Despite having several talented edge rushers on the roster, there are questions surrounding all of them, and the Detroit Lions should be in the market to grab an edge rusher in this draft, potentially with the No. 2 overall pick.
Let’s take a look at the EDGE players who stood out at the 2022 NFL Combine on Saturday night, starting with three that could hear their name called within the first 10 picks.
If you missed any of our previous NFL Combine reviews, be sure to check out:
- 8 quarterback standouts
- 10 running back standouts
- 15 wide receiver standouts
- 8 tight end standouts
- 7 offensive linemen standouts
- 8 standouts from the interior defensive line
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan, 6-foot-6 3⁄4, 260
4.74/1.62 (40/10), 6.73 (3-cone), 4.15 (short shuttle) 36-inch vertical, 9-foot-9 broad jump
While the other edge rushers in this top group ran in the 4.5s, making Hutchinson’s 4.74 looks less than ideal on the surface, his 1.62 10-yard-split illustrates he is more than capable of sticking with the group. And when you look at his agility drills, that is where Hutchinson really stands out. Not only did Hutchinson finish first in the group in both 3-cone and short shuttle, but he had the third-best 3-cone and second-best short shuttle amongst ALL PLAYERS who tested.
Remember when there were athletic concerns about Aidan Hutchinson?— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 6, 2022
6.73 cone time, y'all. pic.twitter.com/y04prWwXVw
In drills, Hutchinson looked fluid in his feet and quick in his hands, but he did look a bit stiff when bending at times, which happens on occasion when a player is nearly 6-foot-7. When asked to drop into coverage, Hutchinson looked smooth and natural, moving laterally with quick motions.
It wasn’t a perfect day. His 32.13-inch arm length has already drawn criticism, but the Lions showed last year with Penei Sewell that they’re not going to pass on an elite player just because he falls short of a desire measurable. Would it be preferred if his arms were longer? For sure. But there are ways to mitigate length, by being aggressive and creating angles—which are tools he has ingrained in his game.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, 6-foot-4, 254
4.58/1.59 (40/10), 27 bench reps (1st in group)
Thibodeaux started the day by putting up a group-leading 27 reps on the bench press, moved to the 40-yard dash, ran fast, then shut it down for the day. He told two members of the NFL Network broadcast team that his plan was to participate in both edge and linebacker drills, but with them being spread so far apart at the Combine, he elected to only do them at his Pro Day.
It’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, but rumors surrounding his work ethic have been swirling for some time now, and they are unlikely to go away after his decision in Indianapolis. As Daniel Jeremiah eluded to on the broadcast, it’s not a great look when you tell teams you’re planning on participating, the opportunity to run both edge and linebacker drills is there, yet you opt not to take part. Is it the end of the world? Of course not, and him skipping drills will likely soon be forgotten. But he will have to explain his decision to teams, making it another huddle for him to clear.
Travon Walker, Georgia, 6-foot-5, 272
4.51/1.62 (40/10), 6.89 (3-cone), 4.32 (short shuttle), 35.5 vertical, 10-foot-4 broad jump
Walker’s performance was so impressive that it has some talking about him being a possible contender for the Lions and their No. 2 pick. If this seems like an overreaction after a workout, I want to point you to the fact that The Athletic’s Dane Brugler (arguably the best draft analyst in the game) has been singing Walker's praises for months now and had him ranked as his sixth-best player in his pre-Combine rankings ($ubscrption):
I know I’m higher on Walker than most, but I’m okay with that — I’m betting on his rare traits. He has impressive movement skills for a 275-pounder, including an explosive first step to shoot through gaps, cross the face of blockers or chase down plays. He wasn’t asked to be a consistent outside rusher in the Bulldogs’ scheme, but that helped him develop into a strong run defender, disengaging and leveraging blocks. Walker is still developing his sequencing plan as a pass rusher, but he has freaky athletic traits for his size and offers the natural power and length to consistently win his matchups. He projects as a scheme-diverse end with the ceiling to be one of the best NFL defenders from this draft class.
And his excellent performance in Indianapolis went beyond the measurable numbers. In drills, he displayed fluidity in his movements, quick feet, powerful hands, loose hips, explosion out of the gate and changing direction, solid bend, a smooth ability to drop into coverage, movement without hesitation or pauses, and overall things just looked easy for him.
It was a really good day for Walker:
- Jermaine Johnson (Florida State, 6-foot-4 1⁄2, 254) ran a 4.58 40-yard-dash and looked very natural working with the linebacker group. Everything looked smooth and easy for him, both moving forward and pass-rushing, as well as dropping into coverage.
- David Ojabo (Michigan, 6-foot-4, 250) ran a 4.55/1.64 40/10-yard split and looked fluid in drills, almost bouncing at times. He showed nice pass-rushing technique, the ability to bend the edge, as well as flow into coverage—though he did have some ball skills issues at times.
- George Karlaftis (Purdue, 6-foot-3 3⁄4, 256) is a power-based edge rusher that showed me more movement skills than I was expecting. He also performed well in drills that asked him to cover, which was an unexpected wrinkle.
- Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State, 6-foot-2 1⁄2, 250) didn’t run, but he did show the ability to bend, spin, and didn’t need to slow down when attacking the corner.
- Boye Mafe (Minnesota, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 261) ran a 4.57 40-yard-dash and was tasked with working out with the linebacker group. He looked too stiff to play off-the-ball but has plenty of upside when pass rushing.
- Sam Williams (Mississippi, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 261) ran an impressive 4.46/1.6 40/10-yard split and that speed showed up in drills, as he displayed explosive, quick feet.
- Tyreke Smith (Ohio State, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 254) did not run well (4.86/1.65) but in drills, he showed quick feet, good bend, and the ability to drop into coverage.
- Amare Barno (Virginia Tech, 6-foot-4 1⁄2, 246) ran the fastest 40-yard dash time ever for an EDGE, with a startling 4.39 seconds and a 1.54 10-yard split. In drills, he showed bend and the ability to drop into coverage.
- Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati, 6-foot-5 1⁄4, 228) dropped 14 pounds since the Senior Bowl, (exactly four weeks ago) and the NFL broadcast had no idea why. Maybe it was to help him run faster or test better, but unless he plans on playing the edge that light, he’s not giving teams much helpful information about what he can do at his playing weight.