Editor's note: NFL.com analyst and former scout Bucky Brooks will unveil his top five players at marquee positions this month to preview the 2017 college football season, continuing today with pass rushers. Click through the tabs above to see other positions.
The NFL's evolution into a passing league has led coaches and scouts to covet pass rushers at a premium. Teams are constantly searching for edge defenders who are capable of disrupting the timing and rhythm of the passing game.
Whether it's a speed demon with great first-step quickness or an athletic bully with exceptional strength and power, clubs want difference makers off the edge. With that in mind, I thought I would survey the college football landscape and rank the top five pass rushers heading into the 2017 season. Here's my list:
5. Josh Sweat, Florida State, DE
A long, rangy power rusher with the potential to dominate off the edge, Sweat is unpolished but has the traits (length, strength and explosiveness) that scouts covet in edge defenders. Although he lacks an explosive first step, he started to find his groove down the stretch in 2017 (4.5 sacks in Seminoles final three games) and scouts are hoping he can build on that momentum.
If he flashes better snap-count anticipation and first-step quickness, he could move up the charts as an intriguing pass rusher with prototypical traits.
4. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State, DE
Lewis is a blue-collar edge defender with a power-based game. He outworks and outmuscles blockers on the perimeter with an assortment of bull rushes and forklift maneuvers that showcase his overwhelming strength and power.
Although he lacks the polish and finesse skills to be a No. 1 rusher at the next level, the Ohio State standout could be a nice complementary rusher on a team with an established sack artist already in place.
3. Arden Key, LSU, DE
Key's a long, rangy pass rusher with spectacular first-step quickness and bend-and-burst ability. He has a terrific feel for getting to the quarterback (17.5 career sacks) but questions about his strength, power and passion cloud the evaluation for scouts.
The LSU standout is certainly intriguing as a stand-up edge rusher, but he will need a strong 2017 campaign to address the concerns about his game and long-term potential.
2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State, DE
Chubb's a big, athletic rusher with the length and versatility to wreak havoc off the edges. His combination of size, athleticism and combat skills allows him to overwhelm blockers with power or finesse at the point of attack. As a Mario Williams-like clone with nimble feet and a "beat-'em-up" mentality, Chubb is the type of defensive end that NFL executives love to build a defense around.
1. Harold Landry, Boston College, OLB
Landry's an ultra-athletic pass rusher with the cat-like quickness to be a disruptive playmaker off the edge. His superb hand skills and exceptional balance make him nearly impossible to slow down off the edge. With the All-ACC standout also flashing a relentless motor and an exceptional closing burst, it's easy to see why he collected 16.5 sacks as a sophomore as the Eagles' designated pass rusher off the edge.
With another season to refine his skills as a pass-rushing menace, Landry might be considered the top overall prospect in the 2018 class at the end of the season.