It seems to be a foregone conclusion that we’ll see a quarterback taken with the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but is Ohio State EDGE Chase Young the draft’s true top prospect?
You don’t have to dig deep into last Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV matchup to see exactly how much NFL teams value pass rushers. For the 49ers, it was a top-five overall selection of Ohio State’s Nick Bosa in last year’s draft and trade for former Kansas City standout Dee Ford. And for the Chiefs, it was a pre-draft trade for Seattle’s Frank Clark, along with midseason addition Terrell Suggs and stellar play from defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Before the video-game numbers put up by LSU quarterback Joe Burrow en route to a national title and Heisman Trophy, it seemed as though another outstanding Ohio State EDGE prospect, Chase Young, was poised to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft. Despite what should be a quarterback-heavy top of the first round, is Young in fact the player from this class who will have the biggest on-field impact?
In this week’s edition of draft diagnosis, I’ll be breaking down the former Buckeye and why many consider him to be the 2020 Draft’s top overall talent.
Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Tale of the tape:
Ohio State has become a factory for producing players on the defensive line over the past 10 years, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down in that department in the near future. With both Bosa brothers already making a huge impact at the NFL level, the eyes of scouts now focus on Hyattsville, Maryland native Chase Young.
Unsurprisingly, Young arrived on campus in Columbus from high school powerhouse DeMatha Catholic (Md.) as a five-star recruit and the eighth-ranked player nationally in the 2017 class. He had scholarship offers from just about every school, but ultimately chose the Buckeyes and their penchant for graduating elite defensive talent to the NFL.
Over the next three seasons, Young set up shop in opposing backfields, finishing his Ohio State career with 30.5 sacks (second all-time in Big Ten history), 40.5 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles, culminating in a fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting this past season.
Young’s fourth-place Heisman finish is even more impressive considering the fact that he was suspended for two games by the NCAA early in 2019 due to a rules violation, stemming from a loan he took out from a family friend to help pay for his girlfriend’s expenses to watch him play in the 2019 Rose Bowl game against Washington.
Another example of the convoluted spider web that is the NCAA rule book and what should really constitute a “violation,” there’s a slim chance that this incident will have any sort of impact on Young’s draft stock.
Young possesses the type of toolbox that every NFL team looks for in an edge rusher: size, athleticism, and length. Those five-star traits from his high school career have only been further developed since he arrived on campus for the Buckeyes and has allowed him to create mismatches for opposing offensive linemen since his freshman season.
That athleticism was on full display last season against Wisconsin, one of his most dominant performances, logging four sacks and five tackles for loss against a stout Badgers offensive line.
In the above clip, Young shoots the A-gap, plants his foot and somehow manages to chase down the screen behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, the right guard of the Badgers is so concerned with at least knocking Young off his spot, it causes him to be late on his blocking assignment down the field, forcing the play to be cut up inside and allowing Young an opportunity to make the tackle.
It’s one thing as a pass rusher to rely solely on your athleticism to get to the quarterback, which Young obviously is capable of. But to make a successful transition to the pro game, technique is just as important. Below, Young offers a glimpse at that technique against Northwestern:
Young is able to routinely shed the hands of opposing offensive linemen and once he wins there, there’s only about half a second before they are watching the quarterback’s life flash before his eyes in real-time.
Now that we’ve seen Young can win standing up as a pass rusher, as well as with his hand in the dirt against blindside protectors, let’s check in again with our friends at Wisconsin to see how he fares against a tight end—-aha WHOOPS.
Affectionately referred to by Wisconsin’s tight end as “I Don’t Want to be Part of That Personnel Group Anymore,” that play further illustrates the type of athlete that Young is. Lightning quick and explosive off the snap, and excellent hip flexibility and bend at the top of his rush arc. Even without getting the sack, Young has an uncanny ability to pinpoint exactly when the quarterback has the ball exposed and ready to throw in order to force the fumble.
This is without a doubt the section of the Young scouting report that many evaluators have the most difficult time with. Does his pad level get too high at times? Sure, but show me a prospect in any class who doesn’t. Can he be overaggressive against the run and lose containment? Maybe for a couple plays per game, which is why you have 10 other guys on the field at any given time.
Each negative sounds like what you say in a job interview to make your character flaws actually come across as a strength. So, I guess I’ll give it a go:
- Young borrowed money for a cross-country flight so his girlfriend could see him play, so…he cares too much?
- Young forced six fumbles last season, so…is not allowing the opposing offense to possess the ball fairly evidence of poor sportsmanship?
- Young led the Buckeyes with 16.5 sacks in 2019, so…is this evidence of being a selfish player in not allowing his teammates to tackle the quarterback as many times as he did?
There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to the NFL Draft, but barring some sort of disastrous off-field incident coming to light, the team who gets the chance to select Young in April will be adding one of the most elite EDGE talents we’ve seen in quite some time.
Young is a rare EDGE prospect who would be a bona fide top-five pick in pretty much any class you put him in. Had LSU’s Joe Burrow not put together the 2019 season he did, I don’t think there’s any doubt Young would be as sure of a bet to go first overall as you can get.
Size, length, freakish athleticism, and ability to dominate against the run and pass, Young is an All-Pro caliber EDGE player who profiles best with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 alignment. He will challenge for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season, and if he’s able to remain healthy, he should become a sack machine and perennial Defensive POY candidate as soon as he steps on the field at the pro level.
Draft Diagnosis: First round, off the board by the third pick at worst.