Draft season is in full swing! We are almost a week after the NFL Scouting Combine, Pro Days are starting up, and there are 46 days until the draft.
This EDGE class is a decent class: there is potential at the top and in the middle. I’ve heard several draft analysts say that there are hits in Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), because teams stop looking at measurables and combine times and start looking for football players. Here are some football players near the bottom of the EDGE class that may be taken in Day 3 and have potential to be contributors in the NFL.
Kylie Fitts, Utah
6’4, 263 lbs, 33 inch arms
40: 4.69 | 31 reps of 225 | 3 Cone: 6.88 | 20 YD Shuttle: 4.19
2015: 12 games, 41 tackles, 8 TFLs, 7 sacks, 4 FFs
2016: 2 games, 4 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
2017: 8 games, 23 tackles, 3 TFLs, 3 sacks
Kylie Fitts signed with UCLA out of high school. After playing there for a year, he decided to transfer to Utah where he redshirted during his transfer year. In 2015, he broke out and started 12 games, becoming an important piece in Utah’s front seven. In 2016, Fitts was marred by injury and only appeared in 2 games. Fitts was still hindered by injuries in 2017 but still started in 8 games.
Fitts plays with good power and has a good burst off the line. Fitts beats linemen with a speed dip + rip, but he also uses his hands to punch and rip. Fitts flashes his power when he extends and throws around OL.
While Fitts doesn’t dominate the run game, he is effective because he can anchor and lock out the tackle, and he can chase in space. Fitts is a versatile defender: he can rush in a 2-point and 3-point stance, he can rush inside and outside, and he can also drop into coverage. Fitts’s combine showing was good and passing combine medicals is a good sign. He has starter potential but must stay healthy to stay on a roster.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
6’1, 242 lbs
40: 4.77 | 27 reps of 225 | 38 inch vertical jump
2016: 12 games, 71 tackles, 12 TFLs, 9 sacks, 2 FFs
2017: 14 games, 75 tackles, 17 TFLs, 8 sacks, 3 FFs
If you’ve been around football long enough, you may have heard football players describe themselves as “dogs” or “head hunters”. Players say this because they have a mentality that they will not be the prey on the field, they will be the predator. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (we’ll call him Big O) has that exact mentality on the field.
Big O is such a fun watch. Oklahoma used him in coverage and also used him as an off-ball linebacker at times. But when it came time to rush the passer, they knew that Big O needs to rush.
Big O has very quick feet and he has myriad pass rush moves that he sets up so well. He will dip-and-rip outside and the next play he will rush outside and jab step back inside. Big O absolutely loves inside moves.
And here’s a play that is just unfair for this receiver.
Big O’s body type and mindset reminds me of James Harrison. They both lack length and don’t have all of the measurables that teams look for, but make up for it with explosiveness, power, excellent pass rush moves, and that “it” factor. While Big O doesn’t play with as much strength as Harrison does, they are both all over the field and can do multiple things for a defense. Big O should contribute right away as a pass rusher in the NFL.
Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
6’4, 270 lbs
2016: 13 games, 50 tackles, 17 TFLs, 10.5 sacks, 2 FFs
2017: 11 games, 43 tackles, 17 TFLs, 7 sacks, 2 FFs
Duke Ejiofor is one of the first EDGE prospects I watched this season. I forget how I stumbled upon him but I’m glad I did. One of the first things I value for all defensive linemen is hands: are their hands effective, can they grab and throw OL, do they have multiple moves with their hands, etc.? Ejiofor has strong hands that he has multiple moves for. Also, his long arms help him extend and lock out OL while playing the run and the pass.
What Ejiofor lacks in explosiveness and athleticism, he makes up for with size, strength, length, and hands. Ejiofor also knows himself very well and will never put himself in a bad position. Ejiofor might not rack up a lot of stats but he will be disruptive wherever he is on the line.
When I read Bleacher Report’s top EDGE’s in the NFL as part of their NFL 1000 series, the one common thing they all had is decent hand usage. Hand usage is what keeps some EDGE rushers in the league although they are not the best athletes. Ejiofor must keep a good motor when playing and he must work to become a more fluid athlete. As long as he keeps good hands and causes disruption, he can continue to develop as a pass rusher and hopefully be an every down player.
Ade Aruna, Tulane
6’6, 262 lbs, 34 inch arms
40: 4.60 | 18 reps of 225 | 38.5 inch vertical jump
2015: 11 games, 32 tackles, 5 TFLS, 3 sacks, 1 FF
2016: 12 games, 43 tackles, 10 TFLs, 5 sacks, 1 FF
2017: 10 games, 25 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks
Ade Aruna is an athletic marvel. The Nigerian athlete came to the USA to play basketball and ended up playing one year of high school football; his only scholarship offer was to Tulane and he took it.
Aruna has all of the athletic ability in the world to dominate in the NFL but he is very raw. He has a rip move that he shows on film but along with throwing people around, that’s about all the moves he has.
Throwing people around does help him out in the run game; he is able to lock out and then stop ball carriers in their path. He also has a great motor and pursues every play like it’s his last. Coaches love a player with non-stop effort.
Aruna is going to need a dedicated coaching staff to get him to be on the field. Where he can contribute right away is on special teams. Contributing on special teams will help him hold on to a roster spot long enough to get coached up to be a good EDGE rusher. He has the most potential out of everyone on this list, but he also has the longest road ahead. The fact that he’s only played 5 years of football will intrigue coaches into taking a chance on him in the late rounds. While coaches look for football players late, they also look for the raw, athletic, developmental talent. If Aruna pans out, he’ll be the next “Nigerian Nightmare”.