one of the few edge rushers in this class who has mastered a ghost technique and has the chops, swims, rips, and power to go with it. He has good bend and doesn’t sacrifice a lot of speed, and when getting to the quarterback, he aims to strip the ball with his sack. In the run game, Latu sets the edge very well, and he will keep his eyes on the backfield to make a move on the ball. The difference between All-Pro and Pro-Bowl for Latu will be fine-tuning how consistently he’s getting off blocks quickly in the run game and improving his bull rush technique. Latu won’t be at the top of every board mainly because of his speed and injury history, but looking at talent, he’s the most well-rounded.

2. Dallas Turner Alabama 6’3″ 247lbs

Dallas Turner is an athletic freak, and he showed it at the NFL combine with his 4.46 40-time. That’s 1/100th of a second slower than Fields, and Turner is bringing 20 more pounds of muscle behind that speed. Turner has one of the best rip techniques in this class, and he has the bend to ensure it has consistent success. Turner’s a speedster, but you shouldn’t sleep on his power because this Alabama edge uses all of his 247 pounds behind his bull rush and will walk tackles back. My issue with Turner’s game, and the biggest reason he’s not my number one, is that he needs more run-game awareness and more in his toolkit. His hands get quiet at times because he’s ill-equipped for what to do when the rip doesn’t work, and he’s too undersized for a 4-3 defensive end to win with power consistently.

3. Jared Verse FSU 6’4″ 254lbs

Jared Verse is a prospect who makes any team better. He’s explosive off the line and maintains that speed through the pass rush and pursuit. He has a lot of strength, and it was no surprise that he dominated the bench press at the combine. Verse has a great speed-to-power technique and counters well to the inside when a quarterback tries to get away, but he might be even more dangerous when he uses his chop. Verse needs to develop his reaction speed and hand use in the run game, but he has the athleticism to get there with coaching. He must also train different techniques to keep NFL-caliber tackles guessing and off-balance because his ghost and rip techniques need development.

Late First-Round to Early Second-Round Talent

4. Marshawn Kneeland Western Michigan 6’3″ 267lbs

Marshawn Kneeland might be the best edge-setter in this class, and he already stacks and sheds blocks at an NFL level. He played with a high motor from the first snap to the last snap and played a large percentage of the snaps for Western Michigan. His hands are consistently violent, and his strikes are strong enough to keep tackles off balance, but Kneeland needs better bend and balance to work around the outside and dominate NFL tackles. Kneeland can get overly aggressive at times, and his tackling will get sloppy, or he might over-pursue the outside, allowing the quarterback to move up. Kneeland usually keeps his pad level low and uses a quick first step to gain an early advantage. He’s a bit slower but an explosive, violent tackler when he’s on his game and will be a big steal for the team that drafts him.

5. Bralen Trice Washington 6’4″ 245lbs

Bralen Trice is another slower prospect, but he shines with great technique. He’s another edge with a vast toolkit and can beat blockers with almost any pass-rush move. Trice has a ghost move, a rip, he can spin, or he can use power, and he flashed dominance with all of those techniques, but none of his pass-rush moves were consistently elite. He will need to develop his bend and flexibility, and after losing some weight over the last season, he may add some speed. Trice is a strong prospect who can boost any team’s pass-rushing, but he will need a lot of coaching and development in his technique and run defense, especially.

6. Darius Robinson Missouri 6’5″ 285lbs

Darius Robinson showed out during the senior bowl process and had a solid year for Missouri in 2023 with 8.5 sacks. He has a high motor and intelligence at the edge position, but he’s just a little too slow in processing the run game and with his straight-line speed. Robinson’s technique needs polishing as his hand technique can start to look like he’s button-mashing his way through Street Fighter II. That said, Robinson does a lot of things well. He counters to the inside intelligently and shows good strength and pad level. Robinson keeps working when rushing the passer and has strong chops and rips. He’s primarily played the defensive tackle position but has 34.5-inch arms and, with the right coaching, could develop into a dominant edge rusher.

7. Chop Robinson Penn State 6’3″ 254lbs

Demeioun “Chop” Robinson is another athletic freak who could take the league by storm with proper refinement. He’s so fast and explosive, but he needs to learn to control that energy better. Robinson will need to develop better techniques and a more extensive toolkit because he’s relying on his athleticism to get sacks on the quarterback right now. He gets sealed off too often in the run game, and his hand strikes aren’t consistently violent or sparse. However, he has phenomenal bend and counters with regularity to get to an advantageous spot to show off his excellent tackling form. There’s one guy every year with more athleticism than talent who gets drafted with an intent to develop him with growing pains, and Robinson is likely that guy this year.

Day-Two Guys

8. Gabriel Murphy UCLA 6’2″ 247lbs

Gabriel Murphy is the definition of “Jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” He’s an undersized prospect who did everything well enough but couldn’t find a trait or technique that flashed at an elite level. Murphy has a quick first step but rarely looks explosive. He could get low but dipped more than bend. Murphy is a prospect who found success in hard work and technique refinement rather than an elite skill. His hands are precise, violent, and consistently active, and he has the strength to knock tackles off balance. Murphy also shows much promise in the run game, where he sets the edge and can shed blocks well. If Murphy puts on some weight, he could be a sleeper who overproduces his draft position.

9. Chris Braswell Alabama 6’3″ 251lbs

Like his Alabama teammate, Chris Braswell is a prospect who wins with speed. He’s quick off the snap and has the bend and rip to consistently trouble quarterbacks. Braswell has added some weight, which will do him well, as he’s started to find success with a straight-arm technique and a smooth speed-to-power move. My biggest gripe for Braswell is that he’s a liability in the run game and struggles to locate the ball fast enough, set the edge well, or consistently shed blocks. He’s a prospect who will start in pass-rushing packages, but hopefully, he can develop into a more well-rounded player.

The Rest Of My Top 25:

10. Jonah Elliss Utah 6’2″ 248lbs
11. Brennan Jackson Washington State 6’4″ 264lbs
12. Brandon Dorlus Oregon 6’3″ 283lbs
13. Javon Solomon Troy 6’1″ 246lbs
14. Mohamed Kamara Colorado State 6’1″ 248lbs
15 . Braiden McGregor Michigan 6’5″ 257lbs
16. Jasheen Davis Wake Forest 6’3″ 259lbs
17. Adisa Isaac Penn St 6’4″ 247lbs
18. Eric Watts Connecticut 6’6″ 274lbs
19. Austin Booker Kansas 6’4″ 240lbs
20. Xavier Thomas Clemson 6’2 244lbs
21. Cedric Johnson Mississippi 6’3″ 260lbs
22. Grayson Murphy UCLA 6’3″ 260lbs
23. Rondell Bothroyd Oklahoma 6’3″ 275lbs
24. Nelson Ceasar Houston 6’3″ 254lbs
25. Myles Cole Texas Tech 6’6″ 278lbs

To hear my full analysis, and how my rankings have evolved, listen to The Chicago Bears Den Podcast.

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