Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi will be joining fellow BYU alum Dennis Pitta in Baltimore, as the Ravens selected the defensive standout in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday, April 29.
The Ravens hope Kaufusi will be able to make an impact similar to Pitta, who played a key role in their 2012 Super Bowl run, for seasons to come.
Kaufusi also joins former Cougar De’Ondre Wesley on Baltimore’s roster. The Ravens finished third in the AFC North last season with a 5-11 record.
Baltimore clearly wanted to improve their pass rushing in the draft. They selected Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa in the second round, who recorded 19 sacks over the past two seasons, before setting their sights on Kaufusi.
The team didn’t pick up veteran defensive end Chris Canty’s option for the 2016 season, which potentially opens up a spot for Kaufusi to contribute.
Canty was listed at 6-foot-7 and 320-pounds, size that is nearly identical to that of Kaufusi.
The Ravens have Kaufusi listed at 6-foot-6 and 285-pounds.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said Kaufusi might even get bigger.
“We don’t know how big he’s going to get at this point,” Newsome said at a post-draft press conference.
Kaufusi will have to compete with veterans Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban and Kapron Moore for playing time this season. Guy finished 2015 with 4.5 sacks and 46 combined tackles, Urban recorded 11 combined tackles and one sack, and Moore finished with just three combined tackles.
With none of the above three being particularly productive, Kaufusi has a chance to make an immediate impact.
Kaufusi tallied 11 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss as a senior. He was second among 3-4 defensive ends in run-stop percentage and first in pass-rush productivity according to Pro Football Focus.
Baltimore plays a 3-4 defense, the same front that Kaufusi played in at BYU. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker in Provo and his experience at multiple positions should help him with the Ravens.
His size certainly lends itself to a defensive end spot, but Kaufusi said at BYU’s Pro Day that he’ll be “rushing the quarterback” regardless of his position.
The Ravens had 37 sacks last season, tied for No. 17 in the NFL. Baltimore’s individual sack leader last season was Elvis Dumervil with six. They also allowed 25.1 points per game, ranking No. 24 in the NFL.
ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge has compared Kaufusi to former Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.
“He’s kind of like Justin Tuck for the Giants back in the day when they tried to create matchups inside over the guards in the Super Bowl,” Hoge told NFL writer Vic Carucci before the draft. “It’s not just about being a Von Miller, a dominant pass rusher in the NFL. It’s about versatility and creating matchups,” Hoge said. “Here’s a guy who has played in a lot of different schemes. He’s agile. His football skills are unreal with his feet, hips and hands. And he can line up across the board, both tackles or inside. He will be a guy — particularly if a coach gets him who can continue to mold and build him — who will be a lethal guy.”
Kaufusi and the Ravens will begin training camp in August. Their season begins on Sunday, Sept. 11 at home against the Buffalo Bills.