The 2023 NFL Draft is days away! For IDP fans, this should be a blast. The draft is loaded with defensive talent, and we’re all excited about who teams will select, especially in the early rounds.
Landing spots for defensive players are incredibly important for those who play in IDP leagues. Where these guys end up can make or break their IDP value at the start of their careers.
In this article, I look at the ideal landing spots for my top five 2023 rookie edge rushers.
Will Anderson Jr, DE Alabama
Ideal landing spot: Arizona Cardinals
Anderson is a fluid, explosive athlete who has consistently produced elite numbers against some of the best college competition for the last three seasons; no edge rusher in this class can compare to his production over that span.
His first step is one of his biggest strengths. Watch how he explodes out of his stance here:
Will Anderson is my top prospect in the 2023 draft, and I know it’s early, but I’d be shocked if that changes.
The Alabama EDGE makes the game of football look easy. Some of the best first-step quickness I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/tKMMRNlCbU
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) May 6, 2022
At 243 lbs, Anderson is a little light for a full-time edge rusher. There’s precedent for undersized edge rushers producing in the NFL, but guys like Brian Burns and Haason Reddick are the exception, not the rule. Still, Anderson has the potential to join that group.
The Cardinals are in desperate need of pass rushers. J.J. Watt retired, IDL/edge tweener Zach Allen left in free agency, Markus Golden looked dreadful in 2022, and neither Cameron Thomas nor Myjai Sanders has Anderson’s ceiling.
Anderson would be leaned on heavily from the outset in Arizona, and that’s ideal for IDP purposes. The arrival of Jonathan Gannon as the new defensive coordinator is also encouraging; Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham all had career years under Gannon in Philadelphia last year.
Tyree Wilson, DE Texas Tech
Ideal landing spot: Detroit Lions
Wilson has the prototypical size for the position at 6’6” and 275 lbs, and he uses his length to make plays that few others could achieve.
Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech pic.twitter.com/mNBKANjdQt
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) February 27, 2023
He was relatively quiet for the first few years as a rotational piece but developed into a game-wrecker in 2021 and has demonstrated yearly improvement.
His ability to play inside and outside the tackle is well-documented if a little overstated. However, he has the strength and stature to play on the interior, and that versatility will appeal to NFL teams.
Pairing Aidan Hutchinson with Wilson would be a great move for the Lions. Neither Romeo Okwara nor Charles Harris is the long-term answer, Josh Pascal doesn’t have Wilson’s upside, and while James Houston IV impressed in limited action, pinning hopes on a 2022 sixth-round rookie who rushed the passer fewer than 100 times last year is a risky move.
Myles Murphy, DE Clemson
Ideal landing spot: Houston Texans
If raw prospects with incredible upside are your thing, Murphy may be the edge rusher for you. The 6’5” 275 lb behemoth lacks some of his peers’ production and technical ability, but few edge rushers possess his blend of sheer size and power.
Easy power with the long arm from Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy pic.twitter.com/LodVjLaUz8
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) July 12, 2022
This play is impressive, but overpowering NFL-calibre offensive tackles won’t come as easily. Murphy may need to develop – or at least use – more counters at the next level to disengage from blocks consistently.
I don’t believe Murphy is ready to step into a sizeable role from day one, but he’ll undoubtedly be given every chance to succeed. His pro day numbers were excellent for a man of his size, and his upside could be special with the right coaching.
The Texans’ edge rusher room is barren. Jerry Hughes has been an underrated player his whole career, but he’ll be 35 when the season starts. Jonathan Greenard is best used as a rotational piece, as is Chase Winovich. Murphy would represent a considerable upgrade in a position of need.
Lukas Van Ness, DE Iowa
Ideal landing spot: Green Bay Packers
Few players helped their cause at the Scouting Combine more than Van Ness. The 6’5” 269lb behemoth posted impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash, and his 7.02 three-cone drill surprised many.
Van Ness’ tape is fun to watch. His play strength is impressive, and his bull rush may be second to none at his position in this draft class. He would benefit from adding to his pass-rush repertoire, but I believe he could have at least moderate success using the tools he already has.
The 21-year-old improved markedly against the run in 2022, demonstrating the development that NFL GMs and IDP managers covet in rookie prospects.
Many will point to Van Ness’ lack of college experience; he was used sparingly compared to many of the other edge rushers in this class. It’s a valid concern, but we’ve seen NFL teams overlook the fact that prospects weren’t full-time starters before, and I suspect they may do so again in this case.
The Packers arguably have bigger needs, but they love selecting players on the defensive side of the ball early in the draft. As excellent as Rashan Gary has been, he’s coming off an ACL tear, and his contract has not yet been extended beyond 2023. Preston Smith has been productive in recent years, but he’s north of 30 and was fortunate to convert almost 25% of his pressures into sacks last season.
Nolan Smith, DE Georgia
Ideal landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 22-year-old is small for an edge rusher at 6’2” and 238 lbs. Still, you quickly forget about his diminutive stature when you watch Smith play because he possesses good strength and plays with such intensity, especially in run defense.
Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith demolishes the right tackle for the sack.
This was his freshman year. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/Lr7zRRAN6h
— WBG84 (@WBG84) April 9, 2023
Smith has many of the traits required to become an impact pass rusher. His first step, speed, and agility are impressive, and his ability to get low to beat blockers on the outside is a plus. These are just some of the reasons he was the number-one recruit in the country in 2019.
He will probably be asked to add more weight to his frame in the NFL. If Smith can do this without adversely affecting his athleticism, his future should be bright. If he can also develop a more comprehensive arsenal of pass-rush moves, the sky is the limit.
Smith makes a lot of sense for the Bucs with the 19th pick. Shaquil Barrett had a phenomenal three-year spell, but he’s 30 years old, and his 2022 season was cut short with a torn Achilles. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been a disappointment, and the rest of the competition on the roster is underwhelming.
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