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2020 NFL Draft: Houtz’s Top-5 Defensive Tackles and EDGE Rushers

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There’s a lot of time between now and the 2020 NFL Draft, so a lot could change before the Bengals are officially on the clock. With that said, I spent the last several months watching film and compiling my top players at each position. Sure, there may be some minor changes, but things shouldn’t change much between now and April.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at my top-5 pass-rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Edge Rushers

Chase Young, Ohio State

There is no question as to who is the best pass-rusher in the 2020 class. There’s no question as to who is the best overall player in this year’s draft as well. His name is Chase Young, and he is without question the #1 overall prospect on my draft board.

Young is a prototypical pass-rusher that can get to the quarterback in a variety of ways. Not only is he explosive at getting to the quarterback, but he’s an asset in the run game as well. In 2019, Young recorded 46 total tackles (32 solo), 16.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. That, all while missing two games due to suspension. He is that darn good.

If Young can continue to add to his 6’5 frame and continue to improve on the little flaws in his game, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL for many years to come.

Pro ComparisonJadeveon Clowney

A.J Epenesa, Iowa

There was a lot of debate before the Dolphins were mathematically eliminated from a top-two draft pick as to whether or not Chase Young was a scheme fit in Brian Flores defense. And during that debate, it became crystal clear as to who would be the best fit for the Dolphins, and his name was A.J Epenesa.

Epenesa is a more traditional 4-3 EDGE rusher, who does some of his best work vs. the run. This is something Miami could desperately use as they allowed 135.4 yards per game on the ground. Epenesa is versatile enough to play inside and not lose a step. However, one of the best parts of his game is his ability to adapt throughout, the same way elite pass-rushers have done for many years in the league. It may take a few drives for Epenesa to learn the tendencies of the lineman across from him, but when he does, he knows how to defeat his opponent.

I can’t confidently say he will be available when the Dolphins are on the clock at #18. And if reports are accurate that they’re eyeing up an offensive lineman in round one, Epenesa may end up elsewhere.

Pro Comparison— 2019 Robert Quinn

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Every year, there’s a group of players that fall into a category I label ‘Houtz’s man-crush list.’ In year’s past, this list has seen players like Raekwon McMillan, Taco Charlton, Shaq Lawson, and Baker Mayfield, to name a few. This year is no different, as I have more than a handful of players that fit into this exclusive category. One of those players is Penn State pass-rusher Yetur Gross- Matos.

If you don’t know the story of YGM, I suggest you read this article first. Gross-Matos is a 6’5, 265 lbs defensive end that recorded 9.5 sacks in 2019. His long arms and brute strength allow him to move opposing offensive lineman at will. Like Epenesa, he’s versatile enough where he can slide inside and continue to be productive. And then there’s his quickness which allows him to explode off the LOS, dip around the edge, and get to the QB. YGM is the whole package.

Best of all, YGM only started playing football in the eighth grade, which means there’s still plenty of room for him to continue to develop his traits. As we mentioned with Epenesa, Miami needs an EDGE rusher that can stop the run, but also get to the QB. Epenesa is good, but if I had to pick one player outside of Tua Tagovailoa that I would love to see the Dolphins draft—Yetur Gross-Matos would be that guy.

Pro Comparison— Clearance Rack Jason Taylor

K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

The first thing you notice when watching Chaisson on film is that he is quick—very, very quick. His first step is lightning fast, and he has an array of pass-rush moves at his disposal. Chaisson gives 110% on every down and, at times, can play with a bit of reckless abandonment. He did suffer a season-ending ACL injury in 2018, which has raised some concerns about his durability. But this past season, Chaisson took the next step as a pass-rusher.

In the biggest game of his career, Chaisson showed up in a big way and helped LSU defeat Clemson to win the National Championship. Like Epenesa, he most likely will be gone before the Dolphins are on the clock, as any of these pass-rushers could. But if Brian Flores is looking to inject some speed into his anemic defense, Chaisson could be what the Dolphins need. And at 20-years-old, there’s plenty of room for Flores and his staff to develop the well-rounded EDGE rusher.

Pro ComparisonDanielle Hunter - Dion Jordan =

Josh Uche, Michigan

I struggled to narrow this down to a top-5, as I struggled to decide between Wisconsin’s Zack Baun, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, and Michigan’s Josh Uche. After several days of procrastination and diving into a few more games, I feel confident in saying that Josh Uche is one of the best pass-rushers in this year’s draft.

Uche’s skill-set is unique as he can line up anywhere on defense, and with the right coaching staff, he could become a valuable weapon in the NFL. Last season, he recorded 8.5 sacks and had consistently improved throughout his collegiate career. Uche can play with his hand in the dirt and rush off the EDGE, or drop back into coverage and cover an opposing tight end. He appears to be a bit quicker than some of the pass-rushers listed above, but he still possesses the power and handwork to dominate opposing lineman.

Uche looked spectacular at the Senior Bowl, and if he continues to impress this week in Indy, there’s an excellent chance he could hear his name called on day one of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Pro ComparisonJerome Baker? idk.

Oh, and don’t sleep on Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith or Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes.

Defensive Tackles

Derrick Brown, Auburn

Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma

Ross Blacklock, TCU

Marlon Davidson, Auburn

Like? Dislike? Let me know in the Comments section below!

Josh Houtz wrote this article. Follow him on Twitter (@houtz)