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Breaking Down DT Jaylen Twyman

A closer look at the Vikings’ 6th round DT selection

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 26 Quick Lane Bowl - Pitt v Eastern Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Vikings selected DT Jaylen Twyman from Pittsburgh with the 199th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Twyman was ranked 142nd on The Athletic’s consensus big board as the 5th ranked defensive tackle. Twyman seems to have more divergent rankings than some other prospects, with a few giving him as high as a 2nd round grade, while others gave him a late Day 3 grade.


While Twyman has a lower scoring athletic profile overall, he does score well on a couple measures important for defensive tackles, namely his explosion grades and 10-yard split, which are important for the initial burst that is key for a 3-technique, and his bench press reps, which were outstanding at 40.

College Grades and Stats

Twyman’s claim to fame at Pitt was his 2019 season, with a total of 41 stops, including 12 TFLs and 10.5 sacks. He was the first interior defensive lineman to lead Pitt in sacks since Aaron Donald- Twyman wore Donald’s #97 at Pitt as well. He was named 2nd team All-American that year, but opted-out in 2020 to support his family during the pandemic, who depend on him financially.

Pro Football Focus
Pro Football Focus

Scouting Reports

Undersized interior lineman who will need to prove he can keep the same energy as a run defender that he shows as a pass rusher. Twyman looks small across from college linemen at times and that figures to become more pronounced at the next level. He has good upper-body strength but lacks bend and leverage. He’ll need to improve his initial quickness and become more assertive into his initial contact. His energetic rush features violent hands and a subtle variety of attacks that can create sack chances. His lack of size and explosiveness could limit him, but he has potential as a 4-3 rotational tackle with average upside. - Lance Zierlein

Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman emerged as a redshirt sophomore in 2019, collecting 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. While the production stands out, he still had plenty to prove on the field but opted out of the 2020 college football season so our last exposure to Twyman is his 2019 game tape. Twyman found success as a pass rusher by utilizing a push-pull and swim move, but he needs to add more to his repertoire to have success as a pass rusher in the NFL. Twyman is a quick athlete with good mobility but he lacks size and his frame is underdeveloped. It doesn’t appear he has ideal anatomical length, and when combined with his lean frame and inconsistent leverage, there are challenges both as a run defender and pass rusher. Twyman has appeal as an interior gap-shooter, but there is a notable developmental curve ahead of him to reach his ceiling in the NFL. He must develop his frame, get stronger, and expand his hand technique.

First-Step Explosiveness: Twyman has a sufficient first step when releasing out of his stance, but it’s not overly dynamic. He could do a better job of angling his first step to create more consistent half-man relationships and not play so many pass rush reps body to body with his blocker. I did not see issues with false steps out of his stance and his release is clean.

Flexibility: Twyman illustrates good flexibility and the ability to reduce and get skinny through gaps. He can bring his hips around the hip of his blocker if he’s able to soften the course. Twyman appears to be plenty loose and agile.

Hand Counters: Twyman’s go-to moves—a push-pull and swim move—can become stale and he needs to expand his repertoire. His ability to string together moves and counter is underdeveloped at this point. Twyman competes to clear contact, but he needs more technical refinement to become more consistent.

Hand Power: Twyman has ordinary pop in his hands. This shows up when he looks to execute his swim and rip moves where the violence and power in the club to set up the rip or swim doesn’t make enough of an impact. His swipes and efforts to clear his pads often come up empty and blockers are able to set the clamps on him.

Run Defending: As things currently are, Twyman lacks the mass and power at the point of attack to be a consistent run defender. He isn’t quick to process blocks and he’s often reached and sealed. Twyman does have positive moments shooting gaps, but anchoring against NFL drive blocks will be a challenge.

Effort: Twyman plays with consistent effort, relentlessly working to clear blocks and he’s urgent in pursuit. It’s apparent that he’s highly driven given a challenging upbringing and desire to make a positive change for his family. There are no concerns here.

Football IQ: Twyman is underdeveloped for the role he projects to at the next level in terms of hand usage, power, and processing. Too many of his reps are played absent of leverage and extension, which invites blockers into his frame. He must improve his understanding of how blocks are trying to attack him and what the correct responses are.

Lateral Mobility: Twyman has the lateral mobility expected for an undersized interior defensive lineman. He has no restrictions flowing down the line of scrimmage and working toward the sideline.

Core/Functional Strength: Twyman has plenty of room to get stronger and add functional strength which will be vital given his lean frame. His frame appears to be underdeveloped with plenty of room to add bulk and positive mass. Twyman doesn’t have a sufficient anchor right now to anchor against NFL blockers.

Versatility: Twyman doesn’t offer much in the way of versatility. He’s a pass-rushing interior defensive lineman who does not project favorably to defending the run in the NFL. He doesn’t have the length, size, or athletic profile to play on the edge or defend multiple gaps. - Joe Marino, The Draft Network

Positives: Undersized, explosive three-technique lineman. Fires off the snap with an explosive first step, displays tremendous quickness, and possesses a closing burst. Plays low to the ground with outstanding pad level and gets leverage on opponents. Easily changes direction and gets into space to pursue the action.

Fluid when asked to twist or stunt and agile. Immediately redirects and alters his angle of attack to get to the ball handler. Has an outstanding closing burst and shows a lot of ability rushing the passer.

Negatives: Lacks size as well as growth potential. Must get the first step on blockers or he’s easily taken from the play or out-positioned from the action.

Analysis: Twyman made an immediate impact for the Pittsburgh defense the day he stepped on the field. He’s explosive and athletic but small, and he must line up in a one-gap system where he’s protected by teammates.

What does Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman bring to this interior defensive lineman class in the 2021 NFL Draft? The college football productivity speaks for itself, but it’s how he’s achieved that production that stands out. He’s an incredibly athletic pass rusher whose explosiveness at the point of attack is extremely impressive.

Although he isn’t the tallest or longest prospect in the class, his explosion allows him to win at the line of scrimmage. In addition to this, he flashes impressive hand placement, speed, and strength. With these attributes combined, he has proven a substantial headache for offensive linemen and quarterbacks.

Twyman has a couple of tried and tested pass-rush moves that he uses to win. His tape is littered with delightful examples of him using swim moves and push-pull moves to overwhelm opposition linemen. In the NFL, where athleticism alone won’t be enough to win, he already has some of the tools to win on a consistent basis.

What are the potential concerns with Jaylen Twyman?

When commenting on his reasons for not declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman told reporters that “I feel I can improve my overall game. I can do a lot better things.” In opting out of the 2020 college football season, he never got to show that improvement. So, what are the issues?

One issue plays into another. In losing roughly 30 pounds at the start of his Pittsburgh career, he is now somewhat undersized compared to existing NFL defensive tackles and even his compatriots in the 2021 NFL Draft class.

That lack of size is telling in the run game. Whereas once he stood out as a run stopper, that is now one of the weaknesses of his game.

Although he has some of the pass rush tools to win in the NFL, he still has room to fill up that toolbox. His game lacks a powerful bull rush or a hand chop that could result in more forced turnovers. It won’t go unnoticed that despite possessing quick and strong hands, Twyman has never forced a fumble during his college career. - Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

An underrated talent, Twyman has the type of pass-rush prowess that will have NFL teams clamoring when the 2021 draft officially begins. Despite his young age, Twyman has a mature approach that is wise beyond his years. He’s technically refined with some savvy hand usage when working the up-field shoulder. With a quick first step and plus short-area quickness, Twyman is able to create pressure early in reps. He shows the talent to win towards the up-field shoulder and with various counter moves. He is fresh off a season where he created constant havoc across the ACC, eventually leading to All-America honors. The 2020 season was supposed to be his big finale, but Twyman ultimately decided to opt out. There is an easy pass-rush projection here for Twyman. He is physically put together with a smooth athletic profile and clear understanding for how to attack leverage. Twyman is a gap shooter who does his best when threatening as a pass rusher. However, he can be a little underwhelming in the run game. When working down the center of blockers, he lacks the length and anchor to consistently play through contact and change the line of scrimmage in the defense’s favor. As close to a finished product as there will be coming out of college, Twyman is a potential early contributor as an interior rusher. There isn’t a lot of upside for Twyman as a run defender, but impacting the passing game is at an all-time high importance in the league right now. With his combination of production, quickness and pass-rush ability, Tywman has a good chance to hear his name called at some point during the first two days of the draft. - NFL Draft Bible

College Film


Bottom Line

Twyman is a bit of a polarizing prospect. On the one hand, he is advanced in some of his pass rush moves, including some that Aaron Donald is known for, which can lead to some quick pressures and sacks when they’re effective. On the other hand, when those techniques don’t work out, he often gets washed out, especially in the run game, as he gets his pad level too high and loses leverage. That leads to a feast-or-famine play style without much middle ground.

Twyman has the first-step quickness and upper body strength desired in a 3-tech, but lacks the anchor, technique, and savvy for the position outside of his advanced pass-rush moves. In order to be more consistently effective in the NFL, Twyman will need to develop in a number of areas. First, he’ll need to develop a good bull-rush and other counters to go along with his push-pull and over/swim move, otherwise offensive linemen will key on those moves and render them ineffective. He’ll also need to build more of an anchor in his lower body to hold up against the run and also to become a more effective bull rusher. Lastly, he’ll need to develop a better understanding of leverage, both how to use it and recognizing it in blocking, to be more effective - including keeping his pads down.

Overall, Twyman is a raw prospect outside of his Aaron Donald moves, which most college interior lineman aren’t used to seeing, and that led to a highly productive 2019 season. But he still has a lot to develop before he could contend for a starting job or be an every down player. He has the traits and some moves to become an effective interior pass rush specialist, but he’ll probably need to show more development in the rest of his game before he’ll see much action on game days.


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