NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2022: From The College Perspective

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2022: From The College Perspective

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NFL Draft Defensive End, Edge Rusher Rankings 2022: From The College Perspective


Who are the defensive ends and edge rushers who’ll matter in the 2022 NFL Draft, and what’s the college perspective on all of the top prospects?

2022 NFL Draft Defensive End & Edge Rusher Rankings

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You want the big position in the 2022 NFL Draft? You want the stars, the value, the depth, and the best talent? Here you go …

Defensive ends and edge rushers. If you need one, you’re in luck. If you don’t need one, you could always use another.

There’s a solid chance that defensive ends/edge rushers take up at least three of the top five overall picks, and maybe even the first three choices off the board. But there’s more than just the top guys, with big run stoppers, pass rushing specialists, and everything in between.

These are the guys who’ll make the lives miserable for NFL quarterbacks over the next several years.

From the college perspective, here are the best defensive end and edge rusher prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.

2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Analysis
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OTsOGs & Cs
NFL Draft by college over last 5 years: 1-130 rankings

Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina

Size: 6-4, 265

The Good: Intriguing, he’s got a great frame, the potential to play around 275 without losing anything, and he’s got the toughness and power to be a matchup problem. There’s just enough speed to be okay, but his worth will be as an all-around end who’ll hold up against the run.

The Not-So-Good: He’s not quite as smooth as you might like. In a draft full of fantastic pass rushers, Enagbare is bit of a different option.

He was good for his four years at South Carolina, but he only came up with 15 career sacks and 24 tackles for loss – he’s going to be more of a tough guy who’ll gum up the works than a playmaker in the backfield.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: As long as you don’t care all that much about getting a steady pass rush from him as an end, he’ll be a solid part of a puzzle. There’s a chance he gets bigger and turns into a whale of a too-quick tackle.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

DeAngelo Malone, WKU

Size: 6-4, 240

The Good: Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. There are size concerns, but if you want a guy who’ll get into the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses, here you go. In his five years at WKU he came up with 350 tackles with 32 sacks and close to 60 tackles for loss as a relentless force who always produced. But …

The Not-So-Good: He just doesn’t have the NFL build or style for a set spot. While he made a ton of tackles, he’s not going to be a true outside linebacker who’ll crush it against the run. He’s probably going to be labeled as a third round specialist, but …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: DON’T mess with trying to make him anything he’s not. He’s a smart, savvy veteran who’s going to make sure he gets into the backfield over and over again. Yeah, he’ll need to be surrounded by bulk, but he knows his craft.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

Drake Jackson, USC

Size: 6-4, 250

The Good: There’s a chance it all kicks in now that he’s in the pros.

He was good at USC over 100 tackles with 12.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss in three years, but he could crank it up and be so much more with a fantastic burst, great athleticism for the position, and he knows how to work his way into a backfield. There’s not a whole lot of work needed to make him a playmaker to get behind the line, but …

The Not-So-Good: He’s not really an end – he’s way too light and needs to get to about 260ish – and he’s not really an NFL outside linebacker. He’s a playmaker, but he’s not a big-time run stopper – just 37 tackles last season – and disappeared for too many stretches.

Yeah, everything about USC went into the tank last year, but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire game in and game out. There were moments when it was all there and he looked like a killer, but …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Welcome to one of the biggest value calls in the draft. There’s so much to his game that it seems like he’ll grow into a more dangerous and productive pro, but some teams are sure to see him as just a guy in a draft loaded with ends and edge rushers.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

Joshua Paschal, Kentucky

Size: 6-3, 278

The Good: Everyone liked him before after a long and emerging career at Kentucky, and then he was more than fine in the offseason workout process.

Yeah he was productive at UK – he rocked as a senior with 53 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss as a constant presence in the backfield – but it was more about how he progressed. He has worked his way into being an NFL player and doesn’t need a whole lot of technique work, but …

The Not-So-Good: He just doesn’t quite look the part. He was quick and fast in the workouts, but he’s not a speed rusher. There’s power and toughness to his game, but he’s not going to produce much against the bigger and tougher tackles. There has to be talent around him on a line, but …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: A great leader and Face of the Franchise guy at Kentucky, there’s no worries about what he’ll bring effort-wise. He battled through plenty of adversity, was around for five years, and he improved along the way. He’ll start almost right away in some role up front.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

Sam Williams, Ole Miss

Size: 6-4, 265

The Good: 4 … 4 … 6. You want a speed rusher? How about a 4.46 at the combine in a 6-4, 265-pound frame. There might be a lot of things to work on, but you’re not finding this combination of size, speed, and pass rushing skills in this draft.

Okay against the run, he came up with 134 career tackles to go along with his pure pass rushing skills. He closed out with a 12.5 sack final season with at least one sack in nine games – he was consistent and he kept on coming. But …

The Not-So-Good: Yeah, the size and the run stopping ability – that’s not what you’re paying for.

He’ll chase down plays and he’ll get after it in the backfield, but if you’re looking for a hammer against the run, that’s not Williams. It’s not fair to call him a finesse guy, but he could be tapped as a third-down-only specialist.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: So he’s not going to make 150 tackles a year. You want a guy who’ll get to the quarterback? You want a few pressures and a sack every game or so? Of course you do. Draft him, and let him go create mismatches and bother quarterbacks for a living.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

Cameron Thomas, San Diego State

Size: 6-5, 270

The Good: A fantastic all-around end who came up with consistent plays for an elite defensive front. He generated 11.5 sacks last year for the Aztecs with at least a half a sack in ten of the 14 games – he was always bringing the production. He generated 71 tackles with 20.5 tackles for loss last year, too.

He might not be a speed rusher, but he’s got true NFL size with the toughness and power to blast away against the run.

The Not-So-Good: It’ll be interesting to see what kind of a defense ends up grabbing him. He’s not going to do much as a speed rusher, but he’s not quite built for the inside – he’s a tad bit of a tweener even at his tackle-like size.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: He’s a tough guy’s pass rusher. There’s not a whole lot of fancy to his game and style, but he’s going to make himself into a starter for someone’s line. Get ready for him to roll right out of the box – and at a great value compared to where the other top ends are going to go.

NFL Draft Projection: Third Round

Logan Hall, Houston

Size: 6-6, 275

The Good: You’re going to have to work for it, but there’s a defensive end in the body of a college tackle.

A tremendous interior pass rusher last year for the Cougars, he took over with 47 tackles, six sacks, and 13 tackles for loss before sitting out the bowl game. No, he’s not an NFL tackle, but he’s got the toughness against the run and quickness off the ball to wreak a whole lot of havoc, The experience is there to be great once he finds his home.

The Not-So-Good: But where’s that home going to be? He’s a terrific athlete, but he doesn’t move like an NFL end, and he had to beef up to get to his current weight. It’s going to take a little bit for him to adjust depending on the scheme – he’d benefit big by working next to a Coke machine in the middle of a line.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Someone will figure it out.

He grew into a job at Houston, and he knows how to beat up his man and make things happen in the backfield. It’ll never be smooth or pretty, but the NFL size and all-around production will make up for most of the concerns.

NFL Draft Projection: Second Round

David Ojabo, Michigan

Size: 6-5, 250

The Good: The sky’s the limit. A fantastic pass rusher with a tremendous burst to the ball, he stepped up several times when offenses focused on stopping Aidan Hutchinson. He came up with 11 sacks with two against both Penn State and Michigan State, and he was a force in the win over Wisconsin.

With just 15 games of experience, he was able to play at the highest of Big Ten levels without quite having all the finer points down. However …

The Not-So-Good: It was one of the roughest parts of the offseason scouting process when the likely first rounder suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his Pro Day workout. Now his emergence will all be put on hold for a year.

Even before the injury, he needed to beef up and get tougher against the run, and he’ll have to prove he’s more than a specialist, but …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Legs heal. Give him a while, let him use the time off and the rehab process to add ten pounds of good weight, and then turn him loose.

Get ready for a fantastic value pick after the top 30. He’s far more ready to roll than it might seem considering he only produced for one year at Michigan, but give him time and he could eventually turn into the best pure pass rusher in the draft.

NFL Draft Projection: Second Round

2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Analysis
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OTsOGs & Cs
NFL Draft by college over last 5 years: 1-130 rankings

Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

Size: 6-3, 256

The Good: Very good at Temple, he took his pass rushing skills up to a whole other level with a monster 62 tackle, 9.5 sack, 18 tackle for loss season for Penn State. Not just explosive, he was steady throughout last season as a constant threat in the backfield.

A tweener – in a good way – he’ll likely find a role as an outside linebacker, but he could work as a pure pass rushing defensive end. Considering he didn’t take up football until late, he doesn’t need a whole lot of technique help.

The Not-So-Good: The production is there, but he’s not quite the high-end athlete some are going to want. He’s got a burst, but he’s not exactly smooth in his style. He’ll have to be surrounded by bulk on the inside and more speed on the other side – there will be times when he’s erased by the more athletic NFL tackles.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: In most years he’d be one of the top ends taken, but this is a tough year to stand out. A team will have to get past his limitations and focus just on what he can do. Get him out there, and he’s going to make plays. Some players just know what they’re doing and get the job done – that’s Ebiketie.

NFL Draft Projection: Second Round

Boye Mafe, Minnesota

Size: 6-3, 255

The Good: Arguably the best outside linebacker/edge rusher hybrid in the draft – as opposed to the big ends who can also rush the passer – he’s an experienced playmaker who improved each of the last four years. Finally able to crank up a full season, he made 34 tackles with seven tackles with ten tackles for loss.

An insane all-around athlete, he’s big-time strong for his size, he’s got the burst, and there’s enough to work with to think he’s about to do a whole lot more.

The Not-So-Good: Yeah, he came up with seven sacks last season – four came against Colorado and Bowling Green, one came in the bowl game, and there were just two in the Big Ten season.

He’s got the strength, but he’s not a big-time popper as a run stopper and is more of a tweener than a pure pass rushing terror. Not consistent, he’s still a projection with a whole lot of work to do.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: There’s SO much to like. Between the athleticism, the upside, and the fight and desire to become something special, the sky’s the limit. Early on he’ll be a pure pass rusher, but he’ll turn into so much more with a year of fine-tuning.

NFL Draft Projection: Second Round

George Karlaftis, Purdue

Size: 6-4, 266

The Good: An interesting all-around end option who does a little bit of everything right.

Is he the run stopper that Travon Walker is? Nah. Is he the pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux should be at the next level? Nope. But he’s tough, he’s able to get into the backfield, and he’s got the high-end want-to thing that makes him a football player’s football player.

He came up with 7.5 sacks, 54 tackles and 17 tackles for loss as a freshman, came up with two sacks in two games in 2020 when he had various issues, and came back with a solid all-around junior run with 4.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss. He produces.

The Not-So-Good: Yeah, he’s not the elite pure pass rusher you might want, and he’s not a brick wall against the run depending on what you’re looking for. There’s a good closing burst, but he’s more about battling for a sack rather than flying for one.

It’s about power and strength with his game, and he’s not that massive.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: No, he’s not going to WOW like some of the other top ends in arguably the best position in this draft, but he’s worth it as a strong starter who’ll bring attitude, toughness, and enough of a pass rush to matter.

NFL Draft Projection: First Round

Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

Size: 6-5, 254

The Good: The sky’s the limit. As is he’s great, but he’s just getting started with the phenomenal speed and athleticism to grow into a devastating NFL pass rusher.

It took him a little while to turn into a factor, but the former Georgia Bulldog – who made seven sacks in two years in Athens – found his home at Florida State and blew up from there, coming up with 70 tackles with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in his one season.

He’s got a chip on his shoulder as a guy who had to work his way into this position. There’s no questioning his motor or want-to on any play.

The Not-So-Good: He’s not going to be what you want against the run. It’s not that he’ll get blasted and he’ll give it a shot, but he’s not a big body rock who’ll hold up against the run like you might need. So here’s the big call …

If he’s not getting into the backfield, is he going to work? He’s going to bust his tail to become a top player, but there’s a risk here considering where he’s going to be drafted.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: One of the hottest prospects in the process, he went from being a breakout guy worth a look in the late first round to a possible top ten pick. So what happened?

His workouts have been great, he’s got the right mindset and attitude teams are going to want, and he’s got the leadership qualities to go along with all the speed and skill. Best of all, there’s still a whole lot of room to improve. Give him some time and more technique work, and he’s going to be a disruptive force.

NFL Draft Projection: Top 15 Overall

Travon Walker, Georgia

Size: 6-5, 272

The Good: A special athlete with the bulk to hold up against the run and the 4.5 speed and movement of a smallish edge rusher, all the measurables are there.

No, he’s not the pass rusher that some of the top prospects are in this great class of ends, but that’s not what you’re looking for. He’s a tough guy run stopper who can get into the backfield on sheer power and want-to.

Again, there’s no real flash here – and that’s okay. He made 61 career tackles with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, but it’s not about the stats with him. Put him as an end on the inside and he’ll hold up.

The Not-So-Good: No, he’s just not the pass rusher some might want considering he’s got the talent to be a top ten level pick.

The workout speed is incredible and he was amazing during all the offseason drills, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the field. There’s a big question mark about him if you’re looking to turn him into some sort of a speed rusher.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Seriously, just how worried are you about getting to the quarterback? It you have a defense with speed, quickness, and active parts on the front seven, there’s no real problem here. If you want a piece of the puzzle who’ll help you put together one of the NFL’s best run defenses, here you go.

Getting to the quarterback might seem like it’s everything, but Walker might just be the best defensive lineman in this draft.

NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 Overall

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Size: 6-4, 254

The Good: In a great draft full of fantastic defensive end and edge rushing prospects, here’s your NFL speed rusher.

When he was healthy – and on – forget it. Never quite right last year with an ankle injury, he still managed seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and he was able to take at times as he made teams worry about him on every play.

He showed most of his upside and ability at the end of his true freshman year, was good enough as a sophomore is a shortened year, and he did what he could last season. When he gets a chance to lock in and close down on a ball carrier or a quarterback, he takes it to another gear.

Not just a finesse guy, he’s got enough strength and power for his size to handle himself just fine against the tough guy blockers. There’s nothing soft about his game – he’s a fighter.

The Not-So-Good: Yeah, he played in 30 college games, but he could still use more work.

Even in the Pac-12, he was so much better and more athletic and skilled than everyone else that he was always a worry for offenses. But he wasn’t able to push through his ankle problems last year and he wasn’t quite as consistently cranked up as many might have liked.

Don’t make any mistake about it – he was fantastic, and he produced. However – and yes, this is part of his positives – his worth more often than not was as the guy defenses had to worry about. He had a few of those unstoppable force games, but there’s still work to be done.

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: Don’t misconstrue this; it’s an overall positive with Thibodeaux. He was ready for the NFL right away, and now he’s where he’s supposed to be.

Oh, he brought it, and there’s no questioning his heart or his toughness – the ankle really was an issue – but from Day One everyone knew he was going to be a top ten overall draft pick.

That’s a long way of saying, look out, NFL.

He played at an All-America level when he was healthy at Oregon, and he was still just scratching the surface. Yeah, yeah, yeah, scouts are going to claim they’d like to see more, and his technique isn’t as refined as it should be, and …

Don’t get cute. You’re the NFL. You want a pass rusher? You want a guy who’s going to line up and spend Sunday afternoons jumping on the heads of opposing quarterbacks? Here you go.

NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 Overall

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Size: 6-7, 260

The Good: He checks all the boxes.

Great size, great frame, great background, great burst, great locker room guy, great leader, great experience. It’s all there in a rock-solid safe prospect who might just be getting started with just how good he can become.

Tremendously strong, he’s not your normal speed rusher. He’s got the athleticism to burst his way into the backfield, but he’ll power for plays in the backfield no matter what system is in. Able to operate and hold his own inside or out, he fits the mold of a long time high-end NFL starter.

The Not-So-Good: He’s a tad overloved because everyone saw the Ohio State and Penn State games.

You don’t come up with 14 sacks and 62 tackles in a season from the Big Ten unless you’re a superstar talent, but he had 3.5 sacks in his sophomore season, didn’t have any in just two games of work in the strange 2020, and then he blew up as a senior with his monster year. But 8.5 of his sacks came against the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, and in the nationally-watched blowout over Washington, and he failed to get multiple sacks in any other game.

It’s not like he was totally erased in the losses to Georgia and Michigan State, but again, most of his high-end work behind the line came in three games. With that said …

NFL Draft College Perspective Thought: This is meant as a positive – don’t get caught up in what he will or won’t do as a pass rusher. That stats – as great as they are – don’t tell the full story about what he meant to the 2021 Michigan team, and what he’ll mean to an NFL defense.

You don’t take a defensive end with the No. 1 overall pick – or in the top three – unless you think you’re getting a game-wrecking force who’ll live in the backfield game after game. He’ll have those moments – yeah, he had three big games last year, but those came in three BIG games – but he’s consistent against the run and a solid enough tackler to make a whole lot of nice things happen that might not seem so splashy.

There’s no such thing as no-bust prospect, but as long as he stays healthy, he’s about as safe as they come.

Is he Chase Young, or Myles Garrett, or a Bosa or a Watt? Nah, but in a draft without a sure-thing top five pecking order, you take the guy you know can and will be a leader, an every play fighter, and will be a Pro Bowl part of your D line for the next ten years.

NFL Draft Projection: No. 1 Overall

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