Minnesota's Boye Mafe was undeniably one of the biggest winners at this year's Senior Bowl. Maye was extremely explosive and gave opposing offensive tackles all they could handle in pass protection. The nation is beginning to wake up to his talent, and Mafe's name is beginning to circulate in the first round of recent mock drafts. The Golden Valley, Minnesota native is a quick and twitchy pass rusher that will impact the pocket on Sundays. Mafe recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his illustrious career as a Gopher, why he took a sizable step forward in 2021, his pass rush arsenal, why he improved his draft stock at the Senior Bowl, which teams have shown interest in him thus far, and why a team should use a first-round draft pick on him. JM: You wrapped up your career as a Gopher with an impressive 19.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in 42 appearances. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, how do you look back on your time at Minnesota? BM: Playing at Minnesota was the right move for me and the future of my career. I experienced some ups and downs throughout my time at Minnesota, but I honestly feel like those experiences helped shape me into the man and player I am today. I will become a better player and professional due to my experiences at Minnesota. I learned a lot throughout my time at Minnesota. JM: You recorded a career-high seven sacks in 2021. The progress was notable. What changed for you? BM: I think the biggest thing that changed for me last season was how I approached the game and prepared for my opponents and how I studied them throughout the week. I honed in on that side of the game. I became a more detail-oriented player. I focused on the little things and took a broader view of everything that surrounded me and the game of football. Focusing on the little things changed everything for me. I really honed in on the key aspects of the game that I needed to get better at. JM: What were some of those key areas that you felt needed improvement? BM: One thing was the placement of my hands and the overall effectiveness of my hands in general. I also focused on getting off the ball in a more efficient and timely manner. I spent more time looking at my keys and studying my assignments. JM: We saw those areas of your game take a positive step forward. You recently participated in the Senior Bowl and you were one of the big winners in Mobile. What was that experience like? BM: It was a great, new experience. I’ve obviously never been through something like that before. I had never played out of a three-point stance besides playing a little defensive tackle in college, so that was new and fun for me. It was great to get that type of work out of a three-point stance. I learned so much from the coaches in attendance. They taught me so much about football in general throughout the week. I was able to see things in a different light. They allowed me to play my style of football. They didn’t hold me back by placing too many rules on me. They let us get out there and get after it. For me, that gave me the confidence to go out there and put my best foot forward. I was excited to do that. It felt great to strap the pads on and play another game of football. JM: Do you feel like you improved your draft stock in Mobile? Do you feel like you’ve seen an uptick in the attention you’ve received since then? BM: You obviously always want to improve your draft stock throughout this process, but I didn’t really approach the week in that manner. I just wanted to go out there and put my best foot forward. I honestly just loved the opportunity to play ball again. I was excited to meet the guys and learn from the NFL coaches in attendance before I actually get to the league. I went there to become a better player while learning from actual NFL coaches. I wanted to learn a pro-style defensive scheme and get a better understanding of how I fit at the next level. Whether my draft stock improved or didn’t improve, that’s not for me to decide. JM: I love that answer. You controlled what you could control. Those Senior Bowl practices were pretty intense. Who were some of your favorite offensive linemen to compete with in practice? BM: It was kind of funny to go up against an old teammate of mine in Daniel Faalele. We practiced against one another all season long and all throughout our college careers. To do so again at an all-star event in Mobile was pretty funny. It felt like old times sake. Other than Faalele, there was a lot of talent out there, both at offensive tackle and at the interior positions. Playing against athletes from other conferences was a special experience for me. You don’t get many chances to play against players from other conferences. To see the best of the best from various conferences makes the week a special one. It was very interesting. JM: You met with all 32 teams in attendance. What was that process like? BM: I spent an equal amount of time with every team that was there, give or take. It was honestly very interesting to have those formal and informal interviews. It was more about becoming familiar with one another than anything else. It wasn’t a drilling, drawn-out type of process. It was very introductory and all about them getting to know me, and me getting to know them, too. It felt like a meet-and-greet situation. I feel like I had a lot of great conversations with a lot of teams. It was a very intriguing situation for me. JM: That makes sense. We’ve talked about the steps forward you took in 2021. I’m excited to discuss your pass rush arsenal. Your tools and athleticism jump off the screen. What do you consider some of your go-to moves? How do you win as a pass rusher? BM: I’m all about my speed. I use speed a lot. Speed has been very good and useful for me (laughs). It helps me dictate where and how the offensive lineman has to play things against me. My whole mindset changed once I began looking at pass rushing as a tool to dictate how the offensive lineman has to react to me. I don’t let them dictate what I do. I take control of the rep. I use my speed as an asset in that department. I use speed to get the offensive lineman on his heels. It gets him kicking and moving further back than he initially planned for. I can turn the corner or hit him with a chop. Defeating the outside arm is my go-to move. JM: If speed isn’t working throughout the course of a game, how do you counter? BM: The best way for me to go about that is to either set an inside counter, putting him high up the field before coming back underneath, or I can set up the inside rush by selling that before countering back outside. One of those moves can get him turning and opening and closing his hips. JM: Pass rushing is such an art and there’s so much that goes into it. How can you gain an advantage on an opposing offensive tackle pre-snap? BM: In my opinion, film study is the best way to learn about your opponent as you attempt to gain the upper hand on game day. You can’t just look at your opponent and make assumptions. You have to study and learn about your opponent. You can’t assume that one or two moves are going to consistently work against him. You have to look at every aspect involved. You have to look at their alignments, formations, and tendencies. Those are the mental notes that will actually help you in the long run. Paying attention to their formations in run-pass option looks is one example. You have to understand their tendencies. Those are the things that can give you an advantage and alter your rush path. Patterns are everything and they can really give you an advantage. JM: Those are some excellent points. You clearly have a high football IQ What are some important traits an effective pass rusher must possess in order to be successful? BM: You have to be a humble player that’s capable of adapting to your surroundings. You might come up with a game plan of how to rush and attack an offensive tackle, and maybe it’s not working like you thought it might. You have to be able to adjust by coming up with a different plan of attack. You have to learn how to study film and how to read and assess offensive linemen. You have to study how they set and how they play the game. Is he an aggressive setter? How do they use their feet and their hands? What are their strengths and weaknesses? These are some of the questions I ask myself when studying film. If you’re able to study those types of things with success, it will provide you with tremendous help as a pass rusher. JM: That’s a terrific answer. If you could hand-pick the NFL quarterback to be the victim of your first career sack, who would you pick and why? BM: I would have picked Tom Brady before he retired (laughs). Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers come to mind. I would love to sack all of the all-time greats. Lamar Jackson is extremely elusive. It would be fun to say I sacked Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray. Those are a few guys that come to mind. JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. I feel like this conversation has perfectly captured why you’re one of the most exciting players in the 2022 NFL Draft. Why should a team use a first-round selection on Boye Mafe? BM: I have a tremendous amount of upside. I haven’t played my best football yet. I’m still becoming the best version of myself. If teams like what I’ve done in college up until this point, my best ball is still ahead of me. That’s one of the biggest selling points for me as a prospect. I’m still growing and I’m still getting better every day.
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