3 edge rushers Saints fans should watch at the NFL Scouting Combine
While the interior defensive line is arguably a bigger need for the New Orleans Saints, edge defender is a position that should not be ignored this offseason either. The NFL draft will present some intriguing options should the Saints decided to use the league’s annual selection process to address the area. An early look at some of those potentials picks can be had this week as the NFL Scouting Combine workouts begin this wee in Indianapolis.
We already presented three defensive tackles that should pique the interest of Saints fans at the Combine. Now, we can dive into the pass rushers off the edge that could be huge gets for New Orleans in the long-run. With uncertainty looming over the team’s decision with 2018 first-round edge rusher draft pick Marcus Davenport and veteran defensive end Cameron Jordan entering the final year of his current deal, this is a position New Orleans would benefit from addressing both in the short and long term outlooks. Here are three edge defenders to watch at this week’s Combine, what to watch for, how they could contribute to the Saints and their current draft projections.
Northwestern DE Adetomiwa Adebawore
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While the Saints are not expected to be in need of a fresh starter on the edge with Jordan and Granderson in line to hold those roles, a starting level talent sure would not hurt. That’s where Adebawore comes in. At 6-foot-2 and around 280 pounds, he’s a bit shorter than the usual New Orleans prototype, but his inside-outside versatility should place him keenly in the Saints’ focus.
Adebawore is an impactful edge rusher with a polished plan and a ceiling that can be raised with good coaching. Teams will be impressed with the “above the shoulders football” aspect of his game. His ability to read and react to play flow in the run game allows him to be disruptive as a rush defender. He also packs the necessary athleticism to threaten as a pass rusher. He’s logged at least 30 pressures in each of the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus. However, he’s converted only 9.5 of his 61 pressures for sacks during that time. So finishing will be the next step to add to his game.
Adebawore should impress during his run at the hoop drill during the Combine this week. But his explosiveness is what you should be watching in the broad jump and vertical workouts. For most edge rushers the 10-yard split of the 40-yard dash as well as the 3-cone drill tend to be good indicators of their impact at the next level.
Draft Projection: Day 2
Ohio State DE Zach Harrison
Zach Harrison (Ohio St)
36 1/4 arm 😳
85 1/2 wing
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 2, 2023
Harrison is the type of defensive lineman that will often be referred to as a “tweener” because he can rush from the edge but has the size of an interior defender. Standing around 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 275 pounds many will ask whether or not his best fit is at defensive tackle. For the Saints, both can be true. In New Orleans what some will call a “tweener” is simply an asset.
Like Adebawore, Harrison finished his final two seasons with 60 combined pressures but with only 5.5 sacks. So again, finishing will be the next step. Harrison is a polished rusher in that he has a ton of moves that he has no issue sequencing and has a fair amount of counters under his belt as well. So he packs the length and explosiveness New Orleans loves, but has a further developed plan than recent draft investments.
Harrison is unlikely to light up the combine from an athletics testing perspective, and that’s okay. His explosiveness and polish can make up for any concerns that may arise there. The on-field workouts (which, let’s face it, are far more translatable than running in a straight line anyway) will be the place to invest in Harrison’s Indianapolis performance.
Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4
Central Michigan DE Thomas Incoom
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Looking for a late-round gem (at least for now) that could have an immediate impact? In comes Incoom. Unlike small school first-round selections that have given Saints fans fits in the recent past, the Central Michigan edge rusher could be drafted as late as early Day 3. Why? Mostly because of competition level. He hasn’t faced many premier offensive linemen in his collegiate days. It is very possible that NFL scouts and staff see him as a higher-ranking prospect than most media. Saints fans should hope that is not the case.
What leaps off of Incoom’s tape is his effort. He simply never gives up on a play. Imagine all the things scouts and fans loved about how one of last year’s Saints first-round picks, offensive lineman Trevor Penning, and transpose that to the defensive side of the line. Incoom simply doesn’t stop in the best way possible. With 11.5 sacks on 43 pressures last year, the All-MAC defensive end has the numbers to back up the traits. Adding 27.5 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons doesn’t hurt either.
When it comes to the Combine for Incoom, just watch and enjoy. He has a real opportunity here to maintain his status or even heighten it. His biggest prerogative should be just focusing on not negatively impacting himself in anyway. If he stays healthy, he’ll send scouts back to his tape. That alone could help him climb the boards.
Draft Projection: Rounds 3-5