Teams looking for edge rushers -- and, really, in today's NFL, which team isn't? -- have a number of good candidates to choose from this year, and Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., stated his case as being the best available Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said during Sunday's NFL Network telecast of the combine that this is the best draft for edge rushers since 2011, and most of the top guys showed off their wares Sunday. Fowler (6-foot-2 1/2, 261 pounds) likely continued his ascent up draft boards when he ran a 4.60 in the 40, with a 10-yard split of 1.59 seconds.
Mayock compares Fowler, who sported a gold watch during his runs, to the Kansas City Chiefs' Justin Houston and the Oakland Raiders' Khalil Mack. Mayock said those two, and Fowler, have the ability to be "hellacious" pass rushers, can set a "physical edge" against the run and also can drop into coverage.
Of Fowler's 4.60 clocking, Mayock said, "I've pretty much seen what I need to see."
Fowler's size compared to the other top edge rushers might end up being the deciding factor. He is heavier than the other top contenders and plays more powerfully.
Clemson end Vic Beasley seems likely to move to outside linebacker at the next level, and he blazed to a 4.53 40, the fastest among the linemen. Mayock said Beasley -- who is 6-3 and weighed in at 246 pounds, 11 more than he was listed during the season -- "wins with outside speed" but also is able to convert that speed to power, which is a special trait.
Nebraska end Randy Gregory -- who was measured at 6-4 7/8 but a surprisingly light 235 pounds -- was clocked at 4.64 seconds. Mayock described Gregory as "twitchy and quick off the edge." But there are some issues with Gregory, with his lack of weight a notable one.
Missouri end Shane Ray (6-2 1/2 245), another of this year's top edge prospects, is not working out at the combine because of a toe injury.
Virginia end Eli Harold (6-3 1/8, 247), who surprised some by leaving after his junior season, showed off his top-flight athleticism with a 4.60 clocking. While he has excellent quickness and speed, he has a ways to go before he can be considered a well-rounded player. He has had issues against the run and with consistency.
LSU end Danielle Hunter (6-5 1/8, 252) also showed off, running a 4.57; he and Beasley were the only linemen who ran faster than 4.60. Mayock calls Hunter a "gifted kid who I thought came out a year early." No one questions Hunter's athleticism or upside. But he didn't always flash at LSU; while he led the Tigers with 13 tackles for loss, he had just 1.5 sacks. He disappeared at times and remains raw with his technique.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.