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2017 NFL Draft: PFF’s top 15 edge defenders

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The Bengals should be having a good look at these 15 prospects as the NFL Draft nears.

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It’s no secret the Bengals plan to draft pass rushers in this year’s NFL Draft. The selection of an edge defender could come as early as Round 1 and I’d be willing to bet on at least one defensive end joining the Bengals by the end of Round 3. It wouldn’t even be surprising if two were drafted by the end of Round 4.

As such, we’ve been taking a close look at guys like Solomon Thomas, Charles Harris, Taco Charlton and Malik McDowell, all defensive lineman who are expected to be taken in the early stages of the draft.

Pro Football Focus has ranked the top players at each position group, and here's a look at their top 15 edge rankings. At this point, most draft experts believe Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas will be off-the-board by the time the Bengals are on the clock in Round 1. Derek Barnett, who PFF ranks as the second best among this class of edge defenders and third best player in the draft, has been available for the Bengals in many mock drafts.

Pro Football Focus EDGE rankings

EDGE Rank Player School Overall Draft Ranking
EDGE Rank Player School Overall Draft Ranking
1 Myles Garrett Texas A&M 1
2 Derek Barnett Tennessee 3
3 Carl Lawson Auburn 15
4 Solomon Thomas Stanford 16
5 Tim Williams Alabama 20
6 Jordan Willis Kansas State 23
7 Charles Harris Missouri 27
8 Haason Reddick Temple 29
9 Taco Charlton Michigan 31
10 Takkarist McKinley UCLA 36
11 T.J. Watt Wisconsin 47
12 Dawuane Smoot Illinois 62
13 Deatrich Wise Jr. Arkansas 72
14 Trey Hendrickson Florida Atlantic 74
15 Ryan Anderson Alabama 80

In PFF's latest mock draft, Myles Garrett predictably goes first overall to the Browns, Barnett goes sixth overall after a trade and Solomon Thomas inexplicably made it all the way to pick No. 14 for the Eagles. There's almost no chance Thomas falls that far, especially since the Bengals would likely scoop him up at No. 9 if he fell even that far. Lawson then goes to the Ravens at pick No. 16, Harris goes 21st overall to the Lions, Charlton heads to Miami with pick No. 22, Willis goes with pick No. 28 to the Cowboys and the last edge defender selected in Round 1 is Malik McDowell to the Falcons. What’s interesting here is that the Browns and Ravens got two of this year’s best edge defenders, while the Bengals took a wide receiver in this mock, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.

If the Bengals don’t take an edge defender in Round 1, there should still be a highly talented player available in Round 2 to snatch up.

Mike Mayock also recently updated his top 5 players at each position. Here’s a look at his top ranked edge rushers:

1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

2. Solomon Thomas, Stanford

3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

5. Tim Williams, Alabama

Changes from first ranking: Thomas (4), McKinley (5), Williams (2).

And, for another look at how the top edge defenders are currently ranked, here’s how CBS Sports ranks them:

CBS Sports Edge Rankings

RANK PLAYER POS. RANK SCHOOL PROJ. ROUND
RANK PLAYER POS. RANK SCHOOL PROJ. ROUND
1 *Myles Garrett 1 Texas A&M 1
2 *Solomon Thomas 2 Stanford 1
8 *Derek Barnett 3 Tennessee 1
23 Taco Charlton 4 Michigan 1
32 *Charles Harris 5 Missouri 1-2
40 *Carl Lawson 6 Auburn 1-2
63 Tarell Basham 7 Ohio 2
76 Jordan Willis 8 Kansas State 2-3
84 Derek Rivers 9 Youngstown State 2-3
97 DeMarcus Walker 10 Florida State 3
102 Trey Hendrickson 11 Florida Atlantic 3
121 Daeshon Hall 12 Texas A&M 3-4
124 Tanoh Kpassagnon 13 Villanova 3-4
158 Dawuane Smoot 14 Illinois 4-5
161 Deatrich Wise Jr. 15 Arkansas 4-5

Some of the guys CBS Sports see as potential second round picks, in case the Bengals are unable to find a worthy defensive end in Round 1, are Harris, Lawson, Ohio's Tarell Basham, Willis and Youngstown State's Derek Rivers.

What do you think? Which of the top pass rushers in this year’s draft would you like to see the Bengals targeting in Rounds 1-2?