- College: Auburn
- Height: 6’0” | Weight: 225 lbs. | Age: 22.5
- Archetype: Field General | Modifier: Weakside
- Games Watched 2022: Penn State, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Alabama
- NFL Draft Projection: Late Day-2/Early Day-3
A top high school recruit at linebacker and a four-year starter for the Tigers, Pappoe is a familiar name for those invested in SEC football. A two-year team captain, Pappoe’s stats show a well-rounded production profile. Primarily operating on elite athleticism, Pappoe managed eight sacks and created five turnovers at Auburn. When you also consider that he missed a considerable part of his junior season with an ankle injury, Pappoe has tackle numbers commensurate with the top LB prospects in the 2023 class.
Despite earning a Senior Bowl Invite, Owen declined participation in the exhibition due to a nagging ankle injury. Potentially a missed opportunity in Mobile, Pappoe made up for it with a stellar NFL Combine performance. He ran a blistering 4.39 forty-yard dash with a 1.52 ten-yard split, both top marks amongst this year’s linebackers. He also performed above average in the jump categories and managed 29 reps on the bench. Athleticism was already glaringly present in Pappoe’s film portfolio, but always good to see the testing match the evaluation. Projectable traits are relatively obvious for Pappoe as you view his film. However, there are moments, specifically in 2022, where the play doesn’t always match the talent. Let’s dive into Owen’s film!
Aside from the apparent athleticism, Pappoe is a comfortable space player, sound in both zone drops and man coverage assignments. Additionally, when properly diagnosed, Pappoe is excellent at shedding blocks and making tackles in run support. A middle linebacker for Auburn, a move to weakside is likely for Pappoe as he moves to the NFL. A position that is better suited to his raw but tantalizing skillset.
Testing numbers are great, but let’s view that speed and explosion live. An early matchup vs. the Nittany Lions provided that, and as Sean Clifford begins to scramble, you see Pappoe reemerge into the picture. A jarring hit sends the fumble toward the sideline with so much momentum it, unfortunately, goes out of bounds. However, an example of the raw force Pappoe can generate with his lower half.
The area of Pappoe’s game that has come furthest, but still has perhaps the most potential growth, as Pappoe continues to mature. A fluid mover, Pappoe can cover plenty of ground, changes directions well, and has good spatial awareness in zone coverage. He can improve his blitz and pass rush technique but can eventually be an exceptional third-down linebacker.
The best show out against the best, and in the Iron Bowl, Pappoe was able to intercept the likely 1.01 in the upcoming draft. Unfortunately, both #81 Cameron Latu and Pappoe momentarily go out of frame, but Bryce Young is starring at this route combination, and Pappoe beats the tight end to the football.
With an elite combination of strength, burst, and speed, Pappoe gives us glimpses of the impactful early-down backer he can potentially be. Unfortunately, the flashes against the run were inconsistent in 2022, a problem we will discuss momentarily. However, he can effortlessly shed and disengage from oncoming blockers when adequately diagnosed.
First and goal, and an obvious run situation, Owen triggers a shade early and meets the blocking lineman at the line of scrimmage. With his eyes in the backfield, he maintains leverage and ground while he sorts out where the runner is going. Once the back picks a hole, Pappoe easily disengages and comes to balance right in front of the runner—a textbook example of Owen at his best.
An inconsistent run defender in 2022, Pappoe has all the tools to be an early-down force. However, too often this most recent season, he demonstrated poor eye discipline and inconsistent physicality and intensity. Expectations are always high at Auburn, and a disappointing season for the Tigers could’ve rightly contributed to a lack of effort and hustle in moments. Whatever the reason, Owen will need to improve as a run defender if he expects to make an impact as a rookie.
As mentioned, Pappoe is an experienced player with premiere athleticism while on campus. The testing at the NFL Combine confirmed that. As a result, Pappoe’s flash plays are as impressive as you will find in this class. However, some lowlights are as discouraging as the flashes are impressive.
While only one amongst a small handful, perhaps the most vivid example of a lack of physicality. Nearly the same scenario as a highlight ago, this time second and goal and an obvious run situation, but with far different results. Owen again triggers downhill early, but his eyes get lost in the backfield this time, seemingly forgetting about the oncoming blockers. #63 Sedrick Van Pran makes Pappoe pay for it, absolutely pancaking him and smothering him into the dirt.
Finding the football and sorting through the noise of formations and motions is becoming increasingly crucial for off-ball backers. In this regard, Ole Miss is a headache for opposing backers and edge defenders. However, that’s also a feature of some of the NFL’s best offenses. I found several moments within this game and the broader film where Owen looks lost in space.
A pair of plays here, and Pappoe is responsible for the running back in both instances. While he does cover his “assignment,” I think both snaps, one a QB read-option, the other a WR end-around, are exhibits of Pappoe’s difficulty sorting through the traffic and eventually finding the football. By the time he does in both cases, the runner is already well past him, and there isn’t a play left to be made. Teams will find and exploit these issues at the next level, and while not a weakness that he cannot overcome, there will need to be a dedicated effort to become more sound in this area.
- Upside Prospect Comp: Bobby Okereke
- Floor Prospect Comp: Brian Asamoah
- Rookie Position Ranking: LB4
- SuperFlex+IDP Draft Range: Round 5 or later
I think Day-2 versus Day-3 draft capital will go a long way in determining whether or not the NFL sees a prospect who could contribute in his rookie season. A player flying under the radar since the combine, Pappoe still ranks just inside my top 100 overall players in the upcoming draft. The athleticism and physical abilities are too tantalizing despite not always showing out as often as we’d like. Whether or not he is trusted to start and contribute immediately, I expect he will develop into a starting linebacker. While perhaps not a highly coveted Superflex+IDP draft prospect, Pappoe has the type of long-term upside worthy of a selection and season waiting on your taxi squad.
Thanks for reading #NerdHerd. It’s finally NFL Draft week, and few are more excited than the folks here at Dynasty Nerds. Be sure to check out all the great 2023 Rookie Profiles from our #NerdsStaff, and stay tuned for all the landing spots and draft capital breakdowns in the coming weeks.