The 2023 NFL Draft has an exceptionally deep and talented group of edge defenders. There are edge players of all shapes and sizes for any defense called in the NFL. This is also an incredibly athletic group of edge players that will make quarterbacks’ lives miserable for years to come.
Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah is accepted as one of the best edge defenders in this draft class, and would likely one of the top two or three in any other draft class. And yet, he could fall out of the first round entirely this year. Anudike-Uzomah is athletic, versatile, well-rounded, and was productive in college. However, he doesn’t get as much talk as the other top prospects in this draft class.
Edge is a low-key need for the New York Giants thanks to a lack of depth and injury concerns. Could Anudike-Uzomah’s versatility and dependability land him on the Giants’ radar if he slips to the bottom of the second round?
Prospect: Felix Anudike-Uzomah (91)
Games Watched: vs. Texas Tech (2022), at TCU (2022), vs. TCU (2022 Big 12 Championship), vs. Alabama (2022)
Games Played: 27
Tackles for a loss: 26.5
Forced fumbles: 8
Passes defensed: 1
Games Played: 14
Tackles for a loss: 11.0
Forced fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 1
Best: Athleticism, play strength, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Ankle stiffness
Projection: An important rotational EDGE with starting upside and scheme diversity.
(Anudike-Uzomah is Kansas State No. 91)
Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzoma is an athletic, tough, and versatile edge defender.
He has solid size for the position and a versatile build at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, with 33 ⅝ inch arms. He has the desired length and enough athleticism to be an edge rusher in a one-gap defense, as well as enough mass and play strength to reduce inside as a down lineman. Indeed, Kansas State used Anudike-Uzoma as a rusher from a 2-point stance as well as a defensive end in their TITE front packages.
Anudike-Uzoma has a good, crisp get-off and times the snap well. He’s frequently one of the first defenders moving at the snap and has an explosive first step. He does a good job of firing off the ball with good leverage to get under defenders’ pads as he accelerates into the backfield.
He has a good array of pass rush moves for a college prospect, usually using a bull-rush and rip move as his go-to moves. Anudike-Uzoma is primarily a power rusher with a speed counter, but he has the ability to use either as a set-up for his counter. He also has a long-arm move, swim move, and two-hand swipe in his toolbox, though he uses those less often than his primary moves. He also shows an understanding of how to set blockers up over the course of a game and rush with a plan.
Anudike-Uzomah is a solid run defender as an edge or as a defensive end. He uses his leverage and play strength well to set a firm edge and is able to take on blocks from offensive linemen. He plays with great competitive toughness and is willing to fight through multiple blockers on his way to the ball. He also shows good discipline as a rusher and doesn’t over-pursue the play or run himself out of position. Finally, he is a hard hitter and a reliable tackler and has a wide-open motor in running down the play.
He wasn’t asked to drop into coverage often enough in the tape viewed to evaluate his ability in that regard. His awareness and overall athleticism are likely assets when dropping into zone coverage to disguise a blitz. However, teams would likely rather not see him actually matched up in coverage on a skill position player.
Anudike-Uzomah has few true weaknesses in his game. The biggest of those is some lower body stiffness, particularly in his ankles. While he’s able to maintain leverage when playing downhill, he can struggle to bend the edge from a tighter alignment. Anudike-Uzomah corners on his toes and isn’t able to keep his cleats in contact with the ground when trying to win high-side. That can either force him to lose his feet while trying to run the arc, or compromise his leverage and force him to play more upright than is ideal.
He could also stand to continue to hone his craft as an edge defender and get better at efficiently neutralizing blockers’ hands. That isn’t a glaring weakness, but an area where he can continue to improve at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 7.9
Felix Anudike-Uzomah is a versatile player who projects as an important rotational edge defender with the upside to start in a variety of schemes at the NFL level.
Anudike-Uzomah’s floor is likely as a good number three edge defender who can spell a starter (or come on in sub-packages) without much of a drop-off in the level of play. He has the ceiling to start for a one-gap defense.
Whether or not Anudike-Uzomah is labeled a starter or not might be immaterial at the NFL level; he should be a good, reliable player that teams should feel comfortable seeing on the field. While he isn’t truly elite in any area of his game, he’s very well-rounded, technically sound, and can help a defense in a variety of situations. Anudike-Uzomah should also be considered pro-ready enough to earn defensive snaps pretty much immediately.
That said, teams might want to be a bit careful in how they scheme Anudike-Uzomah. He shouldn’t be asked to rush the passer from a tight alignment, and he might not have the raw strength and mass to consistently reduce inside to a 5 or 3-technique at the NFL level. That is in his toolbox, but should probably be reserved to creating an athletic mismatch in obvious passing situations.
Anudike-Uzomah has three-down upside at the NFL level and will come into the league as a reliable run defender as well as a pass rusher. He might not have the raw athleticism to challenge the top of the edge depth chart in the 2023 NFL Draft class, but he should still be selected early.