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Ten pass rushers worth pursuing in free agency/2019 NFL Draft

Over the next several months, the rosters of all 32 teams will begin to take shape for the 2019 season. In this series, writers and analysts look at the best players available via free agency or the NFL draft at the following positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, pass rusher. Today, Willie McGinest looks at the top 10 pass rushers worth pursuing.

1) DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, free agent

Lawrence has emerged as one of the NFL's best pass rushers over the past two seasons, with 25 sacks (fourth-most in that span) and 108 pressures (sixth-most, according to Next Gen Stats). He is able to consistently get in the backfield by setting the line of scrimmage and using his hands and relentless motor. He's not only a great pass rusher, but also excels against the run. He's an all-around defender who is about to get paid.

2) Dee Ford, OLB/DE, free agent

Ford's versatility allows him to succeed as both an outside linebacker and defensive end. Healthy in 2018, Ford racked up a career-high 13 sacks and forced seven fumbles. He and Justin Houston were the most effective edge-rushing duo in the NFL with 118 pressures, according to Next Gen Stats. Ford has improved off the edge in terms of using his lean and leverage. The 27-year-old could continue being a premier pass rusher with full health, one that the Chiefs have strongly indicated they'd like to keep on their roster.

3) Jadeveon Clowney, OLB, free agent

He's a freak who constantly disrupts plays. Now, I would like to see Clowney use better technique at times, but he's one of those special players who can produce without it, thanks to his rare ability to make unorthodox moves. You can't teach some of the traits Clowney possesses, and he has all the raw tools of a great pass rusher. If Clowney, who had nine sacks in 2018, becomes more disciplined, the sky's the limit.

4) Za'Darius Smith, OLB, free agent

The Ravens' outside linebacker is a very physical and explosive player, and he's hard to get into when he uses his 6-foot-4 length. With good moves and an attitude coaches covet, Smith racked up 8.5 sacks last season, and Pro Football Focus had him with 17 quarterback hits and 33 hurries. He's the type of player who can bring a defense to the next level.

5) Frank Clark, DE, free agent

The Seahawks have groomed Clark since his rookie season, and he's turned into a top-tier pass rusher. In 16 starts this past season, he recorded a career-high 13 sacks and snagged his first INT. He's strong, powerful, athletic and comparable to former teammate Michael Bennett. Like Bennett, Clark can move around and play numerous positions on the line, as his explosiveness allows him to exploit matchups more often than not.

6) Sheldon Richardson, DT, free agent

Richardson has always been a powerful, athletic guy with good feet and hands, but he's grown over the last few seasons to become a coachable, more disciplined player. Working under Mike Zimmer as part of a talented defensive front in Minnesota, Richardson did a lot of good against the pass and run. He has been in prove-it land for two seasons, playing on one-year deals with the Seahawks (the last year of his rookie contract, which Seattle took on via trade) and Vikings. If he continues to excel as a team player, Richardson could potentially find a long-term home.

7) Ndamukong Suh, DT, free agent

Suh had an OK regular season, but he was notably better in the playoffs, with 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hits in the Rams' three postseason games. Even at 32 years old, Suh showed he is still a dominant interior player who demands a double-team. The aggressive veteran doesn't have all the moves in the book, but the ones he does use are effective. Plus, he's equally productive against the run.

8) Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

The 6-5, 275-pound defensive end is a big, physical player who uses his length well. He's explosive at the line of scrimmage and creates separation with his length to get to the quarterback. He's a coachable player who is still learning the game. In fact, I don't feel like Ansah has even tapped into a lot of his ability.

9) Josh Allen, LB, draft prospect

At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Allen is reminiscent of players like Whitney Mercilus, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, who all entered the NFL as big, versatile prospects. The Kentucky product, who is projected to be a top-three draft pick, sits this low on my list because he has yet to play a down in the league. It's hard to slot prospects (even the most talented guys) above the players who have already proven themselves. But Allen is a guy who should come in and be a game-changer with multiple moves in his pass rush. He gets around the edge and tracks the quarterback well, but the one thing that really makes him special is how well he can cover and move in space.

10) Quinnen Williams, DT, draft prospect

Williams was a monster for Alabama's defensive line and earned the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's top interior lineman. The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle had 18.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks during his redshirt sophomore season before declaring for the draft. Williams can slice through the offensive line, collapse the pocket from the inside and blow up run plays to the middle. His game should translate well to the next level.

Follow Willie McGinest on Twitter @WillieMcGinest.

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