Twice a week this offseason Blaine Grisak and Jake Ellenbogen will share their top-10 players from each position in the NFL. We’ll discuss our lists and why we ranked players where we did as well as the position in general.
We also asked the rest of the Downtown Rams staff who their top-10’s were and will have a poll and its results at the end.
In this edition, Blaine and Jake unveil their top-10 edge rusher in the NFL heading into the 2019 season and who is ready to take that next step.
Top-10 Edge Rushers
1. Von Miller – DEN
2. JJ Watt – HOU
3. Khalil Mack – CHI
4. Jadeveon Clowney – HOU
5. Cameron Jordan – NO
6. Myles Garrett – CLE
7. Calais Campbell – JAX
8. Joey Bosa – LAC
9. TJ Watt – PIT
10. Ryan Kerrigan – WAS
1. Khalil Mack – CHI
2. Von Miller – DEN
3. Myles Garrett – CLE
4. DeMarcus Lawrence – DAL
5. Jadeveon Clowney – HOU
6. Joey Bosa – LAC
7. Danielle Hunter – MIN
8. J.J. Watt – HOU
9. Calais Campbell – JAX
10. Cameron Jordan – NO
Blaine: Alright, Jake, we’re back! After a week off for the Fourth of July and finishing the offensive side of the ball, we move to defense. Everybody knows how important it is to have that presence off the edge.
When it comes to the edge position, I think you have the top-4, and then there is a clear second tier. I have Von Miller at one. Denver not having a great offense has covered up his production. Then I have JJ Watt, Khalil Mack, and Jadeveon Clowney. Calais Campbell may not be the player he once was, but he’s still in the top-10 for me.
TJ Watt comes in at No. 9. He had a very good sophomore year, and I’m excited for what he can do in his third season. Then wrapping up, I have Ryan Kerrigan. He’s another underrated guy I think that many fans have forgotten about due to the lack of success in Washington.
Jake: Oh, yes, we are! I think this is one of the more highly anticipated positional rankings for fans. To me, Von Miller had the number one spot until last year when Khalil Mack overtook him. Mack blows me away is the best edge defender in the entire league.
After him, I do have Von Miller, followed by a monstrous young pass rusher in Myles Garrett, a resurgent star in DeMarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney to round out my top five.
After the top five I have Joey Bosa in the sixth spot, the incredibly talented Danielle Hunter in the seventh and the veterans J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, and Cameron Jordan wrapped up my top ten. What a group of pass rushers we have here in the NFL!
Blaine: Oh, I know! It’s crazy the amount of talent. With the importance of the quarterback position, it has grown the importance of having that premier edge rusher. I want to start our discussion by talking about a guy that was traded last year – Khalil Mack. What did you think of that trade at first when he went from Oakland to Chicago? He goes to the Bears, but how much did he help them take that next step in terms of being an elite defense? They had a lot of talent, but having a guy like Mack, how much did he help them become one of the most feared defenses in the league last season?
Then one more side point on this for more of a Rams’ spin: In 2014 the Rams had the opportunity to take Mack with the No. 2 overall pick but instead took Greg Robinson. That one stings, but I had Mack mocked to the Rams as well as Aaron Donald with the later first-round selection that the Rams had. If the Rams would have taken Mack what do you think that would have looked like on this defense?
Jake: Yeah I liked the trade for the Bears and hated it for the Raiders. I think the Raiders didn’t want to pay him or anyone money and that’s why they moved Amari Cooper later in the season. The Raiders had the cap but ultimately don’t want to pay anyone.
Now, with the Bears, they had the talented pieces on that defense, they drafted Roquan Smith to go with Danny Trevathan, they had Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, and Akiem Hicks and then in the secondary, they had Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos, Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan. It’s not hard to see why the Bears were such a formidable defense with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Then the Bears traded almost their entire 2019 draft for Khalil Mack, and that put them over the top.
Having a player like Mack is like having a player like Aaron Donald. Mack makes everyone even better as does Donald. The presence is felt on the field, and he gets stronger as the games go on. He’s worth every penny the Bears paid him and every asset they traded for him.
As for the Rams, hindsight is 20/20 right? Well, except you and I both saw the undeniable talents of Donald and Mack. Who knows what happens? That was 2014. Jared Goff likely wouldn’t be the Rams starting quarterback as they would have had a better pick likely and would have had to trade up even further. I guess there are always pros and cons to everything. Can’t say I would go back in time and change that, mainly because the Rams wouldn’t have been able to sign both players anyway.
Blaine: That is true! Always fun to think about though. Donald and Mack on the same team would have been fun to see. We are Downtown Rams, but there are no Rams on either of our lists. The team did sign Dante Fowler to a one year deal. Many thought he was overpaid. What did you think of the contract and how do you see him fairing in year two under Wade Phillips?
Jake: I love Fowler, he’s someone that people have pushed off to the side because of his lack of elite play is a former No. 3 overall pick. It’s important to remember that Fowler suffered a season-ending injury his rookie year that derailed his development. After that, Jacksonville drafted Maryland stud Yannick Ngakoue which didn’t help Fowler. Then the team went out and signed free agent pass rusher Calais Campbell who was the nail in the coffin for Fowler as far as his long-term future went in Jacksonville.
Now, Fowler comes to the Rams and plays a pretty big role for them mid-season through the post-season. Fowler arguably forces the Super Bowl clinching interception with his pressure in overtime on Drew Brees. Now, the Rams pay him $14M for one year. That seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much because they see what the 25-year-old pass rusher has brought to the table and how he’s just scratching the surface.
In year two under Wade Phillips, look for Dante Fowler Jr. to settle down and continue his ascension in the league. He’s going to complete the comeback after that big-time setback to start his career. Another team’s “trash” looks to be another team’s “treasure.”
Blaine: For sure. I think the Rams got a bargain there and I’m excited to see what he does in year two, because like you said, he showed a lot of promise there at the end of the year.
Now I want to talk about this rookie class as it looks like it might be one of the more historic classes in terms of defense and edge rushers. You had Nick Bosa, who is the brother of Joey Bosa, go second overall to the 49ers. Brian Burns and Montez Sweat can be added in there as well. Of those guys and maybe a player or two that I didn’t mention, who could make this list next year and who are you excited to see? Having Bosa in the NFC West for the next ten years coming after Goff is not something I’m looking forward to, I’ll tell you that!
Jake: Great question! I think the best pass rusher in this class is Brian Burns and watching him take over for a legendary pass rusher like Julius Peppers in Carolina is going to be something else. Nick Bosa with the 49ers, Josh Allen with the Jaguars are the favorites to end up in the top ten eventually but as far as some sleepers go, keep an eye on Justin Hollins in Denver, Maxx Crosby with the Raiders, Jaylon Ferguson with the Ravens and Chase Winovich with the Patriots. I’m sure that there are other others, but those are some names to remember.
Blaine: Alright, Jake, now time for our favorite part of the series, our honorable mentions. Who are the guys that just missed the list for you? I felt terrible not having DeMarcus Lawrence in my top-10, but he’s there for me in the honorable mentions as well as Danielle Hunter. Dee Ford is also a guy that I like despite his boneheaded mistake in the AFC Championship game. Who are your honorable mentions?
Jake: Yeah, my honorable mentions include names like the two guys you had that I left out, T.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, as well as Frank Clark, Trey Flowers, Dee Ford, Brandon Graham, Preston Smith and I’d even make the argument to throw in Dante Fowler Jr. Those are my honorable mentions.
Blaine: Those are some great names and goes to show how deep this position group is. That’ll do it for our edge rushers, and we’ll be back Friday to wrap up the defensive line.
Top-10 (First Place Votes)
1. Khalil Mack – CHI (5)
2. JJ Watt – HOU
3 Von Miller – DEN (1)
4. DeMarcus Lawrence – DAL
T5. Jadeveon Clowney – HOU
T5. Joey Bosa – LAC
7. Myles Garrett – CLE
8. Cameron Jordan – NO
9. Calais Campbell – JAX
10. Frank Clark – KC
Others Receiving Votes: Brandon Graham – PHI, Danielle Hunter – MIN, Tre Flowers – NE, Melvin Ingram – LAC, Yannick Ngakoue – JAX, TJ Watt – PIT, Mario Addison – CAR, Everson Griffen – MIN, Ryan Kerrigan – WAS
Alexis Kraft: 1. Khalil Mack, 2. Von Miller, 3. JJ Watt, 4. Joey Bosa, 5. Cameron Jordan, 6. DeMarcus Lawrence, 7. Myles Garrett, 8. Frank Clark, 9. Calais Campbell, 10. Danielle Hunter
Max Perez: 1. Khalil Mack, 2. Von Miller, 3. JJ Watt, 4. Jadeveon Clowney, 5. Joey Bosa, 6. DeMarcus Lawrence, 7. Cam Jordan, 8. Trey Flowers, 9. Melvin Ingram, 10. Brandon Graham