For the past two years, Tennessee EDGE Byron Young has been one of the SEC’s most productive pressure generators. It stands to reason that his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report is very much worth keeping an eye on.
Byron Young NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Edge Rusher
- School: Tennessee
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’3″, 245 pounds
Young’s path has been a winding one. But the destination is all that matters on the path to the NFL. And with the winter months rolling past, Young finds himself right where he wants to be: On the doorstep of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Hope was harder to come by early on for Young. His high school career didn’t open many doors, and while an opportunity at Gulf Coast Prep Sports Academy in Alabama seemed fruitful, that school would fold in 2018, leaving Young once again without a path forward.
Young worked as an assistant manager at Dollar General and also worked part-time at Burger King, accruing working experience as his football dream continued to fade. But a tryout opportunity at JUCO school Georgia Military College provided an in. And from there, Young couldn’t be stopped on his path to the FBS.
COVID interrupted the recruiting process for Young, but he remained persistent, sending his JUCO film to countless programs. And soon enough, interest began to bloom. It started with Old Dominion and South Alabama, but it wasn’t long before SEC programs reached out as well.
Young ultimately chose Tennessee as his FBS destination. And he didn’t let that opportunity go to waste. The Volunteers star played two seasons at Tennessee, amassing 10.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss across the 2021 and 2022 campaigns.
Byron Young Scouting Report
It once seemed unattainable, but now, the NFL is waiting for Young with open arms. He has a future waiting for him in the league — but how does he project, and what impact can he provide?
Young is relatively light and lean for an edge rusher, but he has a compact, well-leveraged frame with good proportional length. His arms should measure over 33″ long, and with his unique build, he can play as a standup EDGE or from 3-point and 4-point stances.
Young’s size, however, doesn’t stand out on film. What does stand out is his visible athleticism. He has good initial explosiveness upfield and can reach the apex quickly with urgent strides and foot speed. He flashes high-end long-strider acceleration to the apex and can widen his strides to compound his explosiveness.
Along with his long-strider burst to the apex, Young brings exceptional lateral agility and twitch. He has the lateral agility to stunt inside and surge through gaps after starting from wide alignments, and he’s able to quickly vary his strides to work tackles off-balance while moving upfield.
Young is an amped-up rusher who can increase his tempo with suddenness, putting to use excellent foot speed and twitch in tight spaces. In fact, his constant foot motion and leg churn, combined with active length usage, makes him very hard to gather.
Young doesn’t quite have elite bend, but that’s another strong point of his game. The Tennessee EDGE has high-level ankle flexion. He can play with impressive lean while scraping past tackles and can corner tight angles at the apex. To that end, he has the ankle flexion to accelerate through interior gaps while peeling around responding blockers.
A rare, snappy brand of flexibility comes with Young’s play style. At times, he appears a bit stiff, but he can suddenly align his hips, forklift blockers up, then dip inside and pinch the pocket. That flexibility serves as an accelerant for Young’s power element.
While not overly powerful from a raw physicality standpoint, Young has shown he can leverage his hips and length into power exertions and shove tackles upright with violent long arms. His hands have good knock-back power at contact, and he can effectively maximize power output with functional leg drive and extension inside the torso.
Young flashes decent play strength for his size, as his length allows him to pry past blockers and enter the backfield. But the natural leverage afforded to him by his frame is a more important component. With his frame, Young can effortlessly acquire leverage off the snap. He can very easily get under blockers, thereby opening a window to activate power or bend on rushes.
He’s explosive, bendy, amped-up, and brings enough power. And time and time again, active hand usage allows Young to maximize this well-rounded trait framework. The Tennessee EDGE can effectively stack counters and can reset his hands quickly after stalled power rushes, swimming around blockers with second-effort rushes.
Young is able to use his length to hook inside offensive tackles after baiting them upfield, then wrench his way into the pocket. He also has a long-arm-rip move outside and proactively uses his length to bat away attempted extensions while stunting inside.
As a stunter, Young has good spatial awareness. He can play with cushion until gaps open, then explode downhill, preventing tackles from getting hands-on. But as a traditional rusher around the edge, he’s also shown he can multitask while using bend to corner at the apex. He can levy a cross-chop and pry away blockers while entering the pocket.
Many elements of Young’s profile work in conjunction with one another, and his red-hot motor heavily weighs this equation. Young is an extremely high-motor rusher who doesn’t relent after facing initial contact. He times the snap well, routinely gets a good jump on the ball, and consistently brings second and third-effort energy.
In pursuit, Young has good speed and a great closing burst. His closing speed, length, and motor all mix to form a dangerous combination for quarterbacks. When unblocked, he brings relentless energy downhill. However, he’s also shown he can read option plays with patience and discipline, and run down QB keepers. He manages congestion with short, energetic bursts but has the control to square up, extend, and drive back blockers.
Young’s Areas for Improvement
Young’s scouting report has a lot working in his favor. But aside from his motor, Young might not have a quantifiably elite trait. He doesn’t quite have elite initial explosiveness, as he can’t always surpass tackles to the apex and needs a runway to gear up.
At the apex, while Young brings excellent ankle flexion, his composite bend is also less than elite. At times, his hips appear stiff when attempting to corner. His frame is a bit high-cut and sometimes impedes his ability to roll his hips through blocks. This slight hip stiffness also impedes his ability to change direction quickly in space at times.
With his leaner lower body and lesser overall mass, Young visibly lacks elite power and displacement capacity, and his leg drive can be easily stalled by larger blockers. Moreover, he lacks the elite play strength to consistently pry free from anchors when initial power rushes are stalled.
Young’s utility is visibly lower as a run defender in the trenches. While he brings good energy and has a serviceable profile with his length and leverage, he can be more easily walled off by tackles as a play-side run defender.
Young isn’t going to consistently prevent displacement at the line and can be flushed out by double teams. He can be moved off his spot relatively easily and lacks the strength to set a strong edge consistently.
Operationally, Young sometimes diverts too far upright at contact and fails to fully channel his leg drive with proper leverage — an issue that his hip stiffness can contribute to. He also sometimes loses his balance while attempting to work around the apex. In these instances, longer tackles can outreach and displace him.
As a rusher, Young sometimes fails to counter after initial power exertions, and he can be quicker to divert inside and adapt if lanes open up. While he’s shown he can effectively stack counters, he can still seek greater consistency here without an elite power element.
Elsewhere, Young’s pursuit speed isn’t quite elite against faster ball carriers. And at times, he can do a better job maintaining angle discipline and wrapping up as a tackler.
Current Draft Projection for Tennessee EDGE Byron Young
On my board, Young grades out as a late Day 2 talent who could end up being a priority Day 3 prospect. There are several cosmetic factors that may work against Young down the stretch. But a strong Senior Bowl showing can solidify his stock, and on tape, he shows off a skill set that holds value in the NFL.
Young is undersized relative to other edge rushers, and he’ll also be a 25-year-old rookie, thus limiting the number of prime years he’ll have at the next level. But within that overaged profile are strengths that NFL teams may covet in Young.
Young battled through adversity and worked his way up through the JUCO ranks. He earned all of the success he experienced at Tennessee. That maturity and that ability to work through adversity and produce is a quality that will endear him to NFL teams, regardless of his age.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Order
As a pure talent, Young has a very intriguing ceiling. His utility as a run defender may never be overwhelming, but he has exciting upside as a pass-rushing specialist with his mix of explosiveness, bend, twitch, proportional length, natural leverage, and motor.
This is by no means a comparison because they’re very different players — but in terms of projection and impact, Young could go on to follow a similar path to 2022 Jets fourth-round pick Micheal Clemons. Clemons was another over-aged rookie, but he was drafted early on Day 3 and went on to make a solid rotational impact in his first season.
Young can be that strong rotational EDGE piece for a team in a modern NFL where pass-rushing depth is truly invaluable. He best fits as a 3-4 OLB but can be versatile with his stances and could grow into an above-average starter with more strength and hand usage development.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Byron Young
Strengths: Undersized collegiate edge rusher who made several plays behind the line of scrimmage the past two seasons. Plays with outstanding pad level, displays good change-of-direction ability, and immediately alters his angle of attack.
Effective rushing the passer out of a three-point stance or standing over tackle, plays with a lot of quickness, and is fast up the field. Fluid moving laterally and easily gets out to the flanks to make plays in space. Fluid if asked to twist or stunt, agile, and shows speed in backside pursuit. Turned in a great Combine workout.
Weaknesses: Easily knocked off balance by the initial block or controlled by a single opponent. Will be a liability against the run out of a three-point stance on Sundays. Rarely asked to make plays in reverse.
Overall: Young has terrorized the opposition two seasons running and combined for 23.5 TFLs as well as 12.5 sacks. He’s an explosive pass rusher who must get bigger and stronger as well as learn to make plays in coverage, yet comes with much upside.
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