Payton Turner NFL Draft Overview
Position: Edge Defender
Weight: 270 pounds
Payton Turner Draft Profile
Payton Turner has demanded the attention of NFL scouts thanks to his prototypical size for a 4-3 defensive end. A three-year starter in college, evaluators are taking notice of the consistent improvement Turner showed at Houston. His agility is impressive for a man of his size and him playing a premium position will also help his draft stock as Turner continues to trend upwards ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The defensive lineman suffered a knee injury his senior year of high school. His height and length had the attention of division one schools, but the injury, coupled with a lack of bulk to his frame, (217 pounds as a senior), resulted in minimal interest from power five schools. However, as a Houston native, Turner was located very close to the Houston University campus and the defensive lineman committed to the Cougars in 2017, and never looked back.
Turner bulked up significantly in college. He was rewarded with playing time and recorded ten tackles, a sack, and an interception as a freshman. Turner then bulked up even more in order to start on the interior as a sophomore, getting up to a playing weight of 290 pounds. He started on the interior for the Cougars as a sophomore and junior and made over 40 tackles in two seasons. As a senior, Turner trimmed, returned to the edge, and enjoyed his best season in college. He recorded 25 total tackles and an impressive five sacks in just five games during the shortened 2020 season.
- Above average prototypical size for a base 4-3 defensive end
- Progressed every season at Houston; there is plenty of upside with further development
- Explosive get-off for his size
- Athletic and agile bend off the edge
- Good closing speed
- Relentless and shows good work ethic, hustle, and pursuit
- Plays a little upright; needs a more consistent pad level
- Lacks counter-moves to adjust in pass-rush
- Has a history of injuries (knee and ankle)
- Not a pure speed rusher but explosiveness and good initial burst makes up for lack of sustained speed and elite bend
- Needs to further develop a pass rush skill set to stay on the edge or bulk up again and play on the inside
NFL Comparison: Romeo Okwara
Okwara entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but has developed into a pass-rush specialist who can assist in the run game. At 6’-4″ and 274 pounds Okwara sets a strong edge and relies on his strength to beat blockers as a pass rusher. However, he has also learned how to use his hands more effectively in recent years. Okwara still plays fairly upright but is relentless in his effort and has been a productive defensive end, and had 10 sacks in 2020.
Teams With Need at Position: Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings.
Projection: Second Round
Bottom Line on Payton Turner
The 2021 draft class may lack top tier edge rush prospects, but there is a lot of depth and many prospects have huge upside. Payton Turner fits in that category as a versatile, athletic defensive end with a lot of potential in the right scheme. He projects as a 4-3 defensive end courtesy of his productive senior year as an edge rusher for Houston. Without that production in his final season, many teams might have preferred Turner to bulk back up to his sophomore and junior playing weight when the lineman played on the interior.
The nuances of pass rushing are missing from Turner’s game. He needs to be coached up on ways he can use his hands more efficiently. Turner also needs to develop counter moves so he can avoid getting locked onto opposing offensive linemen. He will face lengthier linemen at the pro level and he will need a more well rounded pass rush skill set. He does show a lot of hustle and is committed to playing through the snap. However, he does get stuck on blocks when he doesn’t win the rep initially.
However, the arrow is trending upwards for Turner and he won’t be waiting long to hear his name called. His production as a senior most likely moved him up draft boards. The perceived weaknesses in his game are not due to a lack of athleticism. Coaches will love working with the physical tools Turner possesses. While Turner’s skills need refinement, good coaching and reps should help him further develop as a rookie. The upside of Turner could even be enough for him to sneak into the back end of the first round due to teams putting a premium on edge rushers.