Isaiah Foskey received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee after recording 11 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2021.
“I feel like my junior year,” Foskey said, “I wasn’t ready for the NFL.”
So, he elected to return for his senior year. He set Notre Dame’s all-time sack record with another double-digit sack season last fall and he declared for the 2023 NFL Draft in December.
Now, he’s the No. 24 overall prospect heading, according to The Athletic.
Foskey, however, is far from a lock to be selected with one of the 31 first-round selections. Nick Baumgardner, a senior writer from the same publication, predicts Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader will fall to the early third round in his latest mock draft.
Daniel Jeremiah, a draft analyst for the NFL Network, concurs. He left Foskey out of his top 50 prospects and could see the edge rusher falling to the Denver Broncos with the No. 68 overall selection unless he blows scouts away at the combine.
“He’s going to test really well,” Jeremiah said, “so he might test his way out of that range and up a little bit higher.”
For what it’s worth, Foskey also believes he’s going to shine. He’ll be with the first group to go through on the field workouts on Wednesday between 3 and 8:30 p.m. EST.
“I feel like there’s nothing I can prove but just showcase that I’m one of the fastest defensive ends for my size,” Foskey said. “I’m one of the most athletic guys — I can jump the highest and broad jump the farthest. Anything you guys test me with, I’m pretty much going to be the top prospect for it.”
Even if Foskey runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, other factors could still deter plenty of teams from drafting him in the first or second round.
He rarely lined up with his hand on the ground at Notre Dame, so there may be extra growing pains if he the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him, whereas he’d easier assimilate to his team’s base defensive scheme if selected by the Baltimore Ravens or Minnesota Vikings.
“Where I line up is pretty much a two-point stance,” Foskey said. “My role will probably fit more in a 3-4 defense standing up. That’s what I’ve been doing all past four years.”
Foskey also lacks the flexibility to win against offensive tackles by bending around the edge, which limits his ceiling to a degree.
At the same time, his floor still remains incredibly high because he brings other elite pass rush traits to the table.
“I take a lot of pride in power, just being aggressive,” Foskey said. “That’s something every defensive end needs to be. They need to have a lot of power, be aggressive. That’s what goes into my pass rush moves. A lot of speed isn’t going to work. A lot of speed and power, that’s what you need in the NFL and what a lot of pass rushers do.”
With that in mind, Foskey has continued to build his pass rush repertoire since he left Notre Dame.
In the last few months, he’s worked with defensive line specialist coach BT Jordan and attended the Senior Bowl, where he struggled early but finished strong.
“He’s my guy. He helps me a lot more on footwork than pass rush moves,” Foskey said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to work on a lot more. Footwork is a big part of my game that I needed to work on a little bit more. He has helped me get it down, and I feel like I’m pretty good at it now.”
Foskey has pretty strong tape on film from the last two seasons.
He says the play that most exemplifies his potential as a game wrecker is his strip sack on Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in 2021.
He forced seven fumbles in the last two seasons, which stands out even more so than his 22 sacks.
“The next step is always getting to the ball. That’s what the defense wants,” Foskey said. “That’s what every team wants. It’s not just about getting a sack, getting a negative play. You can get a negative play, and they can still get a deep shot for 20 yards and get a first down. If you get that ball, it’s pretty much game over.”
In 2022, he showed that he’s also capable of making game-changing plays against the run. The most notable example NFL teams and analysts seem to bring up are his goal line stops in Notre Dame’s 45-32 win over North Carolina.
“I feel like all 32 teams know I can stop the run and get to the passer,” Foskey said. “The UNC game, those plays I can dominate the tackle and get back-to-back TFLs. That’s a clip a lot of teams like to see.”
Foskey also adds value on special teams. He’s one of 15 players to block multiple punts/kicks in 2022 and hopes to bring that skill set to whichever team drafts him.
“It’s something that I want to keep doing because it’s a big momentum changer,” Foskey said. “I feel like my effort, my competitiveness and me thinking [that], ‘I’m going to block this punt on this play, right now.’ That’s just how I think every time I go into punt block. I don’t know if everyone else has that mentality, but that’s my mentality.”
So did Foskey benefit by returning to South Bend for his senior year?
It’s hard to argue that he didn’t, even if he was destined to become a third-round pick by declaring for the draft in 2022 or 2023.
Today he feels better prepared for the rigors of professional football than he did a year ago, which is ultimately what matters and gives him a better chance of sustaining an NFL career into his second contract.
“Coming into this position now, I feel like I’m more mentally prepared,” Foskey said. “I’m more aggressive, smarter, more physical and I just feel like I’m an overall better player right now.”