Staying in school may pay off for Chubb
The top edge rushing prospects entering the NFL draft:
1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (6-4, 269 pounds): He could have left school after his junior year but returned, in part, to boost his draft stock. That decision paid off, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Chubb is the first defensive player selected. He’s one of the rare prospects who blends on-field production (20 sacks over the past two seasons), size and impressive numbers at the scouting combine that will likely convince teams he can be an impact pass rusher immediately. Chubb had 10 sacks as a senior and 23 tackles for a loss. But he said at the combine that he’s underrated as a run defender, and it should impress teams that he’s equally proud of his ability to chase down running backs as he is rushing the quarterback. Still, Chubb understands that it’s his ability to bring pressure that will most wow teams, and he’s pitching himself in meetings with coaches and executives as a “relentless” player who views himself as a combination of all-pros Von Miller and Khalil Mack. So clearly confidence isn’t an issue, either. Projected: potential top five
2. Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio (6-6, 264): He weighed 198 pounds when he arrived for his freshman season but packed on nearly 60 more in the four years since, developing himself from an under-the-radar recruit into a likely first-round pick. Davenport didn’t have a high-profile college career but has made a strong impression during the pre-draft process. He had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, when he got to face the top-tier talent he didn’t always see in college, and then posted impressive numbers at the combine, where he ran a position-best 4.58 40-yard dash. NFL teams will likely be impressed by his raw athleticism and, especially, his 80-inch wing span. He’ll likely face questions about whether he projects better as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or if he will be able to play right away as a hand-in-the-dirt end in a 4-3. Projected: Round 1
3. Harold Landry, Boston College (6-3, 252): He doesn’t have the size of other top edge rushers in this class but makes up for a lack of bulk with speed. Landry said at the combine that he prides himself on his quick first step at the snap. While he has work to do to beat bigger NFL tackles who can envelop him, that speed is a valuable trait that could land him in the first round. Landry’s sack numbers dipped from 16½ in his junior season to five as a senior in 2017, when he missed several games because of an ankle injury. Projected: Round 1
4. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State (6-5, 265): He replaced Joey Bosa, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, in Columbus. Hubbard credits time spent as Bosa’s backup for accelerating his own development. While he might not be able to match Bosa’s sheer athleticism, Hubbard is hoping to impress NFL teams with versatility that could allow him to flourish in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Projected: Round 1-2
5. Lorenzo Carter, Georgia (6-6, 250): Part of the Bulldogs’ star-studded linebacker corps, his versatility should allow him to play in a variety of schemes. Carter most immediately projects as a sub package pass rusher, perhaps similar to the career progression of former Georgia teammate and current Chicago Bear Leonard Floyd. Carter has impressive speed, running a 4.5-second 40yard dash at the combine, and had a productive — if not electric — college career, including 41⁄2 sacks in 2017. Projected: Round 2-3
6. Arden Key, LSU (6-6, 238): His most important test at the combine was among the first: the weigh-in. Key’s weight fluctuated dramatically at Baton Rouge, and he said he topped out at 280 pounds at his heaviest but played last season about 275. At the combine, he managed to get below 240, much closer to where NFL teams will like to see him play professionally in order to harness his athleticism. But now he’ll need to convince those teams that he has the discipline to stay in shape. Key will also have to answer questions about why he left the LSU program for four months last spring. He has declined to publicly discuss the personal reasons for his absence but claims he’s been forthcoming in team interviews. Projected: Round 2-3
7. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma (6-1, 242): He doesn’t match the stature of peers likely to be picked well ahead of him. But Okoronkwo’s college production (17 sacks, 29 TFLs since 2016) is certainly impressive enough. Projected: Round 3-4
8. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest (6-4, 270): He elected to have surgery on a lingering shoulder injury in February, so teams are relying on his film. Ejiofor seems to project best as a defensive end in a 4-3 base defense, though he said he spent some time working as a standup pass rusher last season for the Demon Deacons. Projected: Round 4-5
9. Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State (6-1, 254): One of the more intriguing edge rushers in this draft, he spent much of his college career as an undersized interior defensive lineman. But at his weight, he won’t make it as an NFL defensive tackle, so the logical progression is for him to move him outside. He’s trying to sell NFL teams on his versatility and that his experience inside should be an asset instead of a reason to downgrade him. Projected: Round 5-6
Teams in need of edge rushers
1. Colts: Their 25 sacks in 2017 were fewest in the AFC. Indianapolis hasn’t been formidable rushing the passer since the days of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
2. Giants: A team that traded Jason Pierre-Paul posted only 27 sacks a year ago and is switching defensive schemes needs help and might consider Chubb at No. 2 overall.
3. Jets: They’ve had one double-figure sack season in the past four, and that player (Muhammad Wilkerson) is no longer on the team.
4. 49ers: The Niners don’t generate enough pressure in a division where the quarterbacks will make you pay dearly if you don’t disrupt their timing.
5. Patriots: The Super Bowl loss was further evidence that New England doesn’t have enough elite defensive talent, especially up front.
Defensive end Bradley Chubb blends on-field production (20 sacks past two seasons), size and impressive combine numbers. JEREMY BREVARD/USA TODAY SPORTS