Alabama’s 2023 NFL Draft class is stacked, and the scouting report of DT Byron Young only adds to its pedigree. Young has been a contributor on Alabama’s defensive front for four years. Now, he’s set to make the leap to the NFL. At the next level, how does he project?
Byron Young NFL draft profile
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 one.
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. Now, in 2022, Young has established himself as a high-level SEC defender. He’s a handful in the trenches for every team the Crimson Tide faces, and his potential is hard to ignore, especially for evaluators.
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’3″, 292 pounds
Byron Young scouting report
Young is an especially productive run-stopper, and the stats reflect that. But does he offer the three-down utility and upside that teams seek in the modern NFL? Let’s dive into the tape and find out.
At 6’3″, 292 pounds, and arms near 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 has a good burst off the line and flashes excellent 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 also flashes impressive foot speed off the line, which he can use 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 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 he can 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 can violently rip down anchors and break free into gaps.
Furthermore, Young has the core and hand strength to swim over off-balance blockers and crash into lanes after extending to lock out linemen. And 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. He can extend beyond his center of gravity and effectively load 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.
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 he can 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.
The Alabama DT is able to fully extend and lock out, 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 can quickly re-load and re-exert power after initial extensions. He’s especially proficient at extending into the torso and then laterally ripping inside blocks to invade gaps. Though he can improve his hand usage as a pass rusher, he 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.
Young has a notable degree of alignment versatility. He’s taken pass-rushing 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, however, you can move Young around. He does have a modest degree of ankle flexion, and he has 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. But even off the snap, he has enough lateral agility to shift gaps and clog lanes after deconstructing blocks. He also understands leverage angles off the snap and can quickly swallow 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. The Alabama DT doesn’t have a consistently elite first step and can refine his stance at times to load up more energy.
Additionally, with a frame on the low side of 300 pounds, Young doesn’t quite have elite quantifiable raw power. 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, he 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 great recovery athleticism. He also doesn’t have great change-of-direction in space, and he can’t always take tight angles when engaging plays in pursuit. Furthermore, Young lacks the necessary level of ankle flexion to consistently test angles when stunting outside.
Operationally, Young stands to further refine his pass-rushing skill set as well. 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 has erroneous motion at times.
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 to provide utility in pursuit, he’s not the best athlete in space. He’s noticeably clunky at times and doesn’t have the pursuit speed to chase to the intermediate level.
Current draft projection for Alabama DT Byron Young
Young has been a steady producer for his entire career at Alabama. There’s reason to believe he’ll have a similar impact for an NFL team. Day 2 capital is a possibility for Young. Though he’s not a high-level pass-rushing presence, Young does have the physical traits to buoy growth in that department. And he’s one of the best run defenders in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class.
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 stands to improve as a pass rusher, he does offer some modest alignment versatility. Improving his hand usage and upper-lower synergy will be key, but Young does have the explosiveness, power, and strength to build a respectable pass-rushing profile.
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 picks. He’s a high-floor NFL run defender in odd and even fronts, and he offers the physical tools and temperament to supplement growth as a pass rusher.