At roughly 6’3" and 280 pounds, George Uko might be viewed as too much of a "tweener" to be considered an elite NFL prospect. While he is too tall to be a Geno Atkins-type undersized interior rusher, a prototype in which a relatively light weight is made up for by a short stature conducive to gaining leverage on the opponent, he also may be deemed too heavy and not athletic enough to be an edge rusher.
The lack of clarity in the type of player he is gives some scouts pause. While Uko played largely interior defensive lineman at USC, a position where players are expected to hold their own against the run, scout Rob Rang says that Uko "Lacks the bulk teams are looking for in a full-time defensive tackle, struggling to anchor in the running game."
While Uko isn’t considered a top draft prospect by any means, he deserves far more attention than he is currently receiving. Uko may not be the strongest run defender as of right now, but there is a high demand for interior sub-package pass rushers in the NFL right now that he should help satiate.
That’s where I believe Uko would fit the best, at least initially, in the NFL next year—a sub-package interior pass rusher. Uko possesses the initial burst of speed and the long arms to create separation from offensive linemen on the way to the quarterback, and even his relatively light body weight shouldn’t be much of an issue—players of similar weight such as Michael Bennett, Greg Hardy, and Antonio Smith have all thrived as interior rushers on passing downs.
Uko left USC at a time when many felt he would benefit well from one more year of development in the college ranks, which is likely a contributing factor for his undersized-ness. The firing of ex-USC head coach Ed Orgeron is thought to be a major reason why as Uko left, as the relationship between the two was very strong.
So, as his NFL career develops over the next few years, Uko will likely add weight to hold up against the run on a more consistent basis--Rang adds that Uko has a "Naturally large frame with long arms and plenty of room for additional mass."
A few years of maturity down the line, and we could very well be talking about Uko as a full-time starter as a pass-rushing 3-technique for a 4-3 team or as a 5-technique 3-4 defensive end who kicks inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.
Uko, who had 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss in his career at USC, would be a nice fit for teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, or the New England Patriots, who can afford to ease him into the game early in his career during passing downs, where he can focus on using his strengths to his advantage and getting after the quarterback.