Michael Sam, Vic Beasley and the 10 Best Pure Pass Rushers in the 2014 NFL Draft

Scott CarasikContributor IINovember 1, 2013

Michael Sam, Vic Beasley and the 10 Best Pure Pass Rushers in the 2014 NFL Draft

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    The most important thing to do well on defense in today's NFL is rush the passer. The draft is where you find the best pass rushers. So, who are the best pass rushers in the 2014 draft?

    Obviously, the NFL will look at current Division I-FBS sack leaders Vic Beasley and Michael Sam. But there are more than just edge rushers who can create a pass rush. It can come from linebackers, or it can even come from the interior.

    Follow along for the best pass rushers who are eligible for the NFL draft in 2014. 

DE/LB Trent Murphy, Stanford

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    When looking for talented pass rushers, 3-4 linebackers are just as projectable as 4-3 defensive ends for the NFL. Stanford's Trent Murphy is an excellent example of a long, quick-twitch player who understands the game and his role within a defense.

    While some will try to compare him to J.J. Watt, he's a completely different kind of player. As more of an outside linebacker who can line up as defensive end in four-lineman sets, he compares best to Chandler Jones of the New England Patriots.

    And honestly, he should go as high in the draft as Jones did: the mid-late first round.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 33 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 9.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 3 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2012: 14 Games Played, 56 Tackles, 18.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.0 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2011: 13 Games Played, 40 Tackles, 10.0 Tackles for Loss, 6.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection

    2010: 2 Games Played, 2 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks

    2009: Redshirted

DT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

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    Now you may be asking yourself, how did the 5'11", 250-pound Wake Forest nose guard get included with the best pure pass rushing prospects?

    Because Nikita Whitlock is that good.

    He's a true penetrator in every sense of the word. He slashes, squeezes and dips under interior offensive linemen and embarrasses them with exquisite technique and legitimate quickness off the line. On one side, projecting him to a defensive end spot would make sense based on his size and quickness.

    However, Whitlock projects well as a guy who could play anywhere in a front seven for an ambitious schemer like Mike Nolan or Ray Horton. But it may take a while for him to adjust from his current role of just shooting the A-gap—the gap between the guard and center—every single play.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 52 Tackles, 12.5 Tackles for Loss, 7.5 Sacks, 7 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Punt Return, 25 Yards

    2012: 10 Games Played, 51 Tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries

    2011: 13 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 14.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection

    2010: 12 Games Played, 44 Tackles, 10.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 3 Pass Deflections

    2009: Redshirted

DE Marcus Smith, Louisville

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    Normally when people look at Louisville they think of the offense, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and receivers DeVante Parker and Damien Copeland. But they forget to notice that Charlie Strong has the defense performing out of its mind and the pass rusher who's leading it.

    Marcus Smith has eight sacks and six quarterback hurries this season because of his relentless pursuit in the backfield. He uses a frame that's comparable to Osi Umenyiora very effectively and can line up in either a standing or hand-in-the-dirt pass-rushing stance. Due to this, he should be a steal as a mid-round pick.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 24 Tackles, 11.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 1 Fumbles Forced, 1 Blocked Kick

    2012: 13 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections

    2011: 10 Games Played, 12 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection

    2010: 9 Games Played, 3 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss

DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

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    Aaron Donald is here because of his similarity to a guy named Rod Coleman in his prime. Donald—like Coleman—is all of 285 pounds and shorter than the average defensive tackle. But despite his size, Donald thrives off of penetrating through the B-gaps of a defense.

    His quickness is unparalleled and his only real knock as a prospect is due to his height. He doesn't seem to let it stop him too much though. His 35 career quarterback hurries and 26.5 career sacks show that he knows how to produce.

    But teams do want more size, so him slipping to the third or fourth round wouldn't be a huge shocker. Whoever does take him will get an instant steal as a rotational pass rusher and should be able to develop him into a long-term starter.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 7 Games Played, 25 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 8 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection

    2012: 12 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 18.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 11 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 2 Pass Deflections

    2011: 13 Games Played, 47 Tackles, 16.0 Tackles for Loss, 11.0 Sacks, 11 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections

    2010: 13 Games Played, 11 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 2 Pass Deflections

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

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    So you want the next Von Miller, huh? 

    Look no further than Buffalo's Khalil Mack. He's a playmaker and at 6'3", 248 pounds and running a projected 4.54 40-yard dash, he has similar speed and athleticism to the former Texas A&M product. The biggest question surrounding Mack is the lack of competition.

    But that honestly shouldn't matter. Especially when you throw in that he had 2.5 sacks against Ohio State in the opener and showcased all of his different strengths. He showed excellent hand usage, instinctual play flowing to the ball and the non-stop motor that makes any coach want to keep him on the field.

    Because of all of that, it wouldn't be shocking to see Mack taken in the top 15 of the draft. Looking like a potential Miller clone will only help him boost his draft status.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 54 Tackles, 11.0 Tackles for Loss, 7.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 3 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections, 2 Defensive Touchdowns

    2012: 11 Games Played, 94 Tackles, 20.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 4 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick

    2011: 12 Games Played, 65 Tackles, 20.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 13 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 5 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick

    2010: 12 Games Played, 68 Tackles, 14.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 8 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 10 Pass Deflections

    2009: Redshirted

DT/DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

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    Stephon Tuitt is a great defender who has drawn comparisons to long-time Patriot and Raider Richard Seymour. And that's not just in his almost identical 6'7", 312-pound frame, that's in his burst off of the ball, ability to play multiple roles in a three- or four-man front and intense power and violence in his game.

    Because of that, he's been able to use his abilities to bust into the backfield and make quarterbacks' lives a living nightmare. And while he isn't projected to match his sack total from the 2012 season, Tuitt has gotten better as an all-around defender in the 2013 season. A mid-first round selection would not surprise anyone.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2012: 13 Games Played, 45 Tackles, 11.0 Tackles for Loss, 11.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2011: 9 Games Played, 30 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflection

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

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    Honestly, did you expect the best all-around defensive end in college football to not be mentioned here? 

    Jadeveon Clowney has everything you want and need from a pass rusher. He's got size at 6'6", 274 pounds. He's got speed at a rumored 4.46 in the 40 yard dash. For a man that size to move that fast is just plain freakish.

    Add in great speed-to-power conversion off the edge and a burst that's almost inhuman, and you have one of the strongest, fastest pass rushers in the draft. He also is able to set the edge effectively against the run. The only real question is whether he'll go in the top two or the top five.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 7 Games Played, 24 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 7 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection

    2012: 12 Games Played, 54 Tackles, 23.5 Tackles for Loss, 13.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 2 Pass Deflections

    2011: 13 Games Played, 36 Tackles, 12.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 5 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection

LB Anthony Barr, UCLA

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    While we're on the subject of potential top-five picks, no one has been boosting his name into that conversation more than UCLA's Anthony Barr. After an excellent junior season put him on the map as a defensive player, he's only confirmed that he's a rare talent with an equally good first half of his senior year.

    Moving the former running back to the defensive side of the ball hasn't been just beneficial for the Bruins. It's been the smartest thing Jim Mora has ever done as a head coach. The rangy linebacker uses a combination of his speed and understanding of offensive and defensive schemes to demolish plays from every angle.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 7 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 13.0 Tackles for Loss, 6.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 5 Fumbles Forced

    2012: 14 Games Played, 60 Tackles, 21.0 Tackles for Loss, 13.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 4 Fumbles Forced, 5 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kicks, 1 Punt Return, 10 yards

    2011: 12 Games Played, 3 Catches, 16 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 9 Carries, 25 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 2 Tackles

    2010: 12 Games Played, 9 Catches, 66 Yards, 6 Carries, 29 Yards, 1 Tackle

DE/LB Vic Beasley, Clemson

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    Want someone who can get to the quarterback while lined up anywhere in the front seven? Then you want Vic Beasley. Yeah, he's only 6'2", 235 pounds and built like a linebacker and not a defensive end. He does have room to grow in his frame though.

    But he's a tremendous pass rusher who uses his speed and violence to get to the quarterback exceptionally quickly. He could have trouble in the pros against power at defensive end, and it could make it much easier to look at him as a candidate for a Kroy Biermann or Von Miller style role.

    Going after a quarterback as his primary focus is the best role long term. Beasley's likely to be a first-round pick in May if he can continue on his torrid pace and finish with 14-16 sacks by the end of the season.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 26 Tackles, 15.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumbles Recovered, 5 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2012: 13 Games Played, 14 Tackles, 8.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced

    2011: 9 Games Played, 1 Tackles

    2010: Redshirted

DE/LB Michael Sam, Missouri

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    When guys come out for the draft, there are always two kinds of players. There are guys with great football potential and excellent athletic talent. And then, there are guys who have mediocre athleticism but are off the charts with intangibles.

    Michael Sam is the latter. He's a guy like Jarvis Jones or Charles Johnson in that he won't be the fastest player for his size, nor is he the strongest. The best part of his game comes between his ears and in his relentless motor.

    That's part of why he's one of the best pass rushers in college football and is currently tied for the Division I-A FBS lead in sacks with Vic Beasley. It will be interesting to see whether a 3-4 or 4-3 team takes him because he could end up fitting in well in either scheme.

     

    Career Stats

    2013: 8 Games Played, 32 Tackles, 16.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2012: 12 Games Played, 22 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumbles Recovered, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2011: 13 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 1 Pass Deflection

    2010: 13 Games Played, 24 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Blocked Kicks

    2009: Redshirted

     

    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.