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Top 5 edge rusher prospects heading into 2018-19 bowl season

Our look at some of the top prospects in next year’s draft continues as we examine several key names to keep an eye on at edge. WR | LB | OL | CB | S | TE

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our pre bowl season breakdown of the top prospects at positional rankings of note for the 49ers. Today, we take a look at another pressing need on the defensive side of the ball, the edge position.

The cold hard slap of reality has shattered 49ers’ expectations of the season, and the preseason high we were excitedly riding to cloud nine has quickly become a spiraling nose dive into a pool of misery with occasional gratifying highlights to provide glimmering hope for the future yet to come. Nevertheless, we are entering the time of season where a potentially high draft selection is creating some excitement amidst the sorrows of 49ers’ gameplay. The question is, is this the year the 49ers finally draft a glaring need fans have been clamoring for?

It is no secret the 49ers’ pass rush has been less than desirable for a few years now. To put it bluntly - the edge presence sucks, but this year could be easy pickins to draft the position we all want and have been waiting for. To allow us to collectively shout in unison, “FINALLY” when the selection is made. Time will tell, but here is to hoping the 49ers take a step in the right direction in transforming the team’s edge presence into a feared dominating force.

As this is the beginning of NFL Draft season, keep in mind the rankings will be fluid and future rankings will inevitably feed your draft appetite. Nonetheless, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Nick Bosa, No. 97 - Ohio State
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 270 | 40 time: 4.75
2018 stats (3 games): 4 sacks, 14 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 touchdown

It is rare to see two brothers sharing high end success at the next level, but Nick Bosa is on the path to match older brother’s “Joey” ride and success in the NFL. The junior is a tremendously gifted athletic talent showcasing a terrific combination of size, strength, athleticism, natural ability, power, quickness, football intelligence, and superb technique. NFL Bloodlines runs thick and Bosa’s successful transition to the next level is pretty much a sure thing, but first he needs to get healthy.

Always running hot with a relentless motor, Bosa dominates in the run game with great fundamentals (superb hand technique), agility, and pure power. He effectively stack and sheds nicely and has tremendous awareness disengaging and attacking finishing with explosion, as well as the athletic ability and balance to defend against back-side blocks taking advantage of his blazing motor chasing down the ball carrier. Off the edge, Bosa utilizes fantastic speed to power conversion to get in the backfield, along with quickness and flexibility to side-step opponents on his way to the quarterback (has a good array of pass rush moves). He displays superb burst and explosion off the line of scrimmage with a quick, heavy, and violent punch at the point of attack, sound leverage utilizing his length, excels at converting speed to power, and the versatility to be disruptive from off the edge and on the inside. A man amongst boys, Bosa is an all around complete player with excellent technique, adept in all facets of the game whether rushing the passer, wreaking havoc in the backfield, or as a stout run stopper.

Clelin Ferrell, DE, No. 99 - Clemson
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 260 | 40 time: 4.78
2018 stats: 10.5 sacks, 47 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflections, 1 touchdown, and 2 forced fumbles

The 49ers’ are in desperate need of an edge presence, and if Nick Bosa is not the selection, Clelin Ferrell is equally an excellent choice to establish a dominating fear off the edge. Ferrell is a junior prospect that has shown the capacity to improve throughout his collegiate career. With a complete game showing dominance both against the run and the passing game, Ferrell offers a perfect blend of size, length (long arms), strength, quickness, and athleticism. He displays great burst off the edge utilizing his length to his advantage playing with excellent leverage, body control (terrific bend), balance, adept at holding the point of attack and releasing with nice change of direction skills, agility, foot quickness, and power.

Ferrell also displays an excellent ability playing front-side blocks at the point of attack utilizing his length and power to successfully stack and shed showing a solid game setting the edge. Moreover, he brings impressive skills defending back-side blocks with nice athleticism, agility, length, and closing speed.

Josh Allen, DE/OLB, No. 41 - Kentucky
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 260 | 40 time: 4.59
2018 stats: 14 sacks, 84 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass deflections, 2 fumble recovery, and 5 forced fumbles

Josh Allen has truly shown the capacity to improve throughout his collegiate years transforming himself from a 210-pound freshman into one of the best defensive players in all of college football. The winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award for the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the National Defensive Player of the Year, and the Lott IMPACT Trophy for Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, Allen has thrusted himself upon the spotlight becoming a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen as he explodes off the edge, as well as a terror all over the field.

Right off the bat, I see Allen as an ideal SAM backer with his versatility to rush, set the edge, and be effective in coverage showcasing fluidity in space and flashes of impressive awareness. However, to pigeonhole Allen to the SAM would be a mistake, and I believe with further development in technique, refine and develop more pass rush moves, and increased functional power the ceiling is high for Allen as a premier edge prospect. Explosion is the theme with Allen, as he generates tremendous power to burst off the line of scrimmage, launching his impressive thick and muscular frame against his opponents with flashes of a violent push at the point of attack and pure bolstering speed off the edge. His speed and bend off the edge is impressive as Allen showcases superb athleticism with good technique (work in progress), excellent burst and second gear closing speed, amazing first-step off the line, fair hands with decent pop at point of attack, impressive suddenness, and the balance and body control coming out of the arc from his bend adjusting with ease taking advantage of his length hitting with explosion.

The versatility in Allen’s game will only improve his draft status and if he can increase his functional strength and continue to improve upon his technique (turn those flashes into consistency), he will be able to expand the role of being a one-dimensional speed guy off the edge to a dominating beast at the next level. Moreover, Allen also bolsters the locker room as a high character athlete with a strong work ethic.

Jachai Polite, DE, No. 99 - Florida
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 242 | 40 time: 4.62
2018 stats: 11 sacks, 43 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 4 pass deflections, and 5 forced fumbles

Jachai Polite started the season as an under-the-radar edge prospect showcasing a solid combination of speed, flexibility, top-notch athleticism, and a relentless motor bending well coming off the edge with excellent foot quickness and blazing speed. A bit undersized at 6-foot-2-inches, Polite is an explosive and aggressive edge player with a quick burst off the line of scrimmage showcasing great change of direction skills, strength at the point of attack, penetrating speed, solid instincts, and is a ferocious player that has a nose for the ball with impressive closing speed. Speed and violence is Polite’s bread and butter.

A true disruptive force and an energy ball, Polite is an ideal LEO defender in the 49ers’ defensive scheme utilizing his burst, penetrating speed, fluid change of direction skills, and the optimal bend (nice dip of the shoulder) you love to see from your edge defenders. The junior’s tremendous quick first-step explosion, eyebrow raising speed off the edge, and his continuous relentless effort on the field will continue to open more eyes while he quickly climbs the ranks of an already impressive edge class.

Brian Burns, DE, No. 99 - Florida State
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 235 | 40 time: 4.64
2018 stats: 10 sacks, 52 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections, 1 fumble
recovery, and 3 forced fumbles

Brian Burns started out the season poised to have a breakout year similar to his freshmen season, where he lead all freshman with 9.5 sacks. During his sophomore campaign, Burns numbers dipped at 4.5 sacks, but with a new defensive scheme employed, allowing the junior to attack up-field with violence and speed, expectations were high for Burns. Burns provides the ideal LEO opportunity flying off the edge with excellent bend, explosion, athleticism, and length.

Burns is a tall, long-armed, athletically gifted pass rusher that explodes off the edge with a superb quick first-step, excellent bend, agility, flexibility, and impressive closing speed. He also possesses great balance and body control, where coming out of the arc from his bend he is able to adjust with ease and take advantage of his length and make quick adjustments to finish with explosion. Burns utilizes good hand technique with a solid pop at the point of attack, quick to transition into his pass rush moves (needs to refine and develop more) with smoothness winning with tremendous speed and good power (functional strength will need to improve). Stacking and shedding is a work in progress; nevertheless, with improved technique and consistency matching his high-end athletic ability, Burns showcases the tools to be an effective edge defender at the next level.

Player measurables courtesy of team pages. 40 times projected.