2021 NFL Draft diaries: Charles Snowden is looking to make his mark

Virginia linebacker Charles Snowden is one of the most intriguing linebackers entering the 2021 NFL Draft, showcasing a blend of size and speed.

Charles Snowden is ready to prove himself. It won’t be a new feeling for him.

Coming out of Blake High School (Md.), Snowden was overlooked. So overlooked, Snowden only received one offer from a major college program, and it wasn’t from his home state.

Instead, the University of Virginia wanted his services, but only if the 6-foot-7 Snowden would make the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker. He accepted on both counts.

Now, after four years and three standout campaigns as a starter in Charlottesville, Snowden is entering the NFL Draft with many seeing him as a likely Day 2 prospect with ample length and adaptability.

“I see myself as a traditional 3-4 SAM but I think my best ability is my versatility,” Snowden said. “I could see myself playing as an edge defender. At (Virginia) I lined up at SAM, and in nickel I was in the front. I feel very comfortable in both. You need to be physically capable and then knowing what to do in each position, and not just knowing the gap but what the offensive line likes to do. “The tackle likes to set like this, they want to run this way.’ The complete understanding of both positions.”

During his time with the Cavaliers, Snowden racked up 15 sacks, 30.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. Not bad for a linebacker often used as a movable chess piece in the Virginia defense.

Snowden believes his game is a nice crossbreed of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith and Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns, focusing on explosion and motor.

“I’m a very good pass rusher,” Snowden said. “I understand seeing the set of a tackle and using my length and speed, but it’s not what I do best. I know I can continue to grow … and become a more complete player.”

In 2020, he made Second-Team All-ACC despite breaking his right ankle in late November and having a steel plate inserted for stability.

While Snowden awaits clearance for football activities, he’s progressing well, with his walking boot off while mobility continues to increase. Currently, he’s working out at EXOS in Pensacola, Fla., attempting to bulk up to 250 pounds. Snowden says he’s previous high for playing weight was 247, but believes his wiry frame can put on more bulk without losing speed.

Last summer, Snowden ran a laser-timed 40-yard dash and clocked in at 4.51 seconds, a blazing time for both his position and stature.

While Snowden doesn’t expect to be on the field for Virginia’s pro day on March 24, he should be ready for training camp. Doctors told him he should be football-ready approximately 4-5 months after his surgery, putting him on a schedule for OTAs, although they’re likely to be virtual once more in the midst of COVID.

In late January, Snowden got his first taste of the NFL Draft process. Despite being unable to play, Snowden accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. and interviewed with all 32 clubs in 15-minute intervals.

“I feel like it went about as well as it could have considering I couldn’t play. I was being a good teammate, passionate about how I wanted to be there.”

Teams were generally intrigued by Snowden’s combination of athletic and intellectual prowess. After all, this is a youngster who majored in American Government with minor in African-American Studies, and was active socially during his collegiate days.

“I went to a few demonstrations, went to a lot of protests this summer in DC,” Snowden said. “I was part of the NAACP at Virginia, and was part of another group that looks to help students around grounds, students in need, raise money and donate when you can.”

Despite his tape, character and athleticism, Snowden hears the doubts. He knows teams’ main concerns are centered around filling out his frame and political activism. He understands some wonder if a UVA graduate needs football as badly as another prospect.

The doubt is there, but for Snowden, it’s not a new feeling. He’s ready to prove it all wrong again.

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