There is a reason pass rushers get paid the big bucks in the NFL. They're vitally important to the overall success on defense, which is why teams covet them. Ohio State's Chase Young is the early prize in a pretty diverse group of edge rushers overall in this year's class.
Top 5 edge rushers to watch at Combine:
1. Chase Young, Ohio State, 6-5, 265
Won the Chuck Bednarik, Ted Hendricks and Bronko Nagurski Awards as the top defender and defensive lineman in the country. Recorded 16.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He has ideal size, athleticism and length. The combine numbers will be interesting for Young, who some consider one of the best pass-rushing prospects in a decade.
View photos of NFL.com's top edge prospects attending the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
2. K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU, 6-4, 250
Sat out most of the 2018 season with a torn ACL. Chaisson helped lead the Tigers to the National Championship this past season with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss to go along with 6.5 sacks and 60 total tackles. A long and explosive athlete, Chaisson has a variety of pass rush moves and terrific bend around the corner.
3. A.J. Epenesa, Iowa, 6-6, 280
A heck of an athlete, Epenesa was an all-state basketball player and won back-to-back discus state titles in high school. He had 16.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as a rotational player in 2018. He followed that up with 14.0 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks this past season. He can play in all schemes, and his strength and production stood out the last couple years.
4. Terrell Lewis, Alabama, 6-5, 258
Maybe one of the more interesting pass rushers in this draft, Lewis is a prospect teams will have to do their homework on. He battled injuries throughout his college career and played in just 26 career games. He led the Tide this past season with 16 quarterback pressures to go along with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He was good at the Senior Bowl, showing off a combination of speed and power that made him stand out. He can put his hand in the dirt or stand up and rush from the two-point stance, which could make him valuable in a number of different schemes.
5. Marlon Davidson, Auburn, 6-3, 297
Notched 11.5 tackles for loss in 2019 to go along with 6.5 sacks, 48 tackles and a forced fumble. Teams will love the fact he was a team captain and four-year starter. He's played a lot of football and has gotten better every year. He's got position versatility and his game should carry over well into the NFL.
Combine sleeper to watch:
Curtis Weaver, Boise State, 6-3, 265
He's recorded 11.0, 9.5 and 13.5 sacks in each of his last three seasons. He also had 52 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss this past season to go along with those 13.5 sacks. The knock on Weaver is that he doesn't possess elite size or athleticism, but it's hard ignore the production. If he tests well in Indianapolis, he could change some of the narrative surrounding himself as a prospect.
View photos of the Detroit Lions' stat leaders from the 2019 season.
Lions need at the position: High
Detroit's pass rush this past season was widely inconsistent. It took free-agent signee Trey Flowers a few weeks to get back to 100 percent following offseason shoulder rehab, but when he did, he was Detroit's best and most consistent rusher. He led the team in sacks (7.0), quarterback hurries (41) and hits (14). Veteran outside linebacker Devon Kennard also had seven sacks, but outside of those two, no other player on the roster had more than two sacks.
Pass defense is a marriage of rush and coverage, and too many times last year Lions cover guys were asked to do the impossible – cover this league's talented pass catchers for four, five, six seconds and sometimes more. Detroit finished with the league's worst pass defense, and it's no coincidence Detroit's 28 sacks were the second lowest in the NFL this past year.
The Lions need more players who can consistently rush the passer to pair with Flowers and Kennard, whether they accomplish that in free agency, adding via the draft or both.
Key stat: It's interesting that Detroit ranked towards the middle of the NFL in quarterback hurries (183), but towards the bottom in sacks (28) and quarterback hits (43). That was with opponents dropping back to pass 611 times, the second most in the league last year. Cutting off escape lanes and finishing more at the quarterback are two things the Lions really need to improve on.