The 2022 NFL Draft saw the Seahawks select edge rushers in Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith in the second and fifth rounds respectively. The Minnesota and Ohio State alums are going to be battling for snaps all throughout training camp and the preseason. Mafe certainly has the early edge based on his draft positioning, however their skillsets do somewhat bridge that gap between the two. Down below we are going to look at what both players bring to the table and who is more likely to be higher on the depth chart come the start of the season.
Minnesota Edge Boye Mafe’s hands never stop working pic.twitter.com/sDrNJ971Hq— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) February 16, 2022
Tyreke Smith is going to be a PROBLEM in the Big Ten pic.twitter.com/ETuhfi9XXI— BuckeyeUpdates (@Buckeyeslife247) June 29, 2021
I know Trevor Penning bullied a few dudes this week but this was an impressive rep from Tyreke Smith from Ohio State. Swipes the elbow and slightly drops his shoulder while running the arc. pic.twitter.com/TaKISfV035— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 4, 2022
When studying Mafe and Smith after the draft there were two things that immediately popped off of the screen, the first being their hand usage. They both possess extremely quick and intelligent hands with an ability to swipe/strike and swim quickly which takes blockers out of the play. On the first play from Mafe we see a really strong and quick push and pull move where he strikes the blocker with both hands, disengages from them and then immediately pulls and swims off of it giving him a straight shot at the quarterback. On the second play for the former Golden Gopher, we see him immediately chop #79’s outside hand which he pairs with a vicious push knocking him to the ground. Mafe did contact him in the head which did help knock the tackle off balance, but the hand usage is shown throughout the play in its overall speed, power and relentlessness.
The first play for Smith really highlights some of what he brings to the table overall as a pass rusher. He incorporates a quick jab step but then shows how quick his hands are by swiping the blockers inside hand and bringing his outside hand over the top for a quick swim move. On the second play which comes against Trevor Penning, who the New Orleans Saints took 19th overall in the draft, the Ohio State alum is able to quickly swipe Penning’s hands once he flashes them. He then shows off some of his athleticism on the play by dipping around him and getting in the backfield with speed.
So Boye Mafe is damn explosive, extremely quick and twitchy and he shows it on this rep. pic.twitter.com/tCdGtrxDlt— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) February 2, 2022
Cope phase 15: Cheering up watching Boye Mafe (#34). Hyperactive hands, inside-outside versatility, turbo charged closing speed. Plan ain't always there but the tools sure are. pic.twitter.com/ei3Vt3cuCR— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) April 30, 2022
Tyreke Smith was the best player on the field last night pic.twitter.com/AKPKw65Hbw— Colton Denning (@Dubsco) October 31, 2021
Tyreke Smith got held and still chased down the QB for the sack. pic.twitter.com/R5WXIcTxde— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 9, 2019
Between the two Mafe is the better, twitchier athlete, but that is certainly not a knock-on Smith who is also a great athlete. Mafe’s athleticism pops on almost every single rep that you watch him take, whether that be in the Senior Bowl, practice or during a game. As a result of their athleticism Smith and Mafe are both very loose in their ankles and hips which allows for them to dip and bend around the edge. Both players possess chase down athleticism, which is something that is going to be key in a division that features Kyler Murray and Trey Lance, who are two of the more athletic quarterbacks in the league. Importantly, the duo is able to pair their fantastic athleticism with high end motors that enable them to make the plays highlighted above. They could’ve easily mailed those plays in by jogging to the spot, but instead they were determined to get to the quarterback which they did.
Quick first step
The more you watch of Boye Mafe out of Minnesota the more you like. I think his 10-yard split in the 40 will be one of the best among edge, wicked first step. He’ll be on the National team at the @seniorbowl coached by the @nyjets so we’ll get a good look at him. #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/jmEaQnb9jR— David Wyatt-Hupton (@DWyattHupton) January 27, 2022
Appears that Tyreke Smith is healthy again pic.twitter.com/UCvPllksfo— Buckeye Sports Bulletin (@Buckeye_Sports) September 7, 2019
In some ways their first step quickness is something that could get paired with their overall athleticism, however with how prevalent it is on their film I decided to highlight them separately. Smith and Mafe are routinely going to be able to attack blockers to their outside shoulder because of how quick they are off of the snap. This is going to be key at the NFL level, especially for Smith as it gives them another weapon to attack bigger, less athletic tackles.
This year, #Gophers pass rusher Boye Mafe is poised to make noise in the Big Ten.@DanielHouseNFL compared Mafe’s testing metrics to 1,318 defensive ends from 1987 to 2020. His closest athletic comparison is very interesting...— Gophers Guru (@GophersGuru) September 21, 2020
( ): https://t.co/0wGnlE8j2L pic.twitter.com/R5bIyL8pTo
The biggest difference between the two players is their overall play strength. Despite being listed at 261 pounds, which is four pounds lighter than Smith, Mafe does a significantly better job at both generating and using his strength throughout the play. Both players play with a high pad level which does make it difficult to gain leverage on blockers, however Mafe does a far better job at getting into his lower half and translating speed into power as shown in the two clips above. Smith’s lack of consistent power is going to be more prevalent in the running game as he is someone who is going to get moved by double teams with relative ease.
On the other hand, despite Mafe struggling in other areas of the running game his ability to anchor down against bigger lineman is going to be key for him in receiving running situation reps. If Smith is going to want to become a key rotational edge for Seattle this upcoming season, he is going to have to focus on both his play strength and ability to get into his lower half.
Both Smith and Mafe are very good players who are in line to make a difference for Clint Hurtt’s defense this upcoming season. However, Mafe is certainly the one who is going to make a larger impact for the Seahawks this year. The second-round pick will likely slot in as the team’s third edge rusher behind Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor, whilst Smith will likely be the team’s fourth or fifth edge. Neither are going to make major impacts on first and second down or obvious running situations because of their struggles in the running game. Smith’s struggles to gain leverage paired with his poor play strength make it less likely he gets those reps over Mafe. It is easy to envision Mafe’s ceiling as 10-12 sacks for the Seahawks this season, whilst Smith is likely to max out at 5-6, which for a rookie fifth round pick is a great number.