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.
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 Comparison— Jadeveon Clowney
I feel like the Big 10 should be charged with child endangerment for even allowing Chase Young to share the field with some of these tackles.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) February 14, 2020
My goodness... pic.twitter.com/fiwFM7bw8T
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
perfectly timed stunt results in YGM stopping the RB up at the LOS. like epenesa, he plays the run extremely well and has the versatility to play inside. pic.twitter.com/5qhg9kOs0r— josh houtz (@houtz) February 14, 2020
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 Comparison— Danielle 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 Comparison— Jerome Baker? idk.
josh uche is tyson fury and that 300+ lbs RT is deontay wilder pic.twitter.com/GCCdLt9RNF— josh houtz (@houtz) February 24, 2020
Oh, and don’t sleep on Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith or Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes.
Derrick Brown, Auburn
Didn't realize how Derrick Brown dominated the Iron Bowl against one of the best OL's in the country— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) April 11, 2020
Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
Neville Gallimore with an INCREDIBLE 4.79 pic.twitter.com/shWXdRSijo— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) February 29, 2020
Ross Blacklock, TCU
Dude false started and Ross Blacklock still beat him lol. He’s very quick pic.twitter.com/X7xTstA6lA— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 6, 2020
Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Lot of mocks with the #Patriots taking Marlon Davidson out of Auburn. Not flashy, but he'll set the edge, has natural leverage, & plays both run & pass well.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 10, 2020
Working against Saahdiq Charles. Fires inside hands to get the blocker off, extends and uses inside hand to control. pic.twitter.com/miGsrXie3r
Like? Dislike? Let me know in the Comments section below!
Josh Houtz wrote this article. Follow him on Twitter (@houtz)