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Rivals Rankings Week: Who should be the top DE in the 2023 class?

David Hicks
David Hicks (Sam Spiegelman)

There are currently three five-star defensive ends in the 2023 class and then a handful of others who are on the fringe of that highest ranking as we head toward the offseason.

In today’s Making the Case, the Rivals analysts argue over who should be No. 1 at the position.

NEW 2023 POSITION RANKINGS: Weakside Defensive End | Strongside Defensive End



Sunday: Who should be the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Introducing the new five-stars

Tuesday: New Rivals250 released | Gorney's thoughts | Biggest movers in new ranking | Five teams that should be pleased

Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | QB Rankings Breakdown | RB Rankings Breakdown | WR/TE Breakdown | OL Breakdown | Who should be the No. 1 QB?

Thursday: Defensive position rankings released | DL Rankings Breakdown

Friday: State rankings released


Hicks has a case as the best non-quarterback in this entire class by default because he's the most polished defensive lineman in the country right now. Hicks, who plays against premier competition for Texas 6A Allen High School, was mentored by his father, a collegiate defensive lineman at Grambling, and he brings a blend of explosiveness, power and craftiness to the position.

Hicks can play anywhere along the defensive front and with his first-step quickness and outstanding closing speed, has a chance to make a play. He causes havoc behind the line of scrimmage and rarely takes a play off. Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma and LSU are just a few of the teams in play for the elite lineman. - Sam Spiegelman, National Recruiting Analyst


It's hard to argue with results and Overton has done a great job producing when he's on the field. He doesn't blow you away with his measurables but he is as advanced as they come with his technique and understanding of leverage. Overton does have great length in his arms and he certainly uses that to his advantage. He's plenty strong and will only get stronger at the next level.

Overton may not have as high a ceiling as some other high-end defensive linemen in this class but he might have the highest floor, which is definitely something to be considered throughout the rest of the rankings cycle. Watch out for Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Oklahoma in his recruitment. - Adam Friedman, National Recruiting Analyst


Vernon maximizes his physical and athletic ability on every single snap. He is a high-motor player that chases the ball with relentless pursuit and is extremely disruptive. Vernon uses his elite level twitch to explode off the ball and deliver the first blow to opposing offensive linemen. He is very good at using his length and hands to disengage from blocks which makes him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Vernon has elite ability to rush the passer as a rush end, but also has a frame that will enable him to hold the edge like a strong-side defensive end once fully developed in a college weight program.

His combination of size and athleticism makes him equally impressive as a run defender as he is a pass rush specialist. These same traits give him the versatility to line up at pretty much any position on the defensive line and be an impact defender wherever he lines up. Vernon's current ability and upside make him as valuable as any defensive end in his class, and there is no question that he can be considered as the top defensive end in all of 2023. - Clint Cosgrove, National Recruiting Analyst



Wayne is one of the best-looking prospects at any position in any class. The Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln standout is huge, physical, fast off the edge and he’s a playmaker along the defensive line. The new five-star also has the athletic ability to stand up and play in space, track ball carries to the sideline.

I’ve said it before - if there is a comparison to Kayvon Thibodeaux in the 2023 class then it would definitely be Wayne. He’s so athletic that Wayne can flip and play tight end as well and at his size that’s definitely impressive. - Adam Gorney, National Recruiting Director