From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling an edge rusher that possesses immense physical tools and high upside as a potential game wrecker in the league, but a recent injury has the potential to submarine his draft stock.
#55 David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (R-So.) – 6040, 250 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|David Ojabo||6040/250||9”||33 1/2”||80 3/4”|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Long frame with room to add more functional mass and strength
— Just scratching the surface of his physical capabilities
— New to the game of football (five years’ experience total) and has plenty of room for growth
— Explosive off the edge with good play speed and burst
— Displays the ability to bend around the corner and accelerate into the backfield
— Track background shows up when in pursuit on the ballcarrier or QB
— Closes ground quickly on his rush, showing a sense of urgency to get to the ball
— Relies on a euro step cross chop and inside spin move as his main pass rush moves
— Can set up tackles by faking outside and crash inside or stutter step one way and use his speed to get around them
— Has a diverse pass rush plan overall given his inexperience
— Has a knack of going for the football on the strip sack
— Has the length to keep tackles off his frame when defending against the run
— Showed improvement when taking on blocks and shedding in run defense with more play time
— Academically bright student that takes pride in being bright and aware on the football field
— Has showcased the ability to run with backs and tight ends in coverage
— Has only 620 snaps played in 20 total college games in his career, still extremely raw
— Needs to add more strength and functional size to better hold up against the run and consistently set the edge
— Will cede ground when he stands up against blockers in run defense
— Wasn’t a full-time defender in his final season, still coming off the field on some obvious run downs
— Needs to do a better job stacking and shedding blocks and beating blockers to the gap
— Needs to develop more of a power aspect to his game when tackles get a hand on him to continue his rush
— Suffered an Achilles tear during his Pro Day workout that will likely cost him most, if not all his rookie season
— Redshirt Sophomore prospect from Aberdeen, Scotland
— Born May 17, 2000 (age 21)
— Born in Nigeria and moved to Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2007 before coming to the U.S. for high school
— Consensus four-star prospect and a top five prospect overall in the state of New Jersey
— Track star in high school who won the 2018 prep state title in the 100-meter dash with a personal-best time of 10.93 seconds
— Came to Blair Academy in his sophomore year and participated in soccer and basketball before taking up football as a junior
— Played his first season of organized football as a junior in high school, becoming an all-conference player by his senior season
— Did not see any game action and redshirted as a freshman in 2019
— Appeared in all six games on special teams and played linebacker in three, recording one singular tackle
— Appeared in all 14 games with six starts at outside linebacker in 2021 and made 35 tackles (24 solo), 12 for loss, 11 sacks, and three pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery, and a program-record five forced fumbles
— Has appeared in 20 games during his career with eight starts
— Suffered a torn Achilles during a pass-coverage drill at Michigan’s Pro Day on March 18 and recently had surgery to repair it
— Second team All-American (2021), Consensus first team All-Big Ten (2021), Second team Academic All-American (2021), Academic All-Big Ten honoree (2020 & 2021), Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award (2019)
David Ojabo came to Michigan a uber talented yet raw athlete, having only played organized football for two years in college. Being a native of Nigeria and spending a large portion of his youth in Scotland, Ojabo has bounced around a fair amount before ending up in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately for Ojabo, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his Pro Day workout. I reached out to my cousin, Phil Johnson: Papadopoulos Family Director of Athletic Training (Football) about Ojabo and his injury status of which he said:
“That is a tough injury. Safe assumption is he is out of this season to be ready for full activity at the start of 2023 but possible he could be involved for second half of this season if everything goes well.”
Before the injury, Ojabo was taking the football world by storm, racking up second team All-American honors in just his fifth year playing the sport. He went from primarily being a soccer and basketball player to a football player and the decision proved to be a good one as he has been able to showcase his elite skill set and physical traits as an edge rusher. He is a fantastic mover in space for weighing 250lb, covering ground in a hurry like his track background would suggest. Watch this rep versus Michigan State where Ojabo hits the inside spin move on the LT and plays chase to the QB who flees the pocket, closing ground quickly to force the throw away.
As you can see in the clip above, Ojabo is a fluid pass rusher having the movement skills paired with a diverse pass rush repertoire to win against offensive tackles. The spin move is one of his favorite moves he likes to use to beat blockers with his speed and quickness. Check out this inside spin on the RT from Indiana that Ojabo whips for the strip sack in the pocket.
Along with the inside spin move, Ojabo is just as effective at executing the outside spin when he catches OTs cheating inside on him. Here against Georgia and #69 Jamaree Sayler, Ojabo jabs inside and gets Sayler to shoot his hands, countering back outside on the spin and continues to accelerate after the QB, chasing him out of the pocket and forcing the incomplete pass.
Along with the spin move, Ojabo likes to utilize the cross chop on the outside. He has a stutter step/euro step he uses in conjunction with various pass rush moves to set up blockers and get them confused, thus varying his pass rush plan to play games with his competition upfront. Watch this rep against the Spartans where Ojabo hits the euro step, faking inside with a hard jab to the left then pushes back outside chopping down the tackle’s hands and rips through with the same arm as he turns the corner and proceeds jump onto the QB’s back for the takedown.
When I asked Phil Johnson about Ojabo the player and person, he had this to say:
“He’s a great dude. I wish he was still here. He has a high ceiling with lots of room to grow and continue to develop as a football player.”
Considering that Ojabo posted only a singular tackle the year prior to his breakout 2021 season, it’s fair to say that Ojabo is just scratching the surface of what he can be as a football player just as Johnson suggested. Not only can Ojabo win with various pass rush moves, but his speed and acceleration at the top of his rush paired with his long, lean frame make him a great speed rusher on the edge. He needs to work a little on his ankle flexibility to be a pristine bender at the next level, but here are just a couple of examples of Ojabo winning with speed and turning the corner by either ripping through the block or bending around the tackle for the QB sack.
As you will notice in the strip sack against the Badgers above as well as the Hoosiers, Ojabo has a real knack of knocking the football out as a pass rusher. In his lone full season of legit playing time, Ojabo set the Wolverine school record with five forced fumbles in a season, speaking to his talent and upside as a pass rusher.
Given Ojabo’s athletic profile and his diverse skill set playing multiple sports in high school, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he can be comfortable moving laterally as well as in coverage when assigned to cover tight ends based on the scheme. Here is one instance against Ohio State where Ojabo comes off the LOS and into the slot to cover #88 Jeremy Ruckert up the seam, running stride-for-stride with him in man coverage.
When it comes to run defense, Ojabo will get picked on due to his angular, lean frame. He does need to learn to play with a better base and more power to hold his own against the point of attack, but he shouldn’t be considered a complete liability as a run defender. It’s not that David Ojabo is incapable or lacks strength. He is just raw against the run, but there are flashes of him in just about every game handling himself in that area. For example, watch this rep against Wisconsin where Ojabo initially cedes ground to the LT, but he manages to come to balance and rip off the block to make a play on the runner for a short gain.
Ojabo’s play against the run improved with more play time (who would’ve thought, right) and he ended up making more plays in run defense as the season went on. Here in their conference championship game against the Hawkeyes, we see Ojabo jab his outside hand on the RT’s outside shoulder to hold the point of attack and jolt him back, reading the running back as he tries to bounce it outside and manages to rip off the block and tackle the ballcarrier in the backfield for a loss of yardage on the play.
Overall, David Ojabo is a young, talented football player that is known in the locker room for being an even better person. He is a phenomenal athlete with a unique skill set as an already accomplished pass rusher that has multiple moves at his disposal. While he does have a long way to go when it comes to experience, football instincts, and continually growing stronger to be a more well-rounded defender, he still executes at a high level for as little football as he has played and can only improve as a pass rusher as well as a run defender with continued work on his body as well as by diversifying his pass rush repertoire.
When coming up with a pro comp for Ojabo, I initially leaned toward Brian Burns due to the near identical lean frames and ability to rush the passer. However, Burns was more refined as a pass rusher coming out, and I settled on the combination of current Giant Azeez Ojulari and Colt Yannick Ngakoue.
I compared Ojulari to Ngakoue last year when he came out of Georgia, and I see plenty of similarities in their game and Ojabo, having very similar frames and body types (Ojabo just a tad longer), a natural feel as a pass rusher who wins with speed around the corner as well as the cross chop and spin move, as well as the sense that both would struggle against the run when in all reality, Ojulari too played a lot better against the run despite being a tad undersized that people realize when he was at Georgia, similar to how Ojabo has represented himself this far. Ojulari plays with a little more power in is game, but Ojabo can develop that with more work on his body.
Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert were in attendance for the Michigan Pro Day to watch Ojabo compete, and unfortunately were there when he went down. It isn’t in the Steelers’ nature to draft players who may have to take a redshirt year due to injury but should Ojabo’s stock fall into Day Two of the draft, the talent and upside he presents may be hard to pass up. T.J. Watt is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and Alex Highsmith took a step forward in Year Two, but you can never have enough pass rushers in today’s NFL.
Given Ojabo’s character and potential ceiling as a pass rusher, drafting him with an eye for the future as a guy who can be your #3 EDGE to start his career and potentially allow you flexibility to not re-sign Highsmith when his contract is up if he achieves that ceiling could work out in Pittsburgh’s favor from a financial standpoint as well as an on-the-field production standpoint if he does reach the potential he is capable of.
Projection: Late Day One to Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.9 MED – Year One Quality Starter (1st Round)
Games Watched: at Michigan State (2021), at Wisconsin (2021), vs Ohio State (2021), vs Iowa (2021)