2023 NFL Draft: Pure EDGE Rusher Rankings
No. 1: Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
Will Anderson is one of only two players in the entire 2023 NFL Draft with a “Blue-Chip” grade on my big board. He arrived at Alabama with lofty expectations, and somehow, the star pass rusher exceeded them during his three-year career for the Tide.
Anderson bends around the edge with such ease, it almost looks like he isn’t even trying most of the time. With natural leverage and impeccable form, Anderson regularly got home on his pass rush attempts. The only times he didn’t find his way to the pocket came when double teams took him out of the play.
In terms of tools in the toolbox, Anderson has an endless supply. When they say “Olive Garden has bottomless breadsticks”, that’s what it’s like with Anderson as a pass rusher. He has an elite swim move, displays the strength to power through linemen at will, and even mixed in some spin moves in college. Simply put, he dominated the competition in the stacked SEC.
The production is almost hard to fathom. Anderson recorded 134 quarterback hurries, 36 quarterback hits, and 37 sacks in 41 career games. To not only put up these numbers but to do it against SEC talent is unheard of. He is the most polished pass rusher to come out of college since I started evaluating prospects.
One area Anderson could stand to improve is as a tackler in space. He missed double-digit tackles in each season, and this needs to be addressed if Anderson is to truly reach his maximum potential. I would take the Alabama legend over anyone else in this class — and would not think twice about it.
NFL Draft Grade: Blue-Chip
No. 2: Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State)
Felix Anudike-Uzomah is arguably my favorite player included on this list. I can’t remember a more fun tape because FAU was ALWAYS getting into the backfield and making the quarterback uncomfortable.
His 21 recorded sacks since 2021 don’t even begin to paint the full picture. Anudike-Uzomah hurried the quarterback 54 times in that span, and by my tally alone, he had at least a dozen sacks taken away due to holding calls, whether the ref threw a flag or not.
To create such disruption, Anudike-Uzomah utilizes his relentless motor to wear down linemen as the game drags on. Typically, the worry for a player who rushes the passer all game is his gas tank; with FAU, there is no concern here… he WILL outwork anyone.
The bend Anudike-Uzomah shows on tape is *chefs kiss*. He naturally gets low and uses his lower body drive to eat up turf and get under the pads of his assignment. Furthermore, Anudike-Uzomah flexed an impressive array of pass-rushing moves during his time with Kansas State. His hand usage is what allows him to get through contact.
He is not perfect, however. Anudike-Uzomah is a good-not-great run defender. The former Wildcat gets taken out of plays by stronger interior linemen, limiting his projection when it comes to versatility. Also, Anudike-Uzomah is so anxious to bring down the quarterback that sometimes he over-pursues and ends up taking himself out of position to make a play on the ball.
Still, the good far outweighs the bad in my mind. I would happily take Anudike-Uzomah on day one, pounding the table for him in the draft room if that’s what it takes. He can be a special player on Sundays.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 1