It’s never too early to look ahead to the next NFL draft. Here are three edge-rushing prospects New York Jets fans should keep their eye on throughout this year’s college football season.
Chase Young, Ohio State
Nick Bosa went No. 2 overall in the 2019 NFL draft, but Young might have even more upside than his former Buckeye teammate. Listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, Young has the ideal frame and skill set for an NFL edge rusher.
After a strong showing in limited work as a freshman, Young broke out as a sophomore in 2018, tallying 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. One of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, Young enters his junior season as arguably the best overall prospect in the 2020 draft class. If he continues on his current pace of development, Young could easily end up being the first non-QB selected come next April.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
A first-team all-conference pick in 2018, Epenesa followed up a solid freshman campaign (5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks) with a breakout sophomore season. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Hawkeyes last season, establishing himself as one of the nation’s top pass rushers.
Listed at 6-6, 280 pounds, Epenesa is a versatile defender who can line up all over the place in multiple schemes. His combination of physicality, intelligence and technique make him a frustrating assignment for any opposing blocker, and a source of terror for opposing quarterbacks. He should end up being a top-10 pick in next year’s draft.
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Our list is a Big Ten trifecta, as this productive Spartan rounds it out. This 6-4, 262-pound senior is an unquestioned leader for the Michigan State defense, and has all the tools to make an immediate and sustained impact at the next level.
Over the past two seasons, Willekes has tallied 15.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss, earning his first-team all-conference honors in 2018, as well as the Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award. Another season with that kind of production should land him in the first round next year.