NFL Draft Profile: South Carolina EDGE DJ Wonnum

NFL Draft

DJ Wonnum

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The Los Angeles Rams will be in the market for a pass rusher come the NFL Draft. With Dante Fowler most likely leaving during free agency, the Rams are going to need a player outside of Aaron Donald that can get to the quarterback. In 2018 without Fowler, Donald had his infamous 20.5 sacks while the next closest Rams defender had four. Fowler not returning leaves quite a hole, but one that can be replaced in the NFL draft.

The 2020 NFL draft is unlike the 2019 NFL draft in the sense that it’s not defensive heavy. With quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs coming off of the board early, that will allow good defensive talent to slip. The Rams won’t be in the market for a Chase Young or AJ Espenesa, but there will be plenty of guys on days two and three that they’ll have their eyes one. One of them is South Carolina’s DJ Wonnum.

College Bio

Wonnum started 30 games in his career with the Gamecocks and was a menace in the backfield. His 29.5 career tackles for loss ranks ninth in program history. He was a two-time team captain and more impressively, one of just three sophomores named a permanent team captain in the history of Gamecock Football.

The defensive lineman played in every game as a freshman and became a full-time starter as a sophomore.  His junior year was plagued with injury,  but he came back in his senior season to earn his first spot on the second-team All-SEC and was named Comeback Player of the Year by his coaches.

Measurables

Height: 6’5
Weight: 264-lbs
Hand: 10 4/8
Arm: 34 1/8
Wingspan: 83 6/8

Strengths

Wonnum is a player with the desired size and athleticism that teams look for in an edge player. He’s a high-effort player that never stops working and will make a lot of second-effort plays.

South Carolina lined Wonnum up all over the defensive line and even standing up. Whether they needed him to play on the interior or outside, Wonnum was there.

He has decent bend and burst but it’s not elite by any means.

All of the intangibles are there. A two-time team captain and he was invited to the Senior Bowl. His willingness to play anywhere and do anything his coaches ask says a lot.

Weaknesses

He’s very raw. When it comes to rushing the passer, it all starts with the hands and Wonnum needs improvement in that aspect. His get-off is very inconsistent. There are times when he’s slow getting-off, but when he’s on, it’s obvious why he has so many tackles for loss.

Wonnum needs to add more variety and pass-rush moves to his game. It’s clear that he has a feel for the position, but he has a lot of refinement to do.

Three Plays

Here you see Wonnum lined up as a 3-4 defensive end. He gets off nicely, but instead of getting pushed too far upfield, he comes back and is able to get the sack.

I’m going to continue to show off Wonnum’s versatility because it’s one of the most impressive parts of his game. Here he’s lined up as a 4-3 defensive end on the far side. Wonnum is very good getting to the quarterback on inside stunts and that’s what he does here. He starts outside and comes inside to get to the quarterback.

This is a nice play by Wonnum. He doesn’t bite on the potential play-fake and he gets upfield very quickly. Nobody blocks him, but the design of the play is to get him to freeze. His recognition that he has his cornerback behind him on the quarterback and that his responsibility is the running back is what turns this play into a three-yard loss.

Development

Wonnum is not a three-down player right out of the gates. He’s someone that’s going to be needed to be worked in on passing situations early in his career. I see Wonnum as a John Franklin-Myers type player that can and will lineup anywhere on defense as long as it means getting on the field.

He can play 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 defensive end, inside at 4-3 defensive tackle, or outside as a 3-4 edge rusher. He also has the ability to drop back and cover. Wonnum can play in a rotational role as a rookie with the plan to increase that role throughout the season and into year two. He has some refinement in his game to do, but with his size, athleticism, and with the right coaching, he can be a very productive defender in the NFL.

Draft Grade: 6th-7th Round

Bottom Line

Wonnum isn’t going to come in and start on day one, but he has the tools and mindset necessary to be successful in the NFL. This isn’t a player that is stuck playing in one role or one situation. A defensive coordinator could have a lot of fun with a player like Wonnum just with how versatile he is. His intangibles and motor are what make day three players succeed and he has that.

With the right coaching and if given an opportunity to work his way into a defense, he has the size and athleticism to be a very good role player in the NFL.

 

 

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