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What Boye Mafe’s breakout means for Seahawks defense

The edge defender who kept getting better continues to get better.

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Boye Mafe’s draft profile has been realized in his second year in the NFL, almost to perfection.

The Seattle Seahawks sophomore pass-rusher has made a huge leap this season, with three sacks in his previous three games, and consistently ridiculous numbers in his pass-rush win rate.

Looking back on what the reports were of players coming out of college is a laughable experience almost as often as not, see Mitchell Trubisky or Kadarius Toney or any number of busts.

But listen to the projections of Boye Mafe from various sources.

His combination of rare explosive measurables with average fundamentals could make for a perfect storm of rapid development once he gets focused skill work at the pro level. His footwork is average and he lacks desired instincts as a rusher, but pairing efficient hand work with twitchy upper-body power could turn him into a productive rush bully.

The Draft Network:

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... 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. 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.

Pro Football Network:

The Minnesota DE has the raw talent to be a high-impact player, and at his peak, he could be one of the best edge rushers to come out of a historic class. There’s no doubt room for him to grow as a multitasking rusher. However, Mafe is already trending up in that category after a stellar 2021 campaign, and he has the physical traits worth banking on for an NFL franchise.

Daniel Jeremiah referred to him as an ascending player, worthy of first-round talent.

Mafe didn’t play football his entire life - he spent a year of middle school in Nigeria - but somehow has managed to continue progressing and hasn’t yet stopped.

He was barely recruited out of high school, redshirted freshman year, and didn’t play a full season until his final year at Minnesota.

The difference in Mafe and some of the other draft stories is that he not only possessed elite traits but a demonstrated history of improving, which is simply not true of a number of top prospects. To be sure, teams draft with hope all the time, but there’s not always a quantifiable reason to hope, if that makes sense.

Every year at Minnesota, coaches marveled at Mafe’s ability to get faster, stronger, and retain every inch of coaching they could give him.

Now, with two years of Pete Carroll, Clint Hurtt, and pass rush specialist BT Jordan, Mafe’s realizing that quick ceiling draft experts foresaw.

The result is it took only a year and a quarter for Mafe to become one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL.

Boye Mafe, the one who stayed.

It cannot be overstated how impactful Mafe’s improvement has been for the whole defense. Mafe has seen the biggest improvement from players that were already on the roster. The entire middle of the defensive line has been replaced, with Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and Mario Edwards all playing spectacularly. Uchenna Nwosu was already very good and has remained such, and Darrell Taylor has not done much of interest.

It’s looking every week like the three free agents up the middle are improvements over last year, but you can’t only rely on outside help. The big jump in-house has allowed the Seahawks to perform an absolute reversal from league-worst to league-best run defense, and the pass defense has locked in for consecutive weeks.

All four of Seattle’s edge rushers were taken in the second round, and it’s working out extremely well for them at the moment. Expect Mafe to continue his big year.