As we continue to look at where the elite talent in the NFL was drafted, let's move on to edge rushers. These are the players who typically serve as the primary pass rush talent. They will typically line up as outside linebackers in 3-4 looks and defensive ends in 4-3 fronts. As has been the case in other posts in this series, elite is defined as having made at least one AP All Pro first or second team since 2010.
Average pick: 68
Median pick: 27
What sticks out?
When we see a lot of names after the first round on a list, it sometimes is unclear whether it means teams do not put a lot of value on a position or whether they just have not perfected evaluating players at a position, allowing really good ones to slip through the cracks. I don't think there is any question in this instance. If you asked teams what position is most valuable in the NFL, it would likely be an unanimous vote for quarterback. If you asked them the second move valuable position, I think it would likely either be left tackle or edge rusher.
It is a passing league, and there are two ways to shut down the opposing passing attack. The first is to cover really well. The problem is the rules make that increasingly difficult. Unless you have a Revis/Sherman type, it is difficult to win based only on coverage. The second way is to generate pressure. Pressure makes throws more erratic and means the corners have to cover for a shorter time. Nowhere is it easier to generate pressure than on the edge. The interior guys have to fight through traffic and double teams. The edge guys have open space on the outside.
Teams clearly invest high picks to find top edge rushers, but they are also found and developed later. Mike Maccagnan the other day talked about how it is a good idea for a team to draft one edge rusher each season. This shows why. You aren't necessarily resigned to finding a depth piece. You actually stand a chance to find and develop somebody past round one who could be great. Just the sheer number of players who made this list displays it isn't THAT hard to find a pass rusher relative to top talent at other positions. Of course, this is all dependent on the team actually looking for an edge rusher. The Jets under Rex Ryan did not. Rex seemed to love the big, interior types. The Jets did not take an edge rusher in his first five Draft classes, unless we count Quinton Coples who was not originally drafted to play that role. This undoubtedly hurt his defenses.