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2022 NFL Draft: Day 2 'designated pass-rusher' value picks

University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Arnold Ebiketie (17) reacts follow a sack on Michigan Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara (12) (not pictured) during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft is heavy on top-tier edge prospects. Travon Walker, George Karlaftis, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson are all ranked in the top 15 on the PFF Big Board, and each could see their name called in the top 10 of the actual draft.

Many of those players will be picked early, which will push some other edge players up the board. So, as we move down the list after the Tier 1 group, we’re in the business of finding some “designated pass-rushers,” players who can come into the league and provide an immediate threat off the edge without worrying about their run defense. Some prospects below can also be effective in run defense, but teams are drafting them to get after the quarterback.

Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

There is a good chance an NFL team falls in love with Ebiketie early enough that he’s not only a first-round pick but a top-20 pick. His talent is really that outrageous, and he backed it up with nice testing numbers.

At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, he isn’t the biggest player at the position, but placing in the 79th percentile in arm length and the 87th percentile in hand size means he can probably make up for his body size. He jumped extremely far, as well, placing in the 91st percentile in the vertical jump and the 96th in the broad jump. 

Ebiketie's tape and production numbers also match up correctly. He is both a pass-rushing specialist and excellent against the run. His value — if he does fall to the second round — is tremendous. Starting his career at Temple, he produced a 78.3 pass-rush grade in 2019, his first year with real playing time. He upped it to 88.3 the next year, which prompted a transfer to Penn State. There, playing against tougher competition, he finished 2021 with a 90.5 pass-rush grade. Getting better every year all the while jumping up a level in competition bodes well for Ebiketie and whichever team gets its hands on him.

Boye Mafe, Minnesota

Mafe starts a run of real “designated pass-rushers” on this list. While Ebiketie is good against the run, the rest of the group needs a lot of work in that regard — including Mafe. Still, his first step on pass rushes is clearly at an elite level. He ran in the 96th percentile for the 40-yard dash and the 88th percentile for the 10-yard split.

Mafe is above the rest of the pack particularly because of his hand usage. He has a pass-rush plan, and a lot of his rushes get to the quarterback because he’s able to swat offensive linemen's hands away with an assortment of moves. With only 33.13-inch arms, he needs to use his technical ability to get around tackles because he can’t just long-arm them and hope for the best. Playing only 1,180 snaps in four years at Minnesota is a bit of a concern, but in three of those four seasons he produced an 83.0 pass-rush grade. 

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