The 2022 NFL Draft looks as though it is going to be a very good one for defenses around the league. The “blue chip” prospects are almost all on the defensive side of the ball and there’s great depth at just about every position.
That can make it difficult for less flashy prospects to stand out, but that also means that this draft could yield more than a few hidden gems.
Interior defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt, from the University of Georgia, could be one of those hidden gems, and one any defensive coordinator would be happy to get his hands on.
Wyatt is at his best in an aggressive one-gap defense and played all over Georgia’s defensive line, two traits that could appeal to New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
Prospect: Devonte Wyatt (95)
Games Watched: vs. Alabama (2020), vs. Clemson (2021), vs. Kentucky (2021), vs. Alabama (2021 SEC Championship Game)
Games Played (starts): 42
Tackles For a loss: 12.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 2
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 7.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Technique, play strength, short-area quickness, versatility
Worst: Long speed, explosiveness
Projection: An important rotational player in an aggressive multiple defense.
(Wyatt is iDL number 95)
University of Georgia interior defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt has a good combination of size, quickness, and technique to play a variety of alignments at the NFL level.
Wyatt has a stout frame, weighing in at (just under) 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds. He played a huge variety of alignments for the Bulldogs’ defense, lining up everywhere from 7-technique defensive end to 0-technique nose tackle. He even lined up as a stand-up edge rusher on occasion in certain blitz packages.
Wyatt plays with good initial quickness and great leverage. Wyatt possesses a solid first step and is able to disrupt blocking schemes with a quick bull rush. He plays with good pad hip and pad level and is consistently the “low man”, making it difficult for offensive linemen to anchor against him. Conversely, Wyatt’s powerful lower body and good leverage allow him to effectively two-gap as well as control double teams when necessary. He is a solid run defender who diagnoses running plays quickly, is rarely fooled by misdirection, and does a very good job of positioning his hips in his assigned gap. Wyatt is capable of making plays off of blockers as well as penetrating into the backfield as a disruptor.
Wyatt also has surprising agility for his frame and build, and was frequently used as a looper on stunts and twists along the defensive front. Likewise, he has a strong closing burst to make plays on ball carriers.
Wyatt has shown marked improvement in his hand usage from 2020 to 2021. He now consistently attacks blockers’ chest plates to establish inside leverage and force them back on their heels. He also consistently rushes with a plan and ready counters if his initial rush fails. Wyatt is a capable hand-fighter who does a great job of getting extension, fighting off offensive linemen’s hands, and keeping himself clean.
While Wyatt is a surprisingly good athlete considering his build, though his play speed can decline over longer distances. For instance, defensive plays that ask him to loop from the A to D gaps tend to accomplish little. Likewise, while he is a great pursuit player, offensive players are able to outrun him.
Also, particularly long-limbed offensive linemen can take advantage of Wyatt’s mediocre length and stymie his rushes before they really get a chance to get going.
Finally, he needs to get better at timing his rushes. Wyatt’s first step certainly isn’t poor, but he is often a beat slow before triggering off the snap.
Overall Grade: 7.6
Devonte Wyatt projects as a starting interior defensive lineman – or a high volume rotational player – for an aggressive one-gap “multiple” defense.
Wyatt has experience playing at just about every alignment along the defensive front and is able to execute them all. He has a good enough anchor to be a nose tackle on most average downs, the quickness and hand usage to attack interior gaps as a pass rushing 2i, 3, 4i, or 5-technique, or even occasionally playing as a 7-technique defensive end in some exotic blitz looks.
That said, Wyatt would likely be best an interior one-gap defender, as a defensive end in a 3-man front or a 3-technique in a 4-man front. Wyatt can be an absolute handful for most offensive linemen to deal with, and he can win with power or athleticism. Wyatt should be able to play on any down and distance in the right scheme.
His ultimate upside as a pass rusher is a bit of a question. It’s also possible that he was overshadowed by the sheer amount of talent surrounding him in Georgia. Wyatt could blossom on an NFL line where he gets more opportunities. On the other hand, he might never be an elite interior pass rusher,
That might knock him down draft boards, but whichever team drafts Wyatt will be getting a good player – at a potentially great value.