2016 NFL Draft: Joey Bosa as Chris Long, and Other Edge Rusher Comparisons


EDGE rusher is an easier position to make comparisons for than most.  In addition to having performance on the field to go off of, athleticism is a bigger predictor for the position than any other.  

By: Anthony Chiado

That means that players with similar athleticism will often turn out relatively similar in the NFL.  Comparisons are still more predictions of ceilings or floors than anything else, though, because predicting NFL success with such pinpoint accuracy is nearly impossible.

Joey Bosa – Chris Long
Bosa is the top EDGE rusher and one of the top players in the class this year.  He’s more of a run defender than top tier pass rusher but in this week class that is enough to have him near the top.  He is very similar athletically and on the field to Chris Long.  Long is similar to Bosa in that he is a very good run defender and a good, but not great, pass rusher.  He broke into double digit sacks twice in his eight year career but those seasons are more outliers than the norm.  Bosa shares a similar low double digit ceiling as a pass rusher and the plus run defense ability of Long.  If he can stay healthy and out of trouble he should have a very long and solid career.

Shaq Lawson – Frank Clark
This comparison has been thrown around by some smart people, namely Justis Mosqueda, and it makes a lot of sense.  Lawson and Clark are both a lot more athletic than most people give them credit for.  They both have sudden explosiveness to win off the snap or run straight through an offensive lineman and bend surprisingly well for players of their size.  In addition to the ample pass rush tools they possess, both are solid run defenders.  Clark slid in the draft due to his troubles with the law while at Michigan.  Without those issues and in a bad class, Lawson is a lock to go in the first round.

Noah Spence – Parys Haralson
Spence saw his draft stock have a weird rise and fall since the beginning of the 2015 college football season.  He climbed his way from merely being in the first round conversation into a widely talked about top 10 players and now, after a disappointing combine, he had turned into a likely mid-to-late first round pick.  Comparing him to Parys Haralson may not seem like high praise, but Haralson’s career best season of 8 sacks is a realistic expectation for Spence.  Granted, I think he can and will sustain his success long than Haralson, but they play similar styles on the field in addition to sharing a similar season.  A prolonged stretch with 8-10 sacks would be a solid return on investment for Spence.

Shilique Calhoun – Chandler Jones
At this point in his career, Chandler Jones is more of an extremely good run defender and spotty pass rusher than he is an all-around very good EDGE rusher.  His peaks as a pass rusher are incredibly good but they are still few and far between.  Shilique Calhoun is the same way.  He uses his length and strength, despite a wiry frame, to make an impact against the run, while his explosiveness and speed allow him to make a big impact as a pass rusher in spurts.  Should he put on weight and make developments, Jones is a very realistic expectation for Calhoun.  His ceiling might even be higher.

Tyrone Holmes – Jason Worilds
Jason Worilds had the look of a solid pass rusher entering his prime before he retired to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than signing a lucrative contract in free agency.  Tyrone Holmes has the chance to be a near replica of Worilds in his future NFL career, although of course he could also end up better or worse.  They are both extremely similar athletically as well as on the field.  Both have the athletic tools to win with their natural ability, but also have the technique and nuance to win with various counter moves.  It’s hard to stop an EDGE rusher who can both run around you and swim to the inside of you with ease.

Kevin Dodd – Za’Darius Smith
Clemson EDGE rusher Kevin Dodd has seen quite the rise in his draft stock since the national championship game against Alabama in early January.  He seems athletic on the field but his testing on paper doesn’t match and if there’s one thing I know about football evaluation it’s that athletic testing is always more accurate than your perception of it on the field.  Dodd is neither an overly toolsy player nor does he have exceptional nuance to make up for it.  Smith had a surprisingly good rookie year, racking up 5.5 sacks, but his ceiling as a pass rusher isn’t much higher than that.  Dodd’s ceiling in the mid-to-high single digits is similar.

Jordan Jenkins – Arthur Moats
This is one of my favorite comparisons of the draft season, for any position.  Moats had a nice run with the Bills to start his career.  In Buffalo he carved out a niche as a very effective outside linebacker in their 4-3 defense.  When he signed on to become a Steeler, Moats was moved to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.  There he has been less than stellar.  I think Jenkins will share a similar ideal fit with Moats.  He could play 3-4 outside linebacker if needed, but his best fit is as a SAM in a 4-3 defense.  On top of that, they are Jenkins and Moats are both very similar athletically.

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