2025 NFL Draft: PFF rates Vols’ edge James Pearce Jr. No. 1 overall

Juggernaut SEC offenses are stealing all of the college football offseason headlines.

Now it’s time for the defense to get some love, and PFF is especially giving flowers to Tennessee Volunteers edge defender James Pearce Jr.

Why does PFF have him No. 1 overall on their way-too-early 2025 NFL Draft big board?

“Pearce became one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in the country this past season” PFF’s Max Chadwick asserts. “The sophomore’s 21.3% pressure rate was third among all edge defenders in the country as was his 92.4 PFF pass-rush grade. Pearce ended the season as the fourth-most valuable Power Five edge defender according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He has freakish explosiveness at 6-foot-5, 242 pounds and converts speed to power at an elite level. With the 2025 NFL Draft looking like it’ll have a weaker quarterback class, there’s a real chance that Pearce could be the No. 1 overall pick next year.”

Tankathon also has Pearce Jr. No. 1 overall. The Sporting News NFL draft guru Bill Bender has the one-man Vols wrecking crew No. 3 overall, behind Colorado Buffaloes QB Shedeur Sanders (wow!) and Texas Longhorns left tackle Kelvin Banks Jr.

“Pearce (6-5, 242) had a breakout season with the Volunteers and has pass-rush numbers that are close to UCLA’s Laitau Latu from last season,” Bender writes. “Pearce had 13 sacks, 11 hits and 28 hurries off the edge for Tennessee, and he is coming off a dominant bowl performance against Iowa. He is a capable box linebacker too, but his job is to get after the quarterback. There is pressure to repeat that production, but he is the top edge rusher to start this draft cycle.”

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If Pearce Jr. can indeed match last season’s production, he’ll be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL and could very well lead Tennessee into the College Football Playoff. (Count former Alabama quarterback and current ESPN analyst Greg McElroy as a believer.)

Talk about a win win.


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