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Quarterback is obviously the NFL's most valuable position, but the players who are tasked with disrupting what the quarterback can do -- edge rushers -- aren't too far behind on the league's positional value spectrum. Each of the last three NFL Defensive Player of the Year winners -- Myles Garrett (2023), Nick Bosa (2022) and T.J. Watt (2021) -- were all edge players. 

CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman, the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings for 16 seasons (2006-2021), delivers his educated analysis on the 2024 edge rusher class from the "With The First Pick" podcast episode that aired on April 3 to inform the diehard football fandom community on who to watch for in the event their team needs to improve its defensive front.   

This is the ninth and final position group in CBS Sports' pre-draft evaluations with wide receiversrunning backsquarterbackstight endsoffensive linedefensive backslinebackers and interior defensive linemen all available to be enjoyed ahead of the first round of the draft, which kicks off on Thursday. Each prospect also includes a closer look from yours truly. Enjoy the best of the best of the 2024 NFL Draft edge rusher class.      

Tier 3

Bralen Trice (Washington)

  • Height: 6-3 1/2" | Weight: 245 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 AP Third Team All-American, Led FBS in QB pressures (150) in past two seasons

 Pro comp: Three-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion DE Frank Clark 

"Better football player than athlete," Spielman said. "He plays hard with a lot of energy and a sense of urgency. Made a lot of plays in the Texas CFP semifinal game. He lacks ideal size and length, but he has a lot of production off his effort in both phases. He will get engulfed at the point in the run game and not always consistent to get off blocks. Great effort closing in pursuit from the backside. He flashes speed to power off the edge and can counter off is initial contact but stiffness through his lower to bend and dip at the corner shows up as a pass rusher. Should be a solid rotational player, but I don't see him as a full-fledged difference maker as a starter at the next level."   

  • Highest he could get drafted: Top of second round
  • Lowest he could get drafted: Top of second round
  • Best team fit: Chicago Bears (Day 2 pick)

Final thoughts: No one has been more successful at pressuring the quarterback across the last two seasons than Washington's Bralen Trice, a two-time First Team All-Pac-12 (2022, 2023) in each of the last two years after racking up 150 pressures in that span. His agility and quickness are what power his success, using hesitation, jukes, ducks and dodges to avoid being blocked as lineman are left grasping at the air where Trice once was. He can also transfer the speed into power with a counter move inside as well as on a bull rush. Trice is best utilizing swim moves and his bend to dodge offensive tackles on his way toward the quarterback. 

He isn't the most explosive rusher, and he doesn't have the high-end speed needed to make plays all the way on the opposite side of the field. Trice doesn't have elite length (32 1/2" arms), but he can be a solid pass rush contributor in sub-packages. For a Bears team still desperate for pass rush help (ranked 30th in the NFL in QB pressure rate (31.2%) and 31st in sacks with 30), Trice could be a nice complementary piece for Montez Sweat and the rest of the Chicago pass rush. The Bears' second-round pick belongs to Washington, but there is a slim chance Trice could slip to 75th overall, Chicago's third-round choice. 

Tier 2

Chop Robinson (Penn State)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 254 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 First Team All-Big Ten, led Big Ten in pressure rate (18.6%) since 2022 (min. 200 pass rushes)

 Pro comp: Philadelphia Eagles DE Nolan Smith/Los Angeles Rams LB Byron Young

"May have to start out as a designated pass rusher," Spielman said. "Plays with a hot motor. Excellent first-step quickness off the snap. Has to beat offensive tackles with his quickness. Struggles at times if they short set on him. Excellent speed bend and deep at the edge. Relentless effort to chase down scrambles. He does need to get stronger at the point versus the run. Can play with leverage but needs to get off blocks quicker."

Final thoughts: Chop Robinson tested as one of the most explosive edge rushers at the NFL Scouting Combine thanks to his 4.48 40-yard dash and 10'8" broad jump. That ability matches the tape where he erupts off the line of scrimmage, which allows him to to get past most offensive tackles by simply bending and dipping under a block. Robinson's work with his hands is just as quick when rushing the passer, as he as able to detach himself from an offensive lineman's hands, leaving them falling forward. Robinson's push-pull move to reach the pocket through a bull rush and two-hand punch can result an offensive lineman falling into their quarterback. 

If he is initially stymied, he keeps working to find a new opening. Robinson is also solid against the run, ensuring he can force ball carriers back inside by sealing off the edge. One concern with Robinson is that his tools didn't equate to stats in a big way (11.5 sacks in three years. With better coaching and developed pass rush plan, he could take off. Todd Bowles and his coaching staff could be a nice landing spot for Robinson. They were able to maximize Shaq Barrett after he was underutilized by the Broncos. Perhaps they can do something similar with Robinson. 

Laiatu Latu (UCLA)

  • Height: 6-5 | Weight: 259 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Unanimous All-American, 2023 Ted Hendricks Award winner (best defensive end in FBS)

 Pro comp: Jacksonville Jaguars two-time Pro Bowl DE Josh Allen

"Biggest concern will be how he came out of the physicals at the combine with his neck," Spielman said. "He is a good athlete with the size and speed to make him a top edge rusher in this draft. He has veteran-like traits as a technician with his hands and pass-rush moves. Can beat offensive tackles in a variety of ways. Very smooth easy mover with excellent bend and quickness to close to the quarterback. He can play with leverage and strength at the point vs the run but would like to see him play with move violence at times. When he does get off blocks he is instinctive to find the ball and is a solid wrap tackler."

  • Highest he could get drafted: 14th overall to New Orleans Saints
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 26th overall to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Best team fit: Los Angeles Rams

Final thoughts: There may be some teams out there who think Latu is the best edge rusher in this draft class. It's easy to see why: Latu totaled the most sacks (23.5) and the highest quarterback pressure rate in college football, minimum 250 pass rushes, (21.4%) in 2023 as well as the second-most tackles for loss (34.0) in in college football across the last two seasons.

He has an array of pass rush moves to go along with a strong first step and top-level handwork. Latu thrives at tossing offensive linemen's hands to the side with a variety of techniques, matching his pass rush repertoire. He can successfully execute hump moves, swim moves, push pulls, a Euro-step, a bull rush, a spin move and more. It's no surprise Latu put up the numbers that he did. He can move inside to finesse guards every now and then, and Latu isn't uncomfortable dropping into zone coverage. His length isn't special (32 5/8"), and of course the neck injury that caused him to temporarily retire from football in 2021 is something teams need to look at closely. After the Rams lost Aaron Donald, who himself was an undersized prospect, Latu would make a lot of sense for them in this year's draft.

Tier 1

Jared Verse (Florida State)

"Transfer from Albany, he may have to best combination of size, strength and athleticism [in this class]," Spielman said. "Took over the Florida game. He is violent off the snap and is best using speed to power. He plays with leverage and can collapse the pocket. He has a good feel where the quarterback is in the pocket and can find the quarterback. He can jolt offensive tackles off the snap in the run game and gives relentless effort in pursuit. Should be a Day 1 starter as a rookie."

  • Highest he could get drafted: 8th overall to Atlanta Falcons 
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 14th overall to New Orleans Saints 
  • Best team fit: Chicago Bears (9th overall pick)

Final thoughts: Jared Verse is probably this draft class' most angry edge rusher. He marries that consistently hot-under-the-collar disposition with great timing on his first step before his arms become sledgehammers, smacking away at offensive linemen's arms to keep them off of his frame. Linemen really struggle to get a grip on him as evidenced by him leading the ACC in sacks (18.0) and quarterback pressures (98) since 2022. The cross-chop move is his signature to get past tackles on the outside while a basketball-like Euro step is his go-too move inside. 

Verse also employs a solid spin move and can also hit linemen with a stutter step, causing them to lunge and whiff at corralling him. His bullrush is simple, but it's incredibly effective despite how high it most be on opposing scouting reports. Verse always goes full speed, which typically helps him, but sometimes he can get out of position in the run game. His floor is that of an immediate NFL starting edge rusher with room to grow. Pairing him with Montez Sweat would give Chicago two consistently effective edge players to anchor their defense around.

Dallas Turner (Alabama)

  • Height: 6-3 | Weight: 247 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2023 Consensus All-American, 22.5 sacks & 32.5 TFL in career (both 2nd in SEC in span)

 Pro comp: New York Giants DE Brian Burns, New York Jets DE Haason Reddick

"He is the top athlete of all edge rushers this year," Spielman said. "Excellent athletic numbers at the combine [4.46 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 10'7" broad jump to go along with 34 3/8-inch arms]. He is a quick twitched edge rusher that can beat offensive tackles with finesse and power. He has a quick first step and natural bend through the edges of offensive tackles. His speed shows up when in pursuit. He can play the point versus the run but at times will get hung up on blockers at the point. He is athletic enough to drop in coverage but will make a living rushing the passer. Not as big but more of a twitchy athlete than Will Anderson. Should make an impact his rookie year."

  • Highest he could get drafted: 8th overall to Atlanta Falcons 
  • Lowest he could get drafted: 13th overall to Las Vegas Raiders
  • Best team fit: Atlanta Falcons

Final thoughts: Dallas Turner has the best traits traits of all the edge rushers in this class between the arm length, speed and explosion. Turner pairs his athletic gifts with well-timed jukes, a dominant spin move plus an a counter inside. He can go from speed to power in a hurry with a swipe of his arm before transitioning into the bull rush, and he is nimble enough to drop down and bend at the height of his pass rush. The combine testing numbers manifest themselves when he turns on the jets to close in on a mobile quarterback or against a running back. Turner can also drop back and spy on quarterbacks who are known runners, and he is always hustling. The only knock is his weight, but still just 21, Turner is growing into his body and add on a few pounds. 

Atlanta ranked 25th in quarterback pressure rate (32.7%), and pairing him with interior linemen like Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata could provide the Falcons an inside-out balance to their pass rush that could the unit to the next level.