With the number of high-powered offenses in the NFL in recent years, pass rushers have become more vital than ever, especially with the mobility of modern quarterbacks. We take a look at the top prospects in the 2022 edge class below:
Oregon 6’5 258
- Consensus top 5 pick for 2022 NFL draft
- 2021 production was 35 tackles, 12 TFL, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
- Bull rush is sublime – creates significant pressure on the QB. Able to overpower sizeable tackles. The strength in his arms and upper body is crazy, it pushes guys backwards and out of balance a high percentage of the time
- Ability to cut at speed to move inside is dangerous
- Explosive first step
- Lethal combination of speed and power
- Swim move works effectively at speed
- Bends and dips shoulder under tackles outstretched arms or moves a tackles arms upwards and off him to allow him to continue on towards his QB target in the passing game
- Ability to disengage blocks, strong combination of power / reach / length to get to a runner on an inside rush
- Keeps head up when engaging with a lineman, allowing him to identify the play and then make a successful tackle if they come his way. Elite vision and intelligence
- Pushes an opponent up vertically using his length, then with opponent off balance or fully extended, he can locate the rusher and dislodge blocker easily
- Can leverage, re-anchor and then explode back off his other foot to change the direction of his force towards the football
- Explosive and can be thru the line of scrimmage in two steps when not correctly blocked, creating havoc on a snap. On a 4th and 1 play, Thibodeaux had tackled the running back before he had taken the hand off and made his first step towards the LOS!
- He creates pressure well, even when not reaching the QB he still impacts a play. Works powerfully on the inside, even when against 2 men and being held. 4th quarter Sack against California was achieved by explosive speed and reaction, he moved before any of his other defenders or even any of the linemen, literally as the centre snapped the football. He had effectively beaten the left tackle within 2 footsteps as he had ensured that the tackle was off balance and had no recovery, bend was superb – Thibodeaux maintained balance and exploded off his two planted feet towards the QB, strong two arm wrap tackle ensured that the QB had nowhere to go.
- He keeps his hands up nicely to attempt to bat the football down. Was caught offside in 2nd quarter. Didn’t pick up a pass when in coverage, Kyle Phillips was open in the zone about 5 steps away from Thibodeaux in the slot. Sack created from the edge as the 2nd quarter ended. Don’t let a tight end try and block this guy! 3rd quarter, powered himself underneath the arms of the tackle, great bend to get to his target.
- Works backwards when not rushing (particularly centrally), awareness of where the first down marker is and where he can help make a material difference on the play
- On a rushing play, he holds a rusher and uses a suplex type move to keep the guy short of the line of gain. It reminded me of Joe Hayden play in the Titans – Steelers game last year.
- Was ejected for targeting (helmet-to-helmet hit) against Stanford for a high hit on QB Tanner McKee late in the fourth quarter. From a review of the play, you can see that he was attempting to play the football as the QB was releasing it, Thibodeaux had both arms outreached but had launched off one foot, so was slightly off balance. The other edge rusher for Oregon was hitting the QB at the same time from the other side after winning his rep too. Overall I feel this was a harsh call on our prospect here. There is some debate about the overall refereeing in the game.
- Missed 2.5 games due to an ankle sprain; potential injury concerns overall.
Michigan 6’6 265
- 2021 production – 85 solo tackles, 27.5 TFL, 14 sacks. School record sack leader at the big house.
- Uses height well, long armed
- Awareness of the play – where he should aim to be. Keeps head up similar to Thibodeaux allowing vision towards target.
- Quick feet, uses foot movement and drive/motor to disengage blockers. Needs to work around on the outside to make a play, less convincing on the inside but can get opportunities when using dancing feet to move opponents balance to wrong place.
- A tape study of the Ohio State showed a 3rd and Goal sack against Ohio State in the 1st quarter, got underneath the tackle. When in the backfield, lacks elite pursuit speed to be able to close on a QB. Awareness / head up ability allowed him to make tackles in the run game. 2nd sack was due to CJ Stroud stepping up into a collapsing pocket and trying to escape (actually credit for me goes to David Ojabo who was very noticeable at times on the Hutchinson tape). His 3rd sack was a lot more convincing. 3rd quarter, makes his man lose balance, big inside move on a previous play, then wins this one outside with two quick foot movements, doesn’t run too far so bend is better in this instance, change of feet/momentum straight towards QB who was in a tight pocket. Caused consistent pressure are the game went on, seemed to improve as the game progressed.
- Pass rush moves – spin, bull rush, swim move actually very effective (on the inside), pull/push. Lateral feet movement is perhaps his best effort, attempts ‘bat downs’ consistently when passes are in the air near him but was late on the potential interception when Henderson (RB Ohio State) scored in the 4th quarter.
- Lacks elite speed / pursuit although short to medium burst when rushing is good.
- Supposedly, Hutchinson has a 4.6-second 40, a mid-30-inch vertical, and a three-cone time in the mid-6-second range.
- Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer (6’4 325 OT) kept him tied up in the orange bowl (0 sacks, 3 tackles, 1 for loss). Hutchinsons lack of pursuit speed really showed here in the 2nd quarter, really nice inside move but simply couldn’t catch the QB. QB didn’t just gain a first down on the rush that occurred but ended up gaining a total of about 23 yards on the play.
- I’m seeing the hype here but I’m not buying it. There is some upside, but I’m questioning the value here personally. I think Hutchinson benefitted from Ojabo on the opposite side of the line.
Michigan 6’5 250
- This guy will take the ball away from you. He makes strip sacks a specialty. He constantly targets his opponents arms or the ball. Michigan State rivalry game – strip sack in the 4th quarter.
- Credit should be given to Ojabo for creating Hutchinsons 2nd sack vs Ohio State. Lovely sack in the 4th quarter vs Ohio State. Spin move was used the play before, nice angle on the left tackle, beat him on the outside combination of speed and power, good bend and then explosive reach to get the sack. Almost got another sack the next play but QB was alive to the danger. Speed off the edge looked really exciting.
- Limited college career – only a junior, six games as a sophomore, became a starter in 2021.
- Lovely spin move generated a sack vs Washington and a sack against Indiana. On the Indiana sack, the ball came out and Michigan recovered it.
- Good motor and determination against Nebraska working outside then inside for a sack
- Run game – against 10-2 Iowa he was held up by the right tackle. Kept his vision towards where he expected the ball to be, disengaged the blocker and made the tackle for loss
- This guys ceiling is DPOY / DROY
- Elite instinct
- One potential question mark is over his explosiveness and specifically his reaction time, he looked slow on some of the Hutchinson tapes
- Disappointing, and perhaps the biggest hit to hit draft stock in recent days, Ojabo suffered a torn achilles in his Michigan pro day when working on his pass rushing drills in front of NFL coaches. This is expected to keep him out for a period of at approximately 6 months. Will he be able to secure a high draft pick with this new injury?
These three are just a handful of the top-end edge rush talent available in this year’s draft. We can’t forget about high upside players like Travon Walker from Georgia, George Karlaftis from Purdue, Jermaine Johnson from Florida State, and Sam Williams from Ole Miss.
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