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Draft Darlings: Adetomiwa Adebawore was built for Steve Spagnuolo

This hometown draft prospect would be an ideal fit in the Kansas City defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Northwestern at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During the run-up to each season’s NFL Draft, it’s common for previously-unknown players to “fly up the draft boards” after dominating an all-star event like the Senior Bowl — or flashing their athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine. Every year, multiple players suddenly find themselves in the first-round conversation.

In 2023, one of those players is Northwestern defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore. Here’s what you need to know about him:

Background

Coming out of North Kansas City High School, Adebawore was a three-star recruit who had just two Power 5 offers: Washington State and Northwestern. Adebawore chose Northwestern, playing four years with the Wildcats. In 2022, the media named him to the third squad of their All-Big 10 team.

In 2022, Adebawore set a career-high of five sacks, adding 38 tackles (27 solo and nine for loss). According to Pro Football Focus, Adebawore finished third in the Big 10 with 22 run stops and 16th in pressures with 31. His 22 quarterback hurries finished eighth in the Big 10. While his sack productivity wasn’t high, Adebawore did have some production as a pass rusher.

In college, Adebawore’s frame changed substantially. Out of high school, he weighed only 251 pounds — but at the NFL Scouting Combine, he checked in at 282 pounds. His frame is unique one. While he stands only 6 feet 1 5/8, he possesses 33 7/8-inch arms. Adebawore blew up the Combine, running a 4.49 40-yard dash (97th percentile) while turning a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump (88th) and a 10-feet-5 broad jump (90th). Adebawore ran his agility drills at Northwestern’s Pro Day, registering a 7.13-second three-cone drill and 4.26-second short shuttle. Adebawore put up an all-time performance for a 280-pound defensive end.

Film Review

The first thing that stands out in Adebawore’s film is his run defense. Whether it’s at defensive end or defensive tackle, his density and arm length make him a dominant run defender. He fires his hands into blockers very quickly — and with his long reach, he can move blockers around. Adebawore can also penetrate well, collapsing offensive linemen’s inside shoulders to collect tackles for loss.

Immediately upon arriving in the NFL, Adebawore will be a positive run defender.

At defensive end, Adebawore’s pass rush plan is built around power. While he lacks the ideal bend to threaten the corner, his power is overwhelming. Once he gets full extension into a blocker’s chest, Adebawore can crush a pocket with his explosive first step and strength. He combines this power with good inside counters to defeat leaning tackles. While his pass rush productivity isn’t great, he can sequence his power and inside counters to keep tackles guessing.

In 2022, Adebawore spent 47% of his snaps playing inside or over the tackle, so he has plenty of experience playing there against both the run and pass. While he is light for an interior lineman, he still handles double-teams and interior blocks well — and his length, quickness and power give him potential as a interior run defender.

But where Adebawore is generating excitement is his potential as an interior pass rusher. In college, he flashed the ability to win with both power and quickness. Against Ohio State, Adebawore dominated from the inside. He needs more work sequencing his moves, but his potential to win as an interior pass rusher is very exciting.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Adebawore was built to play for Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who would most likely put him at defensive end — especially in base. With his run defense (and his size), he could immediately be an early-down contributor on the outside; his length and power fits Spagnuolo’s preferred pass-rushing style.

His versatility would also help him shine in the Chiefs’ defense. Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Joe Cullen love to kick defensive ends inside to rush the passer — and Adebawore can do that. Cullen would be able to help add moves to his arsenal, unlocking him from multiple spots. In college, Adebawore was also productive on stunts. This would also make him a fit for the Kansas City defense.

The bottom line

Before the Combine, Adebawore wasn’t well-known. While his college production was mediocre (and his tape wasn’t outstanding), he dominated the Senior Bowl and put up an all-time performance at the Combine. Adding in his ability to play multiple spots on any defensive line, it’s not a huge surprise to see him get first-round consideration.

My grade on Adebawore is currently lower than where he’ll likely go in the draft — but that’s largely because of his 2022 film; as time has passed, I’ve become more and more impressed with him. I think Adebawore would be a better defensive tackle than defensive end — but in the Kansas City defense, I see him as a defensive end.

If he’s is on the board at Pick 31, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chiefs take him.

Grade: Round 3 or early Round 4

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