The 2023 NFL Draft class features a stacked group of defensive players. One of the best international players hoping to hear his name called, Pittsburgh EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado, is a name to watch as the draft approaches.
While most of the conversation is often focused on the top names in the class, what does Baldonado’s scouting report suggest about his NFL draft stock?
Habakkuk Baldonado NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: Pittsburgh
- Year: Senior
One of the NFL’s biggest goals is to grow the game into a global brand. We’ve seen that transition take place over the last decade, and last year was a prime example of the rabid fan base which follows the NFL, even internationally. That global presence gives people in other countries a chance to live out the dream, and we’ve begun to see more and more international players in the NFL ranks.
Italian-born Habakkuk Baldonado is among the few international prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. A fifth-year senior out of the University of Pittsburgh, Baldonado’s path certainly appears unconventional when compared to a traditional NFL prospect’s route.
Born in Rome, Italy, Baldonado is a natural athlete, but football wasn’t necessarily on his radar.
“I started to do swimming,” Baldonado said. “I swam for seven or eight years. I did soccer. I didn’t like it. I did MMA. Then after a little bit, when I was about 14, I just discovered football. I started watching movies about it, college games, NFL games, I just got interested in it.”
Football in Italy is more akin to playing for club teams or some sort of AAU basketball program than the traditional high school or collegiate outfits in the U.S. It’s typically played after school or on the weekend. Despite having never played the game before, Baldonado was competing in the Italian Football League, the highest level of football in Italy.
With the next level of football in sight, rather than follow some players who have gone through Germany or the United Kingdom, Baldonado ended up 5,205 miles away from home in Clearwater, Florida, where he played at Clearwater Academy International (CAI). While CAI isn’t at the same level as somewhere like IMG, the fact Baldonado put up a staggering 30 sacks in only seven games raised eyebrows across the country.
The 6’4″ 251-pound pass rusher became a key fixture on the Pittsburgh Panthers’ defense while also becoming college football‘s first Italian-born player to step onto the field as a D1 scholarship player from day one, although he did redshirt his freshman year after playing in one game.
After playing in 13 games in 2019, but only four in 2020 due to injury, Baldonado found his stride in 2021 when he recorded nine sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 41 tackles. He was named second-team All-ACC.
In 2022, Baldonado started nine games and missed three due to injury. He totaled 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, and a blocked kick. Named to the All-ACC Academic Football Team, Baldonado was also selected to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl All-Star game.
Initially projected to be a later-round pick, Baldonado had a solid performance at the Shrine Bowl and continued his pre-draft momentum at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.78 40-yard dash with an explosive 35-inch vertical and a 10′ broad jump. Given the raw potential of Baldonado and his physical gifts, what does his scouting report say about his strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2023 NFL Draft?
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Habakkuk Baldonado
Strengths: Hard-charging EDGE that plays with proper pad level, consistently gets leverage on opponents, and fires off the snap with a quick first step. Effective with his hands, explosive, and chases the action hard. Fast off the edge, displays good change-of-direction ability, and displays himself as a difference-maker. Easily redirects to ball handlers and works to make plays.
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and is easily out-positioned by a single opponent or blocked from the action. Inconsistent get-off at the line of scrimmage. Coming off a somewhat disappointing season.
Overall: Much was expected from Baldonado after a tremendous junior season, yet he was slowed by injury that hurt his production last year. He’s a well-built defender who plays faster than his 40-time and can be used out of a three-point stance or standing over tackle. Baldonado needs to add more bulk to his frame, but he comes with upside.
Habakkuk Baldonado Combine Measurements and Results
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 251
- Arm Length: 33″
- Hand Size: 10 1/2″
- Bench Press: 21
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.78
- Vertical Jump: 35″
- Broad Jump: 10’0″
Pittsburgh EDGE Habakkuk Baldonado Current Draft Projection
The EDGE class in the draft is one of the deeper positional groups. Will Anderson Jr. might be the best player in the whole class and is closely followed by Myles Murphy, Tyree Wilson, Nolan Smith, Keion White, and even Lukas Van Ness.
Although not mentioned in the same category, Baldonado could come off the board quicker than some assume. Currently, Baldonado is the 125th-ranked player on Tony Pauline’s Big Board as the EDGE12 with a 3.53 grade and a draft projection that places him in the fourth round.
There’s no denying that Baldonado is raw, having played three seasons of Italian football before playing in the states. However, some of his unique traits are certainly tantalizing. He has size, length, and a natural athletic ability that needs refinement.
Given how quickly Baldonado adapted and learned the game, there’s no reason to believe he cannot keep taking further strides with some of the best coaching in the world. As to how high his ceiling is, only time will tell.
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