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NFL Draft

Is 2022 The Year Of The Pass Rusher?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 15, 2021
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As the saying goes, football can often be boiled down to the quarterback position. If you have a quarterback, can protect your quarterback, and disrupt the opposing quarterback, your chances of winning on a week-to-week basis are likely to be pretty damn good. The NFL has seen a massive influx in each of these three phases over the last few years—there have been 17 quarterbacks selected in the first round since 2018, another 15 offensive tackles drafted in the first round over the same span of four drafts, and 17 “EDGE rushers” claimed in that same stretch of time. The marquee positions in football have been dominating the prime real estate at the top of the draft order in recent years. 

The 2022 class is strongest in the phase of that saying that adheres to the defensive side of the football. When TDN drops their updated rankings of the top 100 prospects in college football with next Monday’s updated TDN100, you’ll find only a modest selection of quarterbacks and offensive tackles at the top of the charts. As a matter of fact, just one quarterback carries a top-20 ranking and just one offensive tackle calls a spot in the top 30 home. 

But the pass rushers? 

Oh, goodness. The pass-rushing crop of 2022 is absolutely silly, with an embarrassment of riches that should allow plenty of teams walking away from next spring’s event feeling as though they have improved their ability to disrupt and heat up the opposing passer. You know most of the usual suspects by now: Kayvon Thibodeaux. Aidan Hutchinson. George Karlaftis. 

The updated TDN100 features not just those three, but a whopping additional 16(!!!) EDGE rushers eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft. Another five EDGE rushers received additional votes among the polling of our staff but did not make the final cut. And most impressively, nearly all of them are moving up the rankings. Thibodeaux, Hutchinson, and Karlaftis all moved up from their original positions in the first iteration of TDN100. And names like Adam Anderson, Kingsley Enagbare, and Nolan Smith made big jumps of nearly 20 spots or more apiece. Six EDGE rushers who weren’t voted into the first version of TDN100 are making their respective debuts in our update this month, highlighted by Ohio State’s Zach Harrison, Florida’s Zachary Carter, and Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie. 

Harrison has always been traitsy—he’s a former 5-star recruit but he’s now looking to fulfill some more of that promise. Carter has equaled his career-high in sacks in just six games this season and offers some strong inside/outside versatility at 285 pounds. Ebiketie couldn’t be more different as a player; he’s now with the Penn State Nittany Lions program and showcasing himself at a much higher level of competition than he previously had the chance to as a member of the Temple Owls. 

In all, this is an exciting crop of rushers who offer a little bit of everything for everyone. Speed rushers like Nik Bonitto and Ebiketie are sure to move the needle for penetration fronts. Traditional four-man rush schemes will love Hutchinson, Karlaftis, Enagbare, and the likes of Jeffery Gunter. Those in need of rush linebackers and more wide-angled rushers will perk up at the thought of Drake Jackson, Myjai Sanders, Adam Anderson, and Jermaine Johnson. There’s so much versatility among this group, which makes it an absolute treat to overview and try to project scheme-specific landing spots for each. 

It has the potential makings of a total free-for-all come next spring, in which different team criteria will have different players stacked all over the board. Given the continued focus on disrupting the quarterback, you can be sure that a bunch of the previously mentioned names will not need to wait long at the end of April to hear their names called to find an NFL home.

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