NFL News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: The top-10 edge defender prospects if everyone in college football was eligible

2TAC8EG PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 25: UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) rushes the edge during a college football game against Cal Golden Bears on November 25, 2023 at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• A 2025 prospect leads the way: Tennessee’s James Pearce Jr. would’ve been the top edge defender in this class if he was eligible.

• A 2026 prospect makes the top five: Miami (FL)’s Rueben Bain Jr. places fifth on this list after a stellar true freshman campaign.

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The NFL is unique to other sports leagues in that players cannot enter it until they are three years removed from high school. 

What if that rule changed and players could enter the draft after playing just one year of college football? Here’s how the top-10 edge prospects would shake out for the 2024 NFL Draft if everybody in college football was eligible to be selected.

(Please note: Only players eligible for the 2024, 2025 and 2026 NFL Drafts were considered. Incoming true freshmen were not eligible. Also, the 2024 rankings are how I view the prospects, not necessarily what’s reflected on PFF’s big board.)

Click below to view our other all-eligible prospect rankings

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

1. James Pearce Jr., Tennessee, 2025

Pearce became one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in the country this past season. The sophomore’s 21.3% pressure rate ranked third among all edge defenders in the country, as was his 92.4 PFF pass-rush grade. Pearce ended the season as the fourth-most valuable Power Five edge defender according to PFF’s wins above average metric

He has freakish explosiveness at 6-foot-5, 242 pounds and converts speed to power at an elite level. With the 2025 NFL Draft looking like it’ll have a weaker quarterback class, there’s a real chance that Pearce could be the No. 1 overall pick next year. 

2. Laiatu Latu, UCLA, 2024

Latu’s 96.3 grade in 2023 wasn’t just the best by any player in the country this past season, it was the highest mark PFF’s seen by a Power Five player since we began charting college football in 2014. 

Highest-graded seasons by a Power Five player since 2014:
Name Position School Season PFF Grade
Laiatu Latu EDGE UCLA 2023 96.3
Blake Corum RB Michigan 2022 96.2
Kyle Pitts TE Florida 2020 96.0
Chase Young EDGE Ohio State 2019 96.0
Quinnen Williams DI Alabama 2018 96.0

He’s one of the more NFL-ready pass-rushers in recent memory with excellent hand usage and a bevy of pass-rushing moves in his toolbox.

3. Nic Scourton, Texas A&M, 2025

Like Pearce, Scourton had a breakout true sophomore campaign. His 21.3% pass-rush win rate in 2023 ranked ninth among all edge defenders in the country while his 25 run-defense stops were tied for third among Power Five ones.

Unlike Pearce, Scourton will play for a new school in 2024 after transferring to Texas A&M from Purdue in January. The Aggies are getting a powerful edge defender at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds who flashes a nasty spin move often.

4. Jared Verse, Florida State, 2024

Verse’s game is centered around his ability to convert speed to power. While he’s not the biggest edge defender at 254 pounds, he still is a violent player who explodes off the snap. 

His 22.9% pass-rush win rate since 2022 is third among all edge defenders in the nation. 

5. Rueben Bain Jr., Miami (FL), 2026

Bain is the only rising sophomore on this list thanks to his eye-opening true freshman campaign. The former top-60 recruit posted an 89.3 pass-rush grade in 2023. That’s the second-best PFF’s seen by any Power Five true freshman since we began charting college football in 2014. Three of the other players in the top-five are currently among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions while the other is currently one of the best linebackers in college football.

Highest pass-rushing grades by a Power Five true freshman in PFF College era (Since 2014, min. 150 pass-rushing snaps):
Name School Season Pass-rush grade
Myles Garrett Texas A&M 2014 92.1
Rueben Bain Jr. Miami (FL) 2023 89.3
Harold Perkins LSU 2022 87.6
Nick Bosa Ohio State 2016 85.0
Dexter Lawrence Clemson 2016 83.1

Bain’s 18.4% pass-rush win-rate in 2023 was a top-15 mark among Power Five edge defenders while his 18 run-defense stops were tied for sixth among ACC ones. He’s a bigger edge defender at 275 pounds and already has advanced hand usage for a player his age. Expect Bain to climb this list in the coming years. 

6. Dallas Turner, Alabama, 2024

Turner has a high ceiling as a pass-rusher with his physical tools and his consistent improvement throughout his career. His PFF pass-rush grade jumped by over 15 points from his sophomore to junior campaigns, earning an 89.3 grade in that regard in 2023.

He still has work to do as a run-defender, but Turner has the traits to be an impactful player immediately.

7. Chop Robinson, Penn State, 2024

Robinson is the most athletic edge defender in the draft, testing out as a 97th percentile athlete for the position according to Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score. And while the raw sack totals might not show it, he’s also been a very productive pass-rusher. Robinson’s 21.7% pass-rush win rate is third among Power Five edge defenders since 2022.

He still wins too much off of his athleticism and will need some serious polish in order to reach his potential, but there’s no denying that his ceiling is as high as almost anyone in this class.

8. Jack Sawyer, Ohio State, 2025

Sawyer was arguably the most well-rounded edge defender in the nation this past year. He was the only edge in the FBS who earned 85-plus PFF grades both as a pass rusher and as a run defender. Among returning Power Five edge defenders, only Pearce was more valuable in 2023 according to our wins above average metric.

Sawyer’s game is centered around his power profile at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds. If the former top-five recruit can add more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal in his senior season, Sawyer can climb even further up this list.

9. Bralen Trice, Washington, 2024

While on the lighter side at 245 pounds, Trice is one of the most powerful edge defenders in the 2024 class. He goes all out on every snap, which has led to some ridiculous pass-rushing numbers over the last couple of years. Trice’s 149 pressures since 2022 are 23 more than the next-closest FBS edge defender, Laiatu Latu.

He lacks ideal length and bend for the position but is worth a top-50 pick for his power and tenacity alone.

10. Ashton Gillotte, Louisville, 2025

Gillotte is a powerful edge defender at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds who’s at his best in the run game. The junior’s 84.8 PFF 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. 


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