Gophers 2022 NFL Draft Preview: Mafe, Faalele, Otomewo, Andries and others

April 25, 2022The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off this Thursday. Gophers Boye Mafe, Daniel Faalele, Esezi Otomewo and Blaise Andries are expected to hear their names called and a few others could find themselves onto training camp rosters. I am here to tell you what people are saying about them all.

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Boye Mafe

After terrific performances at the Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine and Gophers pro day, Boye Mafe has established himself as a consensus top 50 player. There is an outside chance that a team falls in love and pulls the trigger on Mafe in the first round, but at the end of the day, I think he will hear his name called very early on day two. I have him as the No. 39 overall player on my personal big board, but it seems like the consensus sees him as an early day-two player.

Scouting report: “Mafe was a massive riser after he earned the highest pass-rushing grade among edge defenders during the Senior Bowl practices. He’s an ascending player who possesses one of the best get-offs in the class.”

  • ESPN:
    • 32nd OVR
    • 2nd OLB

Scouting report: “Mafe has prototypical height, bulk and arm length for a hybrid edge defender. He’s an explosive player with outstanding top-end speed for his size. As a pass-rusher, he has a fast takeoff, active hands, good change-of-direction quickness, impressive torso flexibility to work through contact and explosive finishing burst through the quarterback. As for areas needing improvement, he exposes his chest a bit too often, and his power moves tend to stall out too frequently. In coverage, he gets quality depth in his drops and shows good range in underneath zone. Mafe flashes the ability to open up and run with backs. Against the run, he has excellent footspeed and the flexibility to slip blocks and makes plays in the backfield. He closes extremely well in pursuit and stacks blockers effectively but frequently takes too long to disengage and can give ground when teams run at him. He’s capable of handling roles as a 3-4 OLB and/or 4-3 DE.”

Scouting report: “Minnesota EDGE defender Boye Mafe is a high-tools prospect on the edge who projects best to the pro game as a traditional 3-4 rush outside linebacker. Mafe offers great athleticism on the edge and his flashes of effortless movement skills in space are an easy sell when projecting his pro game to the next level. I do believe Mafe is more of a developmental player than a plug-and-play starter, but the trajectory of Mafe’s play with the Gophers has been on a steady increase for the entirety of his career with the program, culminating with a career year in 2021 with six sacks, nine tackles for loss, and 30 tackles (all career highs). Mafe has bright flashes of nuance at times but the consistency is where his NFL team is going to require patience from him as he continues to grow a better feel for the game, particularly in deconstructing blocks and being a persistent threat as an outside pass rusher. In the 2022 NFL Draft class, which is loaded with talent, Mafe may not be the commodity he would otherwise be, but this is a high-ceiling prospect who should not be overlooked in the middle rounds as someone who can be an every-down player by year three if the light bulb comes on at the next level.”

Scouting report: A three-star recruit out of high school, Mafe was the No. 78 weakside defensive end in the 2017 recruiting class and the No. 6 recruit in the state of Minnesota. He received three FCS offers (North Dakota, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State) and three FBS offers (Minnesota, Rutgers, Wyoming). Mafe committed to his hometown Gophers over Rutgers and became part of P.J. Fleck’s inaugural recruiting class at Minnesota. His mother (Bola) passed away from pancreatic cancer on Mother’s Day (May 2018). His father (Wale) and Bola were born and raised in Yorubaland in southwest Nigeria and moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s. His older brother (Dami) was a running back at Division II Minnesota State Mankato (2011-12). His older sister (Tayo) was a standout rugby player and competed for the U19 Women’s National Team. His cousin (Ayo Idowu) was a defensive end at Division III St. Thomas (2009-12) and had a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks. His cousin (Dayo Idowu) was a linebacker at FCS North Dakota (2011-15). Mafe graduated with his degree in Marketing Education and is working toward his MBA in Sport and Fitness Administration. He accepted his invitation to the 2022 Senior Bowl.

  • (Daniel Jeremiah)
    • 26th OVR
    • 6th EDGE

Scouting report: “Mafe is an ascending edge rusher with an enticing blend of speed and power. He steadily improved throughout the season, culminating with an outstanding performance at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. As a pass rusher, he has an explosive first step and his hand usage has started to come together. Early in the year, he was thinking too much and segmented in his movement. But as the season went on, he played much faster and connected his feet and hands. He can generate speed to power, and he is an excellent finisher once he gets to the top of his rush. He can stack blocks and hold the point of attack in the run game. Overall, Mafe is still a raw prospect, but he’s trending in the right direction and provides double-digit sack upside.”

Best fits: Listed at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Mafe projects to the next level as a traditional 3-4 rush outside linebacker. He obviously has the versatility to play as a defensive end, as he did with the Gophers, but any team that runs a 3-4 scheme, would be a great fit.

Five most likely teams:

  • Cheifs (No. 29, 30, 50, 62, 94 and 103 overall)
  • Packers (No. 22, 28, 53, 59 and 92 overall)
  • 49ers (No. 61, 93 and 105 overall)
  • Falcons (No. 8, 43, 58, 74 and 82 overall)
  • Seahawks (No. 9, 40, 41 and 72 overall)

Daniel Faalele

Faalele began this year’s draft cycle with serious first-round hype. He has since settled into a day two-player. His sheer size and athleticism make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire draft. The consensus has seemed to settle on him as a late second early third-round type of player. On my personal board, I have him as the No. 44 overall player. If he lands in a situation that is patient with his development he could be a steal in this draft.

Scouting report: “Faalele is the single most intriguing tackle prospect in the 2021 draft class. Not too many NFL hopefuls — let alone humans — in history have checked in at 6-foot-9 and 380 pounds like Faalele. And even fewer can actually move the way he does. He started playing football only five years ago and improved his overall grade every year at Minnesota to an eventual 79.7 mark in 2021.”

  • ESPN:
    • 60th OVR
    • 8th OT

Scouting report: “Faalele started 31 games at right tackle at Minnesota. He is massive with exceptional height, bulk, arm length (35 inches) and hand span. His top-end speed is below average for the position but adequate given his size. In pass protection, he kept improving with more game experience and allowed only one pressure in his final eight games. As long as he’s set with balance, there’s no moving him with a power rush. He’s a $20 cab fare to get around in pass pro, and he flashes heavy hands when he connects, but his hand placement still needs a lot of work. He also frequently oversets and gives up the inside move. Faalele has surprisingly good short-area quickness to establish initial positioning and the size to wall-off defenders in the run game. However, despite a massive frame, he’s not a glass-eater as a run blocker. There’s not a lot of snap in his hands or explosive power at the point of attack. He also loses balance and lunges too frequently, which leads to falling off blocks.”

  • Draft Network:
    • 62nd OVR
    • 5th OT

Scouting report: “Daniel Faalele projects as a viable starting offensive tackle at the NFL level despite some areas of improvement needed throughout his game. Faalele is a freakishly large athlete for the game and moves with more agility and grace than you’d ever expect from a man of his stature. Add in his raw size and it is clear that Faalele offers the “unteachable” dynamics of the position and will likely be coveted as a result of having all the tools in the toolbox and simply needing refinement on his technique. Opting out of the 2020 college football season cost Faalele some valuable repetitions in his player development, but nevertheless, he’s continued to show enough instinct and feel for the position in his return to the field in 2021 for teams to have comfort that he’s still simply scratching the surface of what he can be as a blocker. Given Faalele’s relative inexperience to the game—he was a former rugby player who has only three seasons of starting experience at Minnesota—Faalele’s ceiling is unquestionably high. There’s a dynamic of risk and reward here that needs to be weighed, but teams with accomplished offensive line coaches who are comfortable in player development should not shy away from the challenges that come with an investment here.”

The Athletic:

    • 66th OVR
    • 7th OT

Scouting report: “Humongous natural frame with rare build thickness and measurements (9 1/2-inch wrists, the largest at the combine) uses his upper-body power and massive hands to knock back defenders at the point of attack … generates steady movement in the run game displays the reach and grip strength to latch, snatch or put his target on lockdown before they can get to him … naturally stout and shows very little give versus bull rushers … moves with surprising balance and footwork for a player his size … excellent initial quickness to set up and stay well timed through the rep … naturally wide; it takes a $20 Uber ride to get around him throws plates around in the weight room and worked hard to reshape his body, shedding bad weight and adding muscle mass … a soft-spoken individual, but his coaches say he’s always smiling and has the mental aptitude required for the NFL game.”

Scouting report: “Enormous right tackle prospect who often feels like he’s going through an internal checklist of movements rather than cutting it loose and playing. Faalele has been able to overwhelm and move opponents with his sheer mass but might need a little more spice in his play demeanor to become a more willful, nasty block finisher against NFL linemen. He’s ready to stuff a face-up rush attack right now, but lacks the lateral change-of-direction quickness to succeed if left out on an island against speed. He’s played just four total seasons of competitive football so his instincts and technique will continue to sharpen. The key to Faalele’s NFL success will be directly tied to how teams accentuate his strengths and mask his weaknesses with coaching and scheme.”

Best fits: His 6-foot-9, 380-pound frame, makes Faalele seem like a project tackle to most NFL teams. He will likely not start right away, so a team that has the luxury to develop him for a few weeks before throwing him to the wolves could be the best for his long-term career at the next level.

Five most likely teams:

  • Ravens (No. 14, 45, 76 and 100 overall)
  • Seahawks (No. 9, 40, 41 and 72 overall)
  • Cowboys (No. 24, 56 and 88 overall)
  • Panthers (No. 6 and 137 overall)
  • Bears (No. 39, 48 and 71 overall)

Esezi Otomewo

When the 2021-22 college football season ended Esezi Otomewo was looked at as a possible riser, but a late-season knee injury held him out of the Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine and the Gophers pro day, he eventually was able to host his own individual workout, but the injury certainly did not help his draft stock. He seems to firmly be a consensus day three player, but in the right situation, there is no reason why Otomewo cannot carve out an NFL career.

  • ESPN:
    • 156th OVR
    • 13th DE

Scouting report: “Otomewo is a big defensive end with the strength to hold his ground and the length to press blockers off his frame. He doesn’t close well but chases with good effort and makes some plays in pursuit. He flashes violent hands rushing the passer. Otomewo doesn’t have ideal burst or change of direction for an edge. He flashes as an interior pass-rusher and can line up at defensive end in odd and even fronts.”

  • Draft Network:
    • 124th OVR
    • 16th EDGE

Scouting report: “Minnesota defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo is an intriguing developmental defensive lineman that offers prototypical size, length, and power to serve as a hand-in-the-dirt base end at the NFL level. The redshirt senior (not including added COVID-19 eligibility) prospect is someone I would still consider to be raw as a player, but he’s physically developed into the kind of body that you’d like to think you can find production from. Given his role in the Minnesota defensive front, I’m not sure this is someone who has been given a lot of opportunities to develop his pass-rush skill set and it would appear as though there’s some potential lurking under the surface to tap into. Otomewo is a powerful player with heavy hands and a lot of length. I’d like him best in a gap-control defense that asks him to stack and read blocks before implementing shedding techniques and continuing in pursuit of the football. Teams looking for organic pass rush help are probably going to need to search elsewhere, but as an early-down defender, I see plenty of appeal and even some versatility for Otomewo to step inside and help play as an interior defender.”

The Athletic:

    • OVR: 6th-7th round
    • 29th EDGE

Scouting report: “Long and physical with a frame that can continue to be molded … shows a base understanding of how to play the run flashes the ability to leverage the point, lock out and track the football … anchors and maintains his vertical depth when he uses proper sink and pad level … plays with the initial quickness that surprises blockers … makes himself skinny to leak through gaps and into the backfield uses his long strides to chase from the backside keeps his foot down on the gas pedal and stays dogged in his pursuit keeps the mental mistakes to a minimum (zero penalties in 2021) played on punt return coverage the past four seasons added almost 70 pounds since high school and has shown steady progress each season.”

    • Grade: 5.93
    • 26th EDGE

Scouting report: “Esezi Otomewo (pronounced uh-SAY-zee o-TOE-may-who) initially committed to Western Michigan to play for P.J. Fleck but switched to Minnesota when Fleck was named head coach of the Gophers. The three-star recruit from Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School redshirted the 2017 season and was named the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year for his efforts during practice. Otomewo was the team’s Outstanding Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2018 (14 tackles, two for loss with one sack in 13 games) and posted 22 tackles (five for loss with 2.5 sacks) in 13 games as a reserve the following season. He started seven games in 2020 (15 tackles, one sack), then earned honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference notice in 2021 (30 tackles, 4.5 for loss with three sacks in 13 starts).”

Best fits: At 6-foot-5, 285 pounds Otomewo is a traditional five tech defensive end in every sense of the word. Any defense that runs a traditional 4-3 defensive scheme would be the best fit for his skill set, but also any team that is patient in developing edge player talent would benefit his own development most.

Five most likely teams:

  • Titans (No. 26, 90, 131, 143, 169, 204 and 219 overall)
  • Colts (No. 42, 73, 122, 159, 179, 216 and 239 overall)
  • Bears (No. 39, 48, 71, 148, 150 and 186 overall)
  • Raiders (No. 86, 126, 164, 165 and 227 overall)
  • Vikings (No. 12, 46,  77, 156, 184, 191, 192 and 250 overall)

Blaise Andries

Andries was an incredibly productive offensive lineman who started 46 games throughout his Gophers career on one of the best offensive lines in the country. He started at every position on the offensive line in his career except center, including five starts at left tackle, 11 at left guard, 21 at right guard and nine at right tackle, his versatility will be coveted by NFL teams.

  • ESPN:
    • 312th OVR
    • 25th OG

Scouting report: “Andries is a versatile lineman who lines up at multiple positions within in the same game on 2021 tape. He gets into position and battles to stay in front of his assignment in the run game and pass pro. He plays high, leans and falls off blocks. He doesn’t have the foot speed to regularly reach front side defenders. He gives too much ground in pass pro at times.”

  • Draft Network:
    • 294th OVR
    • 29th OT

Scouting report: “Minnesota offensive lineman Blaise Andries profiles as a developmental offensive lineman in the NFL. Andries is a versatile player who has manned a number of positions for the Gophers; including stepping in over at right tackle in 2020 when standout Daniel Faalele opted out of the season. Andries is big and offers NFL size and length but must work on continuing to develop his body in order to offer a team with a profile that would be an asset on the field—he’s fairly lean and doesn’t offer a lot of functional strength and power in his game. If he can resolve his balance issues, he could potentially be a scheme-specific prospect at the next level too. The good news? He’s got multiple avenues to improve his forecast. The bad news? He’s going to have to put in the work and show notable improvement to see the field, in my opinion.”

The Athletic:

    • OVR: Priority free agent
    • 25th OG

Scouting report: Grew up in Marshall (same hometown as Trey Lance) and was a three-sport letterman at Marshall High. He earned first team All-State honors as a senior left tackle and was the No. 1 ranked recruit in the state. He was courted by national programs like Florida, Oklahoma and others, but the chance to play in front of his family led him to Minnesota. He was an iron man for the Gophers and started every game over the last four seasons, starting at multiple positions each year (played every position except center in college). Predictably for a math major, he understands angles and gets his hands involved to tie up defenders. However, his lower body lacks controlled movements and he isn’t a people-mover or physical finisher at the point of attack, leading to fit concerns. Overall, Andries is a smart, experienced veteran who works hard to position his run-blocking fits, but his below average contact balance lowers his NFL ceiling

    • Grade: 5.64
    • 52 OL

Scouting report: “Big lineman with multi-positional starting experience. Andries possesses an NFL frame, but doesn’t generate much push as a drive blocker. His athletic limitations show up when asked to handle move-blocking duties and with his gap-to-gap range in pass protection. Andries’ size and roster flexibility help his chances of finding a roster spot, but he lacks well-defined play traits to make much of an impact.”

Best fits: Andries also seems to be firmly in the day three tier of prospects. His 6-foot-6, 320-pound frame paired with his extensive versatility should make him a highly coveted player on the final day of the draft. I would expect him to hear his name called early on Saturday, possibly in round five or six.

Five most likely teams:

  • Bengals (No. 31, 63, 95, 136, 174, 209, 226 and 252 overall)
  • Packers (No. 22, 28, 53, 59, 92, 132, 140, 171, 228, 249 and 258 overall)
  • Texans (No. 3, 13, 37, 68, 80, 108, 183, 205, 207, 245 overall)
  • Titans (No. 26, 90, 131, 143, 169, 204 and 219 overall)
  • Vikings (No. 12, 46,  77, 156, 184, 191, 192 and 250 overall)

Undrafted free agents (UDFAs):

The Gophers had nine other players compete in their pro-day in mid-March. It is unlikely that any of them hear their name called at this week’s draft, but there is still a solid chance some of them sign as UDFAs and find themselves on an NFL rookie minicamp or training camp roster. The Athletic ranked the top ~200 prospects at each position, so I ranked the Gophers in the chances that I think they end up getting signed.

1. Sam Schlueter

  • 43rd OT

2. Ko Kieft

  • 60th TE

3. Nyles Pinckney

  • 46th DT

4. Jack Gibbens

  • 106th LB

5. Coney Durr

  • 134th CB

6. Phillip Howard

  • 87th CB

7. Micah Dew-Treadway

  • 76th DT

8. Bishop McDonald

  • 154th CB

9. Justus Harris

  • 191st CB

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