From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections, and priority undrafted free agents. Today we’ll be profiling Appalachian State Edge Rusher Nick Hampton.
#9 Nick Hampton, EDGE, APPALACHIAN STATE (JR.) 6022, 236 LBS.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Nick Hampton||6’2 / 236||9 5/8″||33 5/8″||81″|
|40 Yard Dash||10 Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Impressive burst to create impactful force as a pass rusher
— Very noticeable speed off the edge
— Corners well with great bend and flexibility on the outside
— Does a nice job working his blockers out of favor with their momentum
— Nice collection of pass rush moves to produce and win effectively
— Capable bull-rusher who collapses pocket routinely
— Works laterally very well to follow and track ball carrier and put a stop to the play
— Versatility to drop into open space and make plays as needed, can work some zone coverage looks
— Strong testing numbers with the athleticism translating to on-field production & play
— Put on a clinic against Power 5 opponents this season showing play was consistently strong and not capitalizing on the level of competition
— Struggles as a run defender in regards to setting the edge and containing the outside.
— Can have issues disengaging from his blocker due to play strength
— Consistently attacks outside limiting his variance and making him a bit predictable for pass rush plan
— Tackling requires built-up momentum to be effective
— Undersized frame for an edge rusher and is thin through his frame, gets engulfed at times by bigger blockers
— Still needs development when dropping into coverage
— Birthday is April 5th, 2000 (23 years old)
— 2-star recruit out of Fresno, California, ranked 2387th national by 247sports
— 4th All-Time in Career Sacks for Appalachian State with 26.5
— 29 career starts, Team Captain in 2022
— Named to 2022 All-Sun Belt First Team
— 2022 Stats: 39 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 3 forces fumbles, 1 pass deflection
Typically one of the bigger issues for guys from the G5 level is trying to figure out how their tape translates to the NFL level. With Hampton, we got to watch as he put on a clinic in his games against Power 5 opponents. He does an excellent job overwhelming his blocker with a nice get-off and has active hands to control the engagement. Once Haynes King attempts to step forward in the pocket, Hampton capitalizes on his block control and closes on King collecting the sack.
Further along in the Texas A&M game is a rep that is a bit discouraging for the player that Hampton is as a pass rusher. He crashes on the ball well and sets himself up for a good opportunity to disengage off of his block once he gets his matchup on their outside leg with momentum. Hampton has controlled and shifted his blocker, but can’t disengage. That lack of play strength is a major shortcoming that is a detriment to Hampton’s game and must be improved upon if he is going to have a consistent impact at the next level.
Obviously its important to understand that there are defensive assignments for players to where if the call is wrong it could put them in a bad situation, but this play against North Carolina is a good example of work that will be critical for Hampton to clean up. He seems to be worked inside too easily on this play and completely gives up his contain. As a result, it’s a big run and an easy six. Hampton is a flashy defender, but as a run defender, he needs to do a better job stabilizing himself in order to hold ground and set the edge as a run defender.
However, Hampton always reels you back in on his tape with what he brings as a pass rusher. In the early part of the 2nd quarter, Hampton showed off just how dangerous he is with his get-off, as he explodes at the snap and corners extremely well to get into the pocket and put a sack on Drake Maye. Hampton is at his best against the pass, and plays like this show the upside he has is very intriguing.
Hampton is a speed rusher through and through but that doesn’t mean he’s just someone who can win attacking on the outside. In what was an absolutely dominant performance against James Madison, Hampton showed just how overwhelming he can be as a rusher as he generates good power to get his tackle off-balanced and blows up the quarterback in a play where he practically had no time to make a throw.
Hampton also isn’t just someone who wins on the outside with his bend, he moves laterally extremely well as he kicks inside at the snap and isn’t accounted for as a result, and blows up the quarterback who is lucky to get the ball out in order to not lose any additional yardage. Hampton is so quick flying around the field that even a blocker practically lunging at him can only graze him with his hand.
As a 3-4 outside linebacker, Hampton will need to drop back into coverage, and while he didn’t do a ton of it for the Mountaineers, he still showed some ability in space, and the athletic profile should transfer over. Here against Texas State, you can see Hampton work outside while laying a press on the slot receiver, then getting back to the tight end and making the tackle for a short yardage gained. Not the smoothest look, but Hampton should be able to grow into that aspect with time and coaching that prioritizes it.
And if you’ve been invested in Hampton’s pass-rushing upside, but are terrified of what he offers as a run defender, hold out hope because there are some good moments on tape where Hampton shows what he can bring. Here against Texas State, he works inside, sifts through traffic, and works laterally to track the ball carrier down for a loss of yardage. Hampton’s pursuit skills and lateral quickness will continue to play to his favor at the next level, if he can add on some additional weight and play strength, then there is real upside of a high-end player.
While this draft class is filled with talented edge rushers, Nick Hampton is up there with the best of them as a potential long-term contributor in the NFL. While he still has some areas to improve upon mostly relating to play strength, he also has plenty to offer as an athlete to where whoever selects him should be thrilled with the result.
While he isn’t going to be in the discussion with the top names of this class like Will Anderson Jr, Myles Murphy, Tyree Wilson, Nolan Smith, or Lukas Van Ness, I think Hampton has traits to have him in the discussion for the next tier of guys such as Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Isaiah Foskey, BJ Ojulari, Derick Hall, Will McDonald IV, and others. However, Hampton can probably be had at least a round later than the aforementioned names, which makes his value all the more enticing.
For the Steelers specifically, adding a player like Hampton into the edge rotation at mid-round value could have a tremendous payoff. With Highsmith’s future not 100% set, and Watt’s injury history, getting a third piece like Hampton as a great rotational option and someone who can step in and start when called upon could be an absolute steal, and an excellent addition to the roster.
Projection: Third – Fourth Round
Depot Draft Grade: 8.3 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: vs North Carolina (2022), at Texas A&M (2022), vs James Madison, at Texas State (2022), vs Georgia State (2022)