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2015 NFL Draft: Talking edge players and their impact

Draft Savages, Force Players, and why the discussion has to change.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

This will be less an article and more me talking about what I have learned over the last couple of years, when I have really dug into the draft, understanding philosophies and why too often we get caught up in what is "needed" or what a player "cannot do" and miss on something special.

This off season the Arizona Cardinals were linked to some very good pass rushers when it came to NFL free agency, yet they missed out on all of them, simply because the cost was too great.

You see, there are only so many truly special edge players in the NFL, they can probably be counted on one hand if we are being honest, and that leads to the misrepresentation that you have to have a pure edge rusher to be a great defense.

While Justin Houston or Von Miller would look slick in Cardinal red, they are few and far between in terms of availability, so sometimes you have to find another avenue to find and manufacture pressure on the quarterback.

I ranked edge players and many people wonder why I would rank them in the way I did.

Let's take names like Beasley, Dupree and Gregory off the table, along with Fowler, because they seem to be the consensus as the guys who will go high and are the best "pure edge" players.

Preston Smith is a guy who has gotten a lot of talk around here lately because he's not your classic edge player.  Smith has been compared to Justin Tuck by my friend Justis Mosqueda. Tuck was a monster in the Giants defense from 2007 to 2013, averaging 8.5 sacks per season, while not being a standard edge rusher. Tuck would line up all over the Giants front and that led to issues for the offense in making plays.

Smith can be similar in his usefulness, working all over the front, starting as a base 34 outside backer, kicking inside on passing downs with Calais Campbell, Kareem Martin and Alex Okafor on passing downs.

What Smith does for a defense is exponentially more translatable right now than a guy like Eli Harold or Shane Ray, names I have seen kicked around these parts frequently.

Harold offers the athleticism that is required for bringing pressure off the edge, but he is not a full-time player right now. People get concerned with what a player can be, not what a player is right now. Harold is an athlete right now, an athlete who was stoned cold by a terrible Cam Erving when he was at left tackle still.

Similarly, Owamagbe Odighizuwa offers the ability to come off the edge, but also play as a down lineman in passing downs if need be. People get caught up in sack numbers, production really matters, at times, but you also have to look at use. How often was Diggy getting the same free run off the edge as Harold or Shane Ray?

These are the questions that need to be asked as we look at prospects, not just look at "are they built and used like a pure edge player"?

Also, check out the Draft Savages podcast from Wednesday night above to hear more of this conversation as well as our in depth talk about front seven defensive prospects with Joe Goodberry and Andrew Parsons from March.