The work never seems to end in the NFL player evaluation world, which means front offices have already turned their attention toward the upcoming college football season in advance of the 2024 NFL Draft. With that in mind, let's continue our CBS Sports summer prospect series. We've covered the offensive side of the ball with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, and . Now we flip to the defensive side of the ball with one of its most valuable positions: edge rusher. Seven were selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the most first-round picks for any position last April.
Edge rushers selected in first round of 2023 NFL Draft
|Overall Pick||Draft Team||Player|
Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)
Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
Will McDonald IV (Iowa State)
Myles Murphy (Clemson)
Nolan Smith (Georgia)
Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State)
"It's a very deep class from what I've seen so far" former longtime Minnesota Vikings general manager and current CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman said of this year's class on August 4 on an episode of the "With the First Pick" podcast. "There are guys that are going to rise, just like they do every year. Initially, I could see five go in the first round."
Here's an in-depth look at the current top edge rushers with some pro comparisons from Spielman and CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson, plus some names who could rise through the ranks in the season to come. The edge rushers are ranked by their readiness for the NFL entering the 2023 college football season.
Honorable Mentions: Chop Robinson (Penn State)
5. Laiatu Latu (UCLA)
- Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 265 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-Pac 12; tied for fifth-most quarterback pressures (65) in FBS in 2022 with Alabama's Will Anderson Jr.; led UCLA in sacks (10.5, eighth-most in FBS and second-most in Pac-12) and tackles for loss (12.5) in 2022; 2022 college football Comeback Player of the Year co-winner (medically retired after having neck surgery and returned to football in 2022)
Rick Spielman's comp: Brian Burns (Panthers)
"His history with the neck injury is a major concern. He will be the most scrutinized player medically at next year's combine by the 32 teams because you do not want to screw around with someone's neck. I've been around too many situations where guys have had neck injuries. Those are things NFL teams will take very seriously. Where he goes is dependent on the neck. It's huge that he proved he could play a full season and his neck held up. A lot will depend on the MRIs and the specifics of his surgery. He has the talent and ability, but will he be able to pass NFL physicals when teams get their hands on him? This guy is very fluid in his hips and can set offensive linemen up with his dips and bends. He could also stand to improve against offensive tackles when defending the run."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Terrell Lewis (Bears)
"He's a high-motor guy, but his injury history can make you pause. He had a really good season last year. He's a fantastic football player. The medical stuff will have to sort itself out. He was a productive player with plenty of ability. Latu had 1.5 sacks last year against USC and [Heisman Trophy winner] Caleb Williams."
- Games to circle: at Utah (Sep. 23), at USC (Nov. 18)
- Draft range: Second or third round
Laiatu Latu's top traits -- his ability to dip and bend his hips to get lower than opposing offensive tackles to create leverage -- were on full display against Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams and USC. In the clip below, Latu gets around the edge to gain a step on the left tackle before breaking down lower to smack Williams from behind for a sack. That play encapsulates all of the nice things Latu can provide when defending the pass. However, when defending the run, he can get caught up in the wash of the play at times, failing to separate from the muck offensive linemen can create when run-blocking. If he can remain healthy and improve against the run, Latu's NFL future could be bright.
4. Bralen Trice (Washington)
- Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 274 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-Pac 12; led FBS in quarterback pressures (70) in 2022; led Washington in sacks (10.0, T-11th-most in FBS and third-most in Pac-12); 2022 Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP vs. Texas (six tackles and two sacks)
Rick Spielman's comp: Trey Hendrickson (Bengals)
"I think he has enough size and length. He has a high motor, going 100 miles an hour when defending the run or rushing the passer. I do believe he's a little stiff in his lower body. A little tight as an athlete. He needs to be more consistent using his hands, some technical things that can be cleaned up with good coaching. He does need to balance a little better. He sometimes falls down separating from offensive tackles or out in space because of his stiffness. He gives excellent effort in pursuit. He can collapse the pocket with a bull rush. He had a really quick counter move to the bull rush inside."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Matt Judon (Patriots)
"He lined up out wide on the line of scrimmage at the seven and nine technique to rev up and attack the edge off the line of scrimmage. I feel like he has some technique things to clean, but incredible effort play in and play out."
- Games to circle: at USC (Nov. 4), vs. Utah (Nov. 11)
- Draft range: First or second round
Bralen Trice is relentless. His primary pass-rush move, the bull rush, requires continuous effort and energy for all four quarters because it's essentially just putting the shoulder down and blowing through offensive linemen. Trice is very proficient at that at the college level, but he probably needs to add more moves to his repertoire in order to become more than a passing downs-only player. His constant effort allows him to finish well by turning pressures into sacks at a solid rate. If Trice can grow with his fundamentals and technique, he could climb up the draft boards in a hurry.
Washington’s Bralen Trice plays with heavy hands and can create some serious power as a pass rusher. Also plays his tail off every snap.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) July 16, 2023
Trice had 12 TFLs and nine sacks in his first season starting for the Huskies. One of the top SR edge defenders in the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/sAETNTrWDL
3. JT Tuimoloau (Ohio State)
- Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 270 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-Big Ten; only player since 2000 with multiple sacks (2.0), multiple interceptions (two), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game (did so against Penn State in 2022, where he helped force all four Penn State turnovers in 44-31 Buckeyes win)
Rick Spielman's comp: Danielle Hunter (Vikings)
Note: Spielman drafted Hunter 88th overall (third round) in the 2015 NFL Draft as the Vikings general manager.
"The one thing you can't teach that this kid has is the energy and effort that he plays with. Not only in the run game, but also in the pass game as well. You see the traits for him to be a first-round pick and for him to be a good edge rusher in the NFL. There are some technical things he can work on. He was probably more disruptive than productive. That should change this year in terms of his sacks total. It seems like he has a much bigger effect on the game than his numbers would indicate. I think he's a late-to-mid-round first-round pick right now, but he could climb up the draft boards with his length, athleticism and how hard he plays. I think he's a more fluid athlete as an edge rusher than Lukas Van Ness [the Packers' first-round edge rusher in the most recent draft]."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Bud Dupree (Falcons)
"He just turned 20 in May, so he won't be 21 until next summer. He can add more weight. I don't know if you want him to get much bigger than that."
- Games to circle: vs. Penn State (Oct. 21), at Michigan (Nov. 25)
- Draft range: First round
JT Tuimoloau is a little more dynamic than some of the other edge rushers on this list in that when he drops back into coverage, he can hold his own relatively speaking. He's instinctual when dropping back into coverage, always keeping an eye on the quarterback. As a pass rusher, his bull rush move is strong as he can push opposing tackles into their quarterbacks. Tuimoloau has room to add more moves to his pass-rush arsenal, something that will likely come as he continues to mature while playing the highest levels of football in college and the NFL.
2. Dallas Turner (Alabama)
- Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 242 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2021 Freshman All-American (247 Sports and FWAA); 2021 All-SEC Freshman Team
Rick Spielman's comp: Haason Reddick (Eagles)
"Will Anderson Jr. had a thicker lower half, but Dallas Turner is just as explosive of a pass rusher to me. This kid is maybe 15 pounds lighter, but his body will physically mature as he ages. There is no question about this kid's motor, how hard he plays, or his ability to rush the passer off the edge. He's probably a smoother athlete dropping back into coverage than Will Anderson Jr. was. For a guy that's under 250 pounds, he plays with great strength despite being a lean, wiry build."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Bruce Irvin (former Seahawk)
"He was overshadowed at times by Will Anderson Jr., but one-on-one he's a problem. He plays much bigger than his size. He won't be 21 until after the upcoming college football season, and what you notice about him is his motor. Also how he wins at the point of attack."
- Games to circle: Alabama practice
- Draft range: First round, top 15 picks (Ryan Wilson)
A player like Dallas Turner probably wouldn't have been a projected first-round pick 15 years ago, but with the way football has shifted to becoming more of a pass-friendly game at all levels over the years, there's plenty of space for a player with his frame to dominate. The clip below against LSU in which he runs across the entire line of scrimmage to tackle LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is so impressive. The speed and hustle he exhibits while essentially moving sideline to sideline is phenomenal. As the 20-year-old continues to fill out his body with time, Turner could reach an even higher ceiling in the NFL.
1. Jared Verse (Florida State)
- Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 260 pounds
- Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 first-team All-ACC; four games with at least 2.5 tackles for loss in 2022 (tied for the most among Power 5 players along with USC's Tuli Tuipulotu)
Rick Spielman's comp: Everson Griffen (former Viking)
Note: Spielman drafted Griffen 100th overall (fourth round) in the 2010 NFL Draft as the Vikings general manager.
"When you put on that first game of the season against LSU, and you're watching it, you're like, 'Who the heck is this guy and where did he come from?' He had a dominant game against LSU in that opener [three tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss], and I had a chance to see him play live against the Miami Hurricanes down in Miami last year. This is a long, linear athlete. Very explosive. I thought he played bigger and stronger than his size. He has a great feel as an edge pass rusher. He's very athletic with his combination moves. When I look at him, I thought he was a smoother athlete than when Jermaine Johnson II came out of Florida State last year. I thought he would have been a potential top 10 pick last year if he had come out. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a top 10 pick if he plays like he did in that LSU game all year."
Ryan Wilson's comp: Jerry Hughes (Texans)
"He was absolutely dominant last year. Slowed a little bit by a knee injury, but toward the end of the season when he got healthier, he showed that twitch and the explosiveness. Had he come out last year, there would've been eight edge rushers go in the first round."
- Games to circle: at Clemson (Sep. 23), vs. Miami (Nov. 11)
- Draft range: First round, top 10 picks (Ryan Wilson)
Jared Verse is the prototype for the modern edge defender: slender, quick, and full of spring-loaded athleticism. Most of his pass-rush wins last season came thanks to his electrifying speed and fast-twitch movements, but he also does nice work with his hands to free himself from opposing offensive tackles. If Verse can break free from an offensive lineman, he is going to finish the play by making contact with the quarterback or ball-carrier. It's easy to see why he enters the 2023 college football season as the top edge rusher prospect.
The consensus No. 1 EDGE for the 2024 NFL draft is Florida State's Jared Verse, and it's pretty easy to see why.— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 14, 2023
Explosive, agile, and one of the best collection of high-end plays in the nation.
Verse has only played 412 snaps at the FBS level pic.twitter.com/07chbvXHI7