With the end of another college football season, it means that NFL draft season is beginning to get ramped up. As such, I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the EDGE players that will be in the 2023 NFL Draft. These rankings are from a fantasy football perspective and their potential in that regard. Not the order that I expect these players to be drafted in the NFL Draft come April. It should also be noted that when I think of EDGE, that includes defensive ends and not just pass rushers. For fantasy purposes, in leagues that use “true position,” they are all playing the same position.
While preparing for a guest appearance on a podcast to discuss my top five EDGE players for the 2023 NFL draft, I started searching for metrics to grade EDGEs, and I came across a very interesting metric/grading combination from PFF’s Jon Macri. I decided to try and use those metrics that were developed by looking at NFL EDGEs and see what they looked like for some of the 2023 Draft-eligible players.
To my knowledge, these metrics haven’t been applied or explored on the collegiate level, but it is something I am planning to evaluate further this off-season. For the purposes of this article and my podcast appearance, I thought it would be a fun and worthwhile exercise to try.
#1 – Will Anderson Alabama – 6’4”, 243 lbs., 5 ★ star recruit and the #1 Defensive End in the 2020 recruiting class. In college, he was a dominant EDGE rusher and was excellent in run support as well. No doubt he will be the first EDGE off the board, in my opinion. He wins with a variety of moves, whether it be with a spin move, bull rush, or his speed. Anderson’s excellent speed, vision, and pursuit help him in run support and in pass coverage.
#2 – Tyree Wilson Texas Tech – 6’6”, 275 lbs., 3 ★ star recruit and the #23 Defensive End in the 2018 recruiting class. Wilson has great size and strength. He uses his quickness and strength to win at the college level. Wilson will need to improve his pad level in the NFL. He will need to develop additional pass-rush moves in the NFL other than using his strength and leverage. I really like Wilson, and he has a high upside; if he continues to develop, he could be a really good fantasy asset.
#3 – Derick Hall Auburn – 6’3”, 256 lbs., 4 ★ star recruit and the #8 Defensive End in the 2019 recruiting class. What Hall lacks in height, he makes up for with speed. His quickness allows him to win in both the pass rush and run defense. He has elite speed, good bend, and a translatable swim move. Hall’s vision and pursuit help him in run support. He needs to improve his leverage and his shed moves to help beat NFL linemen.
#4 – Myles Murphy Clemson – 6’5”, 276 lbs., 5 ★ star recruit and the #1 Defensive End in the 2020 recruiting class. His combination of size, speed, and strength is elite. He is a versatile player and has played defensive end and some defensive tackle for Clemson. His burst and pursuit help him in the run game, and he could improve on his ability to shed blockers in the run game. I believe he will be a better real-life NFL player than a fantasy player. I ranked Murphy over Felix because I think he has a safer floor.
#5 – Felix Anudike-Uzomah Kansas State – 6’4”, 256 lbs., 3 ★ star recruit and the #114 Defensive End in the 2020 recruiting class. Felix wins in a variety of ways, whether it be a swim move, using leverage, or a bull rush. He has a good pursuit in run support, and his long arms help him to shed blockers. I do believe that Felix has a higher ceiling for fantasy purposes than Murphy does. He shows a knack for knocking the ball loose, as he forced eight fumbles in his last two seasons at Kansas State. He does need to develop some more celebratory dance moves after he gets a sack (LOL).
#6 – Keion White Georgia Tech – 6’5”, 280 lbs., 2 ★ star recruit and the #141 Tight End in the 2017 recruiting class. He has not played a lot of football since high school. White started off as a tight end at Old Dominion before moving to defensive end (where he shined). He didn’t play football in 2020, and in 2021, he played very little (due to injuries). White had another great season at defensive end in 2022, but he has really only played defensive end on the field for two seasons and is still learning. He is explosive, athletic, and fast. He was on Bruce Feldman’s (The Athletic) freaks list for 2022. White is good in run support and pursues well. He seemed to rely on his speed oftentimes at the college level. At the Senior Bowl practices, he seemed intent on showing he can use other techniques as well. White has a lot of potential and would be best suited as a 4-3 defensive end, and that would be better for fantasy purposes as well.
#7 – Isaiah Foskey Notre Dame – 6’5”, 265 lbs., 4 ★ star recruit and the #13 Defensive End in the 2019 recruiting class. Foskey wins on the college level using his length combined with his strength to beat linemen. He has a good get-off. At Notre Dame, he also made an impact on special teams, where he blocked four punts/kicks in his career. Foskey relied on his leverage a lot at Notre Dame to win and will need to develop more pass-rush moves to make a serious impact for fantasy purposes in the NFL.
#8 – Lukas Van Ness Iowa – 6’5”, 269 lbs., 3 ★ star recruit and the #52 Defensive End in the 2020 recruiting class. I personally would have preferred to see Lukas return to Iowa for another year and continue to improve but alas, the NFL calls. Lukas relied on his power/strength a lot in college. He will need to develop other parts of his game in the NFL to make an impact for fantasy purposes. Van Ness has some versatility across the defensive line playing EDGE/end and, on occasion kicking inside. He made an impact on special teams in college with two blocked punts in 2022. One interesting tidbit I discovered is that he never started a game for Iowa. Which seems really odd given his production.
#9 – Andre Carter II Army – 6’7”, 260 lbs., was not rated in the 2018 recruiting class. Carter is understandably raw after being a WR through High School. He has elite size and displays good bend as well as speed. He has a lot to learn to improve as a pass rusher and tackler at the next level. Carter seems to be sufficient in coverage, using his length to his advantage. From a fantasy football perspective, he is someone with a high ceiling and is worth a shot in the later rounds of a rookie draft.
#10 – Nolan Smith Georgia – 6’3”, 235 lbs., 5 ★ star recruit and the #1 Defensive End in the 2019 recruiting class. As you might expect, given his size, Smith wins with speed. He is very quick with a good burst. In college, when he won, it was almost always with speed/quickness. Smith will need to get stronger and develop more pass-rush skills to win in the NFL. Smith is still recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the win over Florida at the end of October. Given his size and lack of other pass rush skills, he isn’t someone that I would be spending a lot of draft capital on as an EDGE for Fantasy Football purposes.
Credits: PFF Jon Macri NFL EDGE Metric/Grading Scale; Pass Rush Grade, Win Rate, Total Pressures, Pass Rush Snaps, and Total Snaps courtesy of PFF; Sacks, Solos, Assists, Total Tackles courtesy of Sports-Reference.