Today I look at pass rushers for the 2019 NFL draft. These can be defensive ends or linebackers with pass rush productivity. In his 2015 article Ranking each position’s importance, from quarterback to returner NFL analyst, Bucky Brooks, has pass rushers as the second most important position topped only by quarterbacks.
These are the top pass rushers based on 2018 team market share production for sacks, tackles for loss (TFL) and solo tackles. The overall production across these three statistics was taken into account. For that reason defensive ends Charles Omenihu (Texas) , Montez Sweat (Mississippi State), Anthony Nelson (Iowa) and OLB D’Andre Walker (Georgia) were excluded. They make the sack market share minimum but fail to do so for either solo tackles or Tackles for Loss. Market share is the player’s individual stat, such as sacks, divided by the whole team’s corresponding stat such as total team sacks.
Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
Defensive End, Sr, 6-4″ and 255lbs
Oshane Ximines is recognized for great use of his hands. He has violent hands that free him from blockers. Also a positive is his motor. He constantly keeps on fighting no matter if double teamed, down by large score or on the field a long time. He often makes plays on second effort. Ximines has the production you like to see.
He was top five in Conference USA in sacks each of the last three seasons. His career sack total (33) is eighth in NCAA since 2005. In 2018 his team market share of sacks was 52%, the highest of all 24 edge rushers looked at. The next closet was Josh Allen of Kentucky at 44%. His run defense is solid. Ximines has been eighth , fifth and fourth in Conference USA tackles for loss over the last there seasons with each season increasing. His team market share of tackles for loss is 28% in 2018 which was the highest of the 24 edge rushers examined. The next highest was Jaylon Ferguson at 26% market share. Ximines also forces fumbles leading conference USA with four in 2018. He has 11 career forced fumbles which is seventh in NCAA history since 2005.
Josh Allen, Kentucky
Outside Linebacker, Sr, 6’5″ and 260 lbs
When averaging the defensive linemen examined, Josh Allen was one of only two linemen that scored above average market share in each category of solo tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. The other being Nate Harvey of East Carolina. Allen’s 44% sack team market share was second only to Oshane Ximines. Allen brought home the hardware in 2018 winning the
- Bronko Nagurski Award,
- Chuck Bednarik Award,
- Ronnie Lott Trophy,
- SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and making
- unanimous Consensus All-America Team.
In 2018 Allen was number one in the SEC for sacks (14), tackles for loss (19) and forced fumbles (5). His 5 forced fumbles was number one in the nation. Allen shows explosive burst and speed in his first step rushing the passer and also does good dropping back into coverage. Allen was one of only five draft eligible players that had 10+ sacks, 10+ tackles for loss, 30+ solo tackles and 2+ passes defended.
E.J. Ejiya, North Texas
Outside Linebacker, Sr, 6’3″ and 231 lbs
EJ Ejiya made the 2018 C-USA All Conference First Team and the 2017 C-USA All Conference Honorable Mention. In 2018 he was third in the nation in Tackles for Loss (26). He is tops in the pass rushers examined in solo tackle team market share with 13%. Ejiya made the Pro Football Focus (PFF) C-USA All Conference second Team. In week three he made the PFF Team if the Week for his game against Arkansas where he “produced as a pass-rusher (5 total QB pressures), as a run-defender (3 run stops) and in coverage (1 reception, 3 yards allowed).”
Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
Defensive End, Sr, 6’5″ and 262 lbs
A four-year starter at defensive end, Jaylon made the C-USA Football All Conference First Team the last three seasons. In his freshman season he made C-USA All Conference Honorable Mention. Ferguson was the 2018 CUSA Defensive Player of the Year. In 2018 Ferguson had the second most tackle for a loss (TFL) in the nation (26) and the most sacks(18). From a team market share his TFL market share (26%) was second among edge rushers examined. Ferguson’s 41% sack market share was third bested only by Oshane Ximines and Josh Allen. Ferguson was one of the other five draft eligible players described under Josh Allen for passes defensed, solo tackles, sacks, tackles for loss. Ferguson uses his hands well to shred blockers.
Nate Harvey, East Carolina
Outside Linebacker, Sr, 6’1″ and 225 lbs
Nate Harvey made the 2018 AAC All-Conference First Team and was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. He was fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (25) and in sacks (12). Harvey was a former walk-on transfer. Last season he was a fifth-string running back. He switched to defensive end in the preseason and has an exceptional senior year. The coaching staff is hoping to get him an extra year granted by the NCAA. College Football News selected Nate as first honorable mention (5th overall) in their All-America Defensive Players – Defensive Ends. Though a little undersized, Harvey makes up for it in strength, power and speed. Harvey and Josh Allen were the only two pass rushers that scored above the group average in each of the three categories of sacks, TFLs, and solo tackles.
Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan
Defensive End, Jr, 6’5″ and 247 lbs
For each of the last two seasons Maxx Crosby has made the All-MAC First Team. In 2018 Crosby was tenth in the nation in tackles for loss (19) and eighth in forced fumbles (4). His 19 tackles for loss equated to a 25% team market share. That was fourth best among the pass rushers examined. In 2017 his 11 sacks was sixth in the nation. For the 2017 season Pro Football Focus had Crosby graded as the third best edge defender. Among returning edge defenders from the left side of the D-Line he had the most total pressures in 2017 with 56 according to PFF. Maxx Crosby is one of only five draft eligible players in 2018 to have 3+ passes defended, 30+solo tackles, 7.5+ sacks and 15+ tackles for loss.
Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
Defensive End, Jr, 6’1″ and 237 lbs
Sutton Smith was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2017. He made the All-MAC First Team both seasons. He also won the 2018 Vern Smith Leadership Award presented to the best player in the conference. In 2017 Smith was a Consensus All-American. Smith is number one in the nation in tackles for loss in both 2018 (27) and 2017 (30). His 59 career tackles for loss is ninth in the nation since 2005. Smith had 15 sacks in 2018 which was second in the nation. In 2017 he had 14 sacks which was first in the nation. Smith is eighth in the nation in forced fumbles (4). In 2018 Smith returned a punt for a touchdown. For his 2017 season Pro Football Focus had Smith as the highest graded edge defender and the best in four years. Smith arrived at NIU as a running back. His freshman year he switched to linebacker. Then his breakout sophomore year he had switched to defensive end. Smith has an incredible work ethic in both the film room and the weight room. He entered NIU bench pressing 7 or 8 reps at 225. By this past preseason he was doing 29 reps. In film study NIU defensive line coach, Brett Diersen, compared Smith’s film study regime to that of his former player Ndamukong Suh. Suh was a film room junkie.
Brian Burns, Florida State
Defensive End, Sr, 6’5″ and 235 lbs
Brian Burns made the 2018 All-ACC First Team and was selected for the Athlon Sports 2016 All Freshman Team. His 10 sacks in 2018 was tie for ninth in the nation. His ten sacks was a 36% team market share which was fourth among edge rushers examined. According to Pro Football Focus Brian Burns led all edge defenders in total pressures with 69. Burns is highly regarded for his flexibility and ability to bend the edge. That coupled with his 6’5″” frame and athleticism are great tools for a great pass rusher.
Corbin Kaufusi, Brigham Young
Defensive End, Sr, 6’9″ and 275 lbs
Corbin Kaufusi is a “football player”. He played his last game of the season against Utah November 24th. Kaufusi played even though he required season ending surgery for a severe ankle injury. He also had a torn triceps around his elbow. Kaufusi was told by the doctors that he could not do any more damage by playing one more collegiate game, and if he felt like he could play through pain and be effective, they advised him that one more game was still possible. For the love of his team and the game Corbin played in that last game. “We go until the wheels fall off. That’s all I cared about.” – Kaufusi. In the game he had seven tackles of which six were solo. It was the second highest tackle amount on the team.
Kaufusi had eight sacks and nine tackles for loss (TFL) in 2018. His team market share numbers were 7.7% solo tackles, 16.7% TFL, and 34.1% sacks. Those are all above a minimum target percentage for indication of a Pro-Bowl caliber future. Kaufusi made those minimums for sacks, TFL and solo tackles in each of his last two years. Corbin was on the Phil Steele All-Independent First Team each of the last two seasons. Corbin hustles in pursuit and has good motor. Some may be put off by his age. He is 25 years old and will be 26 at the draft. Corbin served a two year LDS mission to South Korea . In addition Corbin is an eagle Scout. His maturity, love of team and game, and a strong work ethic overshadows his older age.
Ronheen Bingham, Arkansas State
Defensive End, Sr, 6’2″ and 242 lbs
Ronheen Bingham is the 2018 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. He made the 2018 All-Sun Belt First Team and the 2017 All-Sun Belt second Team. In 2018 Bingham was number one in the Sun Belt in sacks (9) and tackles for Loss (19). Bingham is one of only six players in 2018 to have 3+ passes defended, 25+ solo tackles, 9+ sacks and 15+ tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus lists Ronheen Bingham as the nation’s leader in pass-rush win percentage at 29.4%.
For those interested here is the data. It includes the minimums, average and target goals across the top rows. The players are listed with their position ranking at nfldraftscout.com. The player data lists their 2018 totals for solo tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. Next lists their team market share percentages for each of those. Any market shares below the target goal are highlighted in yellow. The next three columns are the player’s standard deviations form the group average for each of those. Highlighted in blue are the players that had positive standard deviations in all three statistics. Finally is a sum of the standard deviations.