2020 NFL Draft Position Review: 3-4 Outside Linebackers

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2020 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2020 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated April 7, 2020. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

3-4 Outside Linebacker Class
Early-round talent: B
Mid-round: C+
Late-round: D
Overall grade: C

2020 prospects vs 2019
Chase Young
Nick Bosa
Brian Burns
K’Lavon Chaisson
Montez Sweat
Yetur Gross-Matos
Jon Greenard
Ben Banogu
Terrell Lewis
Jachai Polite
Chase Winovich
Jaylon Ferguson
Oshane Xmines
Julian Okwara
Josh Uche
Bradley Anae

The 2019 and 2020 NFL Drafts are similar in the quality of their 3-4 edge rushers. They are decent, but not good, classes with lots of depth. If you were to merge the two classes together, Chase Young and Nick Bosa would be about equal, and I would give the slight edge to Young due to his bigger stature. K’Lavon Chaisson would go behind Brian Burns and Montez Sweat, but Sweat slid because of medical concerns. Chaisson will probably end up going higher than Sweat did. I think Yetur Gross-Matos and Jon Greenard are better prospects than Ben Banogu. Terrell Lewis is about on a par with Banogu. Okwara, Uche and Anae are not as good of prospects as Winovich, Ferguson and Ximines.

Safest Pick: Chase Young, Ohio State
Previous Picks:
2019: Josh Allen
2018: Tremaine Edmunds
2017: Myles Garrett
2016: Joey Bosa
2015: Dante Fowler
2014: Jadeveon Clowney
2013: Dion Jordan

My track record is here is good after a horrible start with Dion Jordan being one of the many busts from the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Jadeveon Clowney has become one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Dante Fowler has had some ups and downs, but he contributed to the Rams getting to the Super Bowl and finally broke out as a sack producer. Joey Bosa has been very good for the Chargers, and Garrett emerged as a force for Cleveland. Edmunds is off to a good start, and Josh Allen was very good as a rookie.

This was an easy choice as Young is a safe prospect to develop into a good NFL pro. He looks like a potential franchise defensive player as an edge rusher capable of producing double-digit sack seasons on an annual basis. Young could end up at multiple Pro Bowls and being one of the most dangerous pass-rushers in the NFL. He is worthy of being a high first-round pick in any draft class.

Biggest Bust Potential: Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Previous Picks:
2019: Jachai Polite
2018: Lorenzo Carter
2017: Takk McKinley
2016: Noah Spence
2015: Randy Gregory
2014: Dee Ford
2013: Barkevious Mingo

I have a pretty good track record here. Obviously, Polite was a bust for the Jets after getting cut prior to his first season with the team. It is still too early to make judgements on Carter. McKinley could be the one blemish, as he has been solid for the Falcons. Noah Spence was a bust for Tampa Bay, so I was spot on there. I was correct on Gregory and Mingo being potential busts. Dee Ford had a good 2016 season, but three seasons were underwhelming, and he then played better in 2018 before being traded away. Ford is not a bust, but not a standout either.

This was a tough decision. I chose Lewis because of injury and durability concerns. Lewis has a first-round skill set with size, length, speed and strength, but he has had a ton of injuries already and I’m not confident he can stay healthy in the NFL. Even this year at the Senior Bowl, it looked at times like he was dragging the leg that cost him the 2018 season. If he stays healthy and heals up, he has the potential to be a good pro, but I think he could be the riskiest pick of the early-round defensive end prospects.

3-4 Outside Linebackers Rankings by Attributes

Pass Rush:
NFL prototype: Khalil Mack, Bears
  1. Chase Young
  2. K’Lavon Chaisson
  3. Zack Baun
  4. Jon Greenard
  5. Yetur Gross-Matos
  6. Terrell Lewis
  7. Bradley Anae
  8. Josh Uche

Recap: The NFL is a passing-driven league, and 3-4 defenses need edge-rushers who can consistently get to the quarterback. Rushing the passer is the primary responsibility for a 3-4 outside linebacker. Some college defensive ends can struggle to make the transition to rushing off the edge as they move out wider from offensive tackles. Other players thrive with the change.

Young is a dominant pass-rusher. He shows an innate ability to get after the quarterback. Young has a quick first-step with a nice get-off that puts offensive tackles on their heels. Young displays quickness around the edge and is able to close on the quarterback quickly. Young shows functional athleticism to sink his hips and dip under tackles to beat their blocks. He also is effective working to the inside, as he has some strength to execute a rip move to the inside and also is able to knock tackles off balance with a hard shove and then cut to the inside to collapse the pocket. Young shows nice vision to keep his eyes on the quarterback, and that along with his athleticism allow him to redirect for chasing down scrambling signal-callers. Young is a balanced pass-rusher and should continue to improve as he gains experience.

For today’s NFL, Chaisson is a valuable commodity because he is a lightning-fast edge rusher and twitchy athlete. Chaisson is quick off the ball with a fast first-step. He has a burst to run around the corner and a second gear to close on the quarterback. On top of being a pure speed rusher, Chaisson has an impressive arsenal of pass-rushing moves. With his wicked spin move, Chaisson is able to get back to the inside, and thanks to his loose hips, he can dip underneath offensive tackles while getting turned to the quarterback. Chaisson has active hands and is able to use them at the same time as his feet. With his dynamic skill set and rare speed off the edge, Chaisson has the potential to be a double-digit pass-rusher in the NFL.

In the pass rush, Baun has serious speed off the edge to turn the corner around offensive tackles. He can blow by them and hunt down the quarterback quickly. On top of a burst off the edge, Baun has closing speed to eat up ground and get to ball-carriers quickly. Tackles can struggle with Baun’s leverage, as he is able to sink his hips and shoulder to dip underneath. He also is agile and athletic to make it tough for them to get a hold of him. Baun’s good instincts seem to give him a nose for the quarterback. In coverage, Baun shows some ability to play zone and cover the flat.

Greenard is a dangerous natural pass-rusher with a nose for the quarterback. He has a nice repertoire of moves and is smart about how he attacks offensive tackles. As a student of the game, Greenard is keen to pick up on tells from the tackles and the offense to make him a more effective pass-rusher with his good instincts.

Gross-Matos is effective in the pass rush. He has nice club move, using his strength to knock tackles off balance. Once he has them on his heels, he uses a burst to fire by blockers and shows real quickness to close on the quarterback. With active hands and quality technique, Gross-Matos shows a nice ability to use his hands and feet at the same time. While Gross-Matos is not blindingly fast off the edge, he has enough quickness to give tackles problems with speed.

Lewis has the makings of a highly impactful pass-rusher. He has good size and some quickness. At the Senior Bowl, he showed that his excellent length is an asset to keep tackles from getting into his chest and allowing him to get off blocks. Lewis has some speed and power to his repetoire of moves with a lot of athletic upside.

In the pass rush, Anae is a hard-charging edge defender who doesn’t quit. He is not overly fast or strong, but he has a knack for fighting through blocks with enough quickness to make him a threat to turn the corner. He has some strength and is able to use his hands and feet at the time to shed blocks. Frequently, Anae is initially blocked, but through his second effort, he is able to make things happen for his defense. He is the epitome of a “try hard” guy who gets some sacks off effort. Anae is not a speed demon off the edge, and he does not have the size or strength to overpower tackles. Team sources also say Anae displays bad eyes. Thus, his collegiate sack numbers probably won’t be duplicated in the NFL, which is why he is rated lower than some of these other prospects.

Uche is a quick edge rusher who can fly by tackles. He can use speed around the corner and is able to fight through blocks. He had 8.5 sacks in 2019 and could be a dangerous rusher in the NFL.

Run Defense:
NFL prototype: Jadeveon Clowney, Free Agent
  1. Yetur Gross-Matos
  2. Chase Young
  3. Zack Baun
  4. Terrell Lewis
  5. Jon Greenard
  6. Bradley Anae
  7. K’Lavon Chaisson
  8. Josh Uche

Recap: Many 3-4 defenses typically don’t require their outside linebackers to be an asset against the run because they rely on their 3-4 defensive ends, nose tackle and inside linebackers to lead the way in run defense. However, the success of the read option is changing that, so the edge linebackers play a critical role in defending against it. Being tough versus the run could become a more important attribute in the seasons to come.

As a run defender, Gross-Matos has a real presence as he uses his length to stand up blockers and then his strength to shed them. He uses his speed to flow quickly to the ball and gets in on tackles. Gross-Matos shows more desire and “want to” than many college edge defenders who seem more consumed with rushing the quarterback. Gross-Matos is dangerous to fight off blocks and fire into the backfield to get a tackle for a loss, which was a consistent sight during the 2018 season. Gross-Matos can get pushed back on occasion, and he could stand to strengthen his base while also playing with better leverage. Gross-Matos can get into trouble when he stands up too high, but overall his run defense is good.

Young is not a star in run defense, but he is not a liability. He could stand to fight through blocks more and adding more strength to shed is necessary for taking on pro offensive tackles. Young can lose his gap integrity at times by biting on play fakes, and on other plays, he stays in containment too long. Those issues could get ironed out with more experience and pro coaching.

As a run defender, Baun is tough at the point of attack and battles. He is a solid tackler who shows good technique to go low for the legs. Baun is active and around the ball, showing a nice ability to read his keys. In the pro ranks, he could struggle with downhill runs coming straight at him, so it would help him to get stronger and more stout for taking on NFL offensive linemen.

Lewis was a quality run defender for Alabama in 2019. He has length and strength to set the edge. Lewis could stand to improve his ability to work through trash and get in on tackles.

As a run defender, Greenard is at his best working upfield and trying to cause disruption in the backfield. He is going to have problems taking on pro offensive lines and holding his gap in downhill runs coming straight at him. Greenard give a good effort and plays tough, but his natural size presents limitations as a run stopper at the pro level.

Anae is at his best in run defense when trying to cause havoc in the backfield by pushing through the line. He is going to have problems taking on pro offensive lines and holding his gap in downhill runs coming straight at him, because he is undersized to defend the run in the NFL. He gives a great effort and plays tough, but his natural size presents limitations as a run stopper at the pro level.

As a run defender, Chaisson is good in pursuit, and he makes some big plays by working upfield to cause disruption in the backfield. However being below 260 pounds with a chiseled lean frame, Chaisson can struggle with downhill runs coming straight at him. Offensive tackles can tie him up with their upper body strength and push him back. He needs to get stronger for shedding blocks in the NFL and holding his ground. Given his frame, one has to wonder how much weight he can gain and if that will take away some of his rare and special speed. At his weight, he could have a hard time holding up for four quarters. Thus, his run defense is a point of improvement for the next level.

Uche is much better in pursuit as a run defender because it lets him use his speed and athleticism to chase down tacklers. Against pro offensive linemen, he is going to have problems holding up against downhill runs coming straight at him.

Dropping Into Coverage:
NFL prototype: Whitney Mercilus, Texans
  1. Zack Baun
  2. K’Lavon Chaisson
  3. Josh Uche
  4. Jon Greenard
  5. Terrell Lewis
  6. Chase Young
  7. Yetur Gross-Matos
  8. Bradley Anae

Recap: The NFL is a passing-driven league, and 3-4 defenses need linebackers who can function in space while dropping into pass coverage. The 3-4 defense is predicated on variety, so it requires linebackers to fall back into pass coverage to avoid predictability.

In coverage, Baun shows some ability to play zone and cover the flat. He is instinctive and does a nice job of reading the offense to be assignment sound on which targets he should pick up. Baun could contribute to defending tight ends and running backs in man coverage given his quickness with quality athleticism. Baun will probably be used more in the pass rush, but he could be a good contributor in coverage as well.

One of the impressive aspects of Chaisson’s game is his ability to play in coverage. LSU lined him up at a variety of places in 2019, allowing Chaisson to show his rare speed and athleticism to run with receivers in the flat and tight ends off the edge. Chaisson is a fluid athlete in the open field with serious foot speed to stay with offensive players. While he could use some refinement, Chaisson has more pass-coverage skills than the typical edge defender.

Uche, Greenard, Lewis, Young, Gross-Matos and Anae were edge rushers in college who will need development for dropping in coverage in the NFL. However at the Senior Bowl, Uche told me that he did practice as a traditional 4-3 outside linebacker who would drop into coverage all four years at Michigan, but on game day, the Wolverines staff always used him as a pass-rusher. All of these players will get drafted to be pass-rushers for their NFL teams.

Shedding Blocks:
NFL prototype: Khalil Mack, Bears
  1. Chase Young
  2. Yetur Gross-Matos
  3. Zack Baun
  4. Terrell Lewis
  5. K’Lavon Chaisson
  6. Jon Greenard
  7. Bradley Anae
  8. Josh Uche

Recap: 3-4 outside linebackers need the strength to fight off offensive linemen, especially when teams slide protections their direction with double teams. Having the power to shed blocks separates the effectiveness of a lot of players.

In this category, Young stands out. He has the strength to shed blocks with the quickness to close on the back to make tackles outside of his gap. With his natural strength, athleticism, and quickness, Young is very difficult for offensive linemen to block.

Baun is able to take on and shed blocks. He has developed strength and technique with his hands. Lewis uses his length to disengage with the strength to keep offensive linemen from sustaining.

Chaisson, Greenard, Anae and Uche are better at getting off blocks when it came to rushing the passer. However, they all could stand to get better at shedding blocks in the ground game for the NFL.

NFL prototype: Bradley Chubb, Broncos
  1. Chase Young
  2. Zack Baun
  3. Yetur Gross-Matos
  4. Jon Greenard
  5. Josh Uche
  6. Bradley Anae
  7. Terrell Lewis
  8. K’Lavon Chaisson

Recap: The majority of great pass-rushers have motors that don’t quit. Effort can make the difference between an edge-rusher having 12 sacks in a season versus eight.

Young was relentless in the pass rush, and he was able to get some sacks off of effort to go along with his great physical talent. Baun has an excellent motor and you never saw him taking plays off.

Gross-Matos showed good effort as a sophomore and junior. His final season was hurt some by Penn State playing him out of position, but overall, he gives good effort on a down-by-down basis.

Greenard, Uche, Anae, Lewis, and Chaisson all give good effort. None of them are bad, but they all can have stretches where they can get quiet.

Splash Plays:
NFL prototype: Von Miller, Broncos
  1. Chase Young
  2. Zack Baun
  3. Jon Greenard
  4. Bradley Anae
  5. Josh Uche
  6. K’Lavon Chaisson
  7. Yetur Gross-Matos
  8. Terrell Lewis

Recap: Defenses and teams thrive off turnovers, so a pass-rusher who has the skills to force fumbles are game-changers. Many players go for strip sacks, but some are more effective than others.

In 2019, Young had six forced fumbles, and that was far and away the best. Young has good instincts to go for the strip with awareness to adjust to scrambling quarterbacks and an ability to redirect.

Baun had 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception last year. I could see him producing a good amount of splash plays as a pro given his pass-rushing prowess, instincts, and ability to cover.

Greenard had three forced fumbles for the Gators and came close to more. He is aware to go for the strip when he gets close to the quarterback.

Surprisingly, Anae has only three forced fumbles over the past two years even though he totaled 21 sacks in that time. Uche recorded 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2019. He has splash-play potential as a designated pass-rusher. Chaisson had one last year, and Gross-Matos had two in 2018. Both of them could stand to improve this at the next level. Lewis did not create forced fumbles for Alabama.

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