• From FCS star to FBS star to top draft prospect: Florida State's Jared Verse has a unique football journey and now enters 2023 as the top edge rusher prospect.
• Laiatu Latu dominating after medically retiring: A neck injury nearly ended the now-UCLA edge rusher's football career, but he has returned and is winning reps with ease.
• College football blue bloods keep producing edge rushers: Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama all feature here with top-eight 2024 edge rusher prospects.
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
The potential 2024 NFL Draft edge defender class is already exciting to watch. Florida State’s Jared Verse could have been a top pick last year, while Chop Robinson, Dallas Turner and J.T. Tuimoloau could flood the first round this year.
Here are our pre-season top eight 2024 NFL Draft edge defender prospects.
More Early 2024 Draft Rankings
1. JARED VERSE, FLORIDA STATE
Verse takes the top spot, which makes sense since he would’ve been a top-10 pick if he had decided to enter the 2023 NFL Draft.
Verse didn’t have a single FBS offer coming out of high school. He committed to Albany and worked to become an FCS All-American before transferring to Florida State in 2022. Last season, he showed the college football world he was not only ready to play with top-level competition but dominate it.
He’s a very powerful player with an explosive first step, violent movements and a good understanding of pass-rush plans, as evidenced by his 23.4% pass-rush win rate. Despite only one year of FBS ball, his pass-rush acumen is well beyond his years of experience. He has the power, speed and violence combination every team covets off the edge.
2. LAIATU LATU, UCLA
Latu was one of my favorite film watches of the entire summer scouting exercise, and you gain an even greater appreciation for him as a prospect when you learn he almost didn’t get to this point.
Latu started his career at Washington but suffered a neck injury going into his sophomore year that forced him to medically retire from football. After a few years off, he transferred to UCLA, where he has been medically cleared to play. In his first season of action since 2019, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound edge rusher posted a 20% pass-rush win rate with 64 pressures, 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He’s a technician in his pass-rush approach with a deep mental notepad of moves and counters. Once he gets his leverage and pad level to be more consistent, the sky will be the limit for him when healthy.
3. CHOP ROBINSON, PENN STATE
When you flip on Penn State’s defensive tape from 2022, it won’t take you long to say, “Who is that dude on the defensive line with no gloves, no sleeves, wearing a number in 40s and wreaking havoc every other play?”
That would be Demeioun “Chop” Robinson.
Nicknamed “Pork Chop” as a baby, which has since been shortened to “Chop” after he leaned out and muscled up, Robinson has the best first step in the class. His speed-to-power conversion on bull rushes at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds is imposing, which shows in his 20.9% pass-rush win rate. His arms are shorter than ideal and he’s still rounding out his pass-rush arsenal, but at a position that gravitates to elite athletes, Robinson has the gravitational pull of the sun.
4. DALLAS TURNER, ALABAMA
Some might look at Turner’s name at No. 4 on this list and think it’s too low. It’s really not, it just speaks to how talented this edge rush group is.
Turner was the “other” edge rusher opposite Will Anderson Jr. last season, and many noted how often No. 15 for Alabama popped while watching Anderson’s film. The 6-foot-4, 242-pound Turner boasts elite burst, which he translates into power via the bull rush. He is flexible and shifty to attack either shoulder with ease. He also has good arm length and understands how to use it. But his 11.1% pass-rush win percentage remains lower than ideal.
Three things stand between Turner and becoming a top NFL edge rusher: more developed inside moves, more consistent hand swipes and about five to 10 more pounds of muscle.
5. J.T. TUIMOLOAU, OHIO STATE
Tuimoloau was one of the highest-rated prospects in the 2021 recruiting class. And when you see how smooth he moves at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, it becomes clear why.
He is a smart and instinctual player, even from his tape of play as just a true sophomore in 2022. Tuimoloau has a good natural feel for where the ball is and where it is going. With his basketball background, you can tell he’s a natural athlete. He also has a great understanding of pass rushing. His pass-rush tool bag is deep with initial moves and counters. Yet, his win rate was a pedestrian 9.3% in 2022. While he is smooth, he isn’t as explosive as other edge rushers in his class or even around his size. If he can develop more pop off the line of scrimmage, his pass-rush acumen will do the rest.
6. BRALEN TRICE, WASHINGTON
No offensive tackle wants to see a player like Trice, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound edge rusher, on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Even if they do block him, it’s going to hurt.
Trice converts a fantastic first-step burst into some serious power at contact. His bull rushes and leg drive were so imposing he recorded a sky-high 26.2% pass-rush win rate. His motor is running at 110% at all times. That can lead to a bit of recklessness in his game, especially in run defense. But you’d much rather see that and teach him to tone it down than the other way around. This is the kind of edge rusher you draft early and refine.
7. BRANDON DORLUS, OREGON
Dorlus was the best surprise during summer scouting for edge rushers. He initially started as a defensive tackle, playing around 290-295 pounds for his first two seasons at Oregon. But over the past two years, he’s moved to defensive end and trimmed down to around 280 pounds.
Now he feels like the best of both worlds; his defensive tackle background gives him great fundamentals and mentality for holding the point of attack in run defense and against double teams, plus his explosiveness has dramatically improved at a lower weight. Dorlus won't consistently threaten the outside shoulder with speed, but his hands are fast and violent, he plays with good pad level and he’s a very versatile power player.
8. NELSON CEASER, HOUSTON
At 6-foot-2 1/2 and just under 250 pounds, Caesar doesn’t dominate off athleticism or size alone. But he sure can with his pass-rush plans — we see that plenty.
The redshirt senior at Houston notched a 14.7% pass-rush win percentage with his 42 total pressures in 2022. He loves to build his pass-rush attack on a consistent long-arm move that he executes with good effectiveness. From there, he changes how he attacks offensive tackles based on how they react. That savviness makes him a threat for backfield production on any pass-rush down.