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2015 Draft Prospect: Re-Evaluating Owamagbe Odighizuwa

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For whatever reasons, some players tend to have better careers in the NFL than they did in college. Owa Odighizuwa from UCLA fits that role and has the chance to be the best player at his position in this draft class.

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When we originally did a breakdown of Owamagbe Odighizuwa, we were impressed with the player we saw on film. However we continue to watch and re-watch the game film on every prospect and recently we felt the need to re-evaluate the UCLA outside linebacker prospect.

Odighizuwa did not put up amazing numbers in his career at UCLA partly because of two hips surgeries. In his senior year he had 61 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss but only six sacks and a handful of pressures.  At the NFL Combine in February he quietly flashed freaky athleticism. He measured in at 6-foot-3, 267 pounds with great arm length at 33.75 inches.

He was a top performer in almost every measured category at the combine. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, with a 1.61 10-yard split,  jumped a ridiculous 39 inch vertical jump, had a 127 inch broad jump, ran a 4.19 second 20 yard shuttle,  had an 11.75 second 60 yard shuttle and put up 25 repetitions on bench press. These numbers combined for the 4th highest pSPARQ score of any edge rusher in this draft.  For comparison's sake every one of those numbers were better than Ezekiel Ansah who was raved about prior to the 2013 draft for his combine performance and eventually Ansah was drafted 5th overall by the Detroit Lions.

Strengths

Odighizuwa is a powerful player at first glance.  He plays the run better than any outside linebacker prospect that has declared for the draft. On nearly every run play his hand placement is consistently inside his opponent. His lower body technique is just as consistent. His feet are underneath of him, his base is wide and his legs are bent which give him the leverage and the ability to generate power. This gives him a initial jolt that pushes back even the biggest linemen.  In football terms this is more commonly referred to as having heavy hands.

On this play Odighizuwa is lined up at the five technique. He is one of the first players off the line at the snap. His legs are bent, his pad level low and his hands are on the tackles chest plate.  He uses his technique to drive USC's 6-foot-8 350 pound RT a yard back from the  line then he extends his arms, utilizing his upper body strength, to get separation from the tackle. Separation is what allows Odighizuwa to disengage from the tackle and make the play in the backfield.

Here Odighizuwa was lined up at a traditional 4-3 defensive end position. Despite the difference in the defensive front he displays skills that can be applied to an outside linebacker position.

Once again we can see Odighizuwa come off this line low. He engages with his knees bent and his hands inside establishing  a new line of scrimmage. We also see how well he can set the edge. Here he keeps his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage which means he can react if the back tries to run outside of him or inside.

He keeps his outside shoulder free, once again in case the RB tries to run outside.  Getting great separation through arm extension, he immediately looks into the backfield. Then he gets off the block and makes the tackle. This is a textbook example of setting the edge. After the Steelers' OLB failure to consistently do this same thing throughout the season, this play has me excited.

Odighizuwa also flashes explosiveness in his games. While he didn't have a lot of sacks there is plenty of traits he shows that has me believing he could be more successful in the NFL.

Here Odighizuwa moved inside to the three technique on a 2nd and long. He didn't make a sack in this play but, it stood out to me because how fast he fires off the line. He is easily the first one off the line. Again he gets his hands inside and gets extension then he executes a swim move. Sure he doesn't make the play but  this play tells me that he has the requisite explosiveness to be at least a solid pass rusher in the NFL.

Of course explosiveness isn't the only thing that makes a pass rusher.

Like the previous play, Odighizuwa doesn't make a play but shows off some skills that say he can have an impact in the NFL. He flashes an decent initial burst off the line of scrimmage but what stands out is his use of the rip move.

Unlike some college pass rushers you can see Odighizuwa drop his pad level as he turns the corner.  More importantly his feet are underneath of him as he rips through. This allows him to fight off the weight of the LT keep his angle to the passer.  He doesn't get the sack because the tackle sells out to the outside. He also attempts to get tackle to bite with a poor head fake that slows down his momentum. Finally he lets the tackle initiate contact instead of initiating it himself which also hurts his outside rush.

Weaknesses

Lateral movement tops the list of Odighizuwa's weaknesses. When asked to move down the line of scrimmage on the backside this can be seen the easily. He is rigid and doesn't move fluidly from sideline to sideline. These issues will also effect him in coverage which could leave some teams concerned about his prospects as a OLB.

Fluidity concerns also show up as a pass rusher. He doesn't move smoothly around the corner and doesn't consistently drop his pads when turning the corner.

Part of Odighizuwa's fluidity issues may be a results of two hip surgeries that caused him to redshirt the 2013 season. A promising fact when considering if Odighizuwa was limited by his hip function is that he continued to improve as the season went on, amassing five of his 11.5 tackles for loss and four of his six sacks, in his last five games of the year.

Odigihizuwa is also far from a polished pass rusher. While he does show a solid rip move that is the only pass rush move he displays with any promise. He tries to add in a spin move as a counter but it isn't effective and it is really slow compared to better pass rushers in the class. Since Odighizuwa doesn't have an elite burst off the line he needs to use hands to keep himself clean. He doesn't do this and is often the second person to make contact. Adding a stab move to take advantage of his upper body strength and arm length would go a long way.

Conclusion

Odighizuwa's play against the run speaks for itself. He is one of the few OLB prospects that could help a team from day one in this area.  He will surprise with his athleticism and shows enough to say he can be a solid player as a pass rusher as well. Odighizuwa will be a better player in the NFL than he was in college as long as he can stay healthy.  I expect Odighizuwa to be a first round draft pick and I wouldn't be surprised if he has the longest career of any OLB prospect in the draft.