A persistent, athletic edge rusher who racked up 16 sacks over the past two seasons, Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto will look to bring his excellent bend and speed to the next level as he enters the 2022 NFL draft.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Sooners’ dangerous defender:
Class: Redshirt Junior
40 time: 4.54
Bonitto’s greatest strength is his ability to bend off the edge, playing limbo with offensive linemen as he runs the arc and explodes straight to the quarterback. No opposing blocker had an answer for it, beyond holding him, and it led to Bonitto securing seven sacks last year.
Quick off the snap, Bonitto is like a lightning rod he attacks the quarterback, eliminating any leverage a tackle might have and forcing them to play catch-up on the go. Late lineman get immediately blown past and shoved aside with violent hands, as Bonitto exposed any blocker who didn’t respect his quickness and explosion. His counters are immediate and natural, as he reacts quickly and outmaneuvers the hands of the lineman across from him.
In the run game, Bonitto can defend across the entirety of the defensive line, making him a threat to make a tackle from any gap. He’s intelligent in recognizing the ball carrier and adjusting his path. He can quickly spoil a play if lineman are late getting hands on him.
Size could be an issue for Bonitto if he plans to play full time on the edge. Too often, he gets swallowed up in the run game by bigger tackles and tight ends. If they manage to lock onto him, Bonitto can be taken out of the play entirely. He will need to beef up or become purely a pass rush specialist in the NFL.
His raw speed and the toolbox that comes with it are his only real options in the rush, too. He hasn’t shown the ability to convert into power when he’s fighting with a lineman, and if he can’t counter the hands, he can get locked down for the entire rep. He’ll need to add some lower body strength, and be coached up on how to power through blocks, as well as countering them.
Bonitto should fit right into any 3-4 scheme as an edge defender. He’s lightning quick, and can start right away on passing downs. He’ll need to add weight to be a full-time starter, and teams might be hesitant to take a part-time player too early. If he can add the weight and power to his game, Bonitto can become a scheme-diverse edge rusher who can play full-time, and a team will be banking on that when they draft him. He’ll likely hear his name called sometime on Day 2 of the draft, due to his explosiveness, bend, and instinctual pass rush ability.