2025 NFL Draft Summer Scouting: Edge Rushers

Continuing our new Summer Scouting series here at NFLTR, I’ll be going position by position breaking down my preliminary top five prospects for each position to set the table for the upcoming collegiate season and 2025 draft cycle. Today, I’m ranking the top edge defenders.

Edge defenders rely on athleticism to succeed in the NFL more than perhaps any other position. Finding guys with the requisite length, speed and power to win against NFL tackles is important. Coaches will always believe in their abilities to develop talent, but prospects need to show some level of technique and creation as well.

Every team is always looking for good pass rushers and these guys go early and often in the draft. The 2024 draft should be no different, let’s dive right in! 

1: James Pearce Jr., Tennessee

There isn’t a more athletic specimen in this edge defender class than Pearce. Measuring in at 6-5 and 242 pounds, Pearce was a rotational player as a true freshman in 2022 before breaking out in a big way during his sophomore campaign. He recorded 10 sacks and first-team All-SEC honors as one of college football’s premier pass rushers. Entering 2024, Pearce is seen as one of the consensus top draft prospects, though he does need to show some growth to live up to that billing.


Right off the bat, Pearce has one of the quickest first steps I’ve ever scouted. His burst off the snap is remarkable and translates into impressive play speed. Pearce regularly blows past blockers. When needed, his backside pursuit is relentless, and the speed advantage he possesses lets him catch up to quarterbacks easily.

Pearce isn’t just fast, though. He’s long and knows how to use his leverage to keep tackles off-balance. Between his length and speed, his closing ability is off the charts. It’s rare for a quarterback to fully escape once Pearce breaks into the backfield. He is an incredibly gifted pass rusher who also plays with impressive energy and determination.

Pearce’s biggest weakness is a lack of experience. He hasn’t developed a deep enough bag of pass rush moves and counters yet. So far in his college career, he’s won almost entirely on his pure athleticism. It’s impressive he’s been as successful as he has with this approach — it took the best offensive tackles college football last season to challenge him — but he won’t be able to consistently win like that in the NFL. He has an excellent spin move already. He needs to keep adding to his repertoire.


Additionally, Pearce still needs to fill out his frame. Without adding more bulk, he could be relegated to being a stand-up rusher as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. He’s good rushing from a three-point stance, so it would be a shame to see his game limited like that. This lack of mass and strength primarily shows up in run defense, where he struggles to anchor and set the edge. If he can add some strength without losing his special burst and explosiveness, that would be ideal.

Regardless of these concerns, it’s rare to see such a combination of raw talent and on-field success in a prospect. There’s no doubt Pearce has a lot of refining to do as a player, but he was still one of the most productive pass rushers in college football last season. The prospect of Pearce adding strength and deepening his bag of pass rush moves should terrify opponents.

I have Pearce with a first-round grade and he’s in a weak quarterback class, putting him in play for the first overall pick. NFL coaches will be salivating to get their hands on his athleticism and tools. If he can continue to improve his game with experience, the sky’s the limit for what he can become.


2: Nic Scourton, Texas A&M

Pearce may have elite bend and speed, but Scourton isn’t far behind, and he boasts an impressive power profile to boot. Scourton began his college career at Purdue and as a true freshman in 2022 made an immediate impact for the Boilermakers. He was a major part of their edge rotation before stepping into the starting lineup in 2023 and lighting the Big 10 on fire. He recorded 42 pressures and eight sacks as a sophomore, cementing himself as one of the best pass rushers in the conference. Now he heads to his home state of Texas, looking to prove himself as one of the top prospects in the 2025 draft.

A massive edge defender at 6-4, 280, Scourton has all the power and speed you could want to go with that frame. He utilizes his length well, preventing blockers from locking him up, and uses his hands effectively to free himself. His speed-to-power moves are elite and he has a quick first step to go with his long arms and heavy build. He routinely surprised tackles with the force and speed behind his moves. Scourton can bend the edge effectively as well, highlighting the variety of ways he can win in a pass-rush scenario.

His size and strength are also a boon in the run game where he’s good at setting the edge. He racked up a ton of run stops in his two years at Purdue. Scourton is also surprisingly good in coverage, showcasing good awareness and unexpected range for his size. Purdue HC Ryan Walters runs a unique scheme that asks a lot of his edge defenders in coverage, and Scourton was reliable in this area. His closing speed is excellent, as is his agility to navigate the pocket.


For as well as Scourton can bend the edge for his size, he’s still a 280-pound edge rusher. His bend is not elite, and his game doesn’t rely on it. This could cap his ceiling as a pass rusher in the NFL. Scourton also needs to add more counters to his arsenal, as too often on tape he would get stuck if his first move failed. Lastly, his best work came as a stand-up rusher. This is impressive versatility for his size and frame, but in the NFL he will likely primarily play with his hand in the dirt. He needs to be more comfortable rushing from that position.

Scourton is a big, fast, relentless edge defender with a bevy of moves he uses to get after the quarterback. On top of that, he’s stout against the run with the ability to effectively drop into coverage. That is a rare and coveted skill set in the modern NFL. Scourton has a solid first-round grade from me. With another great year and some refinements to his game, he could move into blue-chip prospect territory. He has the potential to be a game-wrecker in the NFL.


3: Abdul Carter, Penn State

Penn State fans are experiencing a bit of déjà vu with Carter, a linebacker wearing No. 11 in the middle of their defense converting to edge rusher. This time, the Nittany Lions’ staff are ensuring he makes the transition before he leaves State College. Carter made waves as a true freshman in 2022, flying around the field in coverage and as a pass rusher, and he got even better as a sophomore. For his college career, he has 45 pressures and 12 sacks despite mostly playing off-ball linebacker. He is making the transition to full-time edge defender this offseason.

A 6-3, 235-pound backer, Carter is one of the freakiest athletes in this draft. His long speed is excellent, which is to be expected, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the trait. He has long arms which he uses effectively to maintain leverage and shed blocks. His burst and bend off the edge are NFL-caliber — the way he turns the corner is eye-catching, even compared to the other draft prospects I watched. His agility and flexibility are some of his biggest strengths, and it makes him difficult for offensive tackles to keep up with.

What’s impressive is that despite his lighter build, Carter packs a serious punch. His explosiveness shows up in his power as well as his speed, and when he makes contact with ball carriers or quarterbacks, he’s like a wrecking ball. Speed-to-power is one of his better moves right now. As one would expect for a converted linebacker, his coverage skills are excellent. He’s not elite compared to other linebackers, but he has a knack for making big plays and has the hip flexibility to be sticky in coverage.


Carter just needs to get bigger and stronger. He’s still in the process of converting from off-ball linebacker to full-time edge rusher, so this is to be expected, and it’ll likely take more than one offseason for him to get his body to where it really needs to be. But even so, it’s something worth monitoring. He gets driven off the ball too often and tackles that are quick enough to stay in front of him have too easy a time walling him off. He’s also just inexperienced as an edge defender and is still developing his pass rush skillset. Again, this isn’t surprising, but it is important to note. He’ll need to improve in these areas to be the caliber of prospect he can be.

I gave Carter a first-round grade, and this is someone else who could climb into the top 10 of the draft with a big 2024 season. He’s still learning the position, but his natural tools are so good that it makes me believe in his long-term upside. If he can get stronger and keep developing his moves, he’ll be one of the top players in the 2025 draft.

4: Princely Umanmielen, Ole Miss

Another offseason transfer, Umanmielen played four years of college football at Florida, becoming one of the SEC’s top pass rushers as a senior in 2023. He didn’t play much as a freshman but became a key part of Florida’s defensive line rotation in his sophomore and junior years. His breakout senior campaign saw him rack up 45 total pressures and 7 sacks. Older prospects sometimes find it difficult to work their way up the first round, but a big year at his new school could propel him that high.


Umanmielen is one of the smartest edge rushers I’ve scouted. A 6-5, 255-pound player, Umanmielen diagnoses plays quickly and knows what to do each time. He has a good first step and times the snap well, helping him blow past tackles in some instances. Speed is his primary weapon as a rusher; he accelerates quickly and chases down plays with regularity. Tackles frequently struggle to keep up with him and Umanmielen has a variety of countermoves if the tackle overcommits to his outside shoulder. He knows how to play with leverage and can adjust his attacking angle to maximize the effects of his chosen pass rush plan.

Another major pro to Umanmielen’s game is that he might be the most technically sound edge defender in this class. He has a variety of moves he uses to free himself and his hand usage is top-notch. Combined with his speedy first step, that allows him to attack both shoulders of the opposing tackle quickly. Umanmielen’s experience definitely shows on tape.

In terms of negatives, longer tackles can cause him serious problems due to Umanmielen’s own lack of length. If a tackle with longer arms is able to get their hands into his chest, it kills a lot of his rushes. He also can struggle to anchor the edge against the run and gets pushed back quite often. He’s probably seen as primarily a pass rusher by NFL scouts, but his inability to be a consistent force in the run game will limit him come draft time.


All in all, Umanmielen is a veteran pass rusher with a series of advanced moves and a blazing motor. That works in the NFL, even if he has other deficiencies in his game. If teams are looking for reliable, every down contributors, they may want to look elsewhere. But in terms of pure pass rushers, Umanmielen is explosive, experienced and productive. I have a late first-round grade on him, and he can contribute immediately from day one.

5: JT Tuimoloau, Ohio State

Tuimoloau arrived at Ohio State as a consensus five-star recruit with a lot of expectations. He was a rotation player his freshman year but didn’t stand out in the ways many expected him to. As a sophomore, he upped his game considerably, finishing the year with 30 pressures and 6 sacks. This included a monster game against Penn State where he looked like an absolute star. His junior year was good, but not great. He had 35 pressures and 4 sacks, though it always felt like he was leaving something on the table. He returned to Ohio State for his senior year looking to finally put it all together and establish himself as a dominant force.


Coming in at 6-4 and 270, Tuimoloau has arguably the best power profile in this class. He has a monster build and his bull rushes are works of art. He bullied Jets first-round OT Olu Fashanu two years in a row, barreling through him and making his life hell. His strength also shows up in his hands. He plays with heavy hands, knocking away offensive tackles’ arms as they try and get hands on him and using his strength to leverage away from them. He has impressive pursuit speed and can close on quarterbacks and runners quickly.

Tuimoloau has a high football IQ and can diagnose and disrupt all kinds of plays. He’s not easily fooled and stays fundamentally sound in all situations. He can drop into coverage a little bit and knows how to get his arms up to block throwing lanes. He’s tough to get off-balance and stays connected to plays longer than most players would. He’s versatile, as well, able to attack from multiple angles and approaches.

What holds Tuimoloau back is he’s just not a quick-twitch athlete. His first step is only average, and he can’t consistently bend the edge against NFL-caliber tackles. Too many of his pass rush reps die on contact, as he can struggle to break free from blockers. If he can make first contact, he’s a menace, but if tackles get their hands on him, he doesn’t have many counters. These deficiencies in his game may hold him back from being an elite NFL pass rusher.

Ultimately, Tuimoloau’s instincts, intelligence, strength and versatility will make him quite valuable to NFL defenses. He could be limited by his lack of burst and bend, but at worst he profiles as a useful rotational edge rusher, and even that may be selling him short. I struggle to see star potential in his game, but he could easily be a quality NFL starter. I gave him a second-round grade, which is likely where he would have gone had he come out last year. This is, of course, preliminary. He has a whole season of college football ahead of him to put more on tape and boost his stock.


Best of the rest

6 — Jack Sawyer, Ohio State: Very similar profile to his teammate Tuimoloau. Sawyer is more explosive but not as strong with less refined hand usage. Sheds blocks effectively and uses his leverage very well.

7 — Mykel Williams, Georgia: Prototypical edge rusher build with eye-catching athleticism. Best as a power rusher and against the run. Struggles to bend the edge but consistently wins anyway.

8 — Landon Jackson, Arkansas: Freakishly long edge rusher with genuine coverage ability. Very raw but the explosiveness and flexibility will translate.

9 — Patrick Payton, Florida State: Undersized speed rusher with good hand usage and change-of-direction ability. Too small for an every-down role but could thrive as a designated pass rusher.

10 — Ashton Gillotte, Louisville: Big, heavy-handed pass rusher with a good arsenal of moves. Not the fastest or twitchiest guy but knows how to use his hands and make his way past blockers.


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