Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top pass rushing 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends for the 2013 NFL Draft.
2013 Top Pass Rushers
The order of importance for most NFL teams in terms of drafting is quarterback, left tackle, then pass rusher. There are some outstanding pass rushers in this year’s draft class, no one of an elite status in the mold of a Von Miller, but overall a talented collection of players. What you won’t find below are the following players: Barkevious Mingo (LSU), Dion Jordan (Oregon), and Ezekiel Ansah (BYU). These three players, who are all magnificent athletes in their own right, but are not YET top tier, pass rushers. In a few weeks I will go into greater detail about why I chose to keep them off my board. Below is this year’s group of players who I believe have consistently shown they have the ability to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL.
Top 3-4 OLB Pass Rushers
1. Jarvis Jones (Georgia): The best pure pass rusher in this year’s draft class, Jones is an absolute monster coming off the edge. With a full arsenal of speed, power, agility and quickness, he is capable of getting after the quarterback in elite time. For his career, Jones averages a sack per game.
Ranked first in the SEC and fifth in the nation last year in sacks, Jones continued to impress scouts, leading the nation with 14.5 sacks this year. At 6’3” and 241 lbs, he is well suited to play the outside linebacker role in a 3-4.
Showing scouts that he is a playmaker coming off the edge, Jones caused seven forced fumbles this season and nine forced fumbles for his career. He is efficient in either dropping into coverage or holding his ground and stopping the run.
Unofficially, his average time from snap to QB hit on the season was a blistering 2.52 seconds. Offensive linemen are consistently trying to maintain their edge, and Jones can be credited with at least one false start per game this past season. An impact player, Jones had a career total of 87 impact plays, an average of 2.56 impact plays per game, highest amongst all the pass rushers in this year’s class.
Jones’ main pass-rushing move is the outside speed rush. He should get stronger over time and develop a bull rush or even an inside spin move to use as a counter to the outside speed rush. Jones compares statistically to LaMarr Woodley.
2. Chase Thomas (Stanford): Thomas is a complete player, who is capable of holding the edge, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. An intelligent player, he understands how to set up his opponent in passing-rushing situations. He will set up his opponent with an outside speed rush, show the speed rush on the next play and come back with a counter inside spin move. Thomas is one of the rare pass rushers who have multiple pass rush moves that can be used successfully.
The leader of college football’s 20th-ranked defense last season, Thomas is a five-tool player who can do it all. He has the ability to flip his hips and run stride-for-stride with the best tight ends in the country. He has the strength to hold the edge and limit outside speed rushers, such as Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, from getting around the corner and getting up field. He’s a fundamentally sound tackler, who does a good job at wrapping up the ball carrier and minimizing any yards after contact.
He has only been used as a pass rusher on 20 percent of the defensive snaps, yet Thomas recorded 7.5 sacks this season. A dominant athlete throughout his career, Thomas had 55.5 TFL, 29 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 52 career games. He had 94.5 career impact plays, an impact-plays-per-game average of 1.82.
From a scouting and statistical comparison, Thomas compares favorably to current Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham.
3. Sio Moore (Connecticut): Scouts were initially concerned with Moore’s size and most had him playing last season at around 235 lbs. Yet he showed up to the Combine weighing in at 245 lbs, and showed scouts that all that weight gain didn’t cost him the speed and athleticism that had vaulted him into a possible late first- or early second-round discussion.
The leader of the nation’s ninth-ranked defense, Moore consistently flew around the field, making plays from sideline to sideline. A hybrid type of player, Moore is capable of putting his hand down on rushing the quarterback or dropping into coverage.
In 37 career games, Moore had 220 tackles, 43 TFL, 16 sacks and four forced fumbles. He had 85 impact plays, an average of 2.30 impact plays per game, third highest amongst all the linebackers in this year’s draft class.
Moore is a good defender against the run but can be overpowered at times. He does a decent job at shedding blocks and utilizes his speed and quickness to maneuver around traffic to get to the ball carrier.
Moore compares statistically to James Harrison.
4. Brandon Jenkins (Florida State): The Seminoles are starting to become a powerhouse again, and their defense is proving to be their foundation. They have three quality pass rushers in this year’s draft class with Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine all posting impressive production numbers.
Jenkins suffered a Lisfranc injury in the Seminoles’ season opener, effectively ending his college career, where he played primarily as a hand down defensive end and weighed close to 270 lbs. When he showed up at Indy, though, he weighed a slimmed down 251 lbs on a 6’3” frame.
As a sophomore, Jenkins jumped out on the national scene with 21.5 TFL and 13.5 sacks on the season as a starter.
His speed and quickness allow him to consistently beat his man around the edge, and his attention to detail is proven by consistently reading the snap count. Not a power rusher, Jenkins is dependent on his agility to get around defenders rather than go through them. His ability to hit the corner and dip underneath a tackle’s reach while maintaining his speed is rare for a player his size.
Used primarily as a pass rusher, Jenkins finished his career with 37.5 TFL, 22.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He had 66 career impact plays, a per-game average of 1.69.
While teams will be worried about his ability to return from his injury, he has ability and production reminiscent of Elvis Dumervil.
Best of the Rest:
5. Jamie Collins (Southern Mississippi): Career impact plays: 97: Impact plays per game average 1.87
6. Jonathan Brown (Illinois): Career impact plays: 49.5: Impact plays per game average 1.50
7. Sean Porter (Texas A&M): Career impact plays: 64: Impact plays per game average 1.23
4-3 Defensive Ends
1. Damontre Moore (Texas A&M): A consistent pass rusher, Moore recorded a sack in nine of thirteen games this season. In addition to leading his team in sacks, Moore led the Texas A&M Aggies’ defense in tackles this season with 71 tackles, 21 TFL and 12.5 sacks.
Moore’s average snap-to-sack time on the season was 2.65 seconds, one of the fastest times of all pass rushers in college football. Moore has the speed to get upfield and make a play and even shows the ability to drop into coverage.
He lacks ideal size at only 250 lbs; he has more of a long and lanky build, similar to a small forward in basketball. Moore doesn’t possess the brute strength to be a run stopper, and he occasionally struggles when teams run at him. A bigger, more physical offensive tackle can move him sideways, but Moore is a strong tackler and able to minimize yards after contact by his fundamentally sound tackling skills.
Moore possesses good flexibility; he is able to dip his shoulder down and quickly get underneath an offensive tackle’s reach. For his career, Moore had 90.5 impact plays in 38 career games, an average of 2.38 impact plays per game. Moore has proven he can get after the quarterback; in addition, he is always looking to make a play on the football, as evidenced by his eight career forced fumbles.
Scouts I’ve talked to believe Moore has gotten by on physical talents alone and hasn’t put in the time or effort in the film and weight room. What could he do if you put him in the right situation, and he does commit himself to being a professional football player?
Moore is similar statistically to current Carolina Panther Greg Hardy.
2. Bjoern Werner (FSU): Werner was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and an AP First Team All-American. He had 13 sacks on the season to go along with 18 TFL. A raw pass rusher, he possesses a good combination of speed and power. He had over 40 impact plays this past season, an average of 2.86 impact plays per game.
With good balance on his outside rush move, Werner is able to dip his shoulder down and rip under his blocker. He shows above average mobility in his twist and stunts and possesses the strength to overpower his blockers and drive his main man back into the pocket. He utilized this on a large number of his sacks the past two seasons, allowing him to collapse the pocket.
Playing predominantly in a 4-3, left defensive end position, he is used to being chipped and double teamed coming out of his breaks. A consistent worker, Werner was a three-down lineman and not just used as a situational pass rusher in college.
Werner finished his career with 23.5 sacks, 35 TFL, three forced fumbles and 17 pass break ups, the highest amongst all defensive ends in this year’s draft class. For his career, he had 79.5 impact plays, an average of 1.94 impact plays per game.
3. Sam Montgomery (LSU): For a player who took games and plays off, Montgomery is still an outstanding athlete, capable of holding his own against some of the nation’s top talent. He has the size and length a lot of teams look for in a starting defensive end, along with the frame to support additional weight if needed.
A good run defender, Montgomery can hold his point of attack, stand his ground and set the edge, pressing the ball carrier back to the inside. A physical player who won’t back down from a fight, he can go toe-to-toe with just about any offensive tackle in the country.
Montgomery was sometimes slow coming off the ball but showed better reaction time when he played in a two-point stance versus a three-point stance. He does show above average flexibility and the ability to quickly get underneath his blocks. He maintains decent pad level and always uses his hands. Montgomery will forget to keep moving his feet when locked into a physical battle.
In only 31 career games played, Montgomery had 56.5 impact plays, an average of 1.82 impact plays per game.
While overall a good pass rusher, Montgomery is more than likely suited to play the LDE position, due to his lack of quickness and speed. His physical toughness and power will allow him to be an asset in stopping an opponents’ run game. He may only be a two-down lineman to start off his career until he can develop a full arsenal of pass-rushing techniques.
4. Alex Okafor (Texas): Primarily playing standing up versus his hand on the ground, Okafor is quick to react at the snap. In watching his game tape, he was the first off the line for the Longhorns on almost every passing down this past season. Very good at anticipating the snap count, Okafor was able to get a number of sacks this past season by being the first off the line of scrimmage.
A dominant pass rush move is his bull rush, and he has the strength to drive his man back into the pocket on a consistent basis. Once he has established his power, Okafor is able to mix it up with an inside rip move. He almost always keeps his feet moving, and he is good at making himself skinny on working back into the pocket. His average snap-to-QB hit this past season was 2.76 seconds.
With his 23 career sacks, he has developed into a smarter player. Although initially getting by with elite physical talent, Okafor has become a more complete player this season. For his career, he had 71 impact plays, an average of 1.37 impact plays per game.
Okafor is statistically similar to current Cleveland Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard.
Best of the Rest:
5. Meshak Williams (Kansas State): Career impact plays: 54: Impact plays per game average 2.08
6. Travis Johnson (San Jose State): Career impact plays: 92: Impact plays per game average 1.84
7. Quanterus Smith (Western Kentucky): Career impact plays: 73: Impact plays per game average 1.59
8. David Bass (Missouri Western): Career impact plays: 189.5: Impact plays per game average 3.87
2013 NFL Draft Content Schedule: