Skip to main content

Road to the Draft

Presented by

2024 Combine preview: Edge rusher

When we talk about the best position value in the NFL Draft the conversation starts with quarterbacks, then shifts quickly to players who can get to the quarterback and who can protect the quarterback.

The Detroit Lions have a rising star edge rusher in Aidan Hutchinson, who earned his first Pro Bowl nod this season after recording 11.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and 101 total pressures. Detroit could certainly be on the lookout this offseason, either via free agency or the NFL Draft or both, to give Hutchinson some more help on the other side of the defensive line. The Lions got just 9.5 sacks combined all season from primary edge rushers not named Hutchinson.

There isn't a can't miss stud pass rusher atop this draft, like we saw a couple years ago when Travon Walker (No. 1), Hutchinson (No. 2) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5) were selected in the top five, but this is an overall good group led by consensus top pass rusher Dallas Turner from Alabama. It's a pretty deep class with wide-ranging skillsets. Teams on the lookout for pass-rush help should be able to find it well into Day 2.

Top 5 edge rushers to watch at the Combine:

1. Dallas Turner, Alabama, 6-4, 245

Turner has a long frame with explosive athletic traits. He's drawn early comparisons to Carolina's Brian Burns after recording 10.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this past season at Alabama. He could stand to add some weight and muscle to his frame, but he's a complete pass rusher on the edge.

View photos of the defensive line prospects who were invited to the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

2. Laiatu Latu, UCLA, 6-4, 265

Latu has a great combination of size and quickness with a full toolbox of pass-rush moves. He might be the most technically sound pass rusher in the class and is a very advanced pass rusher for his age. The medicals will be important for him after dealing with a neck injury while at Washington a few years back. Latu had 13.0 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss for the Bruins this past season.

3. Jared Verse, Florida State, 6-4, 250

Verse has a terrific blend of speed and power. There are times he uses his speed to get by tackles and other times he simply walks the tackle back into disruption. He's scheme versatile with a resume of consistent production (18.0 sacks & 29.5 tackles for loss) the last two seasons combined.

4. Darius Robinson, Missouri, 6-5, 286

Teams that value versatility will really like Robinson. He wins mostly on power and can play both inside and on the edge. He started as a defensive tackle before shifting to the edge. The Southfield, MI native dominated at the Senior Bowl a couple weeks back after notching 8.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss for the Tigers this past season.

5. Chop Robinson, Penn State, 6-3, 255

Robinson might be the most physically gifted of the pass rushers in this class. His explosiveness and speed have drawn some comparisons to Micah Parsons, but he didn't have the college production Parsons did. NFL evaluators will have to study the tape to determine why. He tallied a lot of pressure but just 9.5 sacks combined the last two seasons.

Combine sleeper to watch: Marshawn Kneeland, Western Michigan, 6-3, 268

Kneeland is a terrific athlete and a former high school tight end. He uses his hands really well and has terrific strength off the edge as a hand-in-the-dirt edge or a standup rusher. He's a pretty raw talent with a ton of upside after recording 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss this past season for the Broncos.

View photos of the linebacker prospects who were invited to the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

Lions' need at the position: High

Teams can never have too many good pass rushers and the Lions need to continue to stockpile talent at the position in hopes of getting more steady production opposite Hutchinson.

James Houston is an exclusive rights free agent, which means if the Lions want him back, he'll be back. There's no reason to think they won't after he had a terrific finish to his rookie season in 2022 (8.0 sacks in seven games). A broken ankle suffered Week 2 cost him most of the 2023 season. If he can regain some of his rookie form, that will be a big plus for the room. Detroit is also hoping a healthy Josh Paschal heading into his third season can be a more consistent producer. Veteran John Cominsky is also set to return.

Infusing that room with some more talent has to be a priority for the Lions this offseason. Detroit had the second most quarterback hits (77) and sixth most hurries (236), but their 41 sacks were tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the ninth fewest in the NFL. If the Lions want to improve on the league's 27th ranked pass defense from this past season they need a better marriage between the rush and the cover. That's expected to be a focus for general manager Brad Holmes this offseason.

Key stat: Hutchinson's 21.0 sacks over his first two seasons are the most in franchise history through a player's first two seasons. Ezekiel Ansah (2013-14) and Tracy Scroggins (1992-93) held the previous mark at 15.5.

Related Content