Why the Slide?: Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, Northwestern

Our “Why the Slide” series parallels and grew out our “Why Undrafted” series. The latter was created a number of years ago in response to your questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For both series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

In the months leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, some draft analysts were projecting Northwestern defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore to be a first-round pick. Adebawore notched five sacks in his senior year, flashed somewhat at the Senior Bowl, and put together a big combine workout. While I had Adebawore as a second-day pick, it was not rare to see him receive projections for Round 1. Hence, it was surprising to some when Adebawore slid to the fourth round.

In speaking to sources at multiple teams, none of them had a first-round grade, or anything even close to one, on Adebawore. A number of teams had him graded in the mid-rounds, so he ended up getting selected where many had him valued. At 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, Adebawore is very undersized for playing on the interior of defensive line in the NFL. He lacks the height, weight and length to match up against pro offensive linemen.

The Indianapolis Colts ended Adebawore’s fall in the fourth round, and they were a decent landing spot for him. The Colts are a good organization in terms of developing talent, so Adebawore is in a nice situation in that regard. However on the depth chart, he is stuck behind one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL with DeForest Buckner. Buckner is a tremendous three-technique tackle and interior rusher. Emerging young defender Dayo Odeyingbo also takes some interior pass-rushing reps. Adebawore will be a backup who rotates into the game to help keep Buckner fresh.

Given his size and smaller stature, Adebawore is too undersized to be a nose tackle. If Adebawore flashes in a backup role, he could end up being a long-term candidate to replace Buckner when he ages out. However, Buckner is a great player and is showing no signs of slowing down. Given his physical skill set, Adebawore might have a ceiling of being a rotational backup as a pro, regardless of the team.

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