With the hiring of Todd Bowles comes a change in defensive philosophy and a predominantly 3-4 base defence. For any defensive system to work, the opposing QB must be pressured and like most defences a good portion of that pressure is designed to come from the edges of the defensive line. In Arizona, Bowles was able to revitalize older edge rushers like John Abraham and Dwight Freeney, but in Tampa Bay one can expect that the Bucs will be looking at edge options with their first pick.
JOSH ALLEN (6’5″, 262 lbs, Kentucky) is likely very high on the Bucs board. While he might not be the athletic freak the other guys on this list are, he checks all of the boxes. Allen is a great athlete with length who excels both against the run, rushing from the outside, and even in coverage. He also enjoyed a breakout year where he led the nation in sacks with 17 after receiving much improved coaching during his senior season at Kentucky. In fact, it was the first year Kentucky had a pass rush coach for Allen to work with, and his leap in production is a testament to how far coaching can help. He could still use an inside counter move, but Allen should be a guy who steps in right away and makes an impact.
MONTEZ SWEAT (6’6″, 260 lbs, Mississippi State) perhaps has the highest ceiling of any edge in this class. His athletic profile is freaky, as Sweat possesses superior length and generational speed off the edge. There are very few humans who compare to Sweat physically, and generally if they do they are #1 overall picks like Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garret. Sweat also plays with a great motor and shows flashes of the ability to not only run around Offensive Tackles, but through them as well. However he was found to have a heart condition at the combine, and any team that selects him will need to be sure that it won’t be an issue going forward. As well, Sweat did get in trouble for marijuana use as a freshman that forced him to switch schools, so teams will need to be sure he has the character and personality that they want to coach and add to the locker room. Sweat needs refinement just as any edge does in this class not named Nick Bosa, and he’s also the least natural in coverage of the three edges mentioned in this list. But at the end of the day, his talent at a premium position will make him a highly sought after asset on draft day as long as he checks out medically and character wise.
BRIAN BURNS (6’5″, 249 lbs, Florida State) is perhaps the most intriguing name on this list. At only 20 years of age, Burns is behind Allen and White in terms of his physique and strength development. But he could also be the most advanced in terms of his pass rush, with the ability to win inside or outside. He also is the most fluid athlete of the 3 in coverage, and will give any defence that drafts him lots of versatility. The only real knock on Burns is his lack of size and strength, but it’s a big one, and one he will need to address if he is to live up to his enormous potential. Right now he has no power in his game, and is relying solely on his skills and quickness. But if he can continue to get bigger and stronger, much like Allen and Sweat have in the last couple of years, Burns has the potential to be a franchise piece for any team that drafts him.