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2023 NFL Draft: An Early Look at the Edge Class

Our resident scout, Greg Gabriel, takes an early look at some of the top edge talent in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

If there is one thing that has become very obvious in the last month is that the Bears need to upgrade their defensive line and especially the pass rush. Since Robert Quinn got traded at the trade deadline, the Bears have not gotten a sack from an edge player. You can't expect to win games in the NFL without a consistently good outside pass rush. That said, it wouldn't surprise me that the Bears get two pass rushers for 2023 between the Draft and free agency.

As it stands now, the free agent class at the edge position doesn't look that great, but we still have a long way to go before free agency begins in March. Because of salary cap constraints, there could be some veterans who will end up being available. We will talk about the free agent class at a later date and today focus on some of the better edge players that will be in the Draft.

In the Bears' scheme, size isn't the most important trait needed to play defensive end. In this scheme, some very good pass rushers have what could be considered marginal size. When we drafted Alex Brown in 2003, he was only 248 pounds. Adawale Ogunleye was 253 when he got drafted, and Mark Anderson was about 255. While none were that big, they were athletic, explosive, fast, and had long arms. Once these players get in an NFL off-season program, they do get bigger and stronger. The key though is not necessarily to get bigger but to get stronger and have good lean weight (muscle weight). The last thing a player wants to do is get bigger and lose some of his quickness, speed, and explosiveness.

Some of the better edge players in no particular order in the Draft include the following:

Will Anderson – Alabama

Anderson is a junior who will enter the Draft and very well could be the first player drafted. Houston has the first pick, and they have a strong QB need, but they also have another first-round pick. They could select Anderson at one and use their second first on a QB. How that turns out remains to be seen.

Anderson did not have as strong a season this year as he did in 2021. Last year he was totally dominant and registered 17.5 sacks. With opponents scheming to stop him this year, his sack production dropped to 10.

Anderson isn't the biggest guy at about 6'4 – 245, but he can easily get to 250+, and he has all the required traits to be a very good NFL pass rusher. Watching him on tape, he shows he has speed, bend, very good hand use, and moves. If the Bears, currently holding the number two slot in the Draft, stay there, it's a no-brainer to select him.

Tyree Wilson – Texas Tech

Wilson is a very interesting prospect. At Texas Tech, he played as a 3-4 OLB and only pass rushed about half the time. He would often drop into coverage, yet he still recorded 7.0 sacks this season. Why Texas Tech would use him that way is beyond me because it's easy to see his natural pass rush traits.

Wilson will measure at a little over 6'6 – 270, and I would bet he runs in the low 4.6s. He is very quick off the ball, has excellent length, and knows how to use his hands. His ability to chase and catch plays from behind is outstanding. While still a bit raw as a pass rusher, the natural tools are there. He will be a consistent double-digit sack artist once he gets onto the League.

Wilson isn't a player the Bears would take in the Top Five, but he would be a trade down consideration. And by the way, Ryan Poles recently made a trip to Texas Tech to see Wilson.

Myles Murphy – Clemson

In the Bears' scheme, Murphy would be more of a left end than a right end. Why? He's got very good size at about 6'5 – 275 and plays the run very well. Some have compared him to last year's first overall pick Travon Walker because they are similar athletes with similar size. I feel that Murphy is a better all-around player than Walker, but I also feel he will never be a double-digit sack guy once he gets in the League. He will be a good pass rusher but not a dominant one. There is a lot to like about Murphy's game but to draft him and say he is going to be your dominant pass rusher is a misnomer.

Nolan Smith – Georgia

Georgia plays a strict rotation with their defensive line because their depth is so strong. Many of their top DLine players don't have the stats that others have because of playing in that rotation, but the talent certainly is there.

Smith is undersized at about 6'3 - 238, but like Anderson, he has the frame to get bigger. Comps for Smith would be two former Penn State players from the 2021 Draft, Micah Parsons and Odafe Oweh. Both were very fast and athletic players but also a bit undersized. In the Bears' scheme, Smith would be a right end, and he has the talent to provide a very good outside rush. I'll be interested to see how he performs at Indy because he could very well be close to Anderson as far as speed, strength, and explosiveness.

Isaiah Foskey – Notre Dame

Foskey was a hot name entering the season but got off to a slow start. He finished strong though, with 11 sacks on the season and 22 over the last two seasons. At 6'5 – 265, Foskey has great size and length and plays the run just as well as he rushes the passer. For a bigger guy, it would not surprise me if he runs in the low 4.6s. As good as he has played at Notre Dame, he still has a lot of upside. I doubt he is a top 10 type player, but he is a guy that a club would think about on a trade down.

Jared Verse – Florida State

Verse is a very interesting player. He started off at tiny Albany State in New York but dominated at the FCS level. He transferred to Florida State for this season and played very well against way better competition. He still has two seasons of eligibility left, but there are strong indications that he will enter the Draft. Like the players above, Verse is very fast and athletic with natural pass rush tools. He plays with very good bend, and his hand use is advanced for a guy who came from a small school. In my opinion, Verse is more of a second-round type, but he has excellent upside as he has only played one year of major college football.

As we get closer to the Combine and Draft, there will be others I will write about, as this Draft Class is strong in several areas, and it will give the Chicago Bears a good chance of improving their roster.