Bigger, faster, stronger.
It seems as though every year we see a young athletes enter the NFL Draft process who push the boundaries of human athleticism. Last year we thought the prospects to come out of the Georgia defense were as good as it could get.
Then Northwestern defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore rewrote the record books. His workout is slightly overshadowed by the fact that he was classified as an edge defender and not a defensive lineman. However, the 6-foot 1⅝-inch, 282-pound Adebawore will likely be best on the defensive interior at the NFL level. And having a prospective defensive tackle turn a 4.49 second 40-yard dash and 37.5-inch vertical leap is simply mind boggling.
The New York Giants have the most aggressive, and one of the most creative, defenses in the NFL. They also have a need for more depth along their defensive interior. Could they be the best team to unleash Adebawore on the NFL?
Games Played: 36
Tackles For a loss: 24.5
Forced Fumbles: 4
Passes defensed: 6
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 9.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 1
Best: Athletic ability, get-off, leverage, competitive toughness, versatility
Worst: Hand usage, processing misdirection
Projection: A starting defensive lineman in a multiple one-gap defense.
(Adebawore is Northwestern DL number 99)
Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore brings elite athleticism and an intriguing blend of leverage and length to the defensive line.
Adebawore played multiple positions along the Northwestern defensive line. He most frequently lined up as a defensive end in their four-man front, but also reduced inside to a B-gap defender on occasion. He has an elite blend of explosiveness, lateral quickness, agility, and long speed for either position with a 1.61 second 10-yard split, 37.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump, and a 4.49 second 40-yard dash. Adebawore is a smooth, gliding athlete in all directions and appears perfectly capable of dropping into shallow coverage zones to disguise zone blitzes.
Whether as a defensive end or defensive tackle, Adebawore generally does a good job of timing his rushes and is frequently one of the first players moving. His first step is such that even if he isn’t the very first defender moving, he is often across the line of scrimmage before the quarterback has received a shotgun snap. He combines his elite explosiveness with good natural leverage at 6-foot 1 ⅝ inches, yet also has 33 ⅞ inch arms.
Adebawore is capable of winning his rushes with both speed and power. He flashes a variety of pass rush moves, using a bull rush, a two-hand swipe, and a rip move among others. His power rushes are capable of driving blockers into the backfield when he rushes with good leverage, and he is also capable of penetrating gaps through sheer explosiveness.
Adebawore has good competitive toughness and offers solid effort throughout the game. He has good hustle in pursuit of the ball carrier and his speed makes that more than a token effort. While he doesn’t play with a pronounced “nasty” streak, he’s willing to fight through multiple blockers or battle through the whistle.
Adebawore needs to improve the mental aspect of his game to fully unlock his potential.
He can lose track of the ball at the mesh point in play-action, RPO, or read-option plays. Likewise, he can lose valuable seconds processing when the offense shows misdirection behind the line of scrimmage. There are instances where he winds up chasing players who don’t have the ball, passing up opportunities for tackles for a loss.
Similarly, while he has a decent array of pass rush moves, he doesn’t consistently beat blockers efficiently. Adebawore can get “stuck” on offensive line blocks or spend too much time hand-fighting with them. He flashes the ability to beat blockers quickly and disrupt the running game in the backfield. However, he doesn’t do so consistently and can struggle when he doesn’t win with his first move or loses leverage.
Finally, for all of Adebawore’s athleticism, he does show some slight stiffness in his lower body. It’s particularly noticeable in his ankles when he’s changing direction quickly or bending the edge as a defensive end.
Overall Grade: 8.0
Adetomiwa Adebawore projects as a starting defensive lineman in a one-gap defense.
His versatility in playing either defensive end or defensive tackle will allow him to be a moveable piece in a modern “multiple” defense. Likewise, his smooth athleticism dropping into coverage can make him an unpredictable player for an exotic blitzing scheme.
Adebawore was classified as a defensive end or edge defender at Northwestern and in the 2023 NFL Draft process. However, his best position will likely be as an interior defensive lineman. While he is undersized compared to the NFL’s archetype there, he redefines what it means to be an elite athlete for the position. Adebawore didn’t dominate the collegiate ranks the way his extreme explosiveness suggests he should have, and that likely comes down to inefficiencies in his processing and technique slowing his play.
Adebawore has the traits to flourish if he lands in a situation where he gets good defensive line coaching. He will need a coach who can help speed up his diagnoses and recognition of the play in the backfield as well as clean up his hand usage. His athletic upside makes him a tantalizing prospect and likely gives him a relatively high floor. However, he could be a monster and a real problem for offenses if he’s able to fully unlock his potential with better technique.