As the NFL draft approaches, We Sport offers you five players per position who should liven up the nights of April 29 to 1er may. Today, after the quarterbacks, the receivers and the offensive line, make way defensive and edge rushers !
Kwity Paye (Edge, Michigan – Senior)
Quite simply a physical monster. Among the most athletic NCAA players with wacky body measurements (1m93, 123 kg), Kwity Paye is arguably the most highly rated player on the pass-rush in this 2021 cuvée. Born in a refugee camp in Guinea after his family fled the first civil war in Liberia, this senior has everything to please and should interfere in the first half of the first round on April 29.
If Paye is so attractive, it’s not just because of his physique. Also running back in high school, he has impressive mobility for a player of his size. Extremely powerful, its bull rush and formidable and already makes him a threat against the pass and a possible terror for the offensive lines of the professional world. If his game can still be improved, especially against the race, his exponential progress during his studies in Michigan proves that he is still far from having expressed his full potential. NFL defenders, you have been warned!
His statistics in 2020 (4 games): 16 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
His NCAA stats (28 games): 97 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
His achievements: All-Big Ten Second Team (2019, 2020)
Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama – Sophomore)
Surely the safest bet on the defensive line, and the only inside defender who should snatch a selection in the first round at the end of the month. Main threat in the well-known defense of Alabama, Christian Barmore notably asserted himself during the National Championship Game against Ohio State where he was elected defensive MVP. Enjoying a fairly high rating, his complete profile makes more than a Scout salivate.
In a position where defending against running is paramount, this kid from Philadelphia is strong but has other strings to his bow. A true monster of power, he knows how to pierce the pocket of the opposing quarterback to hurt in a passing situation, becoming a real threat from within. Also agile compared to other prospects in his position, he will still have to work on his technique to place himself among the best in his position in the coming years. In a class that lacks density on the inside of the line, Christian Barmore is the perfect player to strengthen a trench.
His statistics in 2020 (11 games): 37 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
His NCAA stats (22 games): 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
His achievements: National Champion (2020), National Championship Defensive MVP (2020), All-SEC First Team (2019, 2020)
Azeez Ojulari (Edge, Georgia – RS Sophomore)
From a program renowned for its defense and tradition among pass-rushers, Azeez Ojulari is already in the lineage of Charles Johnson and other Justin Houston. Efficient upon his arrival on the Athens campus, he was able to assert himself as a defensive leader, he who was captain from his year freshman. Possessing an ideal physique for his position, he has already flaunted his qualities in the NCAA.
But its qualities, what are they? First of all, Ojulari has a quick first step, which allows him to pick up speed against many unresponsive offensive linemen. Powerful and aggressive, he never gives up in his duels and often manages to get the best of his vis-à-vis, in order to open the way to a quarterback that he rarely misses. Intended for a selection in the first round even if it is still difficult in which system it would be the most effective, to see it fail on the second day would be a boon for some franchises but also a certain frustration for such a talented player.
His statistics in 2020 (10 games): 31 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
His NCAA stats (23 games): 68 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 1 covered fumble
His achievements: All-SEC Second Team (2020), winner of Sugar Bowl 2020, Peach Bowl 2021 Defensive MVP
Gregory Rousseau (Edge, Miami – RS Sophomore)
Long considered the best edge-rusher of this vintage after a phenomenal 2019 season, Gregory Rousseau suffered enormously from his withdrawal from the field for the 2020 financial year. Formerly announced as a top 10 in power, the Floridian is now out of the first round by some analysts in their mock drafts. However, this player of Haitian origin has certain qualities and a more than interesting potential.
The main quality of Rousseau is his ability to reach the opposing quarterback. Pass rusher emeritus, he was the terror of the ACC in 2019 with 15.5 sacks, the second biggest total in the country behind a certain Chase Young. Having also evolved to the posts of receiver and safety in High school, his reading of the game is interesting, as are his agility and speed. If he still lacks power and his game against the run is a tone below his ability against the pass, he could become a starter solid in the years to come. Gregory Rousseau still remains one of the biggest bets of this draft, he who has only one real year of experience in the university ranks (only two games in a year freshman due to an ankle injury) and who is the perfect example of a prospect boom or bust.
His statistics in 2019 (13 games, opt-out in 2020): 54 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, 2 forced fumble, 1 covered fumble
His NCAA stats (14 games): 59 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, 2 forced fumble, 1 covered fumble
His achievements: ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year (2019), All-ACC First Team (2019), All-American Second Team (2019)
Jaelan Philips (Edge, Miami – Junior)
If Gregory Rousseau was absent from the ranks of the Hurricanes last year, Jaelan Philips did not hesitate to assert himself as the new star of the university in defense. Defector from UCLA where he played for two seasons, the Californian exploded in Florida. Unlike many players entering the draft, he already has a substantial technical background that will allow him to contribute in an NFL defense from his first game. More generally, he is surely the most mature prospect in his position.
In addition to his technique, Jaelan Philips also possesses the ideal athletic qualities to produce on the pass-rush and go find the opposing quarterback. Nevertheless, this junior is capable of contributing in all areas of the game and can also weigh against the race thanks to good tackling technique and good positioning. A hybrid profile capable of evolving in different patterns, he seems destined for a selection in the first round (before Gregory Rousseau), even if the recurring injuries that pushed him to leave UCLA could put him down during the ceremony.
His statistics in 2020 (10 games): 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 1 interception
His NCAA stats (20 games): 86 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 1 interception
His achievements: All-American Second Team (2020), All-ACC Second Team (2020)
Special Mentions: Jayson Oweh (Edge, Penn State), Joseph Ossai (DE, Texas), Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest), Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
Image in one credits: Andrew Ivins | 247 Sports