Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 50: Texas A&M DT Justin Madubuike

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Eric Edholm
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Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

50. Texas A&M Justin Madubuike

6-foot-3, 293 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.90 — starter potential

TL;DR scouting report: Stout, slightly undersized penetrator with big flash ability. He might lack elite burst and refinement to become consistent Pro Bowl-level performer.

The skinny: Madubuike was a 4-star Rivals recruit as a defensive end out of McKinney North (Texas) High School, choosing the Aggies over dozens of schools, including Alabama and Oklahoma. He redshirted in 2016, was a key reserve in 2017 (2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one blocked kick) and then broke out in 2018. Madubuike was named the team’s Defensive Most Valuable Player that year, leading the Aggies in sacks (6.5) and forced fumbles (three); he also added 10.5 TFLs.

In 2019, Madubuike was again named the team’s defensive MVP and also first-team all-SEC. He led A&M in TFLs (11.5) and sacks (5.5) intercepted one pass (see below) and added one blocked kick. He then declared for the 2020 draft following his redshirt junior season and skipped the team’s bowl game.

Madubuike, who turns 23 in November, ran the 40-yard dash and performed the 3-cone drill and bench press at the scouting combine but skipped the jumping drills and shuttles.

Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike looks like a top-50 pick. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike looks like a top-50 pick. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Upside: Quietly one of the more consistently productive interior defenders in the country the past two seasons. Worked his way into the backfield and disrupted on a nearly weekly basis. Faced an incredibly demanding schedule, including several top-shelf offensive linemen. Good durability as he didn’t miss games to injury and was fifth on defense in snaps played despite skipping bowl game.

Plays with passion and energy. Respectable versatility, playing almost every technique along the line and on both sides. Good upper-body strength — 31 bench-press reps (with 33 1/2-inch arms). Strong, quick hands to shock blockers. Will work through blockers (half a man) and get them off their marks.

Uses leg drive to stimulate power, gains early leverage and has shown ability to stack and shed. Nicely twitched up for compact frame. Solid tackler — wraps up and doesn’t let go. Takes run-stopping duties seriously and cares about his craft. Uses lower center of gravity to his advantage, playing with nice pad level. Appeared more refined in his technical approach with each year in college.

As pass rusher, Madubuike displayed a nice variety of moves — speed to power, two-hand swipe, club-rip, push-pull, etc. Gets on the edge and tries to get vertical. Can win with quickness but varies his approach. Doesn’t telegraph moves and attempts to change up approach to keep blockers on their toes.

Licks his chops in one-on-one situations and wins at a high rate. Flexibility can’t go overlooked — can bend and redirect well for a big man. Those qualities showed up in a terrific red-zone sequence against Arkansas. After contributing on two plays in the backfield earlier in the drive, watch as Madubuike corrals the interception in traffic (good awareness) and shows nice athleticism on the return:

Watch as Justin Madubuike not only makes the pick in traffic but also runs it back well.
Watch as Justin Madubuike not only makes the pick in traffic but also runs it back well.

Downside: Average dimensions — a tad undersized for an interior rusher and has surprisingly small hands (9 inches). Despite showing he can stack and shed, that might not be as easy against NFL defenders with better length and quickness. Might not be as good a fit in odd fronts or two-gap schemes. Also played a lot on the nose in college but might be asked to handle that only in passing situations.

Left some plays on the field last season — still needs to improve ball-spotting ability. High-energy style will work against him on occasion when he abandons technique. Doesn’t appear to be a consistent effort issue, but he’ll lose initial leverage at times with poor leverage and footwork.

Lack countermoves as a pass rusher — if first move is negated, he often is stalled and can’t redirect and spring back as readily. Get-off can be very good at times, but surprisingly average at others. Defeated and drew stalemates against double teams but also got wiped out here and there.

Struggled head-up against Clemson’s powerful guard, John Simpson, especially with his strong initial punch — “He gave me a rough battle,” Madubuike said at the scouting combine. Best games tended to come against lesser opponents, even with flash plays against good teams. Committed surprisingly high (for a defensive lineman) 12 penalties the past two seasons — including several roughing the passer, personal foul and facemask calls.

Best-suited destination: Ideally, Madubuike would be used as a rotational contributor early in a one-gap, penetrating system. He still needs work to maximize his very good athleticism but has very nice upside.

Among the teams that could be interested in his services includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings.

Did you know: Madubuike was praised by his teammates for his affable demeanor off the field — a stark contrast to his on-field temperament. Several Aggies said he has the most distinctive laugh on the team.

Asked last year about his personality, Madubuike didn’t deny his teammates’ scouting reports.

“I like to laugh, I like to have fun,” he said last August. “I feel like I’m a little kid at heart. I like roller coasters and stuff like that, even though they probably won’t put me on one now because I’m too big.”

Roller coasters? It turns out he had trouble fitting into the last one he went on.

“I had to [shift] three times,” he said, “then I had to squeeze my thighs out to make them skinny, and they finally locked [the safety bar] in.”

They said it: “Newspapers? It ain’t 1976.”

— Madubuike, when asked if he had changed his reading materials after the Aggies gave up social media during 2019 training camp

Player comp: Madubuike has a style that is reminiscent of Cincinnati Bengals 2010 fourth-rounder Geno Atkins, who has far outplayed his draft status. One team also mentioned Oakland Raiders DT Maurice Hurst as a style comp for Madubuike.

Expected draft range: Top-50 pick, perhaps even sneaking into Round 1

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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