The 2022 NFL Draft is over and teams are getting comfortable with their new draft picks. The next class of players is getting prepared now for another year of college football. Each position will be analyzed in the coming days. Here is the 2023 NFL Draft prospect watchlist: Edge Rushers.
Will Anderson, Alabama Crimson Tide
Anderson has been a star for the Crimson Tide and is one of the best pass rushers over the last few seasons of college football. He started as a freshman, registering seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. His play helped Alabama win the National Championship that season. The Crimson Tide made the College Football Playoff in 2021 after Anderson had 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.
He isn’t the biggest edge rusher at 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds, but it is hard to find weaknesses in Anderson’s game. At the snap of the ball, he shows good burst. He has done well against the run and as a pass rusher. His athleticism and flexibility also help him. Adding to his frame and showing better coverage when asked to drop will help him. Anderson is the frontrunner to sit atop the 2023 NFL Draft edge rushers.
Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Foskey has seen steady improvement over his three seasons at Notre Dame. He only played in four games as a freshman, then registered 4.5 sacks as a sophomore. In 2021 that number increased to 10 sacks as the Fighting Irish had a solid season that ended in the Fiesta Bowl.
He has good size at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, which means he won’t need to add much to his frame. Foskey can show more flexibility to bend around the edge, but he is relentless with his effort. He can set the edge as a run defender and has a unique ability to force fumbles. If he can add more pass rush moves to his arsenal, Foskey can be a first-round pick in 2023.
Myles Murphy, Clemson Tigers
Murphy has steadily progressed during his time at Clemson. He was a Freshman All-American with 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The Tigers made the College Football Playoff that season. They won 10 games in 2021 with Murphy providing 14.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Murphy is a huge for a defensive end and may benefit from adding more muscle and moving inside. For his size, he has good quickness and athleticism. His bull-rush is powerful. He isn’t the most flexible, but can win with his power. Murphy is on pace to be a first-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
BJ Ojulari, LSU Tigers
Ojulari is likely going to follow in his brother’s, Azeez, steps and become a pro next season. At LSU, he was mostly a reserve as a freshman, but walked away from the season with four sacks. He stepped into the starting role for LSU in 2021 and upped his production to seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The 2022 season could be big for Ojulari.
He is on the smaller end for an edge rusher at 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds. Ojulari has good quickness and flexibility. He can bend around the edge after a good burst at the snap of the ball. In run defense, he can get overwhelmed and struggle to shed. His pass-rushing production will still get him a lot of looks for the 2023 first round.
Nolan Smith, Georgia Bulldogs
Smith has been a part of some great Georgia defenses and will be asked to step up in 2022 as a leader. He had 2.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons. In 2021, he was able to pick up 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss, as he helped the Bulldogs win the National Championship.
He too is one of the smaller edge rushers in the class at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. With so many good players on Georgia’s defense in 2021, it was hard for Smith to have great production. He will need to get to the quarterback more often in 2022. Showing he can contribute more against the run is a must, but Smith is a solid pass rusher. He is a good athlete with flexibility and speed. He is one of the favorites out of edge rushers in the class to be a first-round pick.
Other Draft Prospects
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State- Anyone who ties the NCAA record for sacks in a game (six) is worth looking at. Anudike-Uzomah has some pass rush moves and could show more consistent production in 2022.
Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh- After only playing in two games during the 2020 season, Baldonado came back with nine sacks in 2021. He has a good motor, strength and hands to help him win his matchups.
Ali Gaye, LSU- He had a season-ending injury in 2021, but Gaye has flashed signs of potential. Gaye has good athleticism and power, but needs to stay healthy and show better technique to improve his stock.
Zach Harrison, Ohio State- Many projected Harrison to have a good 2021 season, but it didn’t happen. He needs to get after the quarterback a lot more if he wishes to be drafted early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington- Tupuola-Fetui registered seven sacks in 2020, then had to come back from a torn Achilles in 2021. He has good athleticism and agility, which was on display even after he came back from injury.
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