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2020 AFC North Positional Rankings: EDGE

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NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

As the dog days of the NFL offseason continue to settle in, each team’s roster is pretty much set with free agency and the draft in the rear view mirror. Therefore, it’s an opportune time to detox with our annual positional rankings for the AFC North.

Last week, we began to examine the defensive side of the ball by ranking each team’s defensive line. Today, we’ll stick with a similar theme and check out the collection of edge-rushers and outside linebackers in the division.

You can check out last year’s rankings here, along with the following 2020 editions:

Check out the listing below, vote on the corresponding poll and join in on the conversation!


1) Pittsburgh Steelers

Starters: T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree

Depth Chart: Alex Highsmith, Ola Adeniyi

On the interior of their defensive line, the Steelers have one of the best duos in the league in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. This much remains true at edge-rusher, where T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree cemented their elite status in 2019.

Since entering the league in 2017, Watt has been nothing short of a game-wrecker. The brother of J.J. Watt’s sack total has climbed in each of his three seasons, peaking last year with a career-best total of 14.5.

Adding to his otherworldly campaign is 36 QB hits, 19 QB knockdowns, 59 pressures and eight - yes, eight - forced fumbles. Combine these numbers with 55 tackles and a PFF grade of 91.3 and you have one of the best defensive players in the NFL, not just at his position.

On the opposite side of him is Dupree, who put together a breakout campaign last year in his fifth career season. Dupree posted career-highs in tackles (68), sacks (11.5), QB hits (17), and TFL (16). Dupree surely benefits from playing next to top-tier talent but thrived as the “robin” to Watt’s “batman”. Dupree earned a solid PFF mark of 77.7.

In the draft, the Steelers added OLB Alex Highsmith with the 102nd overall pick. Highsmith is a small-school prospect out of Charlotte but will have time to develop and grow behind Watt and Dupree. Him and Ola Adeniyi provide solid depth.

Poll

Where would you rank the Steelers in the EDGE ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    First
    (166 votes)
  • 14%
    Second
    (30 votes)
  • 3%
    Third
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Fourth
    (5 votes)
208 votes total Vote Now

2) Cleveland Browns

Starters: Myles Garrett, Oliver Vernon

Depth Chart: Adrian Clayborn, Chad Thomas

In light of last year’s debacle, it’s easy to forget how good Myles Garrett is. It’d be foolish to do so, though.

Like Watt, Garrett is an elite pass-rusher who can single-handedly alter the outcome of a game. In three career seasons, he has 30.5 sacks to his name despite missing a total of 11 contests. Last year, Garrett was on his way to another strong campaign before getting suspended.

Through the first 10 games of the season, Garrett had already posted 10 sacks, 18 QB hits, 11 TFL and a pair of forced fumbles, earning a 86.5 grade from PFF. He was well on his way to potentially shattering some of his career-highs from 2018.

Garrett’s presence alone is enough for the Browns to get the No. 2 spot in these rankings but Oliver Vernon is a capable sidekick in his own right.

Vernon didn’t quite live up to expectations in his first season with the Browns but could be looking at a bounce-back showing in 2019, which is a contract year for him. Vernon appeared in 10 games, posting 3.5 sacks, 11 TFL and a forced fumble.

Poll

Where would you rank the Browns in the EDGE ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    First
    (25 votes)
  • 58%
    Second
    (100 votes)
  • 20%
    Third
    (35 votes)
  • 5%
    Fourth
    (10 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now

3) Baltimore Ravens

Starters: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson

Depth Chart: Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee

The Ravens are returning their same outside linebacker core from last season, headlined by first-time Pro Bowler Matthew Judon. Judon recieved the franchise tag worth roughly $16 million in free agency after a career-best campaign in 2019.

After Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith left in free agency, Judon was thrust into an every-down role and responded well. He posted 54 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 33 QB hits and four forced fumbles last season.

Judon won’t be mistaken for being a top-tier edge-rusher like Watt or Garrett, but he’s a solid all-around player nonetheless and a key cog in Baltimore’s defense.

Behind him on the depth chart is Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee.

McPhee was re-signed after a brief second stint with the team in 2019. He was on his way to a renaissance season with three sacks and six QB hits in seven games, but suffered a torn tricep injury and missed the remainder of the year.

In his absence, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser stepped into larger roles and will continue to do so in 2020. Ferguson assumed McPhee’s starting position and showed flashes of high-level play as the season progressed. Bowser posted a career-high 5.0 sacks and 10 QB hits.

Poll

Where would you rank the Ravens in the EDGE rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    First
    (18 votes)
  • 17%
    Second
    (33 votes)
  • 52%
    Third
    (101 votes)
  • 20%
    Fourth
    (39 votes)
191 votes total Vote Now

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Starters: Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard

Depth Chart: Carl Lawson, Khalid Kareem

Now a 10-year veteran, Carlos Dunlap has yet to show any signs of slowing down after another productive season in 2019.

Dunlap posted 63 tackles, the second-highest mark of his career, nine sacks, 21 QB hits and 13 TFL en route to a PFF grade of 89.7. He also forced two fumbles for the second straight season and did so while missing two games on the year.

Sam Hubbard also put forth a solid showing in his sophomore season. Hubbard racked up 76 combined tackles, 8.5 sacks and 13 QB hits, all of which represented improvements from his first career season in 2018.

The Bengals are hoping that Carl Lawson can put the pieces together this upcoming season. Since his productive rookie season in 2018 (8.5 sacks, 21 QB hits), Lawson has played a total of just 19 games amidst injury struggles.

In 12 games last season, Lawson had five sacks and 22 QB hits, indicating that his talent and upside is still very much prevalent. The Bengals also added Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem in the middle rounds of the draft.

Poll

Where would you rank the Bengals in the EDGE rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    First
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Second
    (6 votes)
  • 24%
    Third
    (37 votes)
  • 67%
    Fourth
    (101 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now