The 2023 NFL Draft is regarded as a slightly weak one, but it’s expected to be a very deep draft for several positions.
In particular, this draft could produce a historically good group of pass rushers. This EDGE group is so good that players who would be talked about as likely first round players in other years are being almost completely overlooked in this class.
Tennessee’s Byron Young has had a long and winding road to the NFL draft. But he finally emerged in 2022 as a good edge defender and he posted an incredibly good workout at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. So why isn’t he being talked about more widely? Well, his age — he just had his 25th birthday — is likely a big part of the reason.
The New York Giants could certainly use additional depth, and a potential starter, for their defensive front. Could Young’s potential unfortunate slide be a boon for the Giants?
Prospect: Byron Young (6)
Games Watched: vs. Florida (2021), vs. Florida (2022), vs. Alabama (2022), vs. Georgia (2022)
Games Played: 23
Tackles for a loss: 23.5
Passes defensed: 1
Games Played: 13
Tackles for a loss: 12.0
Passes defensed: 0
Best: Explosiveness, get-off, athleticism, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Length, technique
Projection: A designated pass rusher with starting upside early in his career
(Young is Tennessee EDGE number 6)
Tennessee’s Byron Young is a compact, powerful, aggressive, and incredibly athletic EDGE prospect.
Young played on both the left and right side of the defense, and rushed from a two, three, and four-point stance. Explosive athleticism and competitiveness are the defining traits of Young’s game, and they give him great versatility. He is capable of winning through speed or power, rushing off the edge or through an interior gap, or even effectively dropping into coverage.
Young features an impressive get-off, with a sudden first step that allows him to fire into the backfield before blockers are able to reach their landmarks. Young’s go-to move is to transform his initial burst into a power rush, and is capable of driving much bigger offensive linemen back into the pocket. That said, Young also has great lateral agility and is capable of winning with inside moves or executing gap exchange stunts or twists.
He also has a very flexible lower body and is able to get very low around the edge when rushing with speed. His flexible ankles and fluid hips allow him to carry speed around the edge while maintaining good contact with the ground and leverage against offensive tackles.
That quickness and fluidity also allows Young to be effective when dropping into coverage to disguise blitzes. He gets good depth on his coverage drops and has the hip fluidity to open and stay with running backs or tight ends through their breaks. Likewise, he has the speed to carry them down the field on vertical routes.
Young is a surprisingly stout run defender for a relatively small edge defender. He typically plays with good leverage and great competitive toughness, and does a good job of setting a firm edge on the play side. He also has great speed and a wide-open motor when in pursuit of the play.
Young has had a long and winding road to the NFL, and as a result he’ll be old for a rookie at 25 years old. That could be a major concern for teams who would prefer to get their prospects before they can get a decent rate on their car insurance – or before they can drink (alcohol) legally, if at all possible. It remains to be seen whether that will impact his draft stock, but it does make for an interesting situation.
Despite Young’s relatively advanced age, he is still somewhat raw as a player. He only has two years of experience at a major college program, and that can show up in his tape. Young is still inconsistent in timing the snap, which can compromise his impressive get-off. Likewise, he can be prone to losing track of the ball or biting hard on misdirection. Young seems to process relatively quickly and tracks the ball down after the snap, but there’s still a bit of a delay before he begins pursuit.
Young also needs to get more consistent in how he deals with blockers’ hands. He showed marked improvement from 2021 to 2022, but there’s still room for growth. Too often he seems to try to run through blockers, rather than use his technique to neutralize blocks and maximize his athletic advantages. That can also magnify the limitations placed on him by relatively short arms, and he can get “stuck” on blockers if they’re able to engage and absorb his initial rush.
Overall Grade: 8.0
Byron Young projects as a designated pass rusher early in his career, but he has the potential to take a starting job early in his career.
Young has the potential to be a game-changing pass rusher with good coaching. His explosiveness should produce plenty of highlights in training camp and the preseason, and his competitive toughness should earn him fans among coaching staffs. Young never seems to throttle down, plays through the whistle, and always arrives at the ball carrier with bad intentions. He is already a solid run defender, but he might need improved technique to compensate for his relative lack of length and mass compared to NFL offensive linemen.
Every defense can use a player with Young’s traits, but his ceiling is the highest in an aggressive 1-gap defense that allows him to attack into the backfield in obvious passing situations early in his career. Eventually, his versatility to effectively drop into coverage can allow a number of options for blitz-heavy schemes.
While Young’s age makes him easy to overlook, his prodigious athleticism leaps off the field on tape. There are instances in every game where his first step or bend around the edge produce a “wow” moment. And unlike many older prospects to come into the NFL near maxed out, Young still has considerable upside as he hones his technique.