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Five under-the-radar draft edge rushers you should know

Posted Apr 17, 2017

Auburn's Carl Lawson and Youngstown State's Derek Rivers are among the prospects who could offer outstanding value at a premium position.

Carl Lawson and Derek Rivers

Athleticism is great, but quite often the most telling predictor of success as a pro pass rusher is the ability to get to the quarterback in college.

These five prospects are unlikely to go off the board on the first day, but all have demonstrated a knack for wreaking havoc off the edge, even if their measurables don't stack up to those of the first-round picks.

JIMMIE GILBERT, COLORADO

HEIGHT: 6-4 - WEIGHT: 234
ARM LENGTH: 32 7/8 inches - HAND SIZE: 9 1/2 inches
40: 4.64 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 12 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE:4.57 seconds

One of the most productive front-seven defenders in college football last year, Gilbert forced six fumbles and posted 11 sacks for 106 yards in losses. That placed him third in FBS in total yards lost by opposing offenses as a result of his sacks.

The issue holding down Gilbert's draft stock is his size, so weight-room work became his focus in recent months. He added 19 pounds between December and March to reach 234 pounds at CU's Pro Day, and he said he wants to play at 240 to 245 pounds in the NFL. If he can maintain his quickness at that size, he should stick as a sub-package pass-rush specialist

TREY HENDRICKSON, FLORIDA ATLANTIC

HEIGHT: 6-4 - WEIGHT: 266
ARM LENGTH: 32 inches - HAND SIZE: 9 7/8 inches
40: 4.65 seconds
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.20 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL:7.03 seconds

Hendrickson was one of the most productive hand-in-the-dirt edge rushers in FBS the last two seasons, racking up 23 sacks and 30 tackles for losses in 33 games the last two seasons.

Hendrickson isn't as quick as other pass rushers off the snap, but plays with snap-to-whistle persistence. He has cultivated a nice variety of pass-rush moves and a willingness to use them all. He is also an outstanding special teamer; he blocked four kicks last year. That should get him on the field as a rookie even if his defensive development takes a year.

CARL LAWSON, AUBURN

HEIGHT: 6-2 - WEIGHT: 261
ARM LENGTH: 31 1/2 inches - HAND SIZE: 10 3/8 inches
40: 4.67 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 35 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.19 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 7.46 seconds

Quick and strong, Lawson had a stellar Combine workout after posting 13.5 tackles for losses and 9.0 sacks in 2016. That was Lawson's only full season as a starter. A cracked hip limited his 2015 season to seven games; a torn ACL wiped out his 2014 campaign.

Although Lawson isn't as nimble at changing directions in the pass rush as some other prospects, he often succeeds at getting to the edge in a hurry. Offensive tackles often struggle to push Lawson wide, which allows him to quickly approach the spot and force opposing quarterbacks into hasty and bad decisions.

EJUAN PRICE, PITTSBURGH

HEIGHT: 5-11 - WEIGHT: 241
ARM LENGTH: 32 3/4 inches - HAND SIZE: 10 inches
40: 4.84 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 20 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.34 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.98 seconds

Granted a rare sixth year of eligibility because pectoral-muscle injuries wiped out his 2012 and 2014 seasons, Price built off the success he had in 2015, when he posted 19.5 tackles for losses and 11.5 sacks. He notched 13 sacks -- an average of 1.0 per game -- and led all draftable edge rushers with 23 tackles for losses, earning second-team All-America honors from USA Todayand the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Price doesn't have ideal size, but is perhaps the best edge rusher in this year's class at reading run plays as they develop. He makes up for his lack of physical measurables with film study, anticipation and balance that allows him to go low and maintain his speed.

DEREK RIVERS, YOUNGSTOWN STATE

HEIGHT: 6-4 - WEIGHT: 248
ARM LENGTH: 32 3/4 inches - HAND SIZE: 9 3/8 inches
40: 4.61 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 30 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.40 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.94 seconds

Rivers is one of the best athletic blends of power and speed among this year's crop of edge rushers. Playing under former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini at Youngstown State, Rivers racked up 38 sacks in his three seasons as a starter for the Penguins, averaging 0.98 sacks and 1.33 tackles for losses per game in that span.

He was able to rely on his speed and power in FCS, and will have to develop more moves -- and better quickness off the snap -- in order to flourish at the next level. Rivers' high motor and ability to maintain his intensity and effort from start to finish will help him eventually adjust.