LB10: Owen Pappoe (Auburn)
Owen Pappoe fits under the ‘tweener’ umbrella. The Auburn linebacker is a freaky athlete, as was showcased at the NFL Combine, but he is barely 6 feet tall and weighs a meager 225 pounds. The thing is, you would never know it on tape. Pappoe uses his mystifying 4.3 speed to close the distance between him and the ball carrier, regularly leading to tackles that seem physically impossible.
In coverage, Pappoe excelled in 2022, posting a career-high PFF grade of 77.2. On top of this, Pappoe also improved his tackling numbers substantially, cutting down his missed tackle rate by nearly 10 points from the previous season. So, why the fringe day two grade?
The aforementioned frame from earlier not only hampers Pappoe at times on the gridiron, but it is also the reason he is a major injury concern going forward. Pappoe missed most of the 2021 season but thankfully returned for a full final campaign this past season.
It takes some projecting with Pappoe to find an ideal fit at the next level. His range, aggressiveness, and overall mobility open the door to endless possibilities. I’d try to get some more weight on his frame and allow him to start at MIKE. If Pappoe can’t add more weight, his traits still align well as a WILL. There is legitimate superstar potential here.
NFL Draft Grade: Fringe Day 2
LB9: Mohamoud Diabate (Utah)
Mohamoud Diabate is another traitsy linebacker without a clear role at the next level. In his lone season with Utah, the all-around linebacker recorded seven sacks and accounted for 31 stops. These numbers highlight how special a pass rusher and run defender Diabate can be.
On the other hand, Diabate is a complete and utter mess in coverage on most snaps. He lacks the experience and instincts to read plays as they unfold, causing him to react late and get caught chasing his assignment from behind.
Thanks to elite recovery speed, Diabate did well tracking them down. However, the margin for error decreases immensely in the NFL. The Utah defender is undoubtedly a work in progress, but he could be a diamond with patience.
NFL Draft Grade: Fringe Day 2
LB8: Marte Mapu (Sacramento State)
Admittedly, I had never heard of Marte Mapu before his breakout appearance at the Senior Bowl. It is a task to track down Sacramento State tape, but thankfully I got my hands on some… and love what I found.
Mapu played pretty much every position you can think of in high school, and he boasts an incredible feel for the game because of it. He developed ridiculous range as a defensive back, learned what the field looks like from the offensive end, and even spent time as a quarterback, giving him a depth of on-field knowledge that few can match.
The jack-of-all-trades aspect makes Mapu intriguing, but it also leads to a couple of obvious concerns. As a sixth-year senior, Mapu is just now making a name for himself on the national scene. Limited exposure can be to blame, but it is fair to wonder if the stellar play in college was due to meager competition.
Mapu’s time at the Senior Bowl went a long way toward calming these fears. In Mobile, Mapu showcased his trademark range and versatility, regularly impacting plays in coverage and in run support. While he is smaller than a typical NFL linebacker, he fits the mold of a “modern” defender over the middle.
With his athletic features, Mapu could serve as a box safety in the right setting. The Draft Network compared Mapu to Jeremy Chinn, another oversized safety/undersized linebacker. If a team gets someone even remotely similar to Chinn, they will be stoked.
NFL Draft Grade: Late Day 2