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Washington’s Chase Young will be an elite NFL defender, especially if he fixes one thing

Retired defensive end Stephen White breaks down Chase Young’s film and shows why the edge rusher can line up anywhere for Washington’s defense.

Artwork of NFL prospect Chase Young out of Ohio State, superimposed on an aqua background with white graphics and the words “Draft Scouting” in yellow letters
Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young is arguably the best prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Washington selected Chase Young with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Young ahead of the draft.

Chase Young is about as complete a package as you will see from an edge rusher coming out of college. And the scary part is there is still room for him to grow.

One thing that jumped off the tape to me was Young’s versatility. Ohio State lined that guy up all over the place, and he looked good everywhere he went. Edge rusher, three-technique, off-the-ball blitzes, hand-in-the-dirt five-technique — he did all of it, and did it all well. There simply isn’t a defense known to man that he couldn’t be great in.

Did I mention he looked fluid as hell dropping into coverage as well? Young even stuck his foot in the ground and came up to make an open-field tackle on a screen after one of his drops.

He showed enough overall skills that I feel confident in saying that, if asked to do so, he could definitely play the kind of role that Jadeveon Clowney had in Houston, moving around from play to play like the ultimate chess piece on defense. And after the ball is snapped, you can expect Young to end up wreaking a similar level of chaos and destruction in his wake.

What Young does well: Beating cut blocks

One of the first things that stood out to me about Young while watching his tape is the ease with which he was able to defeat cut blocks.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you when discussing a guy who will probably go in the top five in the draft, but it really did impress me. And the athleticism he used to avoid those blockers showed up in just about everything else he did on the field.

Young is a tall guy at 6’5, so it made sense that all four teams I watched him play against would try to cut him at some point in each game. But he was able to gracefully side-step pretty much all of them like it was nothing. I don’t think I actually saw him go all the way to the ground a single time, in fact. Young was just so good at using very subtle movements and feints to set up, then slide by, would-be blockers in those situations.

Young uses the same kind of economy of motion that I talked about Za’Darius Smith using in my playoff prediction column. I noted how rare it is to see players like that, but it is especially true when I talk about college prospects.

Like Smith, Young does a great job of using the least amount of movement necessary to get by the blocker. That translated not only into beating those cut blocks, but also in Young’s ability to get past offensive linemen in almost any situation, period.

What Young does well: He’s cat-quick, especially with his hands and lateral movements

At 265 pounds and pretty powerful, Young didn’t have to do a whole lot of running around blocks. As a run defender, I watched him consistently jack up offensive tackles who probably had at least 50 pounds on him. He rarely gave an inch on any drive block attempts on the edge, and Young was so explosive off the ball and good with his hands that he spent a lot of his time playing the run on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

His ability to quickly get into, then off of, an offensive lineman’s chest when he was ready to make a tackle was also top-notch. While Young has gotten a lot of attention because of his pass-rushing prowess, and deservedly so, just understand that this guy has no problem tossing grown men around while playing the run.

I only credited him with 10 total tackles in those four games (excluding sacks), but, interestingly enough, almost half of them (four) were tackles for a loss. The fact that he didn’t have a huge number of tackles overall was more about teams scheming to run away from him than anything else. However, on the occasions when they did try to run his way, those tackles for a loss were a good reminder of why teams didn’t try to do much of that in the first place.

What Young does well: Using his hands and hips

Of course, his ability to get to the quarterback is the main attraction with Young for a reason, so let’s get into that.

First of all, I loved watching Young use his hands as a pass rusher. He was precise and also had a great sense of timing when to shoot them, whether trying to stab blockers in the chest with a long arm, or swatting their wrist with a cross chop. He was so quick with his hands that he was able to grab several tackles’ wrists on their outside arm with his outside hand. That is a helluva lot harder than it looks and probably about 10 times harder than it sounds. But he made it look like it was just a nice friendly game of patty cake.

Young also consistently did a great job of turning his hips toward the quarterback almost right off the snap, which actually reminded me of how Bruce Smith used to do that so well. Young was able to get several quick pass-rush wins precisely because of how tight he was able to turn the corner thanks to his hip turn.

But, having said that, I actually think Young could start turning an even tighter corner as a pro. It’s pretty much the one area where I feel like he can tighten up his technique just a little and get a tremendous amount of payoff in return.

Where Young can improve: Finishing with a rip move

Young’s initial pass-rush moves were almost always good, but he didn’t always finish them the way I was taught to. The great Rod Marinelli taught all of us Rush Men in Tampa to finish our rushes with a rip, and I still believe in that to this day. When you finish with a rip, you give the offensive lineman less of a surface to hit or try to grab on to while he is attempting to catch up. It also helps give you upward momentum while you are trying to bend around the corner.

A good rip move can be the difference between a slip-and-fall just as you beat the blocker, and a big-time sack.

With Young, I see the same “lazy arm” issue that I occasionally saw from Nick Bosa as a rookie in the NFL. Similarly, both guys were just a hair away from getting a bunch of sacks beyond the many they did notch. Young did have four sacks in the four games I watched and that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but he also had 12 pressures and at least a few of those could have been converted into sacks had he just finished his move with a rip.

The good news is that should be an easy fix because Young does have a good rip move when he uses it; he just needs to be encouraged to use it more often at the end of his rushes. Both Young and Bosa went to Ohio State, so there is a chance they were coached to do it that way, in which case he was doing what he was supposed to. If his new coaches get him to finish more of his rushes with a rip, though, it’s gonna be hell on somebody trying to keep him off the quarterback on Sundays.

A lot of somebodies, in fact.

Where Young can improve: Adding a spin move

My only other concern with Young is a relatively minor one. While I believe he already has some pretty good inside moves, I didn’t really see him try many spin moves, and I think he would be wise to add those to his toolbox.

An explosive, athletic player like Young, with his kind of get-off, can use spin moves for clean wins. Time and again, Young was consistently and noticeably the first guy to move on the snap of the football. As I understand it, the rest of that Ohio State defensive line is pretty damn talented, which tells you something. If he can continue to burn the corner upfield like that as a pro, that will force a lot of offensive tackles to bail out of their stances on the snap to try to keep up with him. A spin move will prevent them from being able to think they can either ride him by the level of the quarterback, or force him into trying an inside move on their terms.

If Young learns how to wait until he feels the offensive tackle really leaning on his back, then hit with a crisp spin move? Trouble, trouble (Bernie Mac voice).

But, again, that’s a really minor quibble of mine. I do think it would help his production, but if Young never attempts a single spin move in the NFL, he is still gonna ball out.

Young’s NFL future: Potential All-Pro

I would put Young on the same level as I had Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb in my draft breakdown on him a few years ago, and that is pretty high praise from me. He’s another one of those rare edge rushers who is a jack of all trades and actually pretty good at all of them, too. Young even spent some time pass rushing as a three-technique and didn’t look half bad at that, either!

I wouldn’t be surprised if he did even more of that on the next level, especially as his body starts to fill out more.

A few years from now, we might be calling this kid unfair.

If there are major issues with Young as a prospect, I wasn’t able to see them in any of the four games that I watched. Provided he stays healthy, I see him as a guy who will be a Pro Bowler in the next three years, and a player who has the potential to be an All-Pro in his first five seasons in the league. I would expect double-digit sacks from him by then for sure, if not sooner.

And if he cleans up his finishes as a pass rusher, he may well end up being better than either Joey or Nick Bosa.

And that’s saying a whole lot.

For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched Young play against FAU, Indiana, Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal.