No. 3: Keion White (Georgia Tech)
Keion White began his career at Old Dominion as an offensive weapon before switching over and serving as a top player on the defense in 2019. He then transferred to Georgia Tech to prove himself against a higher level of competition. Upon his arrival with the Yellow Jackets, White saw little playing time in 2021 thanks to an untimely ankle injury.
When White returned in 2022, he looked like a completely different beast. He put a higher priority on taking care of his body, and this resulted in an added explosion off the snap. White’s legs are powerful, and his grip strength at the point of attack is impressive.
While White wins easily with power, he needs some work in space. He is most comfortable in a scrum, allowing him to use his trademark strength to collapse the pocket from the inside. As he learns more, White should look more comfortable coming off the edge. He has a realistic chance to be one of the best inside-out threats in the league.
Aside from needing work on finesse, White is a mostly clean prospect from my evaluation. One major hang-up is his age, as the Georgia Tech star is already 24 years old. This increased age will take him off of first-round boards for some, but White lays claim to a top 25 spot on mine.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 1
No. 4: Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
Lukas Van Ness is more of an interior pass rusher at this stage of his career, but with the traits he showed off in Indianapolis, it is easy to see how the Iowa star could blossom into a premier inside-out threat at the next level.
Van Ness never started a game for the Hawkeyes, but his snap totals added up to that of a starter. During his time in Iowa City, he developed the most dominant bull rush in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Van Ness used his trademark strength — mixed with natural leverage gained during his hockey days — to terrorize the offensive line. He accumulated a career-high nine sacks in 2022 and continued developing into an elite run-stuffer for Iowa.
The most glaring question mark for Van Ness is his lack of finesse moves. As a player who wins only with power, that could cause issues against NFL linemen with considerably more strength than their college predecessors. Van Ness gets great leverage inside but comes off the snap way too high when working outside.
I am concerned Van Ness will never reach his potential without a more diverse approach as a pass rusher. The good news is, he will be a top-tier run defender regardless, giving him a safer floor than most prospects in the class. I am not fully in the day-one crowd, but with his potential, Van Ness is an easy pick at the top of round two.
NFL Draft Grade: Fringe Day 1
No. 5: Adetomiwa Adebawore (Northwestern)
Adetomiwa Adebawore made himself a lot of money during the NFL Combine. The 281-pound specimen put up numbers that men his size have never posted. The explosion and power Adebawore plays with looked even more dominant in person.
At Northwestern, Adebawore wasn’t used to the best of his ability. Instead, he served as an inside man that regularly dealt with double teams in an effort to free up other pass rushers on his team. Still, enough showed up on tape to cause excitement.
As stated, Adebawore wins with power. He leverages himself incredibly well when engaged and uses absurd lower-body strength to push back bigger linemen. His hands are the most impressive part, as Adebawore has a pair of vice grips that never let go.
Another redeeming quality for Adebawore is how often he plays through the whistle. Rarely do you see him give up on a play. Furthermore, Adebawore shows potential with finesse moves off the edge, but will continue to be unproven in this regard until results show up on the field.
All in all, I am a huge fan of Adebawore’s potential. He needs a defensive coordinator with a plan, but the traits are too good to let the Northwestern star fall too far in the 2023 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft Grade: Fringe Day 1
No. 6: YaYa Diaby (Louisville)
I tabbed Diaby as a sleeper back in January, and everything he’s done since then has confirmed my beliefs. In fact, Diaby’s performance at the NFL Combine might have taken him out of the “sleeper” category altogether. At Louisville, Diaby produced 10 sacks in 2022 and earned a spot at the Senior Bowl. Diaby dominated one-on-one reps in Mobile, showing the burst and power he displayed on tape.
At the Combine, Diaby posted eye-popping workout numbers, the most impressive being his 1.56 10-yard split. He uses this explosion off the snap to fly around the edge and can also blow up gaps with it when lined up on the interior. Diaby’s versatility is his calling card, and his pre-draft process has the Louisville pass rusher in day two talks.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 2