2023 NFL draft: 4 edge defenders for Chargers to watch at Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off this week, which will bring the 2023 draft class fully into focus, as this is the week of athletic testing, evaluations, and interviews for over 300 prospects.
With the combine ready to set the stage before free agency and the draft, we look at players worth monitoring for the Chargers.
Whether it be players who are options at pick No. 21 or later in the draft, we will pick out some at each position who should test well and generate buzz.
Here are a few edge defenders worth keeping an eye on.
Nick Hampton, Appalachian State
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Hampton was a mainstay in opposing backfields throughout his collegiate career, posting 26.5 sacks and 40 tackles for loss. Hampton’s game is predicated on explosiveness and bend, which is why the former track star should raise eyebrows in these testing drills. He has a leaner frame at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, but Hampton has over 34-inch arms, the desired length that Brandon Staley covets at the position. Hampton was a member of Feldman’s Freak List last summer, and it was reported that he posted a 10’6″ broad jump, 39″ vertical and a 1.20-second 10-yard sprint.
Will McDonald, Iowa State
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Like Hampton, McDonald is a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, but he boasts freakishly long arms at 35 inches. McDonald was very productive for the Cyclones, posting double-digit sacks in his third and fourth seasons while being named First-Team All-Big 12 each of the past three seasons. McDonald is another player featured on Bruce Feldman’s list of elite athletes in college football. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said he expects McDonald to vertical-jump 42 or 43 inches and should broad jump around 11 feet at the combine. The immense athleticism that’s on his tape should carry over to these drills.
BJ Ojulari, LSU
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If there’s an edge defender that the Chargers should target in the first round, it’s Ojulari. Ojulari, the brother of Azeez, the pass rusher for the Giants, has some of the best bend in this year’s class. That’s his bread and butter, which allowed him to finish second only to Alabama’s Will Anderson among SEC defenders in pressure percentage in 2022. Ojulari should excel at the three-cone drill, where three cones are set on the field in an L-shape. The performer starts at the first cone, runs to the second cone, returns to the first cone and then takes the full stretch from Cone 1 to Cone 2, looping around Cone 3 and returning to where he began the drill. This is to show how tightly a player can run a corner. And with his loose hips, Ojulari should shine in this one.
Andre Carter, Army
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Carter will be eligible for the draft thanks to language in a new military budget bill that allows active duty athletes to defer their service should they have a legitimate shot at pro status. While he only got to the quarterback three times this past season, Carter’s 2021 season, which consisted of 18.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, should be telling that he is a solid football player. With explosiveness, bend and a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Carter is a proven pass rusher. He will have to put on some weight and refine his technique, but Carter has legitimate tools to work with. And after he tests, Carter should generate more buzz as a Round 2 target.