The 2024 NFL Draft has no elite defensive end and only has two players with first-round grades in its class. Despite this lack of surefire talent, the class does have a couple of players with intriguing potential led by Penn State’s Chop Robinson who posts strong testing numbers and has underrated production.
The class also has a couple of interesting sleepers in it. One of these players is Xavier Thomas who shows the raw tools that made him the number four player in his recruiting class. Another underrated player in this class is Washington State's Brennan Jackson whose non-stop motor has allowed him to account for 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
2024 NFL Draft defensive end class ranking No. 1-4
1. Chop Robinson, Penn State
I am in the minority regarding my top defensive end in the 2024 NFL Draft being Chop Robinson. However, he has the most potential in the class, and when on the field he has put up strong numbers. This season in just seven games he recorded seven tackles for loss and four sacks. He also had the highest pass-rush grade in the Big Ten according to Pro Football Focus. in addition, he possesses ridiculous testing numbers including a 4.47 40 and 400-pound bench press according to Bruce Feldman. This speed shows up on the field as well. When it comes to rushing the passer he has the fastest first step off the ball in the 2024 NFL Draft and also has the flexibility to make the tight turn against the offensive tackle. While he is an explosive pass rusher he can improve against the run. In this area, he needs to use his hands better, and not turn his shoulders which opens up running lanes. Draft Grade: First Round
2. Jared Verse, Florida State
Florida State’s Jared Verse entered the season with a first-round grade and finished the season with the same grade. The reason he carries such a high ranking is his impressive get off the ball. This speed allows him to get around the tackle which combined with his flexibility has helped him register 18 sacks over the last two seasons. As a run defender, he has the strength to hold his ground and shows a strong initial punch. In the NFL he will be best served by playing in a 4-3 defense since he lacks the awareness to hold up in coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Draft Grade: First Round
3. Darius Robinson, Missouri
Perhaps no one had a better Senior Bowl than Missouri’s Darius Robinson, which is good news for Robinson as he is also coming off his best college season. This year he set career highs with 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks and was named first-team All-SEC. The biggest positive with Robinson is the power he plays with. He does a great job with his initial punch and his 6-foot-5 286-pound size makes it very hard to create any run lanes against him. His 35-inch arms are another measurable that works in his favor. As a pass rusher, he shows good quickness for a 286-pound defender and could even play some as a 3-technique defensive tackle on pass-rushing downs. He also has a variety of pass-rushing moves including a nice swim move and bull-rush. Draft Grade: Second Round
4. Bralen Trice, Washington
A player who played out of position this year is Washington’s Bralen Trice. While Trice is one of the bigger defensive ends in the 2024 NFL Draft, he played outside linebacker in the Huskies' defense. While he was productive being named a third-team All-American and leading the nation with 70 pressures in 2022 according to Pro Football Focus, his best position in the NFL will be as a 4-3 defensive end. In this role, his strength and ability to get off blocks should allow him to establish himself as a strong run defender. In addition, to being strong vs. the run Trice also has some intriguing pass-rushing traits. His biggest positive in this area is his non-stop motor which has helped him record 16 sacks over the past two seasons. He also shows good hand use as a pass rusher and is one of the more polished defensive ends in that area in the 2024 NFL Draft. A concern with him that scouts will have is he is a little stiff and may have trouble turning the corner against NFL offensive tackles. Draft Grade: Second Round