Gil Brandt's pro comparisons for draft's top pass rushers
Coverage of the 2021 NFL Draft is kicking into high gear now that the first round begins in just over two weeks.
NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt previewed a few of the top pass rushers in the class by creating NFL comparisons for each player.
As Brandt notes in the introduction, "Thinking about the value of using concrete results to assess hypothetical upside, I've compared five of the top pass-rushing prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft with established pro players who best illustrate the prospects' potential. These comparisons are not intended to be perfect mirror images, nor are they intended to suggest the prospects will definitely become as good as the pros they're being compared to."
With that said, here are Brandt's pro comparisons for each of his top five pass rushing prospects in this year's draft class, along with some commentary from the senior analyst:
Jayson Oweh, Penn State
2020 stats: 7 games, 38 tackles (20 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass defended
Accolades: First-Team All-Big Ten (2020)
NFL Comp: Danielle Hunter - "Oweh's height and weight (6-foot-5, 257 pounds, as measured at Penn State's pro day) are basically the same as Hunter's (6-5, 252), as is his arm length (34 1/2 inches, compared to Hunter's 34 1/3), though Oweh posted a far better time in the 40-yard dash (a blistering, albeit unofficial, 4.36 seconds) than Hunter (still a very fast 4.57), and he also outpaced Hunter in the vertical jump (39 1/2 inches to Hunter's 36 1/2)... Like Hunter, Oweh heads to the pros with tons of upside. Oweh's football background is relatively limited, and he's still learning how to rush the passer. I wouldn't be surprised if he embarks upon a Hunter-like career trajectory, refining his skills as a rookie and then blossoming a season or two down the road." -- Brandt
Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
2020 stats: 10 games, 31 tackles (22 solo), 9.5 sacks. 12.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 passes defensed
Accolades: Second-Team All-SEC (2020)
NFL Comp: Yannick Ngakoue - "Like Ngakoue, Ojulari is a shorter pass rusher (they're both 6-2) whose long arms enable him to function like a taller player. (Ojulari's arms measure 34 3/8 inches, and Ngakoue's measure 32 1/2.) Both players were productive in college, with Ngakoue racking up 13.0 sacks in his final season at Maryland, while Ojulari put up 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss at Georgia last season. And both players love to torment opponents with a "cross-chop" move while attacking the quarterback." -- Brandt
Jaelan Phillips, Miami
2020 stats: 10 games, 45 tackles (21 solo), 8 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed
Accolades: Second-Team All-ACC (2020), Second-Team All-American (2020)
NFL Comp: Robert Quinn - "The speed Phillips showed off at Miami's pro day -- he ran a 4.56 40 -- is unusual for a player his size (6-5 1/2, 260 pounds) and makes it somewhat challenging to find a suitable pro comparison (especially after I already paired the even speedier Oweh with Hunter). Still, Quinn's pro-day 40 (4.59) wasn't that far off, even if his combine 40 (4.62) was slower. And Phillips' other measurables, including a 1.59-second 10-yard split, a 7.13-second three-cone, a 10-5 broad jump and a 36-inch vertical, are similar to Quinn's (1.61 10-yard split, 7.13 three-cone, 9-8 broad jump, 34-inch vertical). Like Quinn back in 2011, Phillips boasts fairly refined pass-rushing skills heading into the NFL." -- Brandt
Kwity Paye, Michigan
2020 stats: 4 games, 16 tackles (12 solo), 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss
Accolades: 2x Second-Team All-Big Ten (2019, 2020)
NFL Comp: Cam Jordan - "Paye's 40 time was significantly faster than Jordan's (4.52 to 4.74), though it should be noted that Paye is also currently significantly lighter than Jordan (261 pounds to 287; I know a nearly 30-pound gap is nothing to sneeze at, but again, the goal of this piece is to put these prospects' potential in context, not find an exact NFL doppleganger). Otherwise, the two players have similar athletic profiles (Paye marked a 35 1/2-inch vertical and 9-10 broad jump, and Jordan had a 31-inch vertical and 9-9 broad jump). It remains to be seen if Paye will develop into the kind of lode-bearing defensive centerpiece Jordan is now." -- Brandt
Gregory Rousseau, Miami
2019 stats: 13 games, 54 tackles (34 solo), 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass defensed (opted out of 2020 season)
Accolades: ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year (2019), First-Team All-ACC (2019), Second-Team All-American (2019), Freshman All-American (2019)
NFL Comp: Jason Pierre-Paul - "These players aren't exactly alike. The taller (6-7 to 6-4 3/4) Rousseau was a more accomplished college player, demonstrating high-end productivity with a 15.5-sack 2019 season, whereas JPP managed just 6.5 sacks (but 16.5 tackles for loss) at South Florida in 2009. That said, they did post similar 40 times (4.69 for Rousseau, 4.71 for JPP) and vertical jumps (30 for Rousseau, 30.5 for JPP), plus identical broad-jump marks (9-7). The most instructive part of this comparison is the fact that, like the Giants did when they selected JPP 15th overall in 2010, the team that drafts Rousseau -- who opted out for the 2020 season -- will be betting on the raw potential he flashed in one season of major college productivity." -- Brandt
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.
Bucky Brooks on top defensive prospects, possible fits with Giants
We are inching closer and closer to the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, with the first round officially kicking off in 17 days.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pre-draft evaluation process has looked a lot different this year. Without the usual NFL Combine and in-house visits from top prospects, teams have been left to rely on the film and college pro days to gather information about this year's draft class.
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks joined Giants.com's John Schmeelk on the Giants Huddle Podcast to discuss a wide variety of topics surrounding this year's draft.
One thing that has been common in many mock drafts is the heavy presence of offensive players being connected to teams in the beginning part of the first round, especially within the top 10.
Of course, a big part of that has to do with the quarterback class. The first three picks in the draft are considered by most draft experts to most likely be quarterbacks, while as many as five could go within the first 10 picks.
However, another significant reason for the shortage of defensive players towards the top of most mock drafts is the lack of elite prospects at the premier defensive positions, most notably edge rusher and cornerback.
"I think this is an offensive-heavy draft because the marquee positions that normally would go on defense, pass rushers there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of questions, and cornerback you have really good players. I don't know if you have that elite, premier player that you would put in that Jalen Ramsey category…" Brooks said of the defensive prospects. "It's just a different year because I would say defensively, there is still plenty of talent. It's just not necessarily the crown jewel that we normally see at the position."
One defensive player who often can be found inside the top 10 of mock drafts is Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
Parsons had a spectacular sophomore season before opting out of the 2020 campaign. In 13 games, the 6-foot-3, 246-pound linebacker registered 109 tackles (52 solo), five sacks, 14 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and five passes defensed. This performance led to him earning numerous honors, including Consensus All-American, First-Team All-Big Ten, Cotton Bowl Defensive MVP and the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award, given to the top linebacker in the Big Ten.
On top of his strong stats, Parsons also put up some eye-opening numbers at Penn State's pro day last month. The 21-year-old recorded an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds. To put that into historical perspective, the 40-yard dash record for a linebacker at the NFL Combine is 4.38 seconds by Shaquem Griffin in 2018. Parsons also bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times and had a vertical measured at 34 inches.
"The one thing that stands out to me about Micah Parsons is he's a dominant player," Brooks said. "You feel his presence when you watch the tape. His strength, power and explosiveness, particularly as a blitzer, stands out. On third down, if you have to blitz him more and use him as that, it works. We saw last year in the Super Bowl, Devin White had 9.5 sacks on the year as an off-the-ball linebacker blitzing.
"I think what good D coordinators do is they take a player and they put him in a position to be very, very successful based on the talent they have. I would expect him to have a lot of success."
Mock Draft Tracker: More trades coming before Giants pick at No. 11?
Check out the video below to view Giants.com's John Schmeelk break down the latest mock drafts circling the internet with just over two weeks to go before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft.