The 2023 NFL Draft defensive tackle class is filled with unique player molds and sleepers to note, and Alabama DT Byron Young is near the top of the all-underrated list. It’s not often that a Crimson Tide prospect falls under the radar, but Young has the tools to be an immediate NFL contributor and has untapped potential as well.
Byron Young NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’3 3/8″, 294 pounds
- Length: 34 3/8″
- Hand: 11″
If it feels like Young has been around on Alabama’s defensive line forever, it’s because he has. In an era where so many prospects produce for one or two years early and then declare, Young has instead been a mainstay for the Crimson Tide from Day 1.
Young arrived in Tuscaloosa as a four-star recruit in 2019 and quickly earned a spot in the rotation up front. As a true freshman, the Alabama DT logged 23 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. The next year, his impact steepened. And in a full slate, he put up 26 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and a half-sack.
2021 was a career campaign for Young. Playing in 15 games, he registered 33 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. But he’d reach his highest heights as a pass rusher in 2022, breaking new ground as a disruptive force on the Crimson Tide front.
In 2022, Young amassed 48 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble. His season was highlighted by a two-week stretch in November, where he totaled 3.5 sacks and 3.5 TFLs against LSU and Ole Miss.
That two-week window was the peak of Young’s potential, and that’s what teams will look to unearth at the professional level.
Byron Young Scouting Report
Young is an especially productive run-stopper, and the stats reflect that. But does he have the physical upside necessary to provide the three-down utility that teams seek in the modern NFL? Let’s dive into the tape and find out.
At around 6’3″, 294 pounds, and arms over 34″ long, Young has a phenomenal combination of natural leverage and proportional length. He’s also a great athlete for his size — a quality that sometimes goes overlooked due to his playing style. Young displays good burst off the line and flashes great explosive capacity. He can gain momentum fairly quickly out of his stance and channel that burst into power at the point.
Going further, Young shows glimpses of exceptional burst off the line as a pass rusher. He has enough burst to pressure the apex at 5-technique, and he flashes impressive foot speed off the line, which he uses to sustain acceleration into contact from wider alignments. Meanwhile, in run defense, Young has the explosiveness to get ahead of moving blocks and invade gaps, collapsing plays in the process.
Young’s testing numbers didn’t quite reach the elite tier, but at his size, he has enough quantified athleticism to be a threat in both phases. While his 26″ vertical jump was slightly below average, Young’s 9′ broad jump was near the 73rd percentile, and his 7.68 three-cone time was also an above-average agility figure for DTs.
Young’s length, combined with his burst, affords him near-elite power capacity. The Alabama DT can fully extend after making contact to wrench blockers upright and hold gaps. He’s also shown to load ample power through his hips and fully extend with torque when attacking run blocks across the face. Young can throw blockers aside with impressive upper body torque, even without the aid of his base.
Even more impressive than Young’s power capacity is his play strength. This is a trait of Young’s that can be considered elite. The Alabama DT has the core strength to maintain a lever on blockers with long arms while re-exerting power with his off-hand. With his hand strength, he violently rips down anchors and breaks free into gaps.
Going further, Young has the core and hand strength to swim over off-balance blockers and crash into lanes after extending to lock out linemen. As a pass rusher, he’s flashed the necessary high-level play strength to pry his way through creases in double-teams.
Young’s strong leverage allows him to maximize his physical traits, especially in run defense. The Alabama DT very naturally acquires leverage, extending beyond his center of gravity and effectively loading extensions from his lower body.
Young comfortably plays with lean when extending into blockers and attacking the torso, and he actively works to get under his opponent’s pads. Young can naturally exploit taller blockers and wrench them off-balance with leverage acquisition and play strength.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Also prevalent in Young’s success as a run defender is his torso flexibility. With that, Young is able to absorb heavy power exertions from opponents. In fact, he takes it one step further and uses that expended energy and momentum against opponents. The Alabama DT can recoil against power and generate torque from energy absorbed, then rip free from extensions. This makes him hard to displace and hard to combat for run blockers.
With his hands, Young has shown to quickly load and violently unleash extensions off the snap, maximizing potential energy and power output on the attack. He’s very efficient in loading energy and making contact, and he has extremely heavy hands with his 11″ mitts.
Young has the ability to fully extend and lock out at contact, which prevents blockers from generating movement. He consistently latches under the pads and has the strength to rip down blockers as well.
In both phases, Young quickly reloads and re-exerts power after initial extensions. He’s especially proficient at extending into the torso and then laterally ripping inside blocks to invade gaps. Though he could improve his hand usage as a pass rusher, Young brings high energy and a combative mindset, and will consistently provide a second effort when faced with obstacles. He also shows excellent reaction quickness off the snap.
Particularly against LSU, Young’s upside as a pass rusher was put on full display. On the very first defensive rep, he had a violent inside swim, using his length, heavy hands, and explosive extensions to breach the pocket. Later on, he had an impressive double swipe-rip sack from 4i, slanting outside the tackle with his ankle flexion and long-strider burst, and using precise hand usage to wrench down his opponent’s arms while rolling his hips.
Later on in the game, Young logged his most impressive sack — a solo sack in which he led with a brutal forklift move. Once he started to gain penetration around the edge, the quarterback slid into the pocket. Young reacted quickly and showed his ability to stack moves, wrenching free from his blocker with a violent inside swim and swallowing up the QB. A couple snaps later, he did it again on a half-sack.
Young has exciting upside as a pass rusher, with a notable degree of alignment versatility. He’s taken reps from 5-tech and 0-tech, in addition to 3-tech and 4i, which will be his most natural alignments at the NFL level. At the very least, you can move Young around. He has surprising ankle flexion for his size and the hip flexibility to swivel from inside to outside leverage on blocks, baiting linemen into giving space.
In pursuit, Young provides utility as well. He’s urgent chasing outside zone runs and has enough explosiveness to take away space heading to the boundary. At the boundary, he has the size and reach to wall off lanes. Even off the snap, Young has enough lateral agility to shift gaps and clog lanes after deconstructing blocks. He also understands leverage angles off the snap and quickly swallows up zone runs in pursuit.
Among other things, Young flashes impressive recovery athleticism when deconstructing blocks and recalibrating in space. He’s not an elite lateral mover, but there’s reason to believe this is an area of his game he can further unearth.
Young’s Areas for Improvement
Most of Young’s improvement can come as a pass rusher, even after the glimpses of growth he showed in 2022. The Alabama DT doesn’t have a consistently elite first step and could refine his stance to load up more energy.
Additionally, with a frame on the low side of 300 pounds, Young falls just short of the elite raw power mark, and he doesn’t have high-end mass, either. Particularly from interior alignments, his power rushes can be absorbed and stymied by larger, stronger blockers.
Moreover, Young isn’t always able to sustain leg drive through reps. At times, he can better load power through his base ahead of contact. On a related note, Young drifts upright a bit too easily when stunting laterally and also sometimes drifts upright at contact, nullifying his base.
Athletically, while Young has more than enough explosiveness to be a factor as a pass rusher, he’s not overly agile or twitchy. At the moment, he’s primarily a linear rusher who lacks elite recovery athleticism. He also doesn’t have great change of direction in space, and he doesn’t always take tight angles when engaging plays in pursuit, although his flashes of ankle flexion suggests he has the capacity to.
Operationally, Young stands to further refine his pass-rushing skill set. The Alabama DT can be over-reliant on two-hand extensions as a pass rusher and can’t always stack counters off those extensions. His hands are reasonably fast, but he experiences erroneous motion at times and doesn’t always come with a plan past initial power exertion.
Young doesn’t always efficiently load into contact, and his placement can be imprecise and erratic at times. There are instances where Young feels segmented as a pass rusher. He needs to be more sequential in carrying burst into contact and maintaining synergy.
Finally, while Young has enough athleticism and length to provide utility in pursuit, he’s not the best athlete in space. Occasionally, he’s noticeably clunky and doesn’t have the pursuit speed to chase to the intermediate level.
Current Draft Projection for Alabama DT Byron Young
Young grades out as a top-80 prospect on my 2023 NFL Draft board, worthy of Day 2 capital. Though he’s still growing as a pass rusher, Young flashes immense promise in that phase with his explosiveness, length, power, torque, and motor. And he’s one of the best run defenders in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class, with coveted alignment versatility.
Despite being listed under 300 pounds, Young has tremendous play strength, natural leverage, and awareness as a run defender. He’s surgical at getting under his opponent’s pads and using his play strength to wrench open lanes. And his straight-line power — a culmination of his burst and length — allows him to blast linemen backward and disrupt blocking schemes.
In run defense, Young is advanced, disruptive, and a constant asset from interior alignments. While he could be more consistent as a pass-rushing threat, his brightest moments are extremely enticing. He has the power profile of a forklift with his natural leverage and elite proportional length, and he’s an explosive, tenacious rusher who flashes precise power exertion and ankle flexion when closing out rushes.
Young is one of those prospects who can only fall so far. Especially in an uncertain DT class, he’s a safe bet to go within the top 100. Young’s a high-floor NFL run defender in odd and even fronts, as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 tackle, and he offers the physical tools and temperament to become a venerable pass-rushing presence.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Byron Young
Strengths: Tough, strong, two-gap defensive lineman who flashes playmaking ability. Plays with excellent lean, gets leverage on opponents, and keeps his feet moving. Works his hands to protect himself, fires off the snap with a quick first step, and gets a lot of momentum going upfield.
Can be a load to handle, bull rushes opponents off the line, and gives effort. Plays heads-up football and quickly locates the ball handler. Displays solid change-of-direction ability.
Weaknesses: Plays more like a small-area lineman despite his 40 time and is ineffective in pursuit. Out-positioned easily from the action too often. Marginal pass rusher.
Overall: Young is a thick, strong gap occupier who does the little things well and offers possibilities on the inside of a four-man line or as a two-gap end.
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