Unlike recent years, there's no consensus top edge rusher in this class and no premier projected top-5 talent such as Joey Bosa (2016), Myles Garrett ('17), Nick Bosa ('19) and Chase Young ('20). And without a consensus, it's anyone's guess whose name Commissioner Roger Goodell will call first.
Top of the Class
Azeez Ojulari (6-3, 240), Georgia
Ojulari led the SEC in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (12.5) in the 2020 season in addition to 35 QB pressures. He was defensive MVP of the 2021 Peach Bowl with 3 sacks and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award in the 2020 season. Ojulari has drawn comparisons to Yannick Ngakoue (6-2, 246).
"Not only is he physically impressive with his burst and get off, but he understands how blockers want to attack him and he's very skilled at using that against blockers," Dane Brugler of The Athletic said. "He can detach, he has violent hands, but he's not the biggest guy. … He can play the run, he plays with instinct. He's very explosive. If you have a chance to get him, I think he's scheme proof."
Jaelan Phillips (6-5, 266), Miami
The biggest question about Phillips is his medical history. He first went to UCLA for two seasons before he was asked to medically retire because of too many concussions. He sat out of the 2019 season and transferred to Miami where he led the team with 8 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in the 2020 season.
"You could make the argument Phillips is the best pure pass rusher in this class," Brugler said. "He's just a very smooth, agile player. There's no stiffness with how he moves. He gets upfield quickly, he's got an NFL frame. He can play with power, he's got the speed-to-power moves and I think he keeps blockers guessing with how he's going to attack because he can win in so many different ways. … It's going to come down to the off-field and medical."
Best of the Rest
Jayson Oweh (6-5, 252), Penn State
Oweh is a traits-outweigh-production prospect -- he had 0 sacks in 2020 and 6.5 TFLs. He has 7 sacks in 20 games with the Nittany Lions and is a long, lean-muscled player.
"As a pass rusher, he explodes out of his four-point stance and flashes an effective chop/rip and an occasional up/under move," Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network wrote. "However, there are too many snaps where he doesn't have much of a plan. He does have the ability to bend at the top of his rush and collected a lot of QB hits on the tape I watched. … Overall, Oweh is an intriguing talent with his best football ahead of him."
Joseph Ossai (6-4, 253), Texas
Ossai would definitely fit into Head Coach Robert Saleh's "All Gas, No Brake" mantra as Brugler said he might be the best pursuit player in the draft. Over the past two seasons, Ossai has 10.5 sacks, 29.0 tackles for loss and 4 forced fumbles.
"A little bit of a linear athlete, a little stiff through his hips, so he doesn't have ideal fluidity to easily redirect, but his foot is always on the gas," Brugler said. … "I wish he had a little more variety of how he attacked the pocket. He's a little more of a go-go-go-type of guy. You want that on your team, but at the same time, you need a little nuance of how you attack the pocket."
Day 3 Diamond
Chauncey Golston (6-5, 270), Iowa
Golston, a team captain and three-year starter for the Hawkeyes, offers inside-outside versatility and had 5.5 sacks in the 2020 season. He ranked fourth in the Big Ten in sacks per game (0.7) and received first-team All-Big-Ten honors in 2020.
"The speed is average, but he has that downhill mentality and physical hands," Brugler said. "I love his play recognition. You don't see him fooled very often. He trusts what he sees, reacts and make plays. He's a little late with how he moves and that's why we're talking about a Day 3 player, but he's long, he's strong and he doesn't quit working to the football."