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Under-the-Radar EDGE rushers for the Titans in the 2021 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY Sports

Happy draft week! The 2021 NFL Draft is just days away. We’re going heavy on draft content this week. I looked at some under-the-radar receiver prospects the Titans could look to target on Day 3 last week, and today I’m shifting my focus to EDGE rushers.

The Titans made a splash in free agency by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree to a big contract. Tennessee’s pass rush was abysmal last season. General manager Jon Robinson is hoping that an elite talent like Dupree will bolster that unit. Dupree is set to start opposite Harold Landry this season.

The large financial commitment made to Dupree could mean that the team won’t look to draft an EDGE rusher on Day 1 or 2. With the two starters firmly in place, the Titans could look to address a couple of other positions before turning their attention back to the quarterback hunters. I wouldn’t completely rule out an EDGE player in the first three rounds, but I think the team is more likely to add some depth here via a Day 3 selection.

With that said, let’s take a look at a couple of EDGE rushers that would make sense for the Titans to target on Day 3.

Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State

It’s a bit strange to call any player from a program like Ohio State a sleeper, but Jonathon Cooper isn’t getting a ton of attention right now. I’m a big fan of what he brings to the table. Cooper went down to the Senior Bowl back in January and had a great week. His bread-and-butter is converting speed to power as a pass rusher. He has some nice counters in his toolbox. His hands are active and advanced for a prospect. Cooper isn’t the longest edge defender in the world (31.6-inch arms and a 78.5-inch wingspan) but his motor is always running hot and he has some nice variety in his arsenal.

Cooper is getting ready to enter the NFL on the back of his best season as a Buckeye. He registed 3.5 sacks as a senior in just eight games.

Coming in at 6-foot-2 and 253 pounds, Cooper isn’t the biggest guy so it was important for him to test well. That’s exactly what he did at Ohio State’s Pro Day. Cooper ran a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash. His agility times of 4.31 in the short shuttle and 6.99 in the three-cone places him in elite company when it comes to the position.

If the Titans are looking for depth and value on Day 3, a player like Cooper makes a lot of sense.

Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa

I’ve been trying to wake people up to Elerson Smith’s talent for a while now. In fact, I interviewed him back in July of 2020 as part of a draft interview series that I do. Smith is a small school player that’s been on the NFL’s radar for more than two years. First off, the measurements are off the charts here. Smith is 6-foot-6 with an 83-inch wingspan, 33.3-inch arms and 10.5-inch hands. You can’t teach length and size and Smith has both in abundance.

The first thing that jumps out on film about Smith is how athletic he is. Yes, he didn’t play against the best competition in the world on a weekly basis, but I thought he shined on tape when playing tougher opponents. Go back and watch what he did against Iowa State in 2019. Smith came up with a strip sack that finished as a defensive touchdown, and he made several key stops in the run game as well.

As a pass rusher, Smith has an explosive first step. He has the speed and bend to flatten the edge on a snap-by-snap basis. He has the flexiblity to turn the corner and threaten the outside hip of an offensive tackle. I really like what he has to work with.

Smith needs to bulk up a bit (252 pounds) if he wants to be a three-down defender at the next level. That shouldn’t be a tough task for him. He has the skill-set that excites defensive coaches, and could end up being an excellent value pick on Day 3.

Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina

Small school alert. I featured Tarron Jackson on this website in the form of an interview back in July. I’m still feeling good about that decision and article. Jackson is on the smaller side at 6-foot-2 and 254 pounds, but he has great length with his 33-inch arms. He also has massive hands (10.2-inches). He uses those hands to make an impact on tape. Jackson plays the game with a terrific amount of power. He has tremendous strength in his hands, and he understands how to use them to disengage from would-be blockers and reach the backfield.

Jackson now heads to the NFL after posting 18 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Coastal Carolina. Jackson rarely played against future NFL players in college, but he dominated the competition. That’s all you can really ask from a prospect that hails from a smaller school. Jackson lined up and beat the man in front of him on a weekly basis. He did it with power and effort more than anything else. He also holds up well at the point of attack in the run game thanks to the built-in leverage he plays with.

Jackson is the type of player you take a chance on in the later rounds.

Cameron Sample, EDGE, Tulane

Cameron Sample is one of those players that I think is going to give a team great value in the later rounds. Sample first made noise by putting together a really solid week of practice in Mobile at this year’s Senior Bowl. Before he proved himself there, Sample had himself a solid senior season at Tulane by recording 5.0 sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2020.

Power is the name of the game here. Sample plays with terrific built-in leverage. Tulane utilized Sample’s skill-set in a variety of ways by moving him all over their front seven in order to take advantage of mismatches. They did this with great success, partially because of Sample’s excellent football I.Q. He processes the game at a high level.

Sample might be one of the best run stoppers you’re going to find on Day 3.