NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective

2021 NFL Draft

NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2021: From The College Perspective


Which defensive ends and edge rushers will matter in the 2021 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?

2021 NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings

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Considering how glamorous the pass rushers are, you’d think they’d be flowing into the NFL from the collegiate level.

Not this year.

There are a whole lot of question marks in an all boom-or-bust season for the top guys. There’s upside, athleticism and promise, but there isn’t a Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Bradley Chubb, or any other must-have talent in the bunch. It’s going to take a whole lot of guessing to find the next killers in opposing backfield.

Oh they’re there, but GMs are going to have to do their work this time around.

From the college perspective, the top defensive ends and edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft are …

15. Shaka Toney, Penn State

Size: 6-3, 242

The Good: A very good four-year pass rusher for a defense full of talented players who could get into the backfield, Toney made 20 career sacks and was solid against the run. Extremely athletic, he moves like a running back with a great quickness and terrific cuts to get to the ball.

The Not-So-Good: He was streaky. The overall numbers were great, but four of his five sacks game in two games last year, three of his 6.5 in 2019 came against Purdue, and four of his five in 2018 were against Indiana. It’s not like he totally disappeared in the other games, but … he sort of disappeared too often.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s an interesting pass rushing option who’s great on the move – he’s a whole lot more fluid than most of the defensive ends and edge rushers in this draft – but he’s likely a specialist.

Projected Round: Fourth

14. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma

Size: 6-3, 253

The Good: He makes things happen. A good pass rusher in his first two seasons, he gave the defense a whole other look coming off a suspension – allegedly for marijuana; no big whoop – with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in just six games last year. He’s always around the ball and always in the backfield.

The Not-So-Good: He doesn’t have the NFL tools for his game. He’s tough, but he’ll get bounced too much by the tougher blockers, and he’s not quite a speed guy who’s going to blow past anyone. He needs to be surrounded by athletes and NFL prototypes.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: It’s funny how the NFL world works. Sometimes a guy makes a whole lot of plays at a high level, and everyone seems to ignore the production by questioning how it all happened. Perkins is hardly the perfect prospect, but the guy who showed up with his hair on fire over the back half of 2020 is someone you want in an NFL camp to see what he can do.

Projected Round: Fourth

13. Patrick Johnson, Houston

Size: 6-2, 240

The Good: He doesn’t look anything like your normal NFL defensive end or pass rusher, and there’s a positive to that – he plays every down like he has something to prove. He came up with 21 sacks and 120 tackles over his last three seasons by doing everything right and fighting for every play.

The Not-So-Good: Yeah, he doesn’t look anything like your normal NFL defensive end or pass rusher. He’s built like an inside linebacker, but he’s not an inside linebacker. He’s not quite quick enough to be on the outside, and he’s not quite long enough to be an end, and …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s not going to be a standout star for a defensive front, but he’ll always bring the A effort every time out and he knows what he’s doing. He’ll go on Day 3, and 15 minutes into the first practice the coaching staff will love what it has.

Projected Round: Fourth

12. Chris Rumph, Duke

Size: 6-3, 244

The Good: An all-around producer for a defense that wasn’t always special, he was always keyed on and he almost always came through. He’s a tall linebacker who’ll get behind the line – 17.5 sacks and 33 tackles for loss in three years – and he’s got the toughness to handle himself just fine against the run. However …

The Not-So-Good: Get a block on him and it’s over. He’s great at reading plays, getting into space and chasing things down, but he’s not bulky and he’s not going to get that first step on NFL tackles like he did in college.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: LOVE him somewhere around the 75 or later. There’s too much missing to take the chance on him too high, but there’s a shot he’s one of those guys who does one thing very, very well, and that one thing makes him a double-digit sack disruptor.

Projected Round: Fourth

11. Payton Turner, Houston

Size: 6-5, 270

The Good: A true defensive end, he’s big, experienced, and he produced. A good pass rusher who holds up well against the run, stick him on the line in any alignment and he’ll be fine. He moved ridiculously smoothly for a guy his size, but …

The Not-So-Good: How concerned are you about the injury issues? He missed a little time last year with COVID issues, but he was also banged up at times. He’s not quite the fit for the modern NFL – he’d be an ideal 1998 defensive end – but …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s a whole lot to love here if he turns it loose like he did in his five games of work in 2020. He was okay in his first two years, busted out as a junior and was unstoppable during his limited time last year. He’s a different option among the top pass rushers.

Projected Round: Third

NEXT: 2021 NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings Top Ten


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