From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today I’ll be profiling Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe.
#0 OWEN PAPPOE, LINEBACKER, AUBURN (SR.) 6010,225 LBS.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|40 Yard Dash||10 Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— High motor linebacker that seems to always be close to the football
— Good cleanup tackler, making second efforts to bring guys down
— Good communicator in the middle of the defense
— Has great feet that manage to stay pumping, never letting them die
— Outstanding physical ability posing a 435-pound bench press, and a 4.32 40-yard dash
— He is a high tackle number guy who isn’t going to disappear on the stat sheet
— Uses great power when contacting lineman in both pass and run
— Overall good blitzer with experience rushing from inside and out
— At 225 his lack of size allows him to better play man against slot players and running backs
— Constant motion in his zone confusing quarterbacks and forcing errand throws
— Tends to overrun plays laterally, making alleys for runners
— Eyes sometimes fail him as motion can move him out of position
— Lack of size sometimes causes difficulty shedding blocks against sizeable lineman
— Seems too often that he bites on play-action, allowing over routes and middle of the field routes to win against him
— Sometimes hesitates in the run game near the line of scrimmage, meeting runners two to three yards north of the line of scrimmage
— Uses poor angles sometimes when chasing ball carriers
— Born September 29, 2000
— 5-Star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN, Under Armor All-American
— 2019 FWAA freshman All-America Watch List
— Started every game as a true freshman
— Finished sixth on the team with 49 tackles
— 2020 Preseason 2nd Team All-SEC by Pick Six and 4th team by Athlon and Phil Steele
— Racked up 93 tackles as a sophomore
— 2021 preseason All-SEC First Team by Lindy’s and 3rd by SEC coaches and SEC media
— Selected as a team captain
— Missed eight games as a Junior due to an ankle injury
— 2022 Butkus Award semi finalist
— 4th Auburn player ever selected to multiple team captain selections
— Racked up 256 career tackles at Auburn
— 3rd Team All-SEC by Phil Steele
Owen Pappoe is a good, young, athletic off-ball linebacker who attacks the running game well and is quick enough to cover running backs out of the backfield, and even slot receivers. He has a knack for finding the football in both pass and run situations, so he’s a natural for the position. He could very well improve at shedding blocks. Although he’s great at the point of attack, he doesn’t exactly shed blocks well. He’s slightly undersized for the position, but his athleticism and aggression more than makeup for that. He racked up high tackle numbers in the SEC, which tells you at least he can produce on the side of tackling. He covers a lot of ground in the passing game due to his lack of size, but this is an era of football where teams are relying heavily on the passing game and using multi-receiver sets.
He’s best overall in the run game, due to his ability to always be registering tackles, but here is one of his few examples of stunning an offensive lineman and shedding to make the tackle. He lacks this ability overall, but to have this on tape, and for it to be against the likes of a Peter Skoronski is notable in itself. Shows you that the opportunity for him to grow in this area. Great rep here by Pappoe.
The guy is a menace when it comes to contact. He knows how to make guys not want to come back to his area of the field. Hard hits don’t entirely translate to good fundamental, technically sound defense, but hits like these a lot of times get your team the football back and any defensive coordinator wants a hitman like this directly in the middle of their defense.
The way he runs around the middle of the field, cutting off throwing lanes and confusing quarterbacks is extremely productive. This throw here isn’t the best decision overall by Bryce Young, but when you can watch the zone, and jump the receiver sitting down that’s one of the football plays you have to make and I have no inclination to think that he won’t be able to consistently bother throws over the middle of the field in short, or intermediate level throws.
His lack of size may be the key contributor to the fact that he really struggles to shed blocks on the inside, but this is a play he must make whether or not the guy is bigger, stronger, etc. He’s a violent player that has to find a technique or niche in order to figure this out, because if you can’t take on and shed blocks, while getting stops on the inside run, you simply won’t last in the National Football League. Rip, swim, snatch, cross chop, whatever he has to do he simply has to improve on not getting owned by guys on the inside run.
Many of the tackles that he makes on the inside run game, seem to look a lot like this. Instead of coming up the field and attacking guys head-on, and running vertically up in the holes, he gets flat-footed only to make a tackle after a three-yard gain. He has to realize that pro-backs will not just take the three yards but run around or through him for much more than that. He so much more than athletic enough to try to meet a guy in the hole and not miss. He’s about as athletically gifted as anyone that’s going to be tackling running backs in the gaps outside of interior defensive linemen.
I would be much more understanding of this if Pappoe was overweight for the linebacker position, but at 6’1 225, you’ve got to be much lighter on your feet than this. Daniels is an athletic quarterback I get it, but so is Pappoe and he can’t get broken down like this in the scramble drill. You have to limit plays like these especially as a linebacker. You really want to see him be more consistent when it comes to making plays in the middle of the field at the mike linebacker. When the play breaks down and you have guys running vertical and defensive backs have their backs turned to the quarterback for example, he simply has to make this tackle.
Overall, I do think Pappoe could play with a little more boom in his game. He has the natural ability and wherewithal to be a great linebacker in the NFL, but you would like to see him bring a little more aggression to his game. One of his major hangups is the inability to shake blockers in the run game. He even has a really underrated bend in the blitz when it comes to the passing game. So, if he gets to a point where he can get rid of blockers and make tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage it may put him over that threshold. His feet are really impressive because they never die. He’s always floating around the field and he’s looking for work. Whether that’s scanning the field in zone and jumping different throwing lanes or hawking down running backs. He runs through tackles and brings his arms, wrapping up really well bringing guys down to the ground. He has experience rushing off the edge and blitzing from the middle, so he does have a lot of blitz experience.
He sometimes gets in trouble with his eyes in a couple of different ways. Although he is good in zone coverage, he does at times get caught turning around and looking for the tight end or receiver the wrong way. That split second can give a guy five yards of separation. In the run game, he does overrun his gap making it easier for guys to climb up on him at the next level but he’s a multi-talented dude who can tackle really well and possesses the kind of athleticism it takes in today’s game to cover guys across the middle of the field.
One guy that comes to mind and Pappoe seems to mirror a lot of in his game is a guy like Mark Barron. Smaller linebackers but uber-athletic and good in pass coverage. Hard-hitting guys that can get you the football back and good communicators. Pittsburgh without question has a need for an off-ball linebacker and Pappoe may just be in the mix for a guy that can fall in their lap.
Projection: Late Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.7 – Potential Starter/Good Backup (3rd Round)
Games Watched: Vs. Penn State (2021) Vs. Alabama (2022) Vs. Northwestern (2020) Vs. Kentucky (2020)