Of the 116 players listed on Senior Bowl rosters, only one can be the game National Team Player of the Game. This year, this player was Minnesota’s Boye Mafe. He had three tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble in the Senior Bowl, completing a great game and an impressive week of practice. Naturally, NFL scouts, and the draft community alike, instantly turned their heads to Mafe, seeing what kind of player he truly is. So the big question now stands, was the Senior Bowl a fluke for this former three-star prospect, or does Mafe have what it takes to be a high draft pick in April?
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Name: Boye Mafe
Jersey: No. 32
Position: Edge Rusher
Weight: 255 lbs
Games Watched: Ohio State (2021), Nerbraska (2021), Maryland (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Pass Rush Ability (12.25/15)
Mafe is an incredibly raw pass-rusher. The grade is this high here because of the tremendous upside that he brings to the table. Mafe possesses active hands, and you can see it early against teams like Ohio State, where he did well to bat Nicholas Petit Frere’s hands and rip through for a quarterback pressure. Still, Mafe needs to improve his consistency from rep to rep, but he can become a lethal pass-rusher with time.
One could describe Mafe as a “springboard” type athlete. Mafe will get off the line and into his rush like he was shot out of a cannon. He’s close to being the most explosive edge rusher in this class, and there’s a strong case to make that he is, but Mafe has to string it all together. What this means is he must use this explosiveness to his advantage more. However, this is something that can, and will, be easily developed as he progresses throughout the NFL.
First Step (9.75/10)
Mafe is often one of the first players to react once the ball is snapped. This pairs with his explosiveness so well. If Mafe can put on some more strength in the NFL, he’ll be able to drive lineman back so far because he can stunt them right off the get-go. This is a player who almost has a sense for the snap count and can time it perfectly. Blockers have been caught off guard by this, which tells us that Mafe can use this skill to a high vantage at the next level.
Hand Usage (7.75/10)
Something you may have found out by now is that there’s a ton of potential in Mafe’s play. Hands is another area where we see this. Mafe’s hands are always active. Whether he gets the win or not is constantly up in the air, but he does well with his placement and activity. The next step is to get the final touches down and finish off the lineman. This is another aspect where Mafe could seriously benefit from the weight room, and he most likely will somewhere in his career. If Mafe can add that pop to the ever-growing list of pieces he needs to put together, he’ll be a super successful defensive lineman.
The first game watched in this report was against Ohio State. Here, Mafe showed little to no bend. The good part is, that was the first game of Mafe’s 2021 season, and he’s only continued to get better. Against Nebraska, several plays were just jaw-dropping in terms of the flashes that his bend can be. You pair that consistently with the explosiveness Mafe has, and we are looking, again, at a superstar player. Finally, the bend was at its best during the Senior Bowl, just marking the improvement Mafe had from September to January alone.
While Minnesota names their captains on a game-to-game basis, it seemed Mafe earned the honor a few times. This shows the leader he can be in a hard-nosed football program that the Golden Gophers have. Mafe isn’t going to go crazy after a sack and is a bit on the quieter side in terms of what you’d describe as an alpha player, but the motor is shown all over the film. Even when beat, Mafe will chase down the ball carrier no matter how far away he is. He makes a habit of always trying to get, which is something that teammates and coaches both like.
The simplest way to describe this trait is to say that there were no issues with Mafe’s tackling. He’s not an all-out, lay the hit-stick, type player, but he gets it done. Mafe does well to square up the player and attacks into the pads while keeping balance, so he doesn’t fall and dive at the ball carrier’s legs.
Strength at LOS (6/10)
This will probably be the key point of development in Mafe’s career. He doesn’t get trounced back by the offensive lineman; however, Mafe is certainly not giving a push of his own. If Mafe can put on at least 20 more pounds and keep the athleticism, he will dominate so many more reps. Strength at the line will be a big emphasis for whatever team drafts Mafe, and the weight room should be the first place he enters in an NFL facility.
Run Defense (4.5/10)
By far Mafe’s worst trait. Mafe cannot set the edge, and he allows gaps to be created. If an NFL team were to put this kid on the outside in his first game, it would not go well. He tends to be inconsistent on zone-read plays and staying balanced on the play action. However, Mafe did attack the inside zone pretty well when given the opportunity. Mafe won’t be a run stopper in the league, and teams know this. This is nearly a non-factor when discussing Mafe because teams know that they’re getting a developmental player who can shine in the pass-rush for them.
When the list of players for the NFL Combine was released, Mafe was actually displayed as a linebacker. You can tell where they were going with that listing, but it’s not all too true. Mafe is a stand-up, 3-4 edge rusher at the next level who can mix it up with other assignments at times. In college, we saw Mafe drop into zone quite a bit, as well as locking up one running back in man against Ohio State. The sample size is small, though, thus Mafe will be in the edge-rushing scheme that we just mentioned.
If you can’t tell by now, Mafe is a player who will be drafted almost strictly due to upside. With time, we can be watching a superstar here, one who could potentially get his name known like Von Miller. However, with that being said, there’s also the massive potential that Mafe busts if he can’t put on the strength needed. Then, we have a player who is seriously limited in his play.
As for a projection, it seems Mafe is a second-round lock and could sneak into the late-first. That would not be surprising at all due to the players we saw go in the latter half of the round last year, like Gregory Rousseau, Odafe Oweh, and Joe Tryon. Personally, Mafe can get drafted anywhere within the first three rounds, and it’d be a good pick. Any team who wants to develop the guy and has the scheme for him to play in is making a good selection. All in all, it will be a joy to watch Mafe’s development and what he can become somewhere down the road.
Rookie Projection: Rotational 3-4 Pass-Rusher
Third-Year Projection: Mid-High End Starting 3-4 Edge Rusher
Player Grade (80/100): Early Third-Round
Player Comparison: Quincy Roche
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