Heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders needed a run-stuffing defensive tackle, and that’s exactly what they got in Alabama’s Byron Young.
While he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2021, Young was a key piece of the Crimson Tide’s defensive line over the last four years, logging 130 total tackles, 20 of which were for loss, in 45 career games. Of those figures, 81 and 13 came over the past two seasons.
Young’s pass-rush production was slightly underwhelming as he only racked up 7.5 sacks during his time in Tuscaloosa, but he certainly can make an impact in the trenches against the ground game as the advanced numbers show.
Coming out of high school, the Laurel, Mississippi native was a 4-star recruit and the eighth-best defensive tackle in the 2019 class, per 247Sports composite rankings. He received playing time as a true freshman with 282 total snaps and five starts, according to Pro Football Focus, but he struggled to make much of an impact playing behind future pros Raekwon Davis, Phidarian Mathis and Christian Barmore.
Young only recorded six defensive stops as a run defender at a four percent rate in year one, which ranked tied for seventh and eighth, respectively, among the Tide’s defensive linemen. As a pass-rusher, his pressure count and win percentage—five and 5.7 percent—also ranked toward the bottom compared to his peers.
Year two was when he started to turn a corner as Young earned the second-highest PPF run defense grade (74.3) on Alabama’s d-line, trailing only a freshman named Will Anderson Jr. That mark was also good enough to finish in 12th for the entire conference, partially due to his 11.2 run-stop percentage, the second-highest in the SEC.
From a volume perspective, Young just missed the top 10 with 14 run stops. That’s pretty impressive considering the 10 guys ahead of him all recorded more snaps against the run and thus had more opportunities to make impact plays.
The Alabama product’s pass rush was still developing as a sophomore, though. He only managed 11 pressures and a 9.5 percent win rate, both were third-to-last among the team’s contributing defensive linemen.
With Davis and Barmore in the pros, Young took on a bigger role in 2021 with 399 total snaps, just over 100 more than the year before, and he made the most of the opportunity as a run defender.
Statistically, this was his most impressive season as his run defense grade shot up to 88.8—fifth among all SEC defensive linemen—and he logged 17 defensive stops at a 9.3 percent rate. The latter was tied for ninth among the conference’s defensive tackles. However, Young continued to struggle to put pressure on the quarterback with just one more pressure than the year before despite receiving nearly 50 more opportunities.
He started to put it together as a senior, though, setting career-highs with 28 pressures and a 12.5 percent win rate. Those figures were good enough to tie for second and tie for eighth among SEC defensive tackles. Diving a little deeper, no interior defender in the conference made more contact with the quarterback than he did with four sacks—tied for the most—and nine QB hits, three more than anyone else.
Oddly enough, the Alabama product wasn’t as impactful against the run this past season. While he did tie for ninth at his position in the conference with 16 defensive stops—one fewer than his junior campaign—his efficiency took a hit with a 6.5 percent stop rate that was tied for 20th. All of this came with a career-high 248 snaps against the run, too.
Young’s run defense grade dipped as well, down 13.2 points from his junior season, however, that was still good enough to finish in the top 10 among SEC defensive tackles.
Long story short, the Raiders certainly filled their need for a defensive tackle who can make an impact against the run with Young. And if he can continue to grow and be more productive as a pass-rusher like he did in 2022, then he has a chance to become the team’s top defensive tackle.