10 edge defenders to know ahead of the 2025 NFL Draft

2TBFDDN KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman James Pearce Jr. (27) prepares to rush during a college football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs on November 18, 2023, at Neyland Stadium, in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Tennessee’s James Pearce Jr.: The rising junior is one of the top candidates to be the first pick in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Texas A&M’s Nic Scourton: The former Purdue Boilermaker was one of the biggest transfers this offseason and could be a top-15 pick.

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

If a quarterback isn’t selected with the first pick in the NFL Draft, there’s a good chance that it’ll be someone whose job is chasing after them. The last three non-quarterbacks who were taken with the No. 1 overall pick were all edge defenders: Travon Walker, Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

With the 2025 class looking like it’ll feature a weaker quarterback class, there’s a chance another edge could join that group. Here are the 10 edge defenders to know as we head into summer scouting for the 2025 NFL Draft.

(Please note: This isn’t necessarily a ranking of the top-10 prospects, rather a watch list.)

Check out our other 2025 NFL Draft summer watch list positional lists

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL | DI

James Pearce Jr., Tennessee

Pearce is a freak athlete at 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds. On his pick-six against Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, he hit a top speed of 23 miles per hour according to our player-tracking data. That was among the 15 fastest top speeds in the country, regardless of position. 

Pearce uses that athleticism to dominate as a pass-rusher, placing third in both pressure rate (21.3%) and pass-rush grade (92.3) among FBS edge defenders. The scariest part about those numbers is that he was winning almost exclusively off of his explosiveness and ability to convert speed to power. If Pearce can develop some more moves/counters and get stronger as a run-defender, he can be nearly unblockable. He’s one of the top candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick next April.

Nic Scourton, Texas A&M

Scourton broke out in a major way during his sophomore year at Purdue. He was ninth among FBS edge defenders with a 21.3% pass-rush win rate and placed third among Power Five ones with 25 run-defense stops. 

Scourton is a powerful player at 260 pounds who loves showing off his nasty spin move.

Abdul Carter, Penn State

A few years ago, Penn State’s defense featured a superstar in Micah Parsons. While he excelled as an off-ball linebacker in the Nittany Lions’ defense, it stands to reason that Penn State misplayed him in that role since he became one of the best edge defenders in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Nittany Lions clearly weren’t going to make that same mistake twice with the next player to wear the legendary No. 11 for their defense. After spending his first two years at linebacker, Carter is moving to edge for this upcoming season. His 24.1% pass-rush win rate in 2023 led all FBS linebackers with at least 100 pass-rushing snaps and would’ve placed him third among edge defenders. Like Parsons, Carter has freakish movement ability at 250 pounds which should translate immediately along the edge.

Jack Sawyer, Ohio State

Sawyer was the most well-rounded edge defender in college football last season. He was the only FBS edge who posted 85-plus grades both as a pass-rusher and run-defender. 

The former top-five recruit is a stellar athlete as well. Sawyer placed above the 90th percentile in the past two seasons in PFF’s Game Athleticism Score. He’s a powerful edge at 265 pounds who will need to add some more pass-rushing moves to take his game to the next level.

JT Tuimoloau, Ohio State

Like his teammate, Sawyer, Tuimoloau was a top-five recruit in the 2021 class and decided to return for his senior campaign despite being a projected Day 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Tuimoloau has all of the tools to be a dominant player but has been inconsistent. He earned 70-plus game grades four times in 2023 while falling short of that mark in the other nine contests.

Ashton Gillotte, Louisville

Gillotte is a powerful edge defender at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds who’s at his best in the run game. The junior’s 84.8 run-defense grade this past season was eighth among all edges in the country. 

He’s no slouch as a pass rusher either, placing 10th among FBS edge defenders with 58 pressures in 2023. Gillotte is a quick player for someone his size and can win from any alignment on the defensive line. He also scored in the 98th percentile or higher in PFF’s GAS metric in each of the last two seasons.

Princely Umanmielen, Ole Miss

This past season at Florida, Umanmielen was fourth among Power Five edge defenders with a 22.2% pass-rush win rate. Since 2022, his 42 run-defense stops are tied for second among that same group.

He has an excellent understanding of when to use counter moves and has great bend at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds.

Mykel Williams, Georgia

Williams shares many similarities to another former Georgia Bulldog, 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. Like Walker, he’s a powerful player at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds who uses his strength most as a run-defender. His 82.0 run-defense grade since 2022 is fifth among returning Power Five edges. 

Also like Walker, Williams is still developing as a pass-rusher. He posted a 73.3 grade in that regard last year and didn’t explode off the snap as much as you’d expect for a former top-10 recruit. He most often lined up on the inside shoulder of the tackle in 2023, so it’s possible he could improve now that he’s moving to outside linebacker and will rush off the edge.

Patrick Payton, Florida State

Payton started opposite of Jared Verse, who was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the first round a month ago. While Verse’s game is centered around his power profile at 260 pounds, Payton’s more about finesse at 239 pounds.

He has long arms at 6-foot-5 which help him make plays in the run-game and in batting passes. His 10 tackles for loss/no-gain were tied for ninth among Power Five edges last year while his 10 batted passes were three more than any other edge in the country. Adding strength will be key in taking the next step in his development.

Kaimon Rucker, North Carolina

No returning Power Five edge defender has been more valuable than Rucker over the last two seasons according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The rising senior leads that same group in pressures (96) in that span while his 42 run-defense stops are tied for second among all Power Five edges, returning or not.

While Rucker doesn’t have great length at just 6-foot-2, he possesses a stocky build at 265 pounds. He’s a relentless player with great explosiveness, bend and hand-usage.

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