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Edge rusher Patrick Afriyie’s strong pro day drew interest from Falcons

Now we’ll see if Afriyie, who was born in Atlanta, will end up coming home to the Falcons after the draft.

Colgate University

Patrick Afriyie didn’t get a combine invitation, but his pro day performance would have put him in the upper echelon of defensive ends in Indianapolis in March. Now he’s just waiting to see what that means for his future when the draft rolls around.

Afriyie just wrapped up his final season at Colgate. He was sidelined for three games after suffering an injury in the season opener, but still posted 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in last year.

He was one of the most productive players in the Patriot League during his college years, earning an All-Patriot League First-Team nod in 2017. He attended Columbia’s pro day, running a 4.81 40 and posting a 33-inch vertical and a 10’2” broad jump. Those last two numbers would have put him in the Top 10 among all defensive ends at the combine.

So how did he do it? He trained.

“Training down in Tampa in the early part of the year really helped me out a lot,” Afriyie told me. “I trained down at ASPI (the Applied Science and performance Institute), which is a facility near the Tampa Bay Bucs, and yeah, training down there really put me on the right track. And then I came back up to school and continued with the program that they have there, and it proved to be a good program. It did some good for me with my results that happened at the pro day a couple weeks ago.”

Afriyie doesn’t necessarily like to compare himself to current NFL players, because each player is different. But if he had to pick, he’d put himself in good company with the players he tries to emulate.

“I think the people that I take the most from and the people that I watch the most and try and mirror my game after the most are probably Von Miller or Khalil Mack, just because those guys are the two premier edge rushers,” Afriyie said. “And I know Khalil Mack played in upstate New York (at Buffalo) as well. So I feel like he and I are somewhat in common.”

Afriyie had a stellar junior season, with 10 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Those numbers ranked him fourth in the nation in 2016. Injury limited his productivity and he didn’t have as strong of a showing last season, and Afriyie said that just getting noticed by teams is a particular challenge.

“I know I didn’t have as good of a senior year as I had a junior year, and I’m coming from a small upstate school, so I think just getting my name out there and getting people to give me a chance and read up about me is going to be my biggest struggle heading into this next part of my career,” Afriyie said.

But teams should be paying attention because of his well-rounded skill set.

“I would say my pass rushing first and foremost, because that’s just what’s gotten me here,” Afriyie said. That’s what’s made my career so good at Colgate is just my ability to rush the passer. But I think something that also I’m good at is just my run defense in total. I think I play behind the line of scrimmage a lot. And then I just think my versatility. I think I’ve been playing a lot of positions my whole life playing football. I’ve done a lot of different things, so I’m very willing and able to play different positions. I feel like my versatility shows in the different styles that I can play football in.”

So how would Afriyie fit in with the Falcons?

“They talked to me as an outside edge rusher or outside linebacker, somewhere where I can use what I’ve been best at on the field and rush the passer,” Afriyie said. “And so I’d be perfectly fine doing that, but I’m full and well able to play inside linebacker and special teams or any other position that they want to have me in. They’ve been talking to me as an edge rusher primarily.”

Every rookie has a big adjustment going from college to the pros. It’s a bigger jump for small-school players.

“There’s always going to be improvements, I think, as the game kind of increases in its competition, there’s going to be improvements in it to be made for everybody,” Afriyie said. “So I see myself as needing to make improvements because I’m switching positions. I’m playing something that I haven’t mastered completely in college, so I feel like there’s going to need to be improvements whether it’s dropping in coverage or playing in space a lot more or just standing up, it’s just going to be different for me, and I think I’ll be able to adjust, but I think it can be something I need to work on.”

Interestingly enough, the play Afriyie feels is the best example of his potential at the pro level isn’t a play that ended in a sack. But situationally, it was fundamentally important to his team.

“It was a play in the Holycross game of my junior year. It was a fourth down and 1, and they were driving on our side of the field. And we had been dominating the whole game, but this was a drive that we really needed to show ourselves because our offense wasn’t producing as much,” Afriyie said. “And I basically stopped the fourth down by myself by getting through about two blockers and tackling the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.

That play said a lot about Afriyie’s approach to the game.

“And I feel like that play — it’s not a play of me rushing the passer and changing the game stat-wise, but I think that physicality that I showed on that play really exemplifies the way I play the game and I feel like that’s the play that is the most me,” Afriyie said.

Oh, and Afriyie was born in Atlanta. If he does land with the Falcons, he’ll essentially be coming home.