*Editor's note: NFL.com analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for eight position groups in the 2018 NFL Draft (April 26-28 on NFL Network and FOX), continuing today with edge defenders. *
When it comes to positions that NFL teams value at a premium, it starts with the quarterback spot. However, following right behind QBs are the guys tasked with chasing and sacking those passers -- the edge defenders.
By all accounts, this is not the year that you want to have a huge need for a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end in the draft. N.C. State's Bradley Chubb carries a substantial grade, so he is the exception, but the rest of the class appears to be light on slam-dunk early starters and producers.
Let's explore the 2018 edge defender class.
Teams with greatest need for edge defender
1) Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are switching to a 4-3 defense under their new coaching staff and after posting the second-lowest sack total in the league last season (25), they must find a talented edge presence.
3) Buffalo Bills: The Bills finished with just 27 sacks last season -- tied for third-fewest in the league -- and need to find a rotational edge rusher to bolster that unit.
7) Seattle Seahawks:Michael Bennett and his 8.5 sacks are gone. Seattle needs to find his replacement.
Top 5 players at the position
1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State: Chubb is a dynamic edge defender. He can put his stamp on a game with his pass-rushing talent and his ability to take on the running game. He's clearly the best in this class at his position.
2. Harold Landry, Boston College: Landry lacks the size and length that teams prefer off the edge, but he has impressive flexibility to bend and trim the edge as a rusher.
3. Marcus Davenport, UTSA: Long-levered prospect with the tools and traits to become a much better pass rusher than he is now. He's still in need of more play strength and technique as a run defender.
4. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State: Hubbard isn't the most explosive edge rusher, but he's a plus athlete with good length and the ability to do his job at the left defensive end spot or as a stand-up linebacker.
Uchenna Nwosu, USC: Nwosu's name has some heat on it in scouting circles, but I have to wonder if that's mostly a result of the dearth of talent off the edge this year. There's no doubt that Nwosu possesses the athletic traits teams look for from edge rushers, but he lacks the rush plan and rush tools that teams typically covet from a second-round talent, as he's been billed. Nwosu lacks the plus play strength to set a strong edge and could get bumped into a role as a standard 4-3 linebacker with some sub-package rush potential. I don't know that Nwosu's 2017 sack production (9.5) is going to translate to the pros, and a team might overdraft him hoping that it will.
Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest: When I speak with scouts or team executives about edge-rusher prospects, Ejiofor's name rarely comes up. He's not overly explosive or athletic, but he employs a mature approach with violent hands and an innate feel for rush counters that serve him well on his path to the quarterback. Ejiofor has to win with skill over speed from the outside, but he really flashes on tape when allowed to rush from inside at defensive tackle. He's still recovering from February labrum surgery. The surgery, combined with questions about his athleticism, could concern some teams, but he has the toughness, instincts, and skills to become a quality NFL starter. He deserves more notice.
Boom or bust
Kemoko Turay, Rutgers: When teams put together their profiles for what edge rushers should look and move like, Turay is the prototype. At 6-foot-4 5/8, Turay has a wingspan of 80 1/8 inches and has grown into his frame with good, lean muscle mass. Turay was a high school long-jump and triple-jump champ with plus explosion and a quality upfield burst as a rusher. His measurables might lead a team to draft him at some point on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3), but there are some caution signs with Turay. His sophomore and junior seasons were ravaged by shoulder injuries. As a senior in 2017, he managed a very meager total of 6 tackles for loss and 3 sacks despite playing in 12 games. Turay has the physical and athletic traits to become a good starter. He has a high ceiling, but the concern is he might also have a low floor.
Joe Ostman, Central Michigan: Ostman is a tightly muscled, short-armed defensive end. He lacks the physical makeup teams look for off the edge, but he plays with plus strength and body control to work against and around the blockers that try to stop him. While he might get knocked for level of competition (played in the MAC), his numbers at CMU's pro day in the explosion testing (36.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-2 broad jump) and bench press (31 reps) could be indicative of how his physical tools will translate in the pros. Ostman's rush plan is a little more advanced than most prospects in this year's class, and he does a good job of utilizing quick, powerful hands to gain an advantage. He might not be picked until the fifth or sixth round, but he has a chance to outplay his draft slotting.