Player Spotlight: Western Michigan EDGE Marshawn Kneeland

Sep 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8)
Sep 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: EDGE Rusher

Age (Draft Day): 22

Height/Weight: 6'3", 268 lbs

40 Yard Dash: 4.8 seconds


Marshawn Kneeland has carved a path of consistent improvement throughout his four years at Western Michigan. Initially seeing limited action in 2019, he chipped away at playing time, gradually etching his name onto the stat sheet.

By his senior year in 2022, Kneeland emerged as a disruptive force on the defensive line, notching 37 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. This upward trajectory highlights his dedication and potential, suggesting he could continue blossoming at the professional level.

Looking back, Kneeland's junior year marked a turning point. From just 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he jumped to 32 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks the following year. This leap showcased his developing skills and growing confidence. His senior season further cemented his presence, with double-digit tackles in several games and a career-high 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against Eastern Michigan.

While questions might linger about his raw numbers compared to elite prospects, Kneeland's relentless improvement cannot be ignored. His ability to disrupt plays, combined with his motor and positive trajectory, makes him an intriguing option for NFL teams seeking versatile talents. It's likely that with proper coaching and development, Kneeland could continue his upward climb and carve out a valuable role in the professional ranks.


Prototypical Build: With his 6'3", 268 lbs frame, Kneeland possesses the ideal size and strength desired for an NFL edge rusher. His long 34-inch arms allow him to extend and get his hands into the tackle's chest easily.

Powerful Bull Rush: Kneeland utilizes his hand strength strength and long arms to bull rush, consistently pushing back blockers and collapsing the pocket.

Strong Edge Setter: In the run game, Kneeland excels at setting the edge by holding his ground without much resistance.

Relentless Motor: Kneeland plays with a high motor, showcasing impressive hustle and effort throughout the game.


Limited Bend: Despite his strength, Kneeland lacks elite bend and agility, which can hinder his ability to corner effectively and pursue elusive quarterbacks.

Average Speed: His 4.8-second 40-yard dash time raises concerns about his ability to consistently generate speed off the edge against NFL tackles.

Low Level of Competition: Western Michigan competed in the MAC conference, known for a lower level of competition compared to Power Five programs. This could raise questions about his ability to translate his success to the NFL.

Limited Coverage Ability: Currently, Kneeland is not considered a player who can consistently drop into coverage, limiting him as a rusher only, which could be a cross-off for some teams.

NFL Comparison: Preston Smith

Preston Smith
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Preston Smith has a very similar build and strength to Marshawn Kneeland. Like Smith, Kneeland relies on his power and relentless motor to generate pressure but may face limitations due to his lack of elite bend and speed. Still, Smith is a high-end number-two rusher who is a huge asset to any team.

NFL Draft Outlook: Round 3

Marshawn Kneeland enters the draft as a player with intriguing potential. His impressive size, strength, and motor are undeniable assets, and he can contribute immediately as a run defender and bull rusher. However, concerns about his athleticism and limited competition level could push him into the 3rd round. If he can showcase improved bend and speed during the pre-draft process, his draft stock could rise.