Chase Young Could Be the Best Rookie Pass-Rusher the NFL Has Ever Seen

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 1, 2020

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young (2) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Hyping rookies is an annual event in the National Football League. Everyone loves the shiny new toy. Each year's class is filled with players who are going to be stars, and 2020 is no different. Joe Burrow is going to be a franchise savior with the Cincinnati Bengals. Chase Young is going to have the best rookie season of any edge-rusher in NFL history with the Washington Redskins. So on and so forth.

The thing is, once in a great while, that hype is actually accurate. Sometimes, a player really is that talented. His situation in the pros really is that favorable. The lofty expectations aren't just hype.

That's the case with Young. He isn't just the first defensive player selected in 2020 or a wildly talented young pass-rusher. He's both—and more.

And he could easily be on the cusp of peeling off the best first season we've ever seen from a player at his position.

Jack Del Rio didn't go quite that far while talking about the 6'5", 264-pounder. But the new defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins also didn't hold back regarding what he thinks Young is capable of at the professional level.

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"I think the sky's the limit for him in terms of what he will be able to bring us," Del Rio said, per Les Carpenter of the Washington Post. "... We haven't seen him yet [on the field], but I've watched enough tape. He's going to be a really good player for us."

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

None of that is especially newsworthy.

People have been talking up Young for quite a while now, especially after the season he had in 2019. Despite missing two games due to a suspension and failing to register a sack in the last three games of the season, Young led all FBS players with 16.5 sacks. Multiple times during the season, he was just unblockable, including a four-sack explosion against Wisconsin that was as dominant a performance as you'll see from an edge-rusher.

As Kyle Crabbs wrote for The Draft Network, by any objective measure, Young was one of the top prospects in this year's draft class at any position:

"Chase Young is an elite NFL Draft prospect who can step into any defensive system in the league and find a home in the starting lineup. Young has a surreal potency as a pass rusher, constantly gaining ground, attacking hands and showcasing elite length and flexibility at the top of the arc. Young is a game changing player who opponents will have to cater game plans around in order to negate his disruptive qualities — he's highly refined with hand tech and should be a splash starter right away."

Ohio State has become an absolute factory for high-end defensive talent. Three of the last four Defensive Rookie of the Year winners played collegiately in Columbus, including a pair of pass-rushers in Joey and Nick Bosa.

Young may not quite be the technician the Bosa brothers were entering the NFL, but his jaw-dropping athleticism offers him the highest ceiling of the trio. His quickness off the edge and bend are just….some things can't be taught.

Of course, no shortage of talented young pass-rushers have entered the NFL in recent years, whether Joey Bosa in 2016, Myles Garrett in 2017, Bradley Chubb in 2018 or Nick Bosa and Josh Allen a year ago. Many of those edge-rushers experienced significant success in their first professional season.

But there's a reason Jevon Kearse's rookie sack record of 14.5 has stood for two decades. The learning curve for pass-rushers is as steep as at any position in the game, and there will be no shortage of offensive linemen eager to put the ballyhooed rookie in his place.

Good luck with that.

From a situational standpoint, Young really couldn't ask for a better landing spot than the nation's capital. He hit the jackpot much like Bosa the year before, landing on a team filled with talent along the defensive front.

Just like with the San Francisco 49ers, the new four-man front for Ron Rivera's Redskins features a fistful of first-round picks.

Ryan Kerrigan has piled up 90 sacks over nine seasons with the team—only the great Dexter Manley has more in franchise history. Jonathan Allen is an excellent interior rusher with 14 sacks over the past two years. Tackle Da'Ron Payne should benefit greatly from the move to the new defensive scheme. Montez Sweat was the 26th overall pick last year and had seven sacks in 724 snaps as a rookie.

Add Young to that mix and you have five first-rounders along the defensive line—and that's without even mentioning Matt Ioannidis and his 16 sacks over the past two seasons.

Teams aren't going to be able to focus their attention on any one lineman in Washington—Young included. If they do, another one is going to blow through and turn the quarterback into pudding. If they single-team Young, he's going to win more snaps than he loses.

Again, pudding.

This is where the criticism of Young's sackless "slump" to close out last year falls apart.

For starters, it's not as if Young vanished in those last three games. He had an impact, all right. Opponents had to completely change their game plan to focus on him. He was double- and triple-teamed on every play. That's just not going to be an option in Washington. Not with all that talent around him.

Paul Vernon/Associated Press

Young is going to be afforded an opportunity to make a big dent in his first season. And he is more than capable of taking advantage of it.

I watched every snap of the collegiate careers of both Bosa brothers and Chase Young—all of them. And in my opinion, Young is the best prospect of the lot. His power, speed and athleticism are off the charts. He's Myles Garrett with better technique. When Del Rio says the sky is the limit for Young, if anything, it's an understatement.

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, including Young's success. He must stay healthy and continue improving to realize his immense potential.

But the stars have aligned about as well as he dared hope. He's playing on a stacked defensive line for a coordinator and head coach who both have a long history of fielding excellent defenses. Young's phenomenal talent is the final ingredient in what certainly appears to be a formula for success.

This time at least, you can believe the hype.

Young isn't just the best defensive prospect in the class of 2020. Or the best prospect overall. If he's the player so many think he is and comes close to his ceiling, he might just be the best rookie pass-rusher we've ever seen.

And Kearse's sack record is going to be in serious trouble.

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