NFL draft’s easiest choice: picking a pass-rusher

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“If you sack the quarterback in college, you’re going to get sacks in the National Football League,” said Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has 98 regular-season sacks in his eight seasons, six seasons with at least 11 sacks, and a Super Bowl MVP award. “That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work on your game, find some counters [moves] and study, but I think the sack guys in college usually are sack guys in the pros if they put in the work.”

This year’s draft board is stocked with coveted pass-rushers, including Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, the highest-graded player in most places.

“You have quarterbacks that may sit in the pocket a little longer. … [You have] bigger, more athletic tackles, you face tremendous players every week,” Bosa said. “It’s not a surprise when you play somebody who’s got a wide array of moves and stuff like that. … But I think I can do this; I think I’m ready to do this.”

This year’s group of defensive linemen is also one of the deepest groups in a decade.


After Bosa are Mississippi State combine sensation Montez Sweat and Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen. There are also edge-rushing defensive ends such as Florida State’s Brian Burns, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell and Florida’s Jachai Polite, and disruptive tackles like Michigan’s Rashan Gary and Houston’s Ed Oliver.

“It’s simple,” Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said earlier this offseason. “It’s a passing league. You have to have the quarterback you can win with and guys who affect the quarterback. And if a guy has the right makeup in how he works, those pass-rush skills can translate quickly.

Former Broncos and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan needed a pass-rusher in the 2006 draft. The best player available when the Broncos’ fourth-round pick came around was 5-foot-11 3/8 Elvis Dumervil, who wasn’t really a linebacker but was too short to be a defensive end. But Dumervil had two 30-sack seasons in high school and a 20-sack season in his last year at Louisville. The Broncos believed those numbers outweighed the size concerns.

“Our thinking was, if you can sack the quarterback, you can sack the quarterback,” Shanahan said. “Certainly we had other things other than his height we liked. He had a big reach, a reach of a much taller guy. We liked his approach, but in the end you could just see he knew how to get to the quarterback, and we thought he would only work harder to be better at it to go with what he already had.”