The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.
His elite size, strength, athleticism and length are rivaled only by his confidence. Chase Young is not expected to be the first pick in the NFL draft — that honor likely will go to Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow — but the Ohio State edge rusher has no doubt he is worthy of that distinction.
“I definitely think I’m the best player in the draft,” Young said at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February. “I think I showed it on my tape. You can go to every game. I think I bring the whole package as a defensive end.”
It would be fruitless to compare a potential franchise quarterback with a game-wrecking edge rusher. The physical demands, tool sets and roles of the positions are completely different.
But if you had to order Burrow and Young on a draft board, a compelling case could be made for the 6-foot-5, 265-pound beast who will be paid handsomely to chase down gunslingers such as Burrow on Sundays.
Young led the nation with 16½ sacks in 12 games in 2019. Four of them, along with five tackles for loss, came in a win over Wisconsin, after which Buckeyes coach Ryan called Young “the most dominant player in all of college football.”
Young tied for fourth in the nation with 21 tackles for loss. He won the Chuck Bednarik, Ted Hendricks and Bronko Naguski awards as the top defender or lineman in the country and was a finalist for the Maxwell Award, a rarity for a defensive player to be considered as the top college player.
If Young, a graduate of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., is picked second by his hometown Washington Redskins, he would be the third Ohio State defensive end to be among the top three picks in five years, following Chargers star Joey Bosa (No. 3 in 2016) and San Francisco star Nick Bosa (No. 2 in 2019).
“I think the technique that [Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson] teaches in college works in the NFL,” Young said. “I know that it will bring me success in the NFL, and that’s one thing I took from Nick and Joey.
“I try not to compare myself to anybody, but I do try to look at different players and take little things from them, whether it’s Khalil Mack, Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Nick Bosa.”
As good as Young is now, NFL scouts believe he will improve when he adds to his somewhat basic set of moves and improves against the run. Versatility is also a strength. Young can play end in 3-4 or 4-3 alignments and inside. A basketball star in high school, he has the agility and dexterity to drop back in coverage.
“I feel like I can do everything — I would do anything a team needs me to do,” Young said. “If they want me to move inside to a three-tech and rush the passer, outside with my hand in the dirt, or if you want me to stand up, I can do it. Drop back, check tight ends, play linebacker, I can do it. … I’m definitely excited to play with the big dogs and to show the world what I can do.”