2023 NFL Draft: Raiders Select Alabama DL Byron Young on Day 2

Grading 2023 Raiders Draft Class: Byron Young A Reach At No. 70?

In my final 2023 mock draft for the Raiders, I tabbed Byron Young to Vegas… albeit 30 picks later than he was actually taken. Did general manager Dave Ziegler reach? Or does Young warrant such a premium Day 2 selection?

Grading 2023 Raiders NFL Draft Class: Byron Young A Reach At No. 70?

To determine Young’s future in the NFL, we must first look at his past. The third-round draft pick played sparingly across his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa before claiming a more sizable role in 2022. Young logged a career-high in snaps, sacks, and tackles in his final season on campus (via PFF).

The Crimson Tide standout appeared in dozens of games for Alabama but served primarily on early downs under Nick Saban. He shows otherworldly strength and a willingness to get nasty in a pile, using a deceptive first step to generate pop off the line of scrimmage.

Young Beefs Up The Vegas Run Defense Upon Arrival

Young often did the ugly work by eating up double teams and allowing his more gifted teammates to clean up tackles in the run game and pursue the quarterback as pass rushers. His ability to cover multiple gaps from the inside makes Young such a valuable piece as a run defender.

Young’s core strength holds up well the closer he lines up to center but not quite as well on the edge. Saban wisely kept the 290-pound bowling ball lined up inside, with Young rarely branching out farther than the 4-Tech, allowing him to generate pressure on the pocket from the interior.

Young’s best snaps vs. the run came as the defensive tackle on the team’s 4-man front. While Young struggled with maintaining proper leverage at times, he was a one-man demolition crew at the point of attack. He displays remarkably strong hands with an impossible-to-stop rip-through technique.

Young Gives Raiders A Deceptive, Versatile Pass Rusher On Day 2 Of NFL Draft

Young uses this method to impact the run game and also when hounding opposing quarterbacks as a pass rusher. He shines the most as a pass rusher when lined up on the end. The Alabama veteran utilizes a deceptive first step and dominates would-be blockers once he engages.

Young flexes the strength to walk back his assignment into the pocket and even has a few snaps on tape that show his ability to fly by slower-footed offensive linemen. Most of Young’s pass-rush wins come from out-leveraging and out-muscling his opponent off the snap.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with Young, however. The reason he fell to the middle of Day 2 is his tendency to disappear on a week-to-week basis. Young is not the type to post a jaw-dropping stat line every game, nor does he need to. He does plenty of things that will not show up in the box score, but it would still be nice to see more production out of such a high selection in the draft.

Lack Of Polish Likely Reserves Young To Early-Down Role As Rookie

Young, while strong, lacks a detailed plan of attack as a pass rusher. At present, he only wins with strength and a patented rip-through technique. This move will work in the NFL, but only if Young continues to add more tools to the tool belt. Otherwise, NFL linemen will chew him up and spit him out on passing downs.

As a run defender, Young’s aforementioned strength shows up in spades. He breaks down and handles double teams well, never trying to do too much. When lined up one-on-one, Young saw increased success breaking free but still struggled against physically-imposing assignments.

Young’s initial burst off the line is impressive, but he loses juice as a pass rusher the longer the play wears on. If Young is unable to corral the quarterback within a couple of seconds, he struggles to get home with any secondary moves. There are instances on tape where Young rips his arm through and re-accelerates, but they are few and far between.

Young’s Fit With Patrick Graham And The Raiders

So, how does Young fit with the Raiders? Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham covets versatility, which is the ace up Young’s sleeve. The fourth-year prospect out of the SEC is battle-tested and displayed the ability to line up as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT while even spotlighting as a defensive end on the 4-man front when asked to do so.

The Raiders employ Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby off the edge, and this year’s first-round pick, Tyree Wilson, will surely see several snaps outside in Year 1. Young slots in between this star-studded trio and should serve a similar role to the one he performed at a high level in college.

Young can handle double teams in the run game and give the Raiders a sneaky pass rusher from the interior. His overall strength is NFL-caliber and the intensity he brings to the locker room is desperately needed in Vegas. Young’s stamina and lack of pass-rushing diversity will probably pigeonhole him into an early-down role, at least to begin his career.

NFL Draft: Grading The Byron Young Selection

Young is the epitome of a “safe pick” on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. He will never become a superstar, but it is unlikely he fizzles out, either. The Raiders know exactly what they got with Young, which can be best described as “unspectacular but solid”. I will let you decide if that skillset is worthy of a Top 70 selection. According to my Big Board, it was a bit rich, but not enough to tank the grade.

Grade: B+

*Top Photo: Crimson Tide Photos/UA Athletics

The most underrated position group on the Raiders’ roster: the cornerback room


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