2023 NFL Draft: Will Anderson Jr., Myles Murphy Reign Supreme in Top 10 EDGE Rusher Rankings

Oct 8, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) reacts after a sack against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) reacts after a sack against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2023 NFL Draft features a slew of versatile prospects in the pass-rushing group. There are several ways to succeed on the edge; some use pure athleticism, others use a picturesque technique, and the rest rely on natural-born strength. Most of these guys fit in one of two categories: 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end.

The versatility I mentioned allows for some of these guys to project highly at both spots on the defense. Keeping this in mind, I assigned each pass rusher to the group that fits them best based on my evaluation. Just because Will Anderson Jr. is listed as an OLB doesn’t mean he will only spend time there. Included in this article are the top 20 names, 10 for each position. If a name you’re searching for isn’t on the list, it is likely because I haven’t watched enough of them to confidently rank yet.

Without further ado, it is time to get the Top 10 EDGE Rusher Rankings underway! We will start things out with the best player in the 2023 NFL Draft class…

2023 NFL Draft: Outside Linebackers

1. Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)

What more can be said about Will Anderson that hasn’t been said already? He is a borderline perfect prospect who embodies the term “teach tape” when you flip on the film. Anderson is twitchy as all get out and bends the edge better than anyone in the class. His athleticism lends itself to helping Anderson impact the game by dropping into coverage and tracking down ball carriers/quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage.

The only red flags with Anderson include mistimed jumps off the snap and a lack of production in the bigger games. These are nit-picky because a majority of the time Anderson times the snap perfectly, and the result is a big play for the defense. Additionally, Anderson faces double and triple teams in the biggest games, so it’s hard to knock him because that inherently frees up space for others.

Will Anderson lays claim to the top grade in the 2023 NFL Draft. He will be an instant problem for offenses at the next level, and he figures to be a fixture as a regular league leader in sacks. Quarterbacks get a lot of the shine in the top five, but no one in this draft is better than Anderson. Period.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 1 (Early Day 1)

2. Nolan Smith (Georgia)

If anyone in the 2023 NFL Draft passes the eye test with flying colors, it is Georgia pass rusher, Nolan Smith. Smith suffered a season-ending injury a couple of weeks ago, but before that, he served as a key piece of the puzzle for one of the top defenses in college football. Smith got lost in the shuffle last season, and at times the same could be said in 2022. However, the lack of counting numbers is only one part of the evaluation.

Smith jumps off the screen the second you turn on a Georgia Bulldogs game. He is as good of an athlete as there is in the 2023 NFL Draft, regardless of position. Smith uses his natural instincts as a defender to regularly bring down ball carriers. He excels as a run defender and has shown the ability to attack the backfield when schemed up to do so.

Smith’s versatility as a run defender and as a coverage man at linebacker helps his argument to be an immediate three-down player. Smith is still rawer than gas station sushi as a pass rusher, but all the physical traits are there. Nolan Smith is the type of guy that comes off the board later than he should, and everyone spends the next decade wondering how in the world he fell so far.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 20 (Mid Day 1)

3. Jared Verse (Florida State)

Another extremely raw player at the OLB position is Florida State’s first-year player Jared Verse. Verse received zero stars on the recruiting trail and landed at Albany, an FCS school that ended up being one of only a few programs to offer the traitsy pass rusher a spot. Verse made the most of it by recording 14.5 sacks in only 15 career games.

The play that made Verse a name to watch came against Syracuse when he tracked down Sean Tucker from behind, something few people have ever done. One play doesn’t make an entire evaluation obviously, but it offered a glimpse of what could be. During his time with Florida State, Verse continues to produce at a high clip.

In 10 games with the Seminoles, Verse has brought down the quarterback 7.5 times, including an astounding 14 tackles for loss. These numbers show the all-around talent that Verse brings to the table. The film itself shows that he hasn’t even approached the player he can become with proper development.

Verse wins with athleticism and deceptively strong hands. Cutting out wasted motion and becoming more consistent with his pad level will go a long way toward helping Verse reach his All-Pro potential at the next level. Testing will be crucial for Verse, as there are players with a longer track record of production versus top talent. Right now, Verse owns a top 25 grade with the potential to rise, depending upon how the 2023 NFL Draft process plays out.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 25 (Late Day 1)

4. Nick Herbig (Wisconsin)

Wisconsin is not the first school that comes to mind when you think of Big 10 pass-rushing pillars, but it is right up there with Ohio State. Wisconsin is home to the Watt brothers, which stack up pretty well with the Bosa brothers from the Buckeyes. Well, there isn’t another Watt coming through the Badgers pipeline, but Nick Herbig is the best pass rusher to roam the defense since TJ left for the NFL.

Herbig mixes in a little more as a coverage linebacker than the Watts did, but he compares favorably to TJ in several key areas. Herbig will get knocked for being undersized, but scouts must look deeper than his 6-foot-2, 228-pound measurables. TJ is a bigger player to be sure, but turn on Herbig tape and Watt tape and put them side by side; you’ll be stunned.

Herbig’s success in the NFL is more reliant on his landing spot than most others in this class. The Badgers linebacker needs to land in a place with a creative defensive mind willing to line Herbig up all over the field. Herbig moves fluidly downfield and laterally, and his first step is sneaky quick. His closing speed is on par with many defensive backs in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has a great feel for covering zones when asked to drop back.

As stated, Herbig plays much bigger than he looks. That has become a cliche, but one look at Herbig proves the point. Still, he will face a learning curve in the NFL and is susceptible to being pigeonholed into one spot on the defense if his eventual play caller lacks ingenuity. He won’t be for everyone, but I am a massive fan of Herbig’s potential. The versatility wins me over, but until I see him test, I cannot yet vault him into round one status.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 40 (Early Day 2)

5. Drew Sanders (Arkansas)

Drew Sanders is another guy that will get compared to TJ Watt due to their nearly identical build and similar skillset. Sanders is not quite the pass rusher Nick Herbig is yet, and is a little less instinctual in pass coverage. That being said, Sanders actually possesses more potential than Herbig. Due to his picture-perfect build, it is fair to assume that Sanders’ body will hold up longer. He also profiles as a potentially elite run stuffer.

Another name I want to throw out there is Micah Parsons. No, I am not saying Drew Sanders is the next Micah Parsons. What I am saying is that Parsons never got the chance to display just how great of a pass rusher he was. I think the same is true for Drew Sanders. His 8.5 sacks lead the Razorbacks, but with this being his first full year as a starter, he is merely scratching the surface as a pass rusher.

Former five-star Alabama recruit, Drew Sanders, transferred to Arkansas after struggling to find playing time in 2020 and 2021 with the Tide. Sanders took his trademark work ethic and under-the-radar athleticism with him to Fayetteville and has blossomed into a legit 2023 NFL Draft prospect. Sanders, like Herbig, needs to be drafted by a franchise that knows how to deploy him. He can contribute at every level of the defense, and testing will determine how high he can climb in these rankings.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 50 (Early Day 2)

Just Missed:

-Derrick Hall (Auburn)

-Byron Young (Tennessee)

-Bralen Trice (Washington)

-Andre Carter II (Army)

-BJ Ojulari (LSU)

2023 NFL Draft: Defensive Ends

1. Myles Murphy (Clemson)

Myles Murphy is capable of lining up elsewhere on the defense, but his best position will be on the end of the defensive line. Murphy is a freaky athlete that stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 275 pounds. He excels at dominating offensive linemen at the point of attack. Murphy’s strong hands and explosiveness off the snap help him consistently set the edge and even be a game-changer in the run game.

Murphy’s red flags include inconsistency on a snap-to-snap basis and a tendency to rely on “out-talenting” his matchup, rather than using proper technique. Murphy is a top-tier athlete, so it is unfair to knock him for using that athleticism, but cleaning up his technique will make him an even better player and one of the best pass rushers in the league.

Myles Murphy may not be Will Anderson, but he would be a worthy No. 1 pass rusher in any other NFL Draft class. Anderson edges Murphy out a bit, but not by much. It would be stunning if the Clemson pass rusher falls outside the top 10.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 10 (Early Day 1)

2. Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State)

Felix Anudike-Uzomah is one of the most fun players in the pass-rushing group this cycle. Anudike-Uzomah was tabbed as a potential riser in the 2023 NFL Draft heading into this season and judging by his ranking on this list, it is safe to say that forecast was correct. The Kansas State standout led the squad with 11 sacks in 2021, and Anudike-Uzomah currently sits with 7.5 in 2022.

The drop-off in production is nothing to worry about. With more eyes and attention comes fewer sack numbers, more often than not. Anudike-Uzomah has still consistently showcased his spectacular athleticism and bend around the edge all year long. He is one of the youngest players in the 2023 NFL Draft, and with that comes a certain level of rawness. Inefficient movements with his lower half and his hands get him in trouble at times, as does his lack of a secondary pass rush moves to win with.

There is more to like than dislike about Felix Anudike-Uzomah. At 20 years old, he is still learning and growing, and it is scary to think what he could look like by the time his rookie deal is up. If Anudike-Uzomah tests as well as I expect, a top 10 selection is not out of the question.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 15 (Mid Day 1)

3. Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)

Tyree Wilson has his supporters in the 2023 NFL Draft class. The Red Raiders leader on defense has witnessed a breakout season in 2022. Wilson has matched his sack total (7) and surpassed his TFL number from the year prior with 14. Impressively, Wilson has become a more well-rounded player, recording a career-high 61 tackles in only 10 games.

Wilson boasts a prototypical frame on the edge. At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, the gifted pass rusher profiles best as a defensive end with the versatility to kick inside and even play from the stand-up position as he grows more comfortable in different schemes. Wilson is not ready to line up inside yet, but a couple of seasons in an NFL strength training program will change that.

Wilson’s ability to impact the game as a run stuffer is important in his evaluation. After the top-end prospects in most NFL Drafts, a majority of the remaining players profile as situational players in the early portion of their careers. This is not the case for Wilson. He will be on the field for first down, second down, and third down. I am confident in saying that.

It will be up to Wilson to take the NFL coaching and build more confidence in his pass-rushing moves. He already creates consistent pressure, but adding a few more weapons to the arsenal wouldn’t hurt. All in all, Wilson is worthy of a late, day-one draft pick. Of all the players on this list, Tyree Wilson is the one I might be too low on.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 30 (Late Day 1/Early Day 2)

4. Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame)

Notre Dame pass rusher Isaiah Foskey is another guy that has a staunch group of supporters in his corner. Foskey is a thick defensive end that plays the way he looks. Since arriving in South Bend, Foskey was tabbed as a future NFL player. In 24 games over the past two seasons, Foskey has 19 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss to his name.

Foskey uses power to win. He flexes play strength that few in the class are even close to. Foskey abuses offensive tackles snap after snap, wearing them down as the game drags on, and taking advantage of the fatigue later in the game to record clutch sacks. It is reminiscent of a lion toying with its prey until they are too tired to fight back. His motor is equally as impressive, as you rarely see Foskey taken out of a play.

The concerns with Foskey revolve around his short-area athleticism and lack of consistent finesse moves as a pass rusher. Foskey can be clunky when he attempts to stop on a dime and then re-accelerate. It’s too slow-moving and results in Foskey spinning his tires and arriving late to his spot. Foskey needs to work on agility drills and add a few moves to win with that don’t include barreling over the offensive tackle. The potential is there, but Isaiah Foskey has work to do to reach it.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 40 (Early Day 2)

5. KJ Henry (Clemson)

Clemson’s 2022 defensive line has the potential to send five players to the 2023 NFL Draft. The aforementioned Myles Murphy is one. Bryan Bresee, Tyler Davis, and Ruke Orhorhoro are three other defensive linemen that will almost assuredly hear their names called. The fifth and final player from the group is a former five-star recruit, KJ Henry.

Henry failed to live up to his hype for much of his career, but 2022 has shown a more consistent side of the Clemson pass rusher. Henry features the perfect build for an NFL edge rusher, checking in at 6-foot-4 and weighing 250 pounds. This ideal frame, paired with his obvious talent, will result in a team taking a shot on Henry somewhere on day two.

They will be getting a guy that is still working on himself, both as a pass rusher and as a run defender. His natural bend around the edge is impeccable, and as far as hand usage goes, KJ Henry is one of the three best in this pass-rushing class. Consistency staying locked in, and giving 100% every snap is the main drawback. While Henry has looked more focused in 2022, it is hard to ignore what he put on tape in 2019-2021. If an NFL coaching staff can get the most out of Henry, he will be a steal in the mid-to-late portion of day two.

2023 NFL Draft Grade: Top 75 (Mid Day 2)

Just Missed:

-Will McDonald IV (Iowa State)

-Yaya Diaby (Louisville)

-Ali Gaye (LSU)

-Habakkuk Baldonado (Pittsburgh)

-Zach Harrison (Ohio State)