Former Gophers Crack NFL Draft’s Top-50 Overall Prospects

PHOTO: SHARI L. GROSS - STAR TRIBUNE

April is just one month away and, as the temperatures slowly begin to heat up, so will the NFL Draft process. The league’s offseason festivities kick off Tuesday when the best prospects in the draft meet up with NFL scouts, coaches and executives for the scouting combine in Indianapolis. The Minnesota Gophers have four invitees: Boye Mafe (EDGE), Daniel Faalele (OT), Blaise Andries (OL) and Esezi Otomewo (DL). On-field drills will be televised on NFL Network.

And heading into combine week (Mar. 1-7), Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com) updated his 2022 big board, where he ranked two of those Gophers in his top-50 overall.

#33: Boye Mafe – Minnesota · Edge · Senior (RS)

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.

#49: Daniel Faalele – Minnesota · OT · Senior

Faalele is a massive right tackle (6-9, 380) with surprisingly nimble feet and athleticism. In pass protection, he is quick out of his stance, does a nice job of staying square and has good vision/awareness. He doesn’t bend very well, but he’s still able to absorb power rushers because of his sheer bulk/strength. He does have issues redirecting to inside counter moves. In the run game, he flashes some power to wash defenders down the line, and I was shocked by his ability to reach/cut off on the back side. He also has good timing and feel on combo blocks, working up to the second level. There are some times when he falls off smaller defenders after initial contact. On the whole, Faalele reminds me a little bit of Orlando Brown coming out of Oklahoma.

The Rising Star

Boye Mafe is one of the rising stars in the early draft process and he’s jumped from outside of Jeremiah’s top-50 all the way up to #33. He was one of the biggest standouts at the Senior Bowl where he grabbed eyes of coaches and executives from around the NFL.

Boye’s rise will continue this week at the combine. Mafe might be the best athlete in a pass rushing class full of QB nightmares. He will run faster, jump higher and pump more than most of the EDGE rushers slotted to be picked ahead of him. Defensive ends and linebackers will run drills on Saturday (March 5) so that’s when you’ll see both Mafe and Esezi Otomewo will hit the field.

Can Faalele Gain Footing?

Daniel Faalele has the size and athleticism to be a first round draft pick and that’s why the scouting combine will be very important for him. He didn’t disappoint at the Senior Bowl but he didn’t raise his stock either. As with much of his career at Minnesota, he was somewhat inconsistent.

There are still scouts out there who would draft Faalele on day one so if he can impress during interviews and measure up to his HUGE 6’9″, 380 pound billing during the on-field drills, he could still convince a front office to take him early. Minnesota’s pro day, which will be held on March 16, will be crucial as well. Blaise Andries was the other offensive line invitee. You can watch Daniel and Blaise on Friday (March 4) on NFL Network.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan