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College Football: Top 10 Defensive Ends

Oct. 09, 2019 - Michael Stewart

College Football: Top 10 Defensive Ends

Introduction: The projected defensive ends coming out for the 2020 NFL draft are extremely versatile and playmaking machines. NFL teams looking for edge rushers will have a wide selection to choose from throughout each round that will add talent and depth to any team. Here is my top 10 list of the best defensive ends in college football.

  1. Chase Young (Ohio State) 6’5/265: Young continues the long line of exceptional defensive ends coming out of Ohio State over the last several years. Young can beat you in so many ways (bull rush, around the edge, spin moves) that he is literally hard to defend. Despite this year being very deep at the quarterback position, it’s not at all a reach if Young is the first player taken off the board on draft day depending who the team is.
  2. A.J Epenesa (Iowa) 6’6/280: Epenesa is a furious force off the edge recording 10.5 sacks in 2018 as a 3rd down specialist. Epenesa will have the opportunity of playing much more this season to showcase his entire game and could be the 2nd defensive end taken in the 2020 draft.
  3. Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) 6’4/270: Gross-Matos has length, size and athleticism to be an ideal edge rusher in the NFL. Gross-Matos talent is still scratching the surface and if he can put it all together this season, he could battle Epenesa as the 2nd defensive end taken in the 2020 draft.
  4. Curtis Weaver (Boise State) 6’3/266: Weaver is an explosive edge/OLB who can disrupt any offense game plans. Weaver can play in any NFL system with his hand in the dirt or in a two point stance. Has the frame to get bigger and could ultimately be a fixture as a DE.
  5. Carlos Basham Jr (Wake Forest) 6’5/275: Basham Jr. is a versatile three down linemen that has evolved his game in all facets. Basham Jr. has excellent height, length and the athleticism to play in any defensive scheme. Basham Jr. can make plays from all over the field and can even drop back into coverage.
  6. Nick Coe (Auburn) 6’5/282: Coe is a prototypical edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme with the ability to go after the quarterback. Coe is powerful, fast with athleticism that can disrupt opposing offenses. Coe his arms and hands well to create separation and get around offensive linemen.
  7. Kenny Willekes (Michigan State) 6’4/260: Willekes has a relentless style in his game with an edge. Many would define Willekes as a blue collar player who plays extremely hard until the whistle. Willekes has excellent instincts that allows him to play both the run and pass effectively.
  8. Khalid Kareem (Notre Dame) 6’4/265: Kareem can play with his hand in the dirt or in a two point stance effectively. Kareem doesn’t do one thing well, but rather does everything well enough to be a productive defender. Kareem is equally productive as a pass rusher, run stuffer and a coverage defender when needed. Kareem would be a solid day 2 pick for any NFL team.
  9. Bradlee Anae (Utah) 6’3/265: Anae has a well rounded game coming off the edge and plays with a high motor. Anae could improve his draft stock by improving his lateral agility and overall technique. Anae decision to stay for his senior year has benefitted him immensely and should add value as a day 3 selection.
  10. Alton Robinson (Syracuse) 6’5/260: Robinson is quick off the edge utilizing his many moves to beat opposing linemen. Robinson had 10 sacks in 2018 and many project that number to increase this season. Robinson never seems to put himself out of position and plays with a high level of intelligence.

Final Thoughts: The Defensive End position could arguably be the deepest position on the defensive side of the ball for the 2020 NFL draft. There are a lot of playmakers who can help an NFL team right away and give them creditability as rookies. The predictions of 20-25 prospects could be drafted with plenty of talent on day 3.