NFL Draft 2018 – Round by Round: Edge Rusher

Daniel Mosher looks at an edge rusher the New York Jets can target in each of the rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft

Daniel Mosher goes Round by Round to examine some potential edge rushing targets for the New York Jets in this year’s NFL Draft.

Still eight days away from draft night, so close, yet so far.

If you, like me, are struggling to stay sane through the ridiculous takes offered this time of year, fear not! We’re back with another calm and sane Round by Round to soothe you past all that Josh Rosen sliding to 12 nonsense.

Missed the last Round By Round?

Yikes, that’s embarrassing.. but don’t worry, you can still catch up on my cornerback breakdowns right here!

“One virtual certainty in the 2018 draft is that the Jets will take a quarterback at #3. What we don’t know is which of the consensus top-four QB prospects will be left. It’s looking more and more likely that the Cleveland Browns will take Wyoming’s Josh Allen #1 overall. If the NY Giants take a QB at #2 — which is less likely, but still very possible Sam Darnold is probably their guy. That would leave Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen, in which case, Mayfield is the Jets’ likely pick due to his incredible accuracy, his on-field IQ, and his underrated athleticism.

However, the choice becomes tougher if Darnold is still available. The USC product would fit the Jets’ West Coast offense extremely well, and has long been ahead of Mayfield on most prospect rankings. If he doesn’t wind up with the Browns or Giants, Mike MacCagnan may snap him up in a heartbeat. There are select sportsbooks out there that offer odds on the draft, that’s why is useful to know Sports Betting Dime as they review each betting site based on expert reviewers having detailed their personal experiences.

Factoring all of that in, the current odds on who the Jets wind up with at #3 are:
-Baker Mayfield: 3/2 (40% chance)
-Sam Darnold: 11/6 (35%)
-Josh Rosen: 9/2 (18%)
-Josh Allen: 19/1 (5%)
-FIELD: 49/1 (2%)”

Despite QB being inevitable in round one, this week, we’re gonna look at a position that has plagued the Jets since the days of Abraham, well.. John Abraham, at least. That’s right, we’re bending around the edge to give the Jets some much needed pass rush.

Finding top-flight edge talent outside the top 50 picks is quite rare. So, I’m going to do something different this time. Instead of just simply looking at the film for these mid round guys, I wanted to see if there were any real predictive metrics we can use to scope some prospects out.

During this year’s scouting combine, I recall hearing someone mention how the Three-Cone Drill has become the drill most football types believe could  most predict edge rusher success.

Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mosher (no relation) took that one step further by using both a prospect’s three-cone, and their tackles for loss per game in their most productive college season. As you can see below, he finds a near flawless hit rate when creating the following parameters:

As you can see, only Boston College’s Harold Landry fit the criteria in this year’s draft with 1.83 TFL/g and a blazing three cone time of 6.88 seconds.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find a prospect with those exact measurables outside the first two rounds, hell even the draft’s top rusher Bradley Chubb had a 7.37 three cone time (but also over 2.1 TFL/g !!). However, we can use this metric as a jumping off point to examine some later round edge rushers that the Jets could target who fit this general framework.

Round 3 – Dorance Armstrong, Kansas

3-Cone: 7.12 Seconds | 1.66 TFL/G

It was pretty difficult to slot only one prospect into this slot; with some solid options like Rutger’s Kemoko Turay, USC’s Uchenna Nwosu and Florida State’s Josh Sweat potentially available here, the Jets could be in position to grab a decent, tier 2 rusher with the 72nd pick.

I decided to go with Armstrong — Ranked #50 and #61, on the Top 100 from TOJ’s Connor Rogers and Dalbin Osorio, respectively — based off of his monster productive 2016 season before his defensive scheme was altered.

For a guy who surprisingly didn’t test too well at the Combine, Armstrong is a pretty explosive player who has experience playing both upright and with a hand in the dirt. At 6’4″ 246, that’s 13 lbs lighter than Lorenzo Mauldin was coming out of Louisville, so it’s likely he’ll stay primarily upright in the pros.

Armstrong has some balance issues that show up on here and there on the film, but his athletic ability and rushing traits would be too good to pass up in round three. I could see Jets OLB Coach Kevin Greene cutting Armstrong loose as a rusher as he refines his technique. This hopefully allows Armstrong to more easily replicate his 2016 form, moving forward.

Here he is in 2016 with an impressive rush to wrap up — perhaps his future teammate — Baker Mayfield.

A year later, Dorance would refuse to shake Baker’s hand at mid-field.

*crotch grab*

Round 4 – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma

3-Cone: 6.84 Seconds (*at Pro Day) | 1.21 TFL/G

Okoronkwo is one of my favorite prospects and personally, someone who I think deserves day two consideration. PFF has the Oklahoma rusher rated as their 5th ranked EDGE prospect, with grades of 87.9 and 87.5 over the last two seasons.

He lacks the size and length most teams look for on the edge, and he won’t be the guy to overwhelm an offensive lineman with his power. What Okoronkow does have is leverage, speed, agility and some really solid pass rush moves.

Throughout his time in Norman, Okoronkwo was a complete player, finding his way upfield against both the run and pass. He was able to notch a stop on 8% of his run snaps, and pressured the quarterback on nearly 11% of his passing snaps. He also has some solid coverage skills; watch him play the ball perfectly without even looking back, in the play below.

Okornkwo is a solid, do-it-all linebacker who has serious potential to grow at the next level as he did his entire career in Oklahoma.

Round 5 – Hercules Mata’afa, Washington St.

3-Cone: 7.24 Seconds | 2.04 TFL/G

Okay.. so this 6’1″ 254 lb man played INTERIOR defensive line and absolutely tore fools up. That’s pretty wild, but obviously unsustainable at the next level so the selection of Mata’afa is a projection of how you think you could mold him into an actual edge rusher.

But man.. if there’s someone who will put in the work, it’s this guy. Truly living up to his name, Hercules never stops grinding on every last play.

In his senior season he had 10.5 sacks and 22.5 TFLs (2.04 per game!). He consistently got better year in and year out and still managed to average 1.33 TFL/g through his 34 games at Washington State.

You could write that off and say “oh he was just quicker than any lineman” but if it really was that simple, why doesn’t every defense employ that. You can’t just scheme this production when the natural talent isn’t already there.

If the Jets were able to essentially teach the position to him while he excels on special teams, I believe a fifth round selection would be a steal for Mata’afa.

Round 6 – Joe Ostman, Central Michigan

3-Cone: 7.06 Seconds (*at Pro Day) | 1.95 TFL/G

Ostman is a smaller school guy who really overwhelmed his competition and flat out produced — over his last two seasons he put up 129 tackles, 33 TFL’s, 21 sacks and 5 fumbles. This is what you want to see from smaller school guys.

Aside from his production, Ostman can play. He’s explosive and powerful with great hand usage in his rushes. He’s a bit tight and definitely not the most agile player but you’d get yourself a sure tackler who will instantly thrive on specials.

PFF loves Ostman, ranking him as their 15th best EDGE prospect, citing his ability to gain 27 stops on 8.5% of run snaps, and 52 pressures on 12.8% of his passing snaps.

Round 7  – Trevon Young, Louisville

3-Cone: 6.99 Seconds | .92 TFL/G

The NFL Draft always offers some recurring characters, in this scene we have Trevon Young, your classic ‘great talent with an extensive injury history’. The good news about Young, though is he’s coming up on three years removed from his injury and working hard to get back.

After missing all of 2016, he came back for a full season albeit limited season in 2017. However, Young really found his form at the end of the season with a ten tackle, 3 TFL, 1 sack Bowl game performance to cap off the year.

Despite his injury, Young still managed 40 pressures on 9.3% of his passing snaps, and 26 stops on 7.6% of his running snaps, according to PFF. Obviously the medical checks throughout the offseason process will serve critical for Young and his standing on NFL draft boards.

If teams believe he can get back to his old form, they’ll be getting an all around backer who can not only rush but effectively set the edge as well.