I had been planning on making my way over to defensive linemen in my 2023 NFL Draft position breakdowns eventually. That said, watching the Bears on Sunday gave me the motivation I needed to get started.
Even before trading Robert Quinn to the Eagles, the Bears haven’t done a very good job of generating pressure on passing downs. Their current group of edge rushers has been generally subpar, and their interior defensive linemen aren’t pushing the pocket much, either.
After trading for Chase Claypool and watching their offense play well with their current personnel, wide receiver doesn’t project to be as big of a need as it was a few months ago. It’s still a need, sure, but it wouldn’t be surprising now if the Bears used a bulk of their cap space and/or early-round draft capital on upgrading the trenches.
I have decided to share my current top 15 edge rushers on my 2023 draft board to give you all a bit of an understanding as to which prospects the Bears could be tied to once draft discussion really picks up. Keep in mind that these rankings are obviously a work in progress, and that things will change from now until April.
That said, let’s dive right in and look at the best edge rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tier 1A: Will Anderson
1. Will Anderson, Alabama
6-foot-4, 243 pounds
It’s unfair how good Anderson is at football. Not only is he gifted with insane quickness, phenomenal flexibility and stellar speed, but he has a diverse arsenal of hand techniques and maximizes his athletic tools by playing hard on every down. He has Von Miller levels of potential if all goes right.
Tier 1B: Top-tier talents
2. Myles Murphy, Clemson
6-foot-5, 275 pounds
Murphy is an absurdly toolsy athlete with a very high ceiling in the pros. His size allows him to physically overwhelm smaller offensive linemen, but it’s his speed to the outside that truly makes him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
3. Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
6-foot-6, 275 pounds
Wilson has exploded in 2022 to become one of the best defenders in college football. Think Marcus Davenport: high in the pads, but a lengthy specimen with great burst off the ball, inside-outside versatility and a penchant for getting in the backfield.
Tier 2: Legit starters with tools
4. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
6-foot-4, 255 pounds
I don’t want to become “the draft comps” guy, but I do see quite a bit of Robert Quinn in Anudike-Uzomah. He’s not the best run defender, but he’s explosive, has a deep arsenal of pass-rushing moves and has fantastic flexibility off the edge.
5. Derick Hall, Auburn
6-foot-3, 256 pounds
Hall is an intriguing prospect for the speed-strength combination he brings to the table. Though he’s not the most technically sound edge rusher, he’s quick off the snap, offers great raw power in his frame and plays hard.
6. Jared Verse, Florida State
6-foot-4, 251 pounds
Verse exploded onto the scene in Week 1 against LSU, and the Albany transfer has played pretty well since dealing with a minor injury earlier in the season. He’s light in the pants but wicked fast, bendy turning the corner and plays hard.
7. Nolan Smith, Georgia
6-foot-3, 235 pounds
When a small edge rusher who just suffered a torn pec ranks this high, you know he must be good. That rings true with Smith, whose speed off the edge, lateral mobility and ability to stack and shed blocks in the run game will have him high in demand in the 2023 draft.
8. Zach Harrison, Ohio State
6-foot-6, 272 pounds
Harrison is a case of untapped physical potential. Though his production hasn’t been great at the collegiate level, he’s an insanely explosive edge rusher with great length who should absolutely dominate Combine testing when the time comes.
9. Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
6-foot-5, 265 pounds
Foskey has 18 sacks in his last 22 games. He’s a smooth operator with good body control, loose hips on the speed rush and ample athleticism out in the open field. With some development as a technician, he could be a problem for opposing NFL offenses.
10. Andre Carter II, Army
6-foot-7, 260 pounds
He falls down my rankings due to a huge drop in production in 2022, but Carter’s physical upside is too much to ignore. He has fantastic raw size and combines that with quickness off the snap, finesse in his hands and very good length to work with.
Tier 3: Future starters with development
11. BJ Ojulari, LSU
6-foot-3, 250 pounds
Ojulari has the athletic upside that teams will cover at the edge rusher position in the NFL. His speed and high motor allow him to make an impact on plays that many other defenders otherwise wouldn’t, and though his play strength needs to improve, he could develop into quite the pass-rusher at the next level.
12. Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
6-foot-3, 236 pounds
As of this writing, McDonald has 33 career sacks at the collegiate level. Though he’s smaller and thus strictly a stand-up rusher, his first-step burst, flexibility and coordination in space indicate he can thrive in a 3-4 base system.
13. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington
6-foot-4, 241 pounds
Having slimmed down after suffered a ruptured Achilles in 2021, Tupuola-Fetui is still a tenacious edge rusher whose low pad level, explosiveness and hand placement projects him as a future starter at the NFL level.
14. Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
6-foot-5, 269 pounds
There’s a good chance Van Ness doesn’t declare for the 2023 draft as a redshirt sophomore. If he does, though, his inside-outside versatility, production, length and quickness might be enough for an NFL team to take a chance on him on Day 2.
15. Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh
6-foot-5, 260 pounds
Baldonado hasn’t produced up to the level he performed at in 2021, but it’s that 9-sack performance last year with his high motor, active hands and quickness off the ball that will have NFL teams targeting him in the near future.