The 2021 NFL Draft has some big-name linebacker prospects from powerhouse programs, but if your favorite NFL team is looking for the most underrated player at that position in this year’s class, its search should end with Charles Snowden, out of Virginia.
Snowden, an athletic, long, rangy, and versatile defender, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his ability to be a do-it-all defender, which NFL teams he’s met with throughout this process, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.
JM: You played some wide receiver and tight end growing up. You also played basketball. How did those three experiences make you a better defensive player?
CS: The hand-eye coordination immediately comes to mind. Growing up playing basketball, catching the ball on offense works wonders for your overall development. On defense, you’re always alert. Knocking balls down translated to interceptions and passes defended for me. Playing receiver and tight end made me more of a natural and fluid athlete. You have to react when the ball gets thrown your way.
A lot of the defensive principles in basketball are similar to football. Zone defense comes to mind. It’s all about being alert. You have to see where opposing players are coming and going. It helped me understand route concepts. It’s kinda like being in the bottom of a 2-3 zone defense in basketball. Those are some of the ways that my experiences helped make me a better linebacker.
JM: Those are some great points. You were voted a team captain in 2020. What did that mean to you?
CS: That was one of the coolest honors I’ve ever received. To be recognized by my peers meant the world to me. I’ve always tried to hold guys accountable. To be voted a team captain was so cool. I really appreciated that my teammates trusted me to lead the team. I made sure that I brought my best every single day. I put my best foot forward. That’s what leadership is all about. That’s what’s required of being a captain.
JM: You weren’t a full participant at your Pro Day, but I thought you did some good things there. You also had a nice week at the Senior Bowl. The measurements are off the charts. You have 34-inch arms and an 82-inch wingspan.
CS: Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much at my Pro Day because I’m still recovering from the ankle surgery I had back in November. I was able to participate in the bench press where I put up 21 reps. My goal was to put up more than 20 so that was great for me. By doing that, I proved that play strength won’t be an issue for me at the next level. I also weighed in at 243 pounds at Pro Day, which was 10 pounds heavier than what I weighed at the Senior Bowl. I’m fully dedicated to getting my body right. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to prepare me for life in the NFL.
JM: You’ve done a great job adding weight throughout this process. What can you tell me about the scheme that Virginia ran on defense? What did your coaches ask of you?
CS: We were a base 3-4 quarters defense. I was the SAM or WILL linebacker depending on the personnel that was in the game. It started with our outside linebackers. We were asked to set the edge and sack the quarterback. Those were our two jobs. We had to own the perimeter. If the offense ran a stretch our way, or maybe a sweep or a bubble screen, we had to dominate our gap and kill the play. We had to control that.
On second-and-long or third-and-long, we got after the quarterback. We wanted to get in their face and make it uncomfortable for them. We dropped in coverage a lot as well. Those were the biggest things that our defense demanded of us.
JM: You recorded six sacks in 2020. You leave Virginia with 15 career sacks to your name. You weren’t playing as an EDGE. You were the WILL or the SAM, as you said. With that in mind, what is it about your game that allows you to get after the QB on such a consistent basis?
CS: A lot of that sack production came in our nickel front. I could get after the quarterback. You talked about my length and explosiveness. Those are two big traits of mine when it comes to impacting the pocket. I think my football IQ doesn’t get talked about enough here. I understand what the offense is trying to do. I understand schemes and protections. I understand how teams plan on protecting their quarterback. Those are some of the things that have allowed me to be a successful pass rusher.
JM: Have any NFL teams talked about the possibility of moving you to EDGE?
CS: A few teams have talked about me playing on the EDGE but for the most part, teams see me playing as a SAM or WILL, just like I did at Virginia. The overall consensus is that I’m a linebacker.
JM: You can play three downs. When I turn the tape on, I see a player that stops the run, gets after the quarterback, and plays in coverage.
CS: I’m definitely that type of player. I’m on the lighter side when it comes to guys that play my position. I have great length and I understand how to use it. It allows me to get my hands on guys before they can get their hands on me. I’m able to shed blocks.
I can stop the run. I love stopping the run. Our coaches always told us that stopping the run is what earns you the right to rush the passer. From there, our team always wanted to stop the run (laughs). I can drop in coverage as well. I can check a tight end or a running back and play man-to-man coverage. That versatility is going to serve me well at the next level.
JM: It absolutely will. You’ve talked about your weight a little bit. What’s your ideal playing weight at the next level?
CS: I’m hoping to play somewhere in the 250s. I’ve never been 250 pounds, but I have played at 247 before. I felt really good and explosive as ever at 247. I don’t see why I can’t play at 250 and maintain my athleticism and range. I’m confident that my body can hold a few more pounds. I’ll be able to move just as well as I do now.
JM: That would be a great playing weight for you. What’s your favorite part of playing the linebacker position?
CS: My favorite part about playing linebacker has to be beating a block and making a play in the backfield. I love beating the man in front of me en route to making a huge play. Whether that’s a sack or a tackle for loss on the running back, they both feel great. I love making a big play and getting my teammates hyped up. Making a stop on third down, that’s the best feeling. I love helping my defense get off the field and forcing a punt. Let’s get the ball back for our offense. It’s a great feeling.
JM: I love that. You’ve spent the past few months meeting with NFL teams virtually. What’s that process been like, and who are some of the teams you’ve met with?
CS: At this point in the process, it gets a bit repetitive. Every team is asking the same 10 questions (laughs). At the same time, of course, it’s very cool. I’m on the phone with the Chicago Bears and I’m like, “Wow, these are the Monsters of the Midway on the phone with me” (laughs). I understand and appreciate that aspect of it. You never get tired of that. I’ve also spoken with the Eagles, Jets, Cardinals, Saints, Packers, Rams, Raiders, Falcons, and Bills. I’ve spoken to a bunch of teams.
JM: That’s great. There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. If you could sit down and talk football with any linebacker, past or present, who would you choose and why?
CS: I would choose Ray Lewis. He’s the greatest linebacker of all time. He has the highest football IQ I've seen. He’s obviously a great athlete and a great player but his mind was so advanced as well. He just always knew what was gonna happen before it happened. It allowed him to make plays. I’d love to talk to Ray Lewis.
JM: That’s a great choice. I’ve appreciated your time today. We wish you the best of luck this weekend. In closing, what kind of impact is Charles Snowden going to make at the next level?
CS: Charles Snowden is gonna be someone that does the right thing all the time. I’m going to be a great influence in the locker room. I’m going to make sure that my teammates are doing things the right way. I want my teammates to feel good every time we step on the field. I’m going to make plays. I’m going to give back to the community.