analyzes the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft with its’ position previews. Matt Matera previews the edge defender position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at outside linebacker, while also providing a detailed list of this year’s top edge defenders. In addition, Scott Reynolds offers up the team needs and the annual Bucs’ Best Bets – the most likely outside linebacker for the Bucs to select in Rounds 1-3, and in Rounds 4-7.

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What The Bucs Have At OLB

Table of Contents

Tampa Bay has one of the league’s best pairs of edge rushers in outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. That duo combined for 17.5 sacks during the regular season and six more in the postseason. Barrett, who was the team’s franchise player in 2020, earned a new, lucrative four-year contract extension. Pierre-Paul led the Bucs with 9.5 sacks and also had two interceptions in a Pro Bowl season.

Bucs OLBs Shaquil Barrett andJason Pierre-Paul and DT Ndamukong Suh

Bucs OLBs Shaquil Barrett andJason Pierre-Paul and DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: USA Today

Anthony Nelson, the team’s fourth-round pick three years ago, has been slow to develop as a pass rusher, but notched his first career sack late in the season. He added another one in the playoffs. Nelson offers great length and is solid against the run game, but can’t quite seem to get to the quarterback on passing downs. Cam Gill was fourth on Tampa Bay’s depth chart last year and played mostly on special teams. The athletic Gill did notch half a sack in Super Bowl LV. He’ll compete with Quinton Bell, who was on the practice squad last year, for a roster spot again in 2021.

What The Bucs Need At OLB

Barrett turns 29 in November, so Tampa Bay will need to look ahead to the future for a potential replacement. The same could be said with Pierre-Paul, who will be 32 in January and is coming off knee surgeries in back-to-back offseasons. Pierre-Paul is entering the final year of his contract, and with Nelson and Gill not showing enough pass rush ability, finding an heir apparent to JPP is a priority.

The Bucs might even use their first-round pick for an edge rusher. Washington’s Joe Tryon or Texas’ Joseph Ossai might be options in the first or second round. The same could be said of Miami’s Jaelan Phillips or Gregory Rousseau if either slides to Tampa Bay at No. 32. Houston’s Payton Turner or Tulane’s Cam Sample could be options in the middle of the draft. Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith and Iowa’s Chauncey Golston could be options on Day 3.

Top EDGE Defenders In 2021 NFL Draft

1. Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips – RS Junior – 6-5 1/2, 260, 4.57

Phillips has the size, speed, and power that you want in an edge rusher. He put it all together in his last season at Miami with 45 tackles, eight sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. Phillips started his career with UCLA and recorded four sacks in two years, but really burst onto the scene in his one season with Miami. He’s able to switch speeds on the move to keep tackles off balance. Phillips would be a threat coming off the bench with the Bucs, learning from Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul behind the scenes for a year.

2. Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari – RS Sophomore – 6-2, 249, 4.61

Ojulari gets off the ball with lightning speed, then uses his length and power to separate himself from the blocker. He sets defenders up with other moves too, and his bend sets him apart from others in the class. He had a very good season in 2020 with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss in 10 games.

3. Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye – Senior – 6-2, 261, 4.57

Paye is very capable of stopping the run, but it’s his low pad level and technique when facing opposing linemen that makes him such an attractive prospect. Paye has great speed that helps him win many of his battles up front. He notched 11.5 sacks during his time at Michigan along with 100 tackles and 23.5 tackles-for-loss in four years.

4. Washington EDGE Joe Tryon – RS Junior – 6-5, 259, 4.65

Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds just made the case for why Tryon would be a fit with the Bucs in his latest Fab 5. He has incredible size and strength that really jumps off the screen when you watch him. Tryon uses that power to his advantage, but he also has excellent lateral quickness that opens up pass rush opportunities for him. Though he opted out in 2020, he had a great 2019 season with 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks.

5. Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh – RS Sophomore, 6-5, 259, 4.65

Another guy that’s been heavily linked to the Bucs, Oweh is an exceptional athlete that is so quick in his movements. Even with missing two games last season, he still ended up making first team All-Big Ten. He’s very fast with his hands as well, opening up an arsenal of pass rushing moves. Oweh recorded seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in his three-year college career.

6. Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. – RS Senior – 6-3, 274, 4.59

If you’re looking for a player to change the momentum for your team, Basham is the guy. He’s a high energy athlete that goes after the quarterback relentlessly. When he gets there, he normally comes up with the play. Over the last two seasons he notched 16 sacks in 20 games along with seven forced fumbles.

7. Houston EDGE Payton Turner – Senior – 6-5, 270, N/A

For as big of a player he is, Turner still has the speed to beat opposing pass protectors. It’s key for him to get the first step because once he has the edge by a little bit, he can use his length to help get him into the backfield. His pass rushing moves aren’t totally there yet, but he improved this season and should only get better. Turner recorded at least one sack per game in all five games he played last season, and had one forced fumble on the year.

8. Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai – Junior – 6-4, 256, 4.62

Ossai is another player that goes hard on every snap. The junior uses a quick first move with his hands to make the initial push, disrupting the backfield before letting his athleticism do the rest. His 55 tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles were good enough to earn him All-Big 10 honors this season.

9. Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau – RS Sophomore – 6-7, 266, 4.67

Take one look at Rousseau and you can see the exceptional size that he has. Rousseau is still growing into his own game, as he’s terrific on stuns, but he needs to add a little more power to his game. He only had one year of starting in 2019 followed by opting out in 2020, but what a year it was. He put up monster numbers in the last season he played with 54 tackles, 19.5 tackles-for-loss, 15.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass deflection in 13 games. Rousseau has been a topic of conversation for many in the 2021 NFL Draft, as some believe he’s a first round talent while others have him going later on day two.

10. Oklahoma EDGE Ronnie Perkins – Junior – 6-2, 253, 4.71

Perkins has a great bend to his game when he gets the first step to the outside, and he’s a very powerful pass rusher that tries to win the battle right away by getting his hands out first to establish his next move. Perkins can rip away from the blocker while staying on balance at the same time. He made 99 tackles with 32 tackles-for-loss, 16.5 sacks, a forced fumble and pass breakup in three seasons.

11. Pitt EDGE Rashad Weaver RS Senior – 6-4, 259, 4.86

Weaver showed great determination and the ability to bounce back with a very productive 2020 season after missing all of 2019 with an ACL injury. When he returned Weaver put on a show, notching 7.5 sacks in nine games with 35 tackles, 14.5 tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles and two pass deflections. This earned him first team All-ACC.  Weaver excels at shaking off blockers and attacking with a good first move.

12. Tulane EDGE Cam Sample – Senior – 6-3, 267, 4.80

Sample continued to progress each year and had his best season in 2020 with 7.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks, both were career highs for him. This also earned him first team All-AAC as his game started to fit together. There’s still room for development for Sample, especially with the type of speed he has getting to the outside.  It should make for a case that gets paid attention to seeing him play against better competition.

Best Of The Rest

13. Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith – RS Senior – 6-6, 252, 4.75

Smith has a big frame and long wingspan to separate himself from pass blockers. He’s flexible at the corner and can get his hips situated the right way in order to get the correct angle to move past defenders. Smith didn’t have a 2020 season due to COVID, but finished the year prior quite well with 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss in 15 games. Of course for any small school player like him in the 2021 NFL Draft, the fact that he didn’t face the best competition could bring up questions around the uptick in competition he’ll face in the NFL.

14. Vanderbilt EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo – Senior – 6-5, 285, N/A

Odeyingbo is a strong player that has a fast burst off the line of scrimmage followed by trying to overpower his opponent on the pass rush. He’ll need to come up with more moves in the NFL, but as a three-year starter with 5.5 sacks in eight games during his last season, Odeyingbo is an experienced player that will put in the work.

15. Miami EDGE Quincy Roche – RS Senior – 6-3, 245, 4.68

Roche spent his first three college football seasons at Temple and dominated as a pass rusher there, recording 26 sacks in that time. Expected to be the top guy at Miami, it was Phillips and Rousseau who were The U’s best edge rushers, and Roche recorded 4.5 sacks. But that shouldn’t stop the Bucs from picking him. Roche is solid as a run stopper and possesses good instincts to bear blockers one-on-one. With Roche, it’s all about technique and creating turnovers. Roche had 182 tackles in four seasons to go with 54.5 tackles-for-loss and 30. 5 sacks.

16. Iowa EDGE Chauncey Golston – RS Senior – 6-5, 269, 4.80

Golston has leadership qualities as a team captain last season, where he also made first team All-Big 10. The redshirt senior showed off his versatility with 10 pass breakups and three interceptions in four years, which is uncommon for a pass rusher. Golston recorded 128 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and a forced fumble at Iowa. He’s a strong player with great instincts and a motor that never gives up.

17. Pitt EDGE Patrick Jones II – RS Senior – 6-4, 261, N/A

Another player that was a captain of his team, Jones posted back-to-back productive seasons with 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles-for-loss in 2019 and nine sacks with 13 tackles-for-loss in 2020. Both of those seasons earned him second team All-Pro and first team All-Pro honors in those respective years. Jones has good size for his position and is explosive off the ball, but desperately needs to improve his hands as a rusher.

18. Virginia EDGE Charles Snowden – Senior – 6-6, 243, N/A

Snowden is a steady player that is well balanced when attacking the pocket. He got playing time each year and started for three straight seasons as he progressed a little each season, finishing off his senior year with 44 tackles, three pass deflections, one forced fumble, 10 tackles-for-loss and six sacks. Those 10 tackles-for-loss were best on the team, even after missing two games. He was a team captain and second team All-ACC.

19. Duke EDGE Chris Rumph II – RS Junior – 6-3, 244, N/A

Though considered undersized, Rumph has a knack for being difficult to contain for offensive linemen. He can get to the gap quickly and cause issues against the run and pass. In three seasons he recorded 125 tackles, two forced fumbles, five pass breakups, 34 tackles-for-loss and 17.5 sacks. As a team captain during his last year in school, Rumph led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 11 games.

20. Florida State EDGE Janarius Robinson – RS Senior – 6-5, 263, 4.69

Robinson has great size and is at his best using speed and length to defeat opponents. Robinson has some pass rush moves, but could stand to progress in that area of his game. His three sacks led the team last season, and he finished his college career with 105 tackles, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, 20.5 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks.

21. Florida State EDGE Joshua Kaindoh – RS Junior – 6-6, 260, 4.65

There’s a lot to enjoy about Kaindoh’s pass rushing, as he has a solid amount of moves and can still develop more. He keeps blockers away with the length of his arms and then lets his athleticism and powerful hands do the work to get him to the quarterback. He completed his college football career with 58 tackles in 36 games along with one forced fumble, three pass breakups, a pick-six, 16.5 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks

Bucs’ Best Bets: OLB Defender

Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Washington OLB Joe Tryon

Although he doesn’t have a lot of experience or production with just two years at Washington and nine sacks in his career, Tryon is a gifted athlete with a high ceiling. With a muscular, 6-5, 260-pound frame and 4.65 speed, Tryon has NFL-ready size to set the edge and also get to the passer. The Huskies standout recorded eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2019 before opting out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tryon showed scouts his game was on the rise when he recorded three two-sack outings over the final five games of the 2019 campaign.

Tryon’s best football is ahead of him and he would be an ideal developmental pass rusher to come to Tampa Bay and learn from Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett. The Bucs will love his relentless motor and the energy he brings to the field. Playing in Jimmy Lake’s 3-4 hybrid scheme, Tryon was asked to do a lot of what Todd Bowles asks of his outside linebackers, which includes dropping into coverage on occasion.

Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Northern Iowa OLB Elerson Smith

NIU OLB Elerson Smith Bucs NFL Draft

NIU OLB Elerson Smith – Photo courtesy of NIU

Smith didn’t get to play in 2020 due to teams at the FCS level canceling their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet he shined at the Senior Bowl, showing off a long, athletic build and hustling to make plays. Smith has ideal size to play outside linebacker in the NFL at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds. Smith shined during his pro day at Northern Iowa, running a 4.75 time in the 40-yard dash and posting a 41.5-inch vertical.

But Smith isn’t just an athlete. He’s an instinctive pass rusher, who logged 32.5 tackles for loss and 28 sacks in his NIU career, including 14 in 2019 when he was a first-team FCS All-American. Smith also forced five fumbles and has six in his career, in addition to eight pass breakups at the line of scrimmage. He could stand to add 10 more pounds of muscle to his frame to help him set the edge, but Smith would be an interesting developmental pass rusher for the Bucs on Day 3.

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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6 months ago

I believe that Oweh’s 40 was actually 4.39 not 4.65. Either way he is too much of a project for me in the 1st. I’d rather have Ojulari or Tryon. They may be lower ceiling guys but I think they will produce immediately. I think Oweh’s bust potential is too high.

Reply to  WhatTheBuc
6 months ago

4.36 actually, but I agree that no matter what he ran, he’s a giant project. The Bucs have swung on high celing players in recent drafts, such as Devin White, OJ Howard and Tristan Wirfs, with decent, but mixed, results. The big difference is that those players i mentioned, flashed the things NFL teams would look for them to do, in their final collegiate season.

Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
6 months ago

With decent, but mixed results? I’d say there’s been a lot more good than bad with those picks. If it wasn’t for injuries to OJ, we’d be saying what a grand slam those 3 picks were

Last edited 6 months ago by Dave
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

Well, I say mixed because while White and Wirfs look like 2 future All Pros, OJ has not justified his draft status. Whether it be because of injuries or a down year, he needs to prove himself. I agree there have been better hits than misses, but a TE going in the first 19 picks needs to be producing consistently. For reference, George Kittle was drafted in the 5th round that year.

Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
5 months ago

I understand what you mean, as TE’s are not typically projected as first rounders. But Howard was not only a consensus 1st round pick, but he was a consensus top 12 pick. So for him to be there at 19, the Bucs would have been foolish not to take him. Knowing what we know now, there were only 7 players that went in the next 40 picks after the Bucs selected Howard at 19, that were good. So there was an extremely good chance that no matter who the Bucs took at 19, they were going to be a bust.… Read more »

6 months ago

I would not touch Jaelin Phillips. 3 concussions? Hell to the NO. That’s a medical red flag. 3 concussions before leaving college sounds to me like an early retirement due to brain injury waiting to happen. If he fell to round 3 because of medical concerns, I’d take a chance on him, but I’d rather take Tryon at 32 and forget about Phillips.

6 months ago

A lot of mock drafts has Rousseau dropping out of the first round.

Matt, I realize that you have Rousseau listed as Edge, but could you not see Rousseau slide into DT (yeh he has to bulk up) while you figure out where he best fit? Is just me, or do you also see someone that could be rotated around the D-Line// OLB ?


Captain Sly
6 months ago

Surrounding each and everyone of these prospects seems to be more questions than answers. Phillips(Injury Prone)-Rousseau(extremely raw)- Tryon(one hit wonder) – Ojulari(inconsistent). This batch looks to fall somewhere between the 2007 & 2015 group of Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley, Shane Ray, Randy Gregory or 2007 with Gaines Adams, Jamaal Anderson, Jarvis Moss, Adam Carriker. Hold your nose while handing in the card because if you’re looking for defensive help you’re better off trading out of the pick. Strongest position group in this draft is at DB so if I’m staying put at 32 assuming Surtain & JC Horn are gone… Read more »

Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

Agreed. It’s the weakest group of pass rushers we’ve seen in a long time. I don’t want ANY of these jokers. I’m completely with you. At 32, I’m hoping one of the elite DB’s(Farley, ASJ, or Moehrig), or OT’s( Jenkins or Mayfield) fall to us at 32. If not, I’d rather trade back, and still get one of the top 2 backs(Harris or Etienne), the best remaining OL(Dickerson), or one of the next group of WR’s(Bateman, R.Moore, E.Moore. or Marshall)

Last edited 5 months ago by Dave