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2015 NFL Draft: Making the Case for Owamagbe Odighizuwa to the Steelers at No. 22

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When BTSC asked me to write an article with my favorite first round option In the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft, it didn't take me long to answer that question. Here it is: Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Okay Boss, since you insist that "Ask me next Friday" isn't good enough, I'll give you an actual wish. I want the Steelers to spend their 1st Round pick on Edge Rusher Owamagbe Odighizuwa out of UCLA.

What, you also want me to explain why? God, you're demanding, but what the heck. I'm a lawyer in my real life, which means I over-analyze everything. This is no different. There are many and good reasons why Double-O tops my list..

My Priorities, in order. Also known as channeling the Kevin Colbert philosophy for 1st Round picks.

First, I will only pick young men who will add to the locker room. Tunch Ilkin likes to say that every player falls in one of four categories when it comes to the locker room: adders, subtractors, multipliers and dividers. I believe that, and will focus most of my effort on the ones I think are multipliers, with some extra time for those who will "only" be adders. Sure, there are some stars whose talents are so profound that they may be worth the price they bring of making some other players less productive. But those HOF-level talents are few and far between, and all but impossible to recognize until they've been in the NFL for at least a few years. I may take a risk on those guys in a later round, but never in Round 1. Happily, most top prospects are going to be adders or multipliers so this is a pretty easy hurdle to pass.

Second, I insist on getting a high floor. One 1st-round bust can set your team back for many more years than a first round hit can move you forward, so I am not taking any chances. I want someone who will produce in Year 2 (rookie production is a bonus) and be at least a starter in Years 3-5.

Third, I want to fill a position of need, or at least of want. It's trite but true: this year the Steelers have "needs" at Outside Linebacker and Corner, and "wants" at other positions, so those positions win the tiebreakers against any others. And between the two, OLB wins the tiebreaker because (a) it is the more important position as a matter of pure philosophy, and (b) there is much better Day 2 depth at defensive back. Does that mean I'm wedded to a pass rusher? Absolutely not. There's no tie to break if you're comparing an ordinary talent to someone special, who will be great in the locker room while offering a high floor and a high ceiling. Fortunately, in this particular year Round 1 is so rich in my two position of needs that it's easy to assume I won't be faced with a conflict that can't be decided by the tiebreaker.

Fourth, I want a potential for greatness. Yes you read that correctly. Potential greatness is all the way down on my list at #4.

Fifth, I want to account for the depth available later in the draft.

Applying Those Priorities

This article took me a long time to write because I kept trying to describe all the factors I considered. Then I got around to writing up my personal Board... and all became clear. Here it is, with notes for the prospects who might be screened out by my #1 and #2 priorities that might screen some out. (Note that these are my personal evaluations and not the order that appears on the BTSC Board):

  1. OLB Dante Fowler, Jr.
  2. OLB Randy Gregory. May be off the Board due to risk factors.
  3. DL Leonard Williams.
  4. G/RT Brandon Scherff.
  5. OLB Vic Beasley
  6. OLB Owamagbe Odighizuwa. (Owa's run stuffing = Vic's pass rush, Vic's run stuffing = Owa's pass rush, and Owa = Vic for coverage. Beasley wins a squeaker because pass rush ability is slightly more vital to me than run-stuffing.)
  7. CB Marcus Peters. May be off the Board due to risk factors.
  8. CB Trae Waynes.
  9. Alvin "Bud" Dupree.
  10. G/T La'el Collins.
  11. NT Danny Shelton.
  12. WR Amari Cooper.
  13. WR Kevin White.
  14. WR DeVante Parker.
  15. CB Kevin Johnson.
  16. OLB Shane Ray.
  17. CB Byron Jones.
  18. Mr. Trade Back.
  19. T/G T.J. Clemmings.
  20. SS/FS Landon Collins.
  21. NT/DE Eddie Goldman.
  22. OLB Eli Harold.

Given that list, you can see how I ended up with Double-O as my vote. Fowler, Williams, Scherff and Beasley are all going to be gone. Randy Gregory will either be gone to another team, or will be screened out by one of my top two requirements. That leaves Odighizuwa. Nor is it really close after that, since numbers 7-13 are going to be off the Board or screened out as well. [For what it's worth, I have Shane Ray so low because I think the system he played in inflated his stats - if you can call being the No. 15 player "low"].

What Makes Odighizuwa So Special?

Here is the description from the current BTSC Big Board:

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, OLB, UCLA (Interviewed) - 6'3", 267 lbs. with long 33-3/4" arms. The young man with the difficult name is a true SPARQ-score star (a measure of athletic potential) who's been described as a bigger, just as strong, but not quite as bendy James Harrison, which (a) doesn't suck, and (b) sounds a lot like Lamarr Woodley if you think about it. High praise indeed! His exceptional week at the Senior Bowl practices and his performances at both the Combine and his pro day confirm that he has enough maneuverability to drop back into coverage, and his skill at run stuffing, combined with the fact that he's played some 3-4 OLB in UCLA's hybrid system, makes him one of the few prospects who might actually be able to contribute as a rookie. You couldn't design a more perfect fit if you tried. So what are the downsides? There are two. First, for all his impressive tape Double-O recorded only six sacks in his entire senior year. Second, there are medical questions dating back to two hip surgeries in 2013 for "fraying of the hip rotator cuffs". But it's really simpler than that, because the recovery time for those surgeries is enough to explain the lack of numbers, especially when combined with the fact that Owa's tape got better over the course of the year and concluded with an outstanding Senior Bowl. So it really comes down to a single, easy question that we at BTSC can't answer: Is Odighizuwa the dream candidate to end all dreams, or does he have a congenital joint problem that will cripple his career? Everyone here who's tried to do the research has ended up thinking there is no congenital problem (Wahoo!), but none of us are doctors with access to either the medical records or the patient himself.

The place to start your research is Steel34D's BTSC Scouting Report, which lauds Double-O's strength, relentless motor, consistent ability to disrupt the opposing offense, and ability to dominate the line in the running game. When you're done with that, go see Steel34D's BTSC Reevaluation Scouting Report, which recommends Double-O even more highly. Then go to the Neal Coolong/Paper Champions end-of-the process scouting report at SteelersWire, which is just as enthusiastic: "Odighizuwa shouldn't even be on the board at 22. We just hope he doesn't last until 23." And then in the comments: "Owa is a beast. Needs to be drafted higher than 22, because if he is there and they don't take him, I won't forgive them." For those who wonder if we are overrating Odighizuwa, see this article that lists him as the #2 pass rusher overall, this February rankings list from the much-respected John Owning that puts him at #3, and the nice scouting profile from Brett Kollman that's tucked away in his April article on favorite edge rushers for the Texans' needs (Hint: Double-O ties with Dupree for the top spot). Still have doubts? Spend some time watching this must-see, hour-long video scouting report from two of my favorite public analysts, in which Matt Waldman comes to see the light after reviewing the tape with John Owning. John Owning's typically excellent written scouting report at Football Insiders is no less positive, though he suggests that Odighizuwa might fit even better as a 4-3 DE than as a 3-4 OLB, a point that comes up in other reviews too such as this summary scouting report from CBS. This very thorough scouting report/article from Bleacher Report is also worth a careful read, since it covers both the football-related issues and some points on his personality and background ("Odighizuwa is impressing NFL teams with his character and intelligence in the interview rooms") while presenting the counter-argument 3-4 OLB would fit him better than 4-3 OLB (the reality is that he could play either). As to the other SB Nation sites, Brett Kollman spoke for the Texans, this very positive scouting report ("Odighizuwa is a beast!") comes from our sister site for the Patriots, and this equally thorough and positive evaluation from our sister site for the Chargers.

I could go on, but here is the bottom line: BTSC may be ahead of the curve, but we are far from the only ones who've kept moving Owa higher as more information came in. The bigger mystery is why the talking heads on TV haven't been doing the same.

This scouting report comes from a Cowboys blogger who seems to do nice work ("I really like this player"), and indeed Dallas at #27 is a common landing spot in many mocks. This is a fun video scouting report from what looks like a Dallas TV station follows up on that buzz. This well done scouting report comes from the S.I. site StillCurtain. Here is a brief scouting report from a Vikings site. This scouting report is more summary, but useful as a double-check. Here is a scouting profile from Matt Miller at Bleacher Report. This goes to a scouting profile from retired NFL scout Greg Gabriel, who complains about Odighizuwa's lack of hand technique.


I particularly recommend the recent rave review from Neal Coolong and Paper Champions because it includes this wonderful snippet from a tweet by the prospect himself:

Some are encouraged by gimmick and hype and others by the grind. The fakes will always get exposed. I put that on my name. #Dedicated

It's positively Deeboesque.

What can I possibly add to all the points made by all those people who know football better than I do? I suppose the only "new" thing would be something from my own area of expertise - basic, underlying body dynamics.

Have a look at this gif:

Beautiful, isn't it? It's one of the few truly flawless physical acts I've ever seen. 75 years later, if you talk to baseball people and mention "The Swing" they'll know you mean Ted Williams and this is the picture they'll see. The body dynamics are simply perfect. Every part of the entire system is focused on producing a perfect result at the moment the bat meets the ball. Anyone - and I mean anyone - with the athletic genius to duplicate that swing would be a great hitter at the highest levels.

Think I'm exaggerating? Have a look at this gif:

The guy on the right is Williams again. The one on the left may have been an a**hole (or an a$$hole, as I'm sure he'd be quick to say), but the man could certainly hit. That's what I mean by "body dynamics" - it's the part of athletic talent that comes down to getting everything to move in the most coordinated and efficient way possible. Last year I got flack on this List for pumping up a personal favorite on the grounds that his body dynamics were something special. "I've met a few people with this gift: what I call a physical genius at that "wiring" level more than any particular set of muscles and moves. I believe I can recognize it, and I believe that I see it in Odell Beckham Jr."

Look at this gif of Owamagbe Odighizuwa to see why I believe this guy has it too.

I picked this spot for several reasons, including the time of the game (late 4th-quarter), the position Odighizuwa is playing (standup OLB on the defensive left, exactly where he'd be for the Steelers), and the twin facts that no one else featured it and it won't show up on any stat sheet as an Odighizuwa "success." This is why statistics are so misleading!

You'll need to focus on three offensive players: #72 (the 305-lb. right tackle), #41 (the 235-lb. fullback), and #23 (the 205-lb. running back who came over to help as part of the play design). Think about that for a moment. On the stat sheet this play shows up as a completed pass and a "failure" by Odighizuwa to produce. In reality, on this key play late in the game the opponent was forced to triple-team the guy! Disruption is production, my friends, and there's no one more disruptive than a pass rusher who demands a triple-team.

Now go back and look at the body dynamics. (I wish I could run this in slow motion but it's beyond my technical ability). Owa's lightning first step and inside move have been eating up the Virginia line all day. This time he jukes to the inside and then sweeps past the tackle all but untouched. Nice move. But look closer and you'll see that Odighizuwa actually accelerated off the contact. In addition to his legs, he used the force exerted against the opponent to simultaneously push his own body in the direction he wants to go. That isn't easy! It takes a special kind of internal wiring to keep all those vectors in mind, while also staying on balance.

Next, the Fullback (#41) is in great position on the double team and perfectly aligned to jolt Owa to a standstill with a single good punch. While moving, Odighizuwa sees that punch coming, times it, and then intercepts the blow with a right-hand counter that hurls his on-balance, 235-lb. opponent about 5 yards away in a direction the man definitely did not want to go. Again, every step in that process - from the recognition to the response - calls for some very remarkable wiring in addition to all the strength and speed you normally hear about.

But that's not all! Odighizuwa simultaneously uses the force he applied on the toss to reset his balance and get ready to move forward again. Look at the way his hips drop and the balance shifts. Imagine you're walking across the street and suddenly see a car coming. You want to turn your walk into a run, but first you need to drop before you can drive. We've all done it, and the hesitation moment has driven us all crazy. But there's no way around it. Body dynamics won't let you run if your hips are forward in a normal walking position. So think about your own hesitation, imagine that you were instead moving sideways and tossing a grown man with one hand, and then ask this: "how long would it take me to get my hips back beneath me and ready to charge?" Betcha it's a lot longer than it just took Owa! That's 'cause his wiring is NFL-good, while you and I are just human.

Third, watch that left hand lining up during the reset. It's not really "swinging," so much as coming into alignment. The Right Tackle still hasn't recovered, so it's that running back who would be Owa's next obstacle. That left hand is down low and ready to sweep under-and-up to out-leverage the incoming blocker. It's instinct more than thought, for sure. Nobody thinks that fast. But it's athletic instinct; the trained instinct of a man who constantly "gets" where every part of his body is, what his balance is like, and how to deal with the physical task in front of him - even after completing two remarkable and challenging physical feats in a row at top speed.

I can't comment on the football part of this, such as whether Owa read the protection correctly or took the ideal angle to get to the quarterback. For all I know, there's some kind of subtle trick that would have beaten the triple team and gotten Owa those two steps closer he needed to make the play. If so, that's something he'll have to learn. What I'm saying is this: If Reggie White himself took that path and performed those physical acts, he could not have looked better doing it than Owamagbe Odighizuwa on this play. You're looking at wiring that works. Go back and look at The Swing. Come back and look at this. Do you see what I mean? Stats be damned, this kid is as good an athlete as anyone you're ever going to see. No one has better tools if those hips hold up, and based on all we've heard they should only improve.

I can't tell you why the talking heads on TV haven't treated Odighizuwa as a top-10 talent. My personal guess has to do with the fact that statistics sell, combined with something Daniel Jeremiah said in his podcast: "This is a player whose best football is in front of him." It's also a bit hard to describe what he does that's so good while explaining how it doesn't show up on the paper version. If you really care about the pundits' opinions, consider that every single one of them has Double-O at no worse than a very early 2nd-rounder, which is not exactly a big reach for a team like the Steelers that's picking toward the end of the 1st.

But the bottom line is that I believe Odighizuwa really is a top-10 talent. That's why he's #6 on my personal Board, and why he's the guy I want the Steelers to pick.