2017 Draft Prospects: Edge Rushers – Part 2

In this series, I’ll be analyzing different collegiate prospects that play a specific position, beginning with today’s selected position- the EDGE rusher- that could be drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, beginning on April 27th.

With the glaring need at EDGE Rusher that hasn’t been filled yet, could the New Orleans Saints look to one of these prospects as their future? There are several prospects in this year’s EDGE class worthy of a first round pick. Needless to say, the potential is there. But which of these EDGE Rushers get drafted in the first round is another story.

Note: This is a continuing series recently started on my former blog. 

The first prospect I take a look at features a lot beyond his interesting first name.

ANN ARBOR, MI – NOVEMBER 05: Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33), linebacker Ben Gedeon (42), and linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) make a tackle during game action between the Maryland Terrapins and the Michigan Wolverines (2/2) on November 5, 2016, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Taco Charlton

The Michigan senior has certainly raised a few eyebrows over the last few weeks, and it all hasn’t been from his first name. The hybrid EDGE rusher/linebacker showed outstanding playmaking ability throughout his career at Michigan.

Charlton is a playmaking athlete who creates good penetration off of the line. But he is also able to use his body easily to create leverage while pushing opposing offensive linemen backward. In general, Charlton has good technique, a good presence coming around the edge, and is pretty well able to sniff out which way the ball is coming.

At this point in time, from his transition into the NFL, I want to see Taco Charlton improve on his consistency and overall aggressiveness. In watching a few different videos on Charlton, the consistency issue is especially obvious. But I’m confident that’s an area he can improve in.

Another criticism I have with the senior is his ability to break away from opposing linemen. It appeared that most of his best moments came off of the edge. A defensive lineman has to be a versatile athlete for his team, able to produce in more ways than one. Current Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan has no issues rushing from the inside and causing havoc among opposing offenses. In fact, some of his sacks in 2015 came from inside. If this is something Charlton worked on, personally I would be really interested in seeing his progress. The only other real complaints I had with Taco were his speed when the ball is snapped, and his letting up nearing the end of plays.

EDGE rusher Taco Charlton is a raw athlete. He isn’t perfect, but I think can still be able to perform at a professional level. He’s coming into his own in some ways, but I think he has potential to produce at a professional level. Charlton will at times need to be more aggressive, consistent, and stay determined. But I think he could make it work from what I’ve seen from his film.

The next prospect I take a look at comes from Missouri, and features a lot of potential come the NFL Draft. 

MORGANTOWN, WV – SEPTEMBER 03: Charles Harris

Charles Harris

If you’re looking for an immovable object, look no further.

Charles Harris proved to be an unstoppable being at Missouri. And he will continue to do so with whatever NFL team drafts him this year. To put it simply, all I noticed time after time about Harris is how quick, strong, and disruptive he is. He not only is good in regards to leveraging opponents. He has a good awareness of where the ball is going and adjusts accordingly. Against some of the best lineman around, Harris is still able to produce. And although it may not always result in sacks, Harris is still able to push opposing players backward.

As promising as Charles Harris looks right now, he has his weaknesses.  I identified three while watching film: when Harris rounds a corner rushing the edge, how low he tackles, and the general need to improve his rush technique.

In regards to his rush technique, don’t get me wrong, Charles Harris is a great athlete, he’s dominant, and uses his body well to leverage opposing offensive linemen. But for the most part, that’s all he has right now. Beyond the occasional swim move, Harris is lacking in this department. Somehow, if Charles Harris is able to widen his grasp on ways to get to the quarterback, expect big things down the road.

The last thing Harris needs to do is shorten his circumference when rounding the edge. It’s simple math to put it blatantly: the less field Harris needs to travel the easier it’ll be to get to his destination. Not only does cutting down the circumference size help Harris make a quicker impact for his team, but it reduces the amount of steep angles that he has to take. That will make it easier to bring players to the ground. In general, tackling higher will help to make a noticeable difference in Harris’ performance on the field.

In the NFL Harris can’t afford to make simple mistakes, which is why he needs to just tweak what he does on the field a bit. Overall, Charles Harris is a great player, he just needs to work on a few things, basically the “polish the merchandise before you sell it” kind of approach. Personally, I think Harris has what it takes to succeed in the NFL, now if he decides to polish his at and improve, that’s another story.

The next prospect I take a look at has certainly made an impact for his former college team. 

NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 02: Baker Mayfield

Carl Lawson

Auburn was certainly gifted these past few seasons by the presence of Carl Lawson. His natural ability at finding where the ball is heading, sniff out the play, and dominating the point of attack is incredible. Lawson is great at throwing people down while moving on to the next athlete. Overall he is a dominant athlete who not only knows what to do when it comes to stopping opponents but knows how to do it well. The main takeaway I get from Lawson is a general consistency in regards to how dominant he is.

One note I found interesting about Lawson was, for the colleges Auburn faced, most of the time Lawson was standing compared to having his hand in the dirt. For curiosity sake, I’d like to see more of Lawson with his hand down.

Overall, the main concerns I have with Lawson going forward are his general rushing technique and his timing. In regards to his rushing technique, overall, it isn’t that bad. I’d personally just like to see more variety.

Now, about his timing. The main reason why I bring this up is because it seems like no matter what team Lawson is facing, although he’s obviously more than capable of delivering a hard blow, it just comes after the ball has pretty much left the quarterback’s hands. Overall, I find Lawson translating well to the NFL, and still creating success in several ways, there are just a few things that need to be addressed.

 The final athlete I discuss takes the phrase,”Impact Player” to a whole new level. 

BOULDER, CO (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Takkarist McKinley

It’s quite obvious that Takkarist McKinley is not an athlete to take lightly. Analysts around the league have praised McKinley for his general dominance on the field. He has a remarkable ability to make a positive impact for his team whether it be at linebacker or rushing the edge. The former UCLA stud uses his body and leverage to propel athletes backward almost seamlessly. For UCLA, McKinley was able to provide a bigger impact than the Bruins could ever have imagined. Not only has he produced consistent constant pressure for the team, but McKinley has been able to make big impacts for UCLA when the team needed him most.

Although I don’t see much technique when I watch films of McKinley, I do see a lot of promise. Takkarist is more than obviously a talented, gifted athlete. Don’t get me wrong. I’d just like to see more finesse and technique going forward to his transition into the NFL. Now beyond those slight miscues, I do think Takkarist McKinley’s skill set will allow him to transition well into the NFL. It will only take a bit of smoothing out at first. He’s shown a lot of promise, and potential, at least from what I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to following his professional career.

There are certainly more than a handful of names worth discussing in regards to this years class of edge rushers. Stay tuned as I plan on continuing this series as the weeks progress.

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