2023 NFL Draft

2023 Steelers UDFA Player Profiles: Merrimack College DL James Nyamwaya

This is part of a series of scouting reports on the undrafted free agents the Steelers signed following the 2023 NFL Draft. Today, I will be profiling Merrimack College DL James Nyamwaya.

#99 James Nyamwaya, DL, Merrimack College (R-Senior) – 6040, 294lb


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
James Nyamwaya 6’4, 294lb 9 3/4 34 1/4 75 1/4
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
5.08* 1.75* 4.68* 7.89*
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
9’3” * 35.0* 14*

*Indicates Pro Day Results

The Good

— Possesses an NFL frame for a defensive lineman
— Has great arm length and uses it to establish first contact after the snap
— Can long arm and bull rush blockers back in the pocket
— Does a good job of using his length to shock blockers then shed blocks with a push/pull
— Has quick hands to defeat blocks
— Will execute a swim and two-hand swipe move as a pass rusher
— Shows good burst off the LOS to cause disruption
— Has the balance and body control to hold the point of attack
— Fluid and mobile athlete with the hip/knee flexibility to move easily in space
— Has the lateral movements skills to get into gaps against the run
— Plays with an outstanding motor, pursuing the ball until the whistle blows
— Often will chase ball carriers to the sideline or down the field from behind
— Still refining his hand usage, suggesting room for more upside as a pass rusher
— Offers positional versatility playing the NT as well as the 3-tech/4i

The Bad

— Played against smaller-school competition where he was the most dominant player
— Is a tad light in the pants and can stand to add more lower-body mass/strength
— Notably raw when it comes to hand usage and executing a counter move
— Will get stuck on blocks when his initial move fails
— Tends to rise up coming out of his stance
— Can play with a more consistent anchor against the run
— Can get physically stronger to win more consistently with power


— Redshirt Senior Prospect from Andover, MA
— Was born in Kenya and came to the U.S. when he was nine years old
— Played basketball and soccer before first playing football as a freshman at Andover High
— Spent a post-graduate year at Bridgton Academy in Maine
— Committed to Division III Curry College out of high school
— Saw action in seven games in 2018 and recorded 15 total tackles (10 solo), one tackle for loss, one pass deflection, and recovered one fumble
— Played in all 10 games in 2019 and recorded 60 tackles, four TFLS, and 2.5 sacks
— Lost 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic
— Played in nine games in 2021 and recorded 61 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble
— Transferred to Division I FCS Merrimack College prior to the 2022 season
— Played in every game in 2022 and had 27 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery
— Second-team All-NEC (2022), first-team All-CCC (2021)
— Business Administration major

Tape Breakdown

For those who hadn’t heard of DL James Nyamwaya prior to this, I can relate. Nyamwaya started his career at D-III Curry College before transferring to Merrimack this past season, a school that recently jumped to the D-I FCS level. He managed to earn second-team All-NEC conference honors in 2022 after his best statistical season with 6.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks.

When you plug in the tape on Nyamwaya, you see a guy who has the ideal frame for an NFL defensive lineman. He stands 6’4, 294lb with over 34” arms, hitting all the benchmarks the Pittsburgh Steelers look for in their 3-tech/4i DL. He uses his length as well as his quickness off the snap to get into opposing O-linemen and establish first contact, extending his arms and ripping off to get into the backfield. Here is a good example against Harvard. Nyamwaya engages the center and extends his left arm to shock back the blocker, then proceeds to shed the block and make the tackle.

He can string together various moves like the push/pull or the swim move, like you see in the clip below after getting hands on the blocker to defeat the block in pursuit of the QB. Nyamwaya clears the block in the clip below and wraps up the passer in the pocket for the sack.

Nyamwaya is a good athlete for his size, possessing the speed, explosiveness, and quickness to chase down defenders and provide a viable pass rush from the interior. You can see his twitch in this clip against Harvard below. Nyamwaya uses the two-hand swipe to clear the block on the snap, turning the corner into the pocket as he just misses the QB, who steps up into the waiting arms for the rest of the defense.

If you want to see Nyamwaya’s athleticism on display, just watch him run to the ball. His motor runs hot from snap to whistle as he relentlessly pursues the football to the sideline as well as providing chase from behind. We see the former in this clip. Nyamwaya gets into his gap on the snap, then sees the runner bounce it to the outside and proceeds to chase him to the sideline.

You see that combination of athleticism and effort flash on tape for Nyamwaya as a pass rusher, overwhelming blockers at times. As you can see in the clips below against LIU, he works around and through blockers with tenacity to get into the backfield and sack the QB twice.


James Nyamwaya is an intriguing UDFA signing as he is still very raw when it comes to hand usage, playing with consistent pad level, and executing counters, but has the measurables, athleticism, and motor you can’t teach. He profiles exactly what the team looks for in its base 3-4 DEs and has the pass rush chops to warrant consideration as a developmental piece that is just scratching the surface.

He will need to continue his development while facing a vast upgrade in competition, but Nyamwaya has the tools to develop into a rotational 3-tech in the league after likely taking a redshirt year on a team’s practice squad. The Steelers’ DL room appears set in terms of starters and depth, although a breakout training camp and preseason could help Nyamwaya unseat someone like Isaiahh Loudermilk on the roster thanks to his athleticism and pass rush upside. It’s safe to assume that Nyamwaya is a legit practice squad candidate and will benefit learning from the likes of DL Coach Karl Dunbar and Cameron Heyward as he tries to find a role in the league.

Depot Grade: 6.0 — Undrafted Free Agent

Games Watched: vs LIU (2022), at Harvard (2022), vs Assumption (2022)

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