2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Villanova DE Tanoh Kpassagnon

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#92 Tanoh Kpassagnon/DE Villanova – 6’7” 280 lbs.

The Good:

– Shoots up his arms immediately and can anchor the point of attack
– Big, powerful upper body
– Explosive first step
– Uses multiple pass rushing techniques: spins, swims, dips, and bull rush
– Lines up in a four point stance that looks like he is coming out of a sprinter’s blocks
– Good motor
– Can play seven, five, or three tech, but is a more natural five tech in the NFL

The Bad:

– Other than the University of Pittsburgh, who did he play against?
– Loses track of pigskin when spinning away from blockers
– Conditioning a concern, was huffing and puffing like Clubber Lang vs. Rocky
– Stood up tall out his stance too quickly which took him off balance
– Seems to rely a lot on his upper body strength and not enough trunk power
– Raw, so might take time to coach up
– Older for rookie, will be 23 years old in June


– Team captain and CAA player of the year
– Invited to Senior Bowl
– Finished with 65 career solo tackles, 40 assists, 37.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 pass deflection, and 1 interception return for 29 yards
– Blocked multiple extra points and field goal attempts
– Three sport athlete in high school lettering in football, basketball, and track
– Mother was born in Uganda and father was born in the Ivory Coast
– Suffered and fought through serious thumb injury in final college game

Tape Breakdown:

Kpassagnon stands up almost immediately out of his stance which allows the offensive tackle into his body. This makes for an easy seal with the ball carrier running to the other side of the field.

The defender gets aggressive off the snap, pushes the offensive tackle back, but by doing that creates a running lanes for the back to exploit underneath. His teammates pick up his slack making the tackle for minimum gain; unfortunately that has nothing to do with his play.

He demonstrates an explosive first step, dips underneath the tackle, then flips his hips. This forces #72, the tackle, to either hold the Wildcat defender or allow the sack. #72 chose the hold and the referee made the call.

Kpassagnon looks like he is flying out of sprinter’s blocks, screaming across the line of scrimmage, slips and dips poor #72 again, and then wraps up the signal caller bringing him to the ground.

The Wildcat defensive end is lined up in seven tech and explodes into the over-matched tackle knocking #72 on his heels. Kpassagnon sees the back running up the gut, closes the gap, and smashes the ball carrier high.

Kpassagnon is a freakishly athletic, yet raw defender that is climbing up the draftnik charts. It’s a bit harder to tell what front offices like the Steelers think of this work in progress. He has some pass rushing moves, but hasn’t perfected any of them. His upper body is well developed, but his trunk doesn’t seem to have the matching power. This former Wildcat could develop into an NFL starter within a year or two, but keep in mind he will turn 23 in June. Big risk, big reward player that might go earlier in the draft than expected, I’m just not sure he is worth a significant investment.

Projection: Mid-second day to early third day selection

Games Watched: 2017 Senior Bowl Game and practices, vs. St. Francis, at South Dakota State

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan Switzer

  • Charles Haines

    Worthy of that extra 3rd rounder?

  • VaDave

    I hear you about he competition he played against, but other than the senior bowl, who did Hargrave play against? I agree, he is raw. He also doesn’t play like the Steeler DEs we have that seem intent on running into the first double team they can find….

  • PaeperCup

    Can’t pronounce his name, pass.

    Super Raw, but great athlete, we’ll see.

  • LucasY59

    Tawn-oh pass-N-yo

  • LucasY59

    thats were I hope they can take him

  • PaeperCup

    Nope…not feeling it. He’s T.K. from now on.

  • LucasY59

    I call him Kpass (even though the K is silent)

  • capehouse

    This is the guy I want to compete with Walton for the 4th D lineman. Hope we can grab him in the 3rd or fourth round.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I’m struggling to envision a proper spot for this guy in a 3-4. If you want him to play DE, and add a few pounds of upper/lower body muscle in our weight room, that sounds fine. But how early in the draft do we need to take a backup DE? Certainly not in our first 4 picks. And if this guy is a riser like many are saying, he’ll be gone before the 4th rd. Even if he lasted to the end of 4, he seems unlikely for us. I’m pretty sure this guy won’t be a Steeler. IMO.

  • LucasY59

    this guy has become one of my favorite prospects of the entire draft, I think it is a long shot the Steelers take him, but what he could potentially do to help the D could be awesome

    I am hoping he becomes the Steelers 3rd rd pick (or comp pick) and that he becomes the 2nd FCS D-lineman (two yrs in a row) Hargrave was a great pick last yr so hopefully they are looking at FCS athletes more this yr (there are a few others I have targeted as well)

    I think Coach Mitchell would be able to work with his raw-ness, and he could develop into a great rotational player (so the positive of his Athleticism definitely outweighs the negative of him needing to develop, being able to develop = potential)

    I am a little worried that a good/great performance at the combine could push him into the 2nd rd (and out of the Steelers reach since they probably wont take him 62nd overall)

    I also really like that he could play on the outside (a sub package of him, Tuitt and/or Heyward/Hargrave, and Dupree could be a nasty front 4) and that he could also play inside as a 3 tech on sub package as well (Tuitt/Heyward and then Kpass/Hargrave as a 2nd rd of fresh interior pass rushers rotating) and 5 Tech depth that could develop into a guy that could come in and not have much of a drop off from the Starters

    having a guy that can contribute in multiple ways is really good especially since he is mainly a depth guy (which adds to the Mitchell developing him, he would have the time to develop and wouldnt be asked to contribute a lot early on)

    He has the length to be a traditional 5 tech for sure, he could add some weight to his lower half/core, but seems to be pretty strong as well, so staying at the weight he is now could be possible, especially if they want him to stay quick/fast/athletic (might even have some ST contribution as a FG blocker) and the long arms would be good as a pass rusher and could knock down/tip passes as well

    adding him would definitely fill the DL depth chart, Walton as the bigger 5 tech (LDE) and Tanoh as the (RDE, he isnt much lighter that Cam was out of college) depth guys (Maxey might already be that guy, but he could even go back to the PS as extra Depth) Mathews might not be brought back, but even if he was he wont have a big guaranteed deal and could be a late camp cut good competition/depth, plus Hargrave and McCullers makes the DL a strength (with how the depth guys stepped up last season I already consider the group pretty strong)

  • LucasY59

    sounds like he is strong enough in his upper body, if he did add some weight it would be lower half/core, but really he isnt that undersized

  • Darth Blount 47

    Ha ha. I was just adding the edit as you typed. I think he needs it both ways to play End for us. We require brutes at the Ends. This guy seems to have intangibles and athleticism, but I still struggle to envision him playing for us. Am I wrong on that?

  • LucasY59

    I think he is a bit of a mystery, but I think Mitchell would like to have him as a ATHLETIC lump of clay to mold, and after Coach is done with him he might be close to as good as the Starters

  • Darth Blount 47

    So I just went to another few sites and read some more to get a better perspective as a whole. I do like his length and fire. You may have hit the nail on the head with the word, “mystery.” I stand by my thoughts on when we would have to pull the trigger to have him be a Steeler. I personally wouldn’t use a 1, 2, 3, or 3 on a “mystery backup.” As let’s be honest, he will struggle to find playing time considering Heyward and Tuitt come off the field once every never. If he dropped to us 4th or later, maybe. As I do hope this draft is about 70% Defense / 30% Offense.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’ll probably be 25 or even 26 before coaching and the weight room makes him a finished product. This doesn’t automatically disqualify him but I think you have to get him in a round you feel appropriate. I don’t think I’d pick him any higher than the fourth but he’ll go higher than that. Is he gritty enough?.

  • LucasY59

    3rd comp seems appropriate to me, its a bonus pick and he is a guy that has a lot of bonus upside, him not needing to contribute right away actually works with him since he will need to develop some, but if they could find some pass rush situations for him early on I think he would do well (and getting the Starting DEs down to a 80% snap count is important IMO, leave some gas in the tank for late in the game)

  • Darth Blount 47

    Oh, it’s important, if you are able to put the right caliber guys in there to replace. But there has indeed been a reason as to why our two studs don’t come out of the game very often. One, necessity. Their backups have historically, been bad – ish. And second, neither of those two guys gas. Like ever. And if this guy gasses at what is a pretty developed age at this point already, against “lesser” competition, he may have to endure the role of permanent backup on a team like ours, where obviously, Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave are completely entrenched. I do agree that we have a need to push some of the other backups off the roster though, so if the price (Round) is right with this guy, he may be worth a flier as depth.

  • Darth Blount 47


  • LucasY59

    that what I am saying unless they get REALLY lucky with the late rd depth picks they traditionally make (Aaron Smith/Brett Keisel mightve used up all that luck) they wont have a guy good enough to take snaps away from the studs, so realistically that would require a earlier pick (both were 1st rd talents, so a equal pick could be required to get equal production) so late/comp 3rd for a guy that has the physical talent/potential to actually be good enough is value IMO

    *Tanoh should at the very least improve his conditioning under Mitchell, so I dont see that as much of an issue for him, especially since he would be a rotational player

  • LucasY59

    as far as other FCS guys

    I really like Lorenzo Jerome (St Francis) hope he is there for the Steelers 4th rd pick, he is a great playmaker and can get the ball in his hands and when he does he can make it count, the one game I watched of him live (vs Montana) he was trying to win the game single handedly, he had a one or two punt/KO returns for TDs and at least another of each that went pretty far without scoring, I think he also had 2 INTs both for long returns and I think one was for a score, so he had 3 or so scores by himself (I havent rewatched the game so I dont have the particular stats/exact numbers, but will be looking it up again sometime before the draft) I think he could be the center field ball hawk the team could use in the future (Mitchell should not get a 2nd contract) *also saw him in the Senior Bowl where he had 2 TOs pick and fumble recovery, so again, playmaker! and that was against good competition

    I also like Derek Rivers (Youngstown St) and if he has a good combine he might be in consideration for the Steelers 1st pick, If his measurables are comparable to the other OLBs the Steelers are looking at with the 1st pick then I think the small school becomes less of an issue, and I would actually prefer him to a guy like Lawson or Harris, he was pretty dominant (like Hargrave) so we have already seen that that can translate to quality production as a pro (especially if his Athleticism is at a NFL level) he had a good week at the Senior bowl as well so he is legit against better talent

    David Jones (Richmond) is a late rd Safety that I am also interested in, his “listed” height/weight is good for the position and like Jerome he was able to create some turnovers, I think there may be some injury concern with him and I expect him to be available late in the draft, which makes him a value pick IMO (the team will have to make sure his medical checks out, but again the team needs to do something so they are ready to move on once Mitchells contract is up)

    Cooper Kupp is another FCS talent I really like, I dont see him as a Steelers target unless he drops to a value pick (3rd rd) which I dont think is very likely, but think he will be successful in the NFL

    Nick DeLuca (North Dakota St) since the Bison have dominated the FCS level recently, I think he is a good prospect, the team doesnt really need him since they have Matakevich, but I think he could be a very similar player, I think there is a possibility he got a medical redshirt after getting injured early this last season and might be returning to school, and if thats the case then I will be looking for him in the 2018 draft

    and of course a few Grizzlies (I have wanted a Montana player on the Steelers roster for a long time, if happened for a very short time with Tuff Harris about 8 or so yrs ago, but guys like Kroy Biermann, Colt Anderson, Marc Marianni, Tru Johnosn, Jordan Tripp, Brock Coyle, and last yr Tyrone Holmes were ones I really hoped the Steelers would pick) this yr it seems like UDFA might be the way it could happen

    If the Steelers dont draft a QB then signing Brady Gustafson would be a good idea (this draft doesnt have good QBs and bringing one in as a UDFA makes it a long shot that the player would turn out, but) I like the idea of not using a pick, and Gustafson could be good enough to beat out Otherberger for the 3rd QB spot, or at least be worth having in camp as an extra arm

    the Griz player I really like (and he has similarities to Kpassagnon) is Caleb Kidder, he is getting close to zero draft attention from what I have seen, and part of it is due to him trying to drop weight and become the next Grizzly DE pass rusher to get drafted, so he cut down to around 260ish and it didnt really work out for him (partially since he still took quite a few snaps inside as a DT) I think he could easily bulk back up to 280+ and be a 5 tech candidate (and like Tanoh could maybe even take some snaps outside) he has the length at 6’5″+ and has been playing DT since he was a true freshman (also saw him completely dominate in HS, man amongst boys) so he can play in the trenches, so I would be really happy if he was signed as a UDFA and turned into the next Kiesel/Smith (it is a long shot, but so where they when they started in Pittsburgh)

  • PaeperCup

    so basically just Pass.

  • LucasY59

    Pass Rush!!!!

  • PaeperCup


  • LucasY59

    *he is also a smart guy graduating with double majors (so he should be able to learn and do what is needed mentally to develop into a pro player) and is a Pennsylvania native, so those are a few more positives

  • Dshoff

    Looks like a perfect Bengal to me.

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  • Applebite

    He’s too intelligent to be a Bengal. Marv would never hear of it.

  • Applebite

    I’ll try and keep this short. Like Kearse, Kpassagnon is a different kind of freak. And I think with the right coaching, he’d be an awesome asset to the team. Because you’d never have to pull him out on passing downs, In fact, if you want your fourth man up front in the nickel, here you are. Heyward, Hargrave Tuitt and Kpassgnon would be absolutely frightening in a nickle package. If he’s there, you take him. His combine and pro day will be very telling. As far as his lower body strength, I think more than a few will be shocked to know how ripped he is. I think the issue is technique, not strength. He’s longer than most. I see him gone 2nd day. I can also see somebody reaching for him in the 1st, if his combine is good enough. Teams like the Cowboys and Raiders would drown in their drool over him.

  • Applebite

    Have to break it down, before you can spell it. Like chewing before eating, lol.

  • Michael James

    I don’t think he would fit here. He really looks the part, but he’s just super raw (much more than even Dupree was) and he has quite a few plays where I really question his instincts. Great athlete for sure, but I doubt he can become a good football player soon. It will take at least two or three years to get him ready.

  • popsiclesticks

    Big fan of this dude. Yeah he’s raw, but he’s a ridiculous size/athleticism dude and he looked to have improved tremendously as the season went on. There was a game where I hated him but after watching some others (including final game v. South Dakota), I couldn’t understand why he was projected to go in the later rounds. I see there’s been some ‘movement’ up.

  • Ryan Alderman

    I agree.