2021 NFL Draft: Malcolm Koonce Player Profile

Malcolm Koonce NFL Draft Overview

Position: Edge Defender
Height: 6’-3”
Weight: 250 pounds
School: Buffalo University

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2021 NFL Draft Profile: Malcolm Koonce

The smaller school prospects always face an uphill task to make it to the NFL. Malcolm Koonce has done everything he can do to raise his draft stock. The edge rusher dominated the competition his last two seasons in college. If used correctly by the team that drafts him, Koonce is certainly one to watch as a skilled pass rusher entering the league. However, doubts will remain over his size, play strength, and lack of versatility ahead of the draft. 

Koonce was only a two-star recruit out of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York. In fact, he received zero scholarship interest so chose to attend Milford Academy for a year. He still earned very little attention from schools but committed to Buffalo and contributed as a true freshman in 2017. Koonce made 16 total tackles that included one sack in eight games. 

The production increased a little as a sophomore in 2018. Koonce made 30 total tackles and three sacks. However, 2019 was a true breakout season for Koonce. The edge rusher earned a career-high eight sacks in 11 games for Buffalo. In his senior season, Koonce made 30 total tackles and five sacks in just six games to round out his career in college. He was named First-Team All-Mac two years in a row as a junior and senior. 

Strengths

  • Good length to his frame – uses his length efficiently as a pass rusher to disengage from blocks;
  • Flexible – can bend off the edge to the quarterback;
  • Aggressive to the quarterback – quick twitch and a high motor;
  • Has a lot of tools in the box – not refined but showcased a great feel for pass-rushing;
  • The arrow is trending up in his development.

Weaknesses

  • EVERYONE will point to the competition he played against in college;
  • Not a lot of functional strength – Firm strikes inside and technically sound blockers can end his rush quickly;
  • Offers very little in the run game – probably designated pass rusher in the NFL;
  • Very minimal reps in coverage and special teams; 
  • Bull-Rush rarely looked likely to get home. 

NFL Comparison: Markus Golden

Golden has graded out poorly against the run most of his career. However, he has two double-digit sack years as an outside linebacker. Drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Golden continues to play in the league predominantly as a designated pass rusher in obvious passing situations. 

Teams With Need at the Position: New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans.

Projection: Fifth Round

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Bottom Line on Malcolm Koonce

Koonce is a name to watch among the edge prospects. Coming from a school that plays in a weaker division makes the evaluation difficult but the sack numbers in 2019 and 2020 stand out. He’s easy to root for as well. A two-star recruit out of high school who took the opportunity given to him by Buffalo and ran with it. He’s fought his way onto draft boards and continues to climb as scouts take notice of Koonce’s obvious talent for getting to the opposing quarterback. Generating edge pressure is so vital to success in the NFL. Teams have to take a long look at Koonce whose pass rush traits should translate well to the NFL. 

The step up to the NFL will be a challenge. There’s the precedence of Khalil Mack coming from Buffalo, but that’s Khalil Mack. Koonce has a leaner build who needs to add more functional strength to his game if he is to compete consistently against NFL offensive tackles. His place in the NFL is likely as a designated pass rusher as he’s unlikely to offer much in the run game series to series. So there’s a lack of versatility. 

However, Koonce has positive pass rush traits and he continues to trend upwards heading into the NFL. He was one of the most consistent pass rushers in the county the past two seasons for Buffalo. Teams will like the length and agility that go some way to making up for his lack of prototypical NFL size. He can play in this league as a 3-4 outside linebacker and a pass rush specialist if the progression continues into the pros. 

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