All it takes is a simple logic exercise to know that edge rushers are some of the most important players on defense. Who is the most critical player on any given snap? The quarterback. And how can defenses stop quarterbacks? By making them uncomfortable. Edge rushers are key in that equation, but does the 2022 NFL Draft have the necessary talent? Look no further than the NFL Draft scouting profile of Minnesota DE Boye Mafe to find the answer.
Boye Mafe NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: Minnesota
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3 1/2″
- Weight: 255 pounds
- Wingspan: 81 1/4″
- Length: 33 3/8″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Boye Mafe Scouting Report
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an edge rusher class as strong as this one. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson are the headliners, with David Ojabo, George Karlaftis, and Travon Walker right on their heels.
That’s five bona fide first-round talents, but it doesn’t end there. You could argue that at least a dozen have immediate starting ability. Arnold Ebiketie, Jermaine Johnson II, Kingsley Enagbare, Sam Williams, Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders, Drake Jackson — the list goes on.
With so much sheer talent in the 2022 NFL Draft, it could be easy for a player like Mafe to fall under the radar. But in just about any other class, Mafe might be the one who gets early Day 2 hype. The Minnesota DE has the raw talent to be a high-impact player, and at his peak, he could be one of the best edge rushers to come out of a historic class.
Mafe’s athletic profile
It’s no secret that Mafe is a freak athlete. He was quite literally labeled a Feldman Freak in 2020, with a 4.57 40-yard dash, a 1.58 10-yard split, and a 40.5-inch vertical at 6’4″, 260 pounds. The athleticism no doubt stands out on tape.
Mafe is as explosive as advertised on the field. He sports a torrid first step off the line, accelerating upfield quickly. His sheer explosiveness allows him to shoot through lanes and destroy blocking angles, and his closing acceleration, combined with his length, makes him difficult to evade as a pursuit defender.
As explosive as Mafe is, he’s not just a straight-line athlete. He has the lateral athleticism to veer across gaps and manipulate leverage at a moment’s notice. He’s also a twitched-up athlete who’s surprisingly sudden for his 6’4″, 255-pound frame. Mafe has a ton of potential energy stored within his frame on any given snap. He can use that twitch to generate displacement and explode around the edge.
Mafe might not have elite length, but he’s still above-average in that category. And his length and burst combine to form great power capacity. The Minnesota DE has the raw power to deliver immense contact force and walk tackles backward. Furthermore, he has the core and grip strength to hold up against anchors and clog running lanes.
Believe it or not, we’re not done with Mafe’s athletic traits yet. Mafe also has good bend overall. He can dip below anchors and contort his upper body while accelerating. He also has the ankle flexion to lower himself and reduce his surface area on the attack.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Mafe is still a work in progress from an operational standpoint, but there are promising flashes to note. The Minnesota DE isn’t completely raw. In fact, he has a working pass-rush arsenal at his disposal. He can execute a club and rip, as well as a dip and rip, and he also has formidable long-arm and bull-rush moves to go with his rip combos.
Going further, Mafe has shown he can flash hands and get linemen to extend, then rip and dip under anchors, effectively setting up blockers. He can also stab his opponent’s torso and use his strong hands to wrench down anchors with force, as well as swat at tackles’ outside arms, then rip around and surge inside. There are at least flashes of Mafe multitasking and stacking moves, which is promising for his development.
In other phases, Mafe shows similar promise. He has a sturdy base in run defense, and he has the strength to establish a half-man relationship and set the edge. Additionally, with his lateral agility and flexibility, he can reduce his surface area, slip through congestion, and wall off lanes. Mafe is surprisingly slippery when anchored. When he breaks free, he can whip around and pursue runs to the sideline.
On top of his initial utility, Mafe is also athletic enough to shade out into coverage and stick to running backs out of the backfield. He also has some alignment versatility. He’s best at 5-technique and beyond, but he can stunt inside on occasion.
Areas for improvement
There’s a lot to be excited about with Mafe, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. There are things to work on as well. Most notably, he can be more consistent multitasking when bending around the edge. Mafe is not adept at stacking counters, and he can be more calculated and strategic with his pass-rush plans overall. The Minnesota DE can be more consistent in setting up linemen and capitalizing on leverage. His rushes sometimes stall out when his first moves don’t disrupt the pocket.
Moving on, Mafe can work on timing his rips better at the apex to maximize leverage. His hands also lack the necessary violence and quickness at times. He can be over-reliant on extensions, and more technically refined tackles can suffocate his rushes fairly easily. Mafe needs to improve at loading his hands and stocking potential energy into his hand moves. He can also be more consistent disengaging after compressing the pocket with power. When he gets into anchor battles, he can get locked up.
Beyond his hands, Mafe can glean more explosiveness out of his first step at times. He doesn’t always come off the line at full capacity, and he can be a bit upright out of his stance as well. Additionally, Mafe can be a bit late off the snap at times. He can improve at anticipating and feeling the snap, and he sometimes has a slight false step that can delay his attack.
Among other things, Mafe has some slight hip stiffness at times when trying to roll through rushes. He also frequently loses his balance when bending around the edge — at least enough to cause concern. Finally, while he has a good motor, he can finish out some reps with more urgency.
Mafe’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
We’ve seen enough success stories to know that betting on traits at EDGE is never a bad idea. But sometimes the failures go overlooked. It takes more than traits to be a consistent starter at the NFL level, where the baseline athletic threshold is higher.
Nevertheless, elite athletes can set themselves apart, and that’s what Mafe is. He can more consistently play to his maximum athletic capacity and strive to improve his multitasking ability around the edge. But Mafe has elite explosive capacity and twitch, as well as good lateral mobility, bend, play strength, and power. He’s also competent as a run defender.
There’s still plenty of development to be done with Mafe, but his flashes of hand usage are encouraging. He has some moves in his arsenal already, and he’s trending up. Now, it’s just a matter of combining those moves more efficiently with his athletic traits and consistently using them at a high level. He has the process-oriented mindset to get it done.
Even without elite consistency, Mafe is a prospect worth a top-50 pick on upside alone. A good offseason can push Mafe into fringe-Round 1 range, and it’s easy to see why. Standing up, or from two- and three-point stances, he has the traits to be a high-level starter with double-digit sack upside. And he has the mindset to put it together.
Mafe’s Player Profile
Mafe comes across as very amiable off the field. In press conferences, he’s attentive and well-spoken, and he frequently praises the team-first mentality upheld on the Minnesota defense. But on the field, a different side of Mafe comes alive — a one-man menace that keeps offensive linemen up at night.
Seeing Mafe now and seeing how far he has come, you’d think he was a highly touted recruit out of high school. But Mafe was only a fringe three-star recruit from Hopkins, Minnesota — a town of just over 18,000. His first offers came from North Dakota and Northern Iowa in August of 2016. The FBS interest didn’t come until September when Wyoming came calling.
Still, the 6’3″, 218-pound defender held out hope for an in-state opportunity with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. And soon, he got it. He was offered a scholarship by the Golden Gophers later in September. Not long after that, he’d become a commit in P.J. Fleck’s inaugural Minnesota class.
Mafe’s career at Minnesota
Mafe’s growth was gradual. The Minnesota DE didn’t become a star overnight. He came to Minnesota at just 218 pounds, with a 4.95 40-yard dash and a vertical just over 32 inches. But lots of hard work in the weight room and positional drills piled up. Mafe maximized himself — the results eventually followed.
Early on, Mafe was a rotational player at best. He redshirted in 2017 and played sparingly in 2018. But every year, he got a few more opportunities, and he flashed more and more with the chances he got. 2019 saw him earn 3 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. In 2020, Mafe accumulated 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. And in 2021, he officially broke out as a star on the college football stage.
Mafe was one of the most dangerous pass-rushing threats in the Big Ten during the 2021 season. The Minnesota DE amassed 34 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and a forced fumble in 13 games — nine of which he started. Mafe earned All-Big Ten honors for his play, and he also fielded an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Mafe’s NFL Draft ascension
Mafe is still developing as a pass rusher. His hands can be more consistently violent and precise, and his pass-rush plan can be more fleshed out at times. There’s no doubt room for him to grow as a multitasking rusher. However, Mafe is already trending up in that category after a stellar 2021 campaign, and he has the physical traits worth banking on for an NFL franchise. He also has the attention to detail and mindset to keep growing. His dominant Senior Bowl showing was proof — both of his potential and his progress to this point.
Though he’ll be 23 years old at the start of the 2022 season, Mafe brings with him a working arsenal of moves. And in a supremely athletic 2022 EDGE class, it’s not brash to say that he could be a top-three pure athlete in the group. Mafe’s athletic testing alone will get him early-round buzz, but don’t be scared off by the excitement. Mafe isn’t just an athlete. He’s a growing player with dominant potential at his maximum projection.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Boye Mafe
Positives: Athletic, intense college pass rusher who can line up in a three-point stance or stand over tackle. Agile, fast up the field, and displays tremendous speed and quickness off the edge. Bends off the corner, breaks down well, and relentlessly attacks opposing quarterbacks. Easily changes direction, gets into space, and makes plays against the run.
Displays an explosive first step off the snap out of a three-point stance, plays with tremendous leverage, and works his hands throughout the action. Effective rushing the passer when standing over tackle and displays the ability to pursue the action laterally. Moves well in space when dropped off the line on zone blitzes. Resilient.
Negatives: Controlled at the point by a single blocker or easily knocked from his angle of attack. Does not show great pursuit speed despite his 40 time.
Analysis: Mafe displayed a lot of development in his game the past two seasons and turned in three days of solid practice at the Senior Bowl. He’s a versatile front-seven defensive prospect with a large upside. If he continues to progress and receives proper coaching, Mafe will be a very productive player in the NFL.