The 2 most important variables in football: 1) find an elite quarterback and 2) get an elite edge to get the quarterback.

It’s no surprise that in the age of the vertical passing game at all levels of football, the need to pressure the quarterback is vitally important. While there are numerous ways to affect the most important portion on the field, edge is Priority 1.

NFL teams will project and gamble with edge rushers more than any other position on Day 1 in the NFL Draft. There were 7 edge/DE selections on Day 1 of last year’s draft, and 5 more selected in Round 2.

The draft isn’t an exact science, but it’s also not as difficult as it seems. Every week until the first day of the draft on April 25 in Detroit, we’ll compare 2 players at the same position in a Take Your Pick scenario — with expert analysis from 2 NFL scouts.

This week: Alabama edge Dallas Turner vs. UCLA edge Laiatu Latu.

Dallas Turner (6-4, 245 pounds)

2023: 53 tackles (28 solo), 10 sacks, 2 FF, 1 PD.

Career (3 seasons): 120 tackles (58 solo), 22.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 PD.

NFL comparison: Leonard Floyd, Buffalo Bills.

Laiatu Latu (6-5, 265 pounds)

2023: 49 tackles (28 solo), 13 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF, 2 PD,

Career (3 seasons): 100 tackles (61 solo), 24 sacks, 2 INT, 5 FF, 4 PD.

NFL comparison: Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins.

The hardware for Turner

Scout 1: “An incredibly athletic guy. He’s not thick, just really strong with quick hands and feet. A lot like Yannick Ngakoue. Are you OK with that? Because there’s no guarantee he’s going to fill out. He has the frame to full out and add another 20 pounds, but does it change his game? And can he physically do it? I’ve seen guys that just can’t add without it affecting what they do on the field. I fall in the camp of just let him be who he is, and the added size will come. He’s going to rely on the bend and hands and quickness, anyway. That’s his game. He has a really high ceiling; we haven’t seen close to his best yet.”

Scout 2: “When I first evaluated him as a freshman, I thought, ‘OK, this dude is going to grow into a beast.’ Just purely physical now, not anything to do with production. You look at him, and he’s got that long, athletic frame where you build and grow into the position. He got bigger over the next couple of seasons, but not appreciably. I still love the athletic ability and the hands. Man, those hands are quick and active. But does he get swallowed up by bigger (offensive) tackles, and really, bigger tight ends?”

The hardware for Latu

Scout 1: “He’s a lot bigger than he looks. He’s the definition of an edge in an odd front. He’s long and athletic, and he’s all of 260-plus pounds. He chases, and he can drop in coverage. There was a question if he would medically retire early in his career (at Washington) because of a neck injury, but he made it back and has proven with back-to-back seasons that he’s physically fit to play. There’s no wasted energy with him, and I love that. It’s a quick move or hand swipe, and he’s by you.”

Scout 2: “We talk a lot about bend, and how it’s so important in dealing with these massive (offensive) tackles in our league. He has this flexibility, too, and when you watch him play, you can see the way he can make himself skinny and beat double (teams). It’s the burst and the finish. We can talk forever about his size and length, but the way he finishes — the explosion — is impressive. He’s not the strongest guy, but has an uncanny understanding of rush angles.”

The software for Turner

Scout 1: “If we’re being honest, that 2nd season is a concern. He didn’t really develop as a freshman until midway through the season but looked unblockable by the end the year. Was that because of all the attention paid to (Will) Anderson? Then Year 2 comes, and Anderson’s production slips — and so does Turner’s. We didn’t really see a motivated, in the best shape of his career guy until last season. This is the question I agonize over all the time: Was he motivated by a money season, and will he continue to develop once he’s finally paid?”

Scout 2: “Let’s be clear, I like him a lot. I think he goes in the first 15 (selections) on potential more than production. But if you’re asking me are there nagging questions about consistent production? Of course. Now that’s not unique to him, or the position. It also could be a byproduct of a guy who just needs to get bigger, needs coaching and development and needs more reps. The framework is absolutely there. He’s still a young guy, and a young age — he turns 21 in February.”

The software for Latu

Scout 1: “Day 1 starter. Plug him in, and let him go. He knows the game, and understands the subtle nuances of the position. He understands leverage and angles and deception. He’s fun as hell to watch because he’s constantly refining his game, and trying different things. He knows how to set up moves, and then explode into a play.”

Scout 2: “I’m going to say this, and it might sound crazy. But look at the top 50 NFL sack leaders. How many edge/ends are from Pac-12 schools? One — (Kayvon) Thibodeaux. One. It’s a different game out there. Should that dictate what you do? At the end of the day, the tape never lies. (Latu) has great tape, there’s no doubt about it. His football IQ is off the charts. He’s physically what you look for. But is there hesitation? Sure, how could there not be?”

The choice

Scout 1: “I could easily cop out and say you can’t go wrong. But honestly, I think you can go wrong with either one. Or both. This is the first draft in a while where there’s not a sure thing on the edge. Turner is intriguing because he has that high ceiling, and if he can add some bulk to be able to engage and shed, I think you’ve got something. Now Ngakoue made a career out of not engaging and shedding, and using length and hands. I’d probably go with Turner, on upside alone.”

Scout 2: “Turner scares the hell out of me, good and bad. He could be a beast in our league if developed properly — and if he wants it. Latu has to medically clear, that’s first and foremost. I know UCLA’s people cleared him, but he’ll go through a battery of tests in our league before anyone spends a mid-1st round pick on him. But if he’s medically clear, I’d take him over Turner. He’s light years ahead of anyone in this draft as far as understanding the position, and with a variety of moves.”