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Fantasy Football: How 2023 NFL Draft's edge defender class stacks up using key stable metrics

Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Nick Herbig (19) reacts after a sack against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

  • Small but mighty: Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig may be undersized, but these rankings don’t discriminate, as his impressive two-year run off the edge vaults him up the charts.
  • No red flags in sight: Alabama’s Will Anderson does everything well and did so against the toughest competition on the biggest workload for this class.
  • Testing numbers aside: Army’s Andre Carter dominated in 2021, which helped his ranking here, but he does carry considerable red flags outside of just his pass-rush metrics.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

NFL draft season is well underway, and plenty of fantasy GMs are building their rookie draft boards for dynasty purposes. Utilizing all the information available will be key in building those draft boards. Looking at how each position stacks up against one another from an analytics standpoint is just one of the many tools to consider during the evaluation process. This series focuses on the key stable metrics that translate more often than not from college to the pros.

A few notes about how this series will work:

  • Rankings are based entirely on how these players performed in PFF’s stable metrics over the past two seasons.
  • Athletic ability and size are not taken into account for this process. Again, this is just one of many evaluation tools to consider.
  • This list includes the top-25 players at their respective position based on Mike Renner’s PFF big board but does not provide any weight to projected draft capital or the ranking in order to stack the class up in a nonpartisan manner.

With the edge defender class, here is how the class stacks up utilizing PFF’s stable metrics for the position over the past two seasons.

Top-10 edge defenders in PFF pass-rush grade since 2021:

Player Pass-Rush Grade Pass-Rush Attempts
Andre Carter II, Army 93.1 456
Nick Herbig, Wisconsin 92.8 400
Karl Brooks, Bowling Green 92.2 642
Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State 91.5 700
Zach Harrison, Ohio State 90.4 554
Will McDonald IV, Iowa State 90.2 533
Will Anderson Jr., Alabama 90.1 864
Yasir Abdullah, Louisville 88.5 592
Derick Hall, Auburn 87.5 659
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC 85.7 693

Despite missing games in 2022 and not being nearly as productive as his 2021 season, the latter campaign vaulted Army’s Andre Carter way up the rankings thanks to elite production and pass-rush metrics. Carter even tied with Aidan Hutchinson for the highest pass-rush grade in the country among edge defenders (93.4) in 2021. 

Nick Herbig will pop up near the top of many of these pass-rush rankings after back-to-back seasons with 91.0-plus pass-rush grades, which allowed him to total 20 sacks and 75 pressures over the past two years. Herbig being undersized is what has him pushed down the PFF big board, as he may not translate to being a full-time edge in the NFL, so being aware of which system he ends up in and how that team plans to utilize him will be key for IDP purposes.

Karl Brooks was among the most productive defensive linemen in college football in 2022, posting 69 pressures (second) and 12 sacks (tied for fourth) en route to a 92.0 pass-rush grade (fourth). He did this while playing both on the edge and the interior of the defensive line, showing great versatility, but ultimately could project more to being an interior defensive lineman in the NFL given his size (6-foot-4 and 300 pounds). 

Top-10 edge defenders in PFF pass-rush grade on true pass sets since 2021


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