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The Triple Take: Edge Rushers Take Two

The "Triple Take" team, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta, provides updates on their breakdown of the top edge rusher prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.

The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.

Matt's Second Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

Who's stock has risen and why?
Payton Turner, Houston (6-6, 270 lbs.) - Turner is an extremely interesting prospect even though he only played in five games in 2020. Few edge players in this draft even resemble Turner from a physical standpoint. While he didn't run at Houston's pro day, Turner checked in at well over 6' 5" and weighed 270 pounds. We don't have a verified 40-yard dash time, Turner runs very well on film with gigantic strides and great effort as a pursuit player. He has huge hands and insane 35" arms while still being able to lift 225 pounds 23 times. His 35 ½" vertical jump stood out, as did Turner's 4.33 short shuttle time for someone with his height and length. But most noteworthy, Turner was sub seven seconds in the 3-cone drill showing off a remarkable ability to corner. At Houston, Turner lined up in a traditional three-point stance as well as playing on his feet on the edge. He also has experience aligning on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. With his frame, could Turner even continue to add more good weight? He should be able to contribute to his new NFL team in numerous ways.

Who's emerged and why?
Janarius Robinson, Florida State (6-5, 260 lbs.) and Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State (6-7, 265 lbs.) - These two teammates could be coming on strong late in the draft process. Robinson and Kaindoh are both right around 6' 5 ½" and weigh nearly the same right around 260 pounds. They both ran in the mid to high 4.6s in the 40-yard dash. Robinson has bigger hands, longer arms and the larger wingspan. He was also able to do four more bench press reps than his teammate. However, Kaindoh showed more explosion on his jumps than Robinson. Kaindoh was a massive recruit but had durability issues in college. Both players had to play and adjust to three different defensive systems while at Florida State. These two have a lot to work with and some stability at the next level could really get the best out of Robinson and Kaindoh.

Other Notes: How about this: Miami's Pro Day had Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, three very prominent edge prospects in this draft class, all working out at the same time. This was much anticipated for Rousseau, who opted out for the 2020 season after a monster year in 2019. Rousseau measured in at 6' 6 ½", weighing 266 pounds with nearly 35" arms and massive 11" hands. Those arms and hands are his calling card. As for his workout, he tested well enough, but only was able to post a 30" vertical leap. Roche's 4.66/40 and 4.42 short shuttle were slightly better than Rousseau's, but he came in at 6' 3" and 23 pounds lighter than Rousseau. It was Phillips that stole the show though. At 6' 5" and 260 pounds, Phillips ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds. His 3-was excellent (7.01), but his short shuttle (4.13) was rather remarkable for someone Phillips' size. As for his jumps, they were just as eye-popping with a 36" vertical and 125" broad jump. It should be noted that Rousseau potted an outstanding 1.57 10-yard split, which is a great indicator of his get-off. Phillips was also under 1.6 seconds, which is excellent. It was quite the day for Miami's edge class.

Matt's First Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

#5 - Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma (6-3, 247 lbs.) - Perkins was suspended to start the 2020 season and only appeared in six games this year for Oklahoma. But that was an exceptional six pack of games for Perkins to finish off his college career. Perkins plays much bigger than he is listed. He is heavy-handed, plays very hard and is extremely physical as both a pass-rusher and playing the run, an area in which he excels. Perkins is also very flexible with very good speed to mix with his hustle. He gets off the ball well and often shocks his blocker. Perkins turns speed into power as well as any edge rusher in this class.

#4 - Jayson Oweh, Penn State (6-5, 252 lbs.) - Oweh has a long basketball player type of build and is a smooth mover as many basketball players are. But Oweh is also very explosive and really gets off the ball. Oweh hasn't been overly productive yet and is a raw moldable prospect. In fact, Oweh recorded zero sacks in 2020-so this is obviously a projection. He can also lose leverage as a run defender, but his run defense has certainly improved. But Oweh flashes and his rare abilities are extremely obvious. He is extremely fast and his NFL position coach is going to love working with this guy. Oweh only started playing football in 2016. The best is yet to come.

#3 - Kwity Paye, Michigan (6-3, 270 lbs.) - Paye has a thick compact frame, which helps with his excellent use of leverage. He is very twitched up with an outstanding get off. Paye is very sudden changing directions and with everything he does on the field. To cut to the chase: Paye is just a remarkable athlete and has all the upside in the world at the next level. He has improved each year in college although he could use more of a pass-rush plan and arsenal overall. Michigan moved him around quite a bit, but it was clear that Paye was at his best when left on the outside.

#2 - Gregory Rousseau, Miami (6-7, 253 lbs.) - Rousseau opted out this past year but had a huge season the year before even though he is new to the position. A former king-sized wide receiver, Rousseau has rare length and uses that very much to his advantage. Rousseau is a very smooth mover, but not overly explosive off the snap. Miami lined Rousseau up all over the line of scrimmage and his new NFL team should do the same. In fact, he was more productive lined up on the interior for Miami, which is something you rarely see from someone built like Rousseau. That being said, he doesn't consistently win with his power.

#1 - Jaelen Phillips, Miami (6-5, 266 lbs.) - Built like a traditional 4-3 defensive end with length and a well-built frame, Phillips is also capable of playing in space and dropping into coverage if needed. He bends very well, is quick to change directions and closes with power and enthusiasm. Phillips is extremely talented and is a very powerful player. He had a tremendous season in 2020. After transferring from UCLA to Miami because of medical reasons, Phillips' injury history will need to be examined closely.

Dale's Second Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

Who's stock has risen and why?
Chris Rumph II, Duke (6-3, 244 lbs.) - When the process began, Rumph was considered kind of a tweener at the edge, but he showed up at Duke's pro day at 244 pounds, which is plenty big enough to hold the edge at the NFL level. He has the production – 14.5 sacks in 23 games over the past two seasons – and bloodlines – his father is the defensive line coach for the Bears. Rumph will need to continue to get stronger, but he's been a productive college player.

Who's emerged and why?
Patrick Johnson, Tulane (6-2. 240 lbs.) - Johnson showed off more athleticism than people might have initially expected, which was a pleasant surprise. He ran a reported 4.59 40-yard dash and had an impressive 6.97 three-cone drill. Couple that with excellent production – 21 sacks in 34 games over the past three seasons – and you can see why he's risen up a lot of draft boards. He might not have outstanding length, but he plays fierce.

Other Notes: Penn State's Jayson Oweh set a new standard for speed from edge rushers by running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at 6-5, 257 pounds. … UAB's Jordan Smith has outstanding length at 6-6 and 264 pounds. But he's athletic enough to drop into coverage. He had 12.5 sacks in 21 career games after transferring from Florida. … One small-school prospect on which to keep an eye is Chris Garrett of Concordia-St. Paul, a Division II school. His school didn't play in the fall, so Garrett had to settle for 48 tackles for a loss, 36.5 sacks and a Division II-record 15 forced fumbles in three seasons.

Dale's First Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

#5 - Kwity Paye, Michigan (6-3, 270 lbs.) - Paye was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and flashed some ability at Michigan. In the past three seasons, he had 93 tackles and 10.5 sacks. But he should test well, and that will tempt someone to take him high based on what he can potentially be.

#4 - Joe Tryon, Washington (6-5, 252 lbs.) - After a monster season as a sophomore in 2019, Tryon opted out in 2020. But he had 41 tackles and eight sacks in 12 games in 2019. Could be used as a defensive end in a 4-3, but might be a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Has an outstanding bull rush.

#3 - Azeez Oiulari, Georgia (6-3, 240 lbs.) - A little undersized, but he wins with his speed off the edge. Had 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss in just 10 games at Georgia in 2020, spending a lot of time in the opposing backfield. Ojulari will need to continue to get stronger, but he should step in right away as a third-down specialist at the NFL level while he continues to develop.

#2 - Jaelen Phillips, Miami (6-5, 266 lbs.) - With talented teammate Gregory Rousseau sitting out in 2020, Phillips got a chance to be the man at Miami after sitting out the 2019 season following a transfer from UCLA. Prior to his transfer, he suffered a wrist injury in a moped accident and had three concussions. But in 2020, he eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games. Is a natural pass rusher.

#1 - Gregory Rousseau, Miami (6-7, 253 lbs.) - Rousseau opted out in 2020 and redshirted as a freshman in 2018, so he had just one season of true experience at Miami. But in that one season he had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss in 13 games. Rousseau is a freakish athlete. Is still filling out as an athlete after arriving at Miami as a 222-pound freshman. He's only just scratching his potential.

Mike's Second Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

Who's stock has risen and why?
Kwity Paye, Michigan (6-3, 270 lbs.) & Jayson Oweh, Penn State (6-5, 252 lbs.) - I didn't include Michigan's Kwity Paye (6-21/2, 261 lbs.) or Penn State's Jayson Oweh (6-47/8, 257 lbs.) in my initial Top 5 of what continues to look like a pretty deep group, even if it lacks a can't-miss-superstar type. The issue initially was production. Oweh had zero sacks, zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles in seven games in 2020. Paye had two sacks in four games in 2020 and 11.5 in his four years at Michigan (the only season he had more than two was in 2019, when he had 6.5 in 12 games). Paye defended one pass and forced one fumble in four seasons for the Wolverines and never managed an interception.

But those two players are seemingly high on just about everyone else's lists (Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranks Paye No. 2 and Oweh No. 4 among edge rushers). It's apparently about physical skill sets much more than it is statistics with these two. Consider the opinion of NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks on Paye: "He has a lotta love in the streets. Even though the production isn't there, man, the traits are outstanding." If you can run and jump, if you have speed and burst and explosion, the rest will apparently take care of itself, or so the theory goes.

Added NFL Network analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly regarding Paye: ""To me, he's the most explosive guy off the football in this draft as far as a pass rusher." 

Brugler assessed Oweh's stat line for 2020, his lone season as a starter at Penn State, as "disappointing with zero sacks," but also pointed out "he was consistently disruptive and affected the backfield action." 

Brugler's evaluation summarized Oweh as "a high-risk, high-reward pass rusher in the Jason Pierre-Paul mold."

Other Notes: Elerson Smith (6-61/4, 251 lbs.) of Northern Iowa "tested off the charts" at Northern Iowa's Pro Day (a 4.75 40-yard dash, a 411/2" vertical leap), in Jeremiah's estimation. That backed up what Smith put on display during Senior Bowl week and what he'd put on tape in 2019 (14 sacks, five forced fumbles, four passes defensed; Northern Iowa didn't play in the fall of 2020). Jeremiah though Smith inspired reminders of Maxx Crosby … Rashod Weaver (6-43/8, 259 lbs.) was another player who backed up the tape during testing at Pitt's Pro Day. Weaver reminded us how valued the three-cone drill is in confirming agility, and raised eyebrows with a 6.98 (7.00 or better is accepted as an attention-getting standard). "That was phenomenal," Jeremiah gushed. "A 6.98 time is outstanding." Brooks called Weaver a "bully." … NFL Network analyst Charles Davis had the following observation on Ohio State's Jonathan Cooper (6-25/8, 253 lbs.): "I'm not sure he got blocked in the Clemson game." … Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins (6-21/2, 253 lbs.), likewise, impressed Jeremiah when he went against Oklahoma State's Tevin Jenkins, who is projected by many to be a first-round offensive tackle. "He parks him right on his backside with that power that he possesses," Jeremiah said of Perkins. "This dude can play."

Mike's First Take on the Edge Rusher position ...

#5 - Patrick Jones II, Pitt (6-4, 264 lbs.) - Jones explodes off the ball in pursuit of the quarterback. He had eight-and-a-half sacks and four forced fumbles in 2919 and nine sacks in 11 games in 2020. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick talked during Senior Bowl week about Jones' ability to get to the passer using a variety of pass-rushing tools/moves, although he had a "quiet" week of practices in Mobile, Ala., in Jeremiah's estimation. Jones' sack in the Senior Bowl game suggested he might be a gamer.

#4 - Azeez Oiulari, Georgia (6-3, 240 lbs.) - Ojulari forced four fumbles in addition to amassing nine-and-a-half sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games in 2020. He can bull his way through offensive tackles, shoot gaps and beat double-teams. An edge rush against Tennessee was equal parts impressive and innovative. Ojulari got low to dip under the offensive tackle on the way to the backfield to the degree that he went down to one knee and then quickly bounced back up, pounced on the quarterback, separated the football and fell on it.

#3 - Jaelen Phillips, Miami (6-5, 266 lbs.) - Phillips had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games for the Hurricanes in 2020 after transferring from UCLA (he played a combined 10 games for the Bruins in 2017 and 2018). His highlights are similar to Gregory Rousseau's, and not just because both wore No. 15 at Miami. Phillips is especially relentless when chasing a play down from behind or the backside, whether he started in a two- or a three-point stance, and he knows how to finish when he gets there.

#2 - Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest (6-3, 274 lbs.) - Among Basham's perceived attributes is versatility. Riddick spoke during Senior Bowl week coverage of Basham's ability to play defensive end, defensive tackle or 3-4 outside linebacker. Jeremiah assessed Basham as "a strong dude on the edge." Basham has 15 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss in 19 games over his last two seasons at Wake Forest (five and four-and-a-half in six games in 20202). There was also this form Riddick: "This guy's just a stud. His intensity, the pace with which he plays, the violence with which he plays, he's just fun to watch."

#1 - Gregory Rousseau, Miami (6-7, 253 lbs.) - Rousseau opted out in 2020 after amassing 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss in 2019. His wingspan is ridiculous, which allows him to get off blocks, disrupt and dominate. Even when a ball carrier gets past him, he isn't out of Rousseau's reach. And his potential beyond that monster 2019 season is such that Jeremiah is on record assessing Rousseau as in possession of "the tools to emerge as a perennial All-Pro player." That about covers it.

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