First Step Explosiveness
Natural power is evident very quickly on tape.
First Step Explosiveness
Mafe’s natural burst is very good. He’s got the ability to drive up the field and pressure vertical sets. His consistency as a rusher can be improved by cleaning up his first step, as well—there are instances of a false step off the line that cuts down on how much ground he gains out of his stance. The Gophers have worked him primarily in a two-point release and I do think he’s got the natural juice to win here in the pro game with some added focus. Lots of natural ability and some meat left on the bone to clean, too.
Mafe's bright flashes of rush counters popped both on tape and at the 2022 Senior Bowl.
When attacking tackles off the edge, Mafe has shown some awareness to implement rips, sweeps, and lifts in an effort to break hands and clear effectively to turn a tight corner. Stringing moves together or understanding how to set up tackles is where I think he can really build upon his foundation, but between his speed rushes and the showcases of hand usage that indicates he clearly understands what he’s capable of, I think he can continue to grow and develop here.
Minnesota put a lot on his plate (but I'd admittedly like him in a more aggressive rush role moving forward).
I’m very impressed with his ability to do a little bit of everything. He’s crashed off the backside to run down plays, he’s picked up running backs on ‘BOBO’ assignments and carried them up the field stride for stride, and he’s won off the edge as a rusher. I see little reason an athlete of this caliber couldn’t grow into a maxed-out role on defense in the right environment.
Minnesota EDGE defender Boye Mafe is a high-tools prospect on the edge who projects best to the pro game as a traditional 3-4 rush outside linebacker. Mafe offers great athleticism on the edge and his flashes of effortless movement skills in space are an easy sell when projecting his pro game to the next level. I do believe Mafe is more of a developmental player than a plug-and-play starter, but the trajectory of Mafe’s play with the Gophers has been on a steady increase for the entirety of his career with the program, culminating with a career year in 2021 with six sacks, nine tackles for loss, and 30 tackles (all career highs).
Mafe has bright flashes of nuance at times but the consistency is where his NFL team is going to require patience from him as he continues to grow a better feel for the game, particularly in deconstructing blocks and being a persistent threat as an outside pass rusher. In the 2022 NFL Draft class, which is loaded with talent, Mafe may not be the commodity he would otherwise be, but this is a high-ceiling prospect who should not be overlooked in the middle rounds as someone who can be an every-down player by year three if the light bulb comes on at the next level.
Ideal role: Developmental starter; special teams role likely needed early on for projective reps
Scheme tendencies: Odd front defense with a blend of pass rush and space responsibilities
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Ohio State (2021), Nebraska (2021), Wisconsin (2021), Colorado (2021)
Best Game Studied: Nebraska (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Ohio State (2021)
First Step Explosiveness: See Above.
Flexibility: He’s a smooth athlete in all phases. I haven’t really seen him showcase a lot of oily hip displays on the edge when trying to flatten to the quarterback, but I’m uncertain if this is a “feel” issue or any actual tightness. I’m inclined to believe it is the former given how well he moves in space.
Hand Counters: See Above.
Length: Anatomically, he appears to have prototypical length and reach to help with his influence of the quarterback in the pocket and boost his ability to interrupt throwing windows both as a dropper and as a rusher. The full implementation of that length to stack blocks isn’t fully developed and I’d love to see him continue to learn to maximize his wingspan and reach to ensure he’s got more room to disengage when required. Excellent physical gifts, however—he’s credited with an 81.5-inch wingspan.
Hand Power: I haven’t seen him create consistent knockback at the point of attack yet and put blockers on their heels, but I do think he’s coiled with a lot of power. He’s got a rocked-up build and is otherwise a quick-twitch athlete as a whole.
Run Defending: Mafe can get glued onto blocks far too easily and leverage issues, hand placement, separation skills, and feel of blocks are all subject to improvement. I am impressed with his ability to cut across the face of cutoff blocks on the backside and his leverage issues appear to be improving, but there are too many times where I think he gets hands on at the point of attack and can’t get unglued.
Effort (Motor): Mafe is an impressive high-motor player who pairs athleticism with effort. He has flashed most persistently as a high-motor player. I’ve watched Mafe chase down plays 40-plus yards downfield as the unblocked backside defender. Love the energy that he brings to the field.
Football IQ: Mafe’s reactive swiftness has improved throughout the course of his time in Minnesota. Play diagnosis hasn’t been an area that’s impressed as recently as the 2020 season unless the Gophers found themselves in obvious down-and-distance situations. While I do feel he’s still piecing together his full pass-rush pallet and feeling out his strategy there to win with consistency, he did appear to play more confident this past season.
Lateral Mobility: Mafe has notable short-area burst, acceleration, and agility, all of which flash early in reps and illustrate his athleticism in space. He’s going to be hard to get the edge on if you leave him unblocked by design and try to claim the edge on him. I certainly think he’s got the reactive quickness to close the door on rolling pockets and sprint outs as a rusher, too.
Versatility: See Above.
TDN Consensus: 82.18/100 (Second Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 82.00/100
Marino Grade: 84.00/100
Harris Grade: 80.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 82.00/100
Weissman Grade: 83.00/100
Parson Grade: 82.00/100