clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Seahawks 2022 NFL Draft Primer: EDGE Defenders

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is a strong draft for EDGE rushers. Two of the first 5 players off the board are expected to be EDGEs (Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux) and more than a dozen EDGE rushers could/should come off the board in the first two rounds.

Will the Seahawks use their 2nd-round pick on an EDGE rusher? Time will tell. But they should have several intriguing prospects to choose from should they decide to do so.

As with my previous Draft Primers (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DT), the players we’re looking at today are pulled from Pro Football Focus’ 2022 NFL Draft Guide, v2.

The 14 EDGE rushers featured in that guide, listed alphabetically, are:

  • Nik Bonitto (Oklahoma)
  • Zachary Carter (Florida)
  • Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State)
  • Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina)
  • Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
  • Drake Jackson (USC)
  • Jermaine Johnson (Florida State)
  • George Karlaftis (Purdue)
  • DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M)
  • David Ojabo (Michigan)
  • Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati)
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
  • Cameron Thomas (San Diego State)
  • Travon Walker (Georgia)

Alright, let’s get after it ...


Nik Bonito

Position Ranking: 11 | Overall Ranking: 50 | Projection: Third Round | Comp: Haason Reddick

2021 Stat Line: 8 sacks + 10 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Bonitto wins not only with a high-end get-off but also with agility and body control to be a tackle’s worst nightmare in space. He’s a difficult dude to mirror.”

“Impressive array of moves at his disposal. Has the speed-rusher handbook.”

“Such a quick processor. Always playing off what the tackle does with his moves.”

FTR’s take: Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux get most of the attention, but Nik Bonitto is the silent assassin in this year’s draft. Eight of the 14 EDGE rushers we’re looking at today had a pass rush win rate over 20% in 2021, including Thibodeaux (23.1%) and Hutchinson (24.8%). Bonitto smoked ‘em both (and everyone else) with a pass rush win rate of twenty-eight point nine percent. Some question whether he will be an every-down player in the NFL but, on passing downs, there’s no one in this year’s class that puts pressure on the quarterback more consistently than Bonitto.


Zachary Carter

Position Ranking: 16 | Overall Ranking: 101 | Projection: Fourth Round | Comp: Kingsley Keke

2021 Stat Line: 7 sacks + 6 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Carter wins with the shock he can create on contact. This is the same man who threw 350-pound tackle Evan Neal to the ground in 2021. He can get off blocks at an NFL level.”

But ...

“He’s not going to impact the passer on the outside and will have issues with doubles inside. He’ll have to gain a little mass and be a 3-tech in the NFL”

FTR’s take: PFF classifies Carter as a “Tweener” and they’re not alone in that assessment. In addition to his 7 sacks, Carter had 1 quarterback hit and 23 hurries. His 31 total pressures were the second fewest of the EDGEs we’re looking at today. Only Drake Jackson had fewer pressures (28) and Carter had almost twice as many pass-rush snaps as Jackson (347 vs. 182). I hope I’m wrong, but my gut says that even as a 4th-round pick, Carter is likely to disappoint whoever drafts him.


Arnold Ebiketie

Position Ranking: 5 | Overall Ranking: 29 | Projection: Second Round | Comp: Charles Harris

2021 Stat Line: 8 sacks + 12 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Ebiketie wins with savvy and hand usage. The way he plays the edge position just looks like the way a veteran in the league plays. From that standpoint, the learning curve for him may not be too steep.”

“He can start in the league tomorrow with how technically proficient he is. He better be, though, considering his age.”

FTR’s take: Ebiketie had a very solid season in 2021. But it was his first full season in the starting line-up for Penn State. There’s nothing wrong with being a late bloomer, but it does make one wonder if 2021 was an illusion or a sign of things to come. My money would be on the latter, but I would hate use a high(ish) R2 selection on him and be wrong. Especially when there are likely to be “better bets” available.


Kingsley Enagbare

Position Ranking: 10 | Overall Ranking: 44 | Projection: Second Round | Comp: Olivier Vernon

2021 Stat Line: 4 sacks + 2 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Ideal length for the edge. Long arms can match or exceed most tackles he’ll face.”

“very productive in the SEC. Two years of elite pass-rushing grades.”

“It’s encouraging Enagbare graded so well despite any sort of refinement to his game, but will that refinement ever come is the question.”

FTR’s take: Kingley Enagbare ended the 2021 season behind only Nik Bonitto for pass-rush win rate (out of this group of EDGEs), finishing a full point ahead of Aidan Hutchinson and 2.7 points ahead of Kayvon Thibodeaux. He struggles against the run though and isn’t a great tackler either. If Seattle wants a situational player (and Nik Bonitto is off the board) then Enagbare would make sense. If Seattle wants more than that though ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Aidan Hutchinson

Position Ranking: 1 | Overall Ranking: 1 | Projection: Top-5 | Comp: Kyle Vanden Bosch

2021 Stat Line: 14 sacks + 10 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Stupid-good agility for a man his size. His inside counters are deadly.”

“Sequences one move into another into another. He’s never “done” as a pass-rusher.”

“He’ll be a quality starter from Day 1.”

FTR’s take: He’s number 1 (or 2) on most draft boards for a reason. ‘Nuf said.


Drake Jackson

Position Ranking: 6 | Overall Ranking: 30 | Projection: Second Round | Comp: Twitchier Shilique Calhoun

2021 Stat Line: 6 sacks + 4 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Jackson has elite bend for an edge rusher. He can duck low under opposing tackles and avoid contact altogether. That’s a necessary trait possessed by the elite at the position.”

“Jackson is young and only scratching the surface of what his tools could make him. He needs to go somewhere willing to spend a pick while developing him.”

FTR’s take: It’s easy to look at Jackson’s numbers and say, “He only had 6 sacks.” But let’s put that into context. Jackson had 6 sacks on 182 pass rush snaps. That comes out to 1 sack for every 30.3 pass rush snaps. Kayvon Thibodeaux got home once every 32.2 pass rush snaps; Aidan Hutchinson got home once every 30.6. I am not saying that Jackson is as good as the top 2 EDGE rushers in this year’s draft, but I am saying that he’s not too far back. Since Seattle has no shot at getting Hutchinson or Thibodeaux, focusing on the 20-year-old Drake Jackson might be the way to go.


Jermaine Johnson

Position Ranking: 9 | Overall Ranking: 42 | Projection: Third Round | Comp: Daeshon Hall

2021 Stat Line: 14 sacks + 9 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Johnson wins with length and leverage. He is the best pure edge-setter in the run game in the class. As a pass rusher, he already has a number of moves, including a deadly Euro-step hesitation to the outside.”

“Johnson is a three-down defensive end who profiles best in the run game. Put him one on one with tight ends, and he’ll shut down his side of the line.”

FTR’s take: What’s not to like? Johnson tied Aidan Hutchinson with 14 sacks and did so on slightly less pass rush snaps (415 vs. 429). PFF graded him at 8/10 for Strength, Hand Usage, and Bend. And he’s an iron man, averaging 61 snaps a game last year.

PFF projects him as a third-round pick; I think they’re crazy. I will be surprised if he’s still on the board when the Seahawks make their first pick.


George Karlaftis

Position Ranking: 3 | Overall Ranking: 7 | Projection: First Round | Comp: Courtney Upshaw

2021 Stat Line: 5 sacks + 9 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Karlaftis’ power is such an easy projection to the NFL. You don’t see a lot of true juniors with lower-body strength like his.”

“Karlaftis wins by bringing it snap after snap. He doesn’t have to come off the field, he can line up anywhere along the defensive line and he can still consistently make an impact.”

FTR’s take: Someone needs to teach Karlaftis about K.I.S.S. Between his strength and his hand usage, Karlaftis can go up against any lineman in the league. But sometimes he tries to do too much and ends up woefully short. That is certainly fixable, but it won’t be the Seahawks fixing it as Karlaftis will be long gone by the time Seattle picks.


DeMarvin Leal

Position Ranking: 3 | Overall Ranking: 49 | Projection: Second Round | Comp: More Explosive Jihad Ward

2021 Stat Line: 9 sacks + 8 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“The fact Leal is even capable of mainly playing edge at 290 pounds should tell you the kind of movement skills he has for a man his size. Combine that with some heavy hands, and that’s where he wins.”

But ...

“Leal has top-10 tools with mid-round tape. That’s a tough combination to square.”

FTR’s take: That second PFF take says it all for me. As tempting as it might be if he’s on the board when Seattle goes on the clock, I think they should pass on Leal and take someone else. With no R1, the Seahawks can’t afford to miss with their R2.


David Ojabo

Position Ranking: 4 | Overall Ranking: 22 | Projection: First Round | Comp: Dion Jordan

2021 Stat Line: 11 sacks + 3 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Ojabo wins with twitchiness throughout his frame. He can fire off the line and work his pass-rushing moves with the kind of suddenness opposing tackles hate. He has a surprising number of moves for a guy who hasn’t played a ton of ball.”

“Ojabo is the NFL equivalent of an NBA lottery pick with how impressive his traits are but also how little football he’s played.”

FTR’s take: There is a BIG PART OF ME that wonders if Ojabo is as good as he looked in 2021 or if he was the beneficiary of Michigan’s opposition having to focus on Aidan Hutchinson. Since Seattle doesn’t have a first-round pick, I don’t need to burn too many brain cells trying to figure out the answer.


Myjai Sanders

Position Ranking: 12 | Overall Ranking: 52 | Projection: Third Round | Comp: Ben Banogu

2021 Stat Line: 5 sacks + 7 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Some of the best linear explosion in the class. NFL-caliber get-off.”

“Sanders is a pure edge. His speed can be used as a weapon on stunts and slants from Day 1, depending on the scheme. With a little refinement in his bull rush, he can start to be a pocket pusher.”

FTR’s take: On paper, Sanders looks great. And for a team like the Seahawks, in desperate need of pass-rush help, it will be easy to overlook the red flags. One such flag is the fact that he’s missed over 25% of his tackles the last 2 seasons; another is the fact that he finishes a lot of plays on the ground (and not in a good way). Is he worth a Day Two pick? Probably. But only if it’s the 3rd round; using an R2 on Sanders is a reach.


Kayvon Thibodeaux

Position Ranking: 2 | Overall Ranking: 2 | Projection: Top-5 | Comp: Rawer Myles Garrett

2021 Stat Line: 9 sacks + 10 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Unreal first step. Players who get off that fast are usually 20 pounds lighter.”

“Thibodeaux wins with the classic pass-rushing trinity of explosiveness, length and bend. There’s no one better in that regard in the draft class — and not too many better in the NFL.“

FTR’s take: Thibodeaux is the Sundance Kid to Aidan Hutchinson’s Butch Cassidy and, like Hutchinson, Thibodeaux will be long gone before Seattle goes on the clock. Heck, both will probably be gone before the Texans get on the clock.

As they should be.


Cameron Thomas

Position Ranking: 7 | Overall Ranking: 40 | Projection: Second Round | Comp: Carl Nassib

2021 Stat Line: 12 sacks + 15 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Thomas’s high-swipe and swim moves are gorgeous. He has a plus first step for his size but plus-plus agility. He can make you miss in a phone booth.”

And ...

“Thomas has ideal two-gapping, 3-4 defensive end traits. He’s not a guy who can line up consistently inside but will be your interior rusher on third downs”

Bottom line: “Thomas is no product of his competition level. He’s got a unique skill set for an edge prospect.”

FTR’s take: Some will argue that it was against “lesser” competition, but in addition to his 12 sacks, Cameron Thomas also had 22 quarterback hits and 44 hurries. That means he finished the 2021 season with 78 total pressures which is 26 more than Kayvon Thibodeaux had and only 1 less than Aidan Hutchinson. And, as if that weren’t enough to earn my endorsement, Cameron Thomas is the only player on this list that had both double-digit sacks and double-digit tackles for loss in 2021.


Travon Walker

Position Ranking: 4 | Overall Ranking: 51 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round | Comp: Rashan Gary

2021 Stat Line: 5 sacks + 5 tackles for loss

PFF’s take:

“Elite linear athlete. His top speed is rare for a 275-pounder.”

“He wins by simply bringing too much force to the table. He can get his 275-pound frame moving in a hurry and then use his long arms to get to his opposition first.”

FTR’s take: PFF gave Travon Walker a 10/10 for Explosiveness. Kayvon Thibodeaux also got a 10/10; no one else on this list got higher than an 8/10. For Strength, PFF gave Walker a 9/10 - the same score they gave Aidan Hutchinson and George Karlaftis; only one other player (Jermaine Johnson) was higher than 7/10. My point? Walker’s got the raw tools to be a force in the league. Yes, he needs some work (most college players do), but he’s a super intriguing option who might still be on the board when Seattle goes on the clock.

One last quote from PFF, just to ensure that Seattle takes Travon Walker in the second round (assuming he’s still on the board when the Seahawks pick) ...

“His versatility allowed Georgia to drop him into coverage 26 times in 2021.”

See? He’ll fit right in!



Bonus Coverage

Fourteen players = 14 highlight videos + lots of stats.

Size and (approximate) age:

__________

Rankings and projections:

__________

PFF Grades, 2019-2021:

__________

Standard Stats:

__________

Additional statistics:

__________

PFF subjectiveness:


Highlights

Nik Bonitto

Zachary Carter

Arnold Ebiketie

Kingsley Enagbare

Aidan Hutchinson

Drake Jackson

Jermaine Johnson

George Karlaftis

DeMarvin Leal

David Ojabo

Myjai Sanders

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Cameron Thomas

Travon Walker