The EDGE position is considered a premium position in the NFL, and therefore the NFL Draft, for a reason.
Like a starting pitcher in baseball, the EDGE is one of the few positions with the ability to directly affect and disrupt the opposing offense all on its own, and because of that it’s highly prized. If a team wants to get their hands on an “ace” pass rusher, they are going to need to go one of three routes. The first is to draft one highly — such as Chase Young, Miles Garrett, Montez Sweat, or T.J. Watt. The second is to acquire a veteran through trade or free agency — like Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaq Barrett. Both of those ways — draft or getting a veteran — generally demand that a team pay premium assets, either a high draft pick (or picks), or big chunk of their salary cap. But then there’s always the third way: Get lucky.
By and large, top pass rushes are found in the first round of the draft, and less frequently in the second round. But there are still pass rushers who manage to slip through the cracks. Players with the traits to succeed at the NFL level, but superficial warts that convince front offices that there’s a bit too much risk to take a chance early.
Washington EDGE Joe Tryon could be just such a player. He had a fantastic sophomore season in 2019, establishing himself as one of the best pass rushers in the Pac12 — and potentially the nation — but has slipped below the radar after opting out of the 2020 season.
Tryon still has some developing to do, but teams are also faced with a relatively small sample size and no recent tape. That could be enough for wary teams to pass for safer options. But could that make him a potential gem for a team like the New York Giants, who need a pass rusher, but might not be able to take one early on?
Prospect: Joe Tryon
Games Watched: vs. Cal (2019), vs. Washington State (2019), vs. Boise State (2019)
Games Played: 23
Tackles For a loss: 14.5
Passes Defensed: 2
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 12.5
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Quickness, agility, burst, first step, lower-body fluidity
Worst: Play strength, technique consistency, ball tracking
Projection: A starting EDGE or outside linebacker in a multiple or hybrid defense.
Washington defender Joe Tryon is a lean, athletic player with the quickness, agility, and burst to be a starting EDGE in the NFL.
Tryon primarily aligned as an EDGE in Washington’s defense, usually as a 7-technique defensive end or as an outside linebacker. However he saw usage all over Washington’s front seven, at times playing off-ball linebacker, rushing from the interior, or playing defensive end in three-man fronts.
Tryon is a flexible, fluid defender able to settle into a compact stance as a down lineman, and consistently plays with good pad level at the snap of the ball. He does a good job of keeping his hips and pads low even when rushing from a two or three-point stance. Tryon has an explosive first step with solid upside as a speed rusher at the NFL level. He is able to overwhelm blockers with his speed, drawing lunges or grabs from tackles who are athletically outmatched.
Tryon shows a variety of pass rush moves and counters, using both speed moves like an arm-over or club-rip, as well as more power oriented moves. He is a surprisingly savvy rusher despite his limited experience, showing an awareness to set blockers up with his speed then counter with his power, or uncoil his hips to convert speed to power mid-rush. Tryon also understands leverage well enough to try to take half-man leverage when bull rushing.
He does a good job of using his hands to stay disengaged when asked to scrape laterally along the line of scrimmage. Tryon should have particular value for teams that make frequent use of stunts and twists, both for his quickness and agility as a looper as well as his ability to navigate traffic cleanly. He also has upside for teams which make use of zone blitzes, as he shows good ability and comfort dropping into shallow zone coverages. He quickly and easily gets good depth on his zone drops, as well as moving well in space as a coverage player.
Tryon is a generally reliable run defender, with good discipline and enough play strength to set a firm edge in one-on-one situations. He’s a reliable tackler with enough quickness to make plays on ball carriers as they pass through his gaps. Tryon also gives consistent effort, playing through the whistle in pursuit.
That said, he will need to continue to build his play strength at the NFL level. Too often he finds himself controlled by bigger blockers and completely overwhelmed by double teams.
Finally, he needs to improve his tracking of the football in the backfield, as well as his angles to the ball. Tryon can lose track of the ball carrier through misdirection plays and wind up chasing the wrong player. He can also be prone to poor angles to the ball carrier, running himself out of plays or making tackles next to impossible.
Overall Grade: 7.8 - This prospect has the athletic traits to start or be a primary rotational player, but has some scheme limitations.
Joe Tryon projects best as an primary rotational EDGE or outside linebacker in a hybrid or multiple defense. He has starting upside, but would need to continue to improve his play strength and the mental aspect of his game for defensive coordinators to feel comfortable putting him on the field as an every-down defender.
The good news is that Tryon can certainly get there. He only has one season of consistent production, but he improved tremendously over the course of that breakout sophomore season.
Tryon has good versatility, which should appeal to the more positionally fluid defenses in the modern NFL. He has experience playing all over Washington’s defensive front, both as a defensive end and as an outside linebacker — and even as an off-ball linebacker. That should give a creative defensive coordinator plenty of options for scheming pressures, as well as creating unexpected looks. Even so, Tryon will still need to improve his play strength for the NFL. Right now it’s just a little too easy for linemen to knock him off his rushes if they are able to mostly keep up with his speed. Likewise, Tryon can struggle to disengage once tied up with blockers.
Hopefully, more experience will help with his issues tracking the football and choosing angles to ball carriers, while an NFL strength and conditioning program will bring up his play strength.
There’s a good argument that Tryon’s best football is ahead of him, even if he doesn’t make any leaps in fixing his deficiencies. The NFL doesn’t (yet) make nearly as extensive use of RPO or read-option plays as collegiate programs do, and Tryon would be more free to rush off the edge as an NFL player.
A combination of legitimate NFL athleticism and a skillset which fits the pro game could make him one of the draft’s steals.