Brother of New York Giants EDGE Azeez Ojulari and grandson of a Nigerian prince, BJ Ojulari joined LSU with a high school pedigree and last name that brought royal expectations. Through three collegiate seasons, BJ rose above his family’s shadow, casting his own dominant image. But where does Ojulari sit in the 2023 NFL Draft class, and how high does his scouting report project his ceiling to be?
BJ Ojulari NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: LSU
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’2″, 248 pounds
- Arm Length: 34 1/4″
- Hand Size: 10 1/2″
Against stiff competition in the Georgia high school circuit, Ojulari totaled 335 tackles (78 for loss), 33 sacks, four forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries across three seasons. As a senior in 2019, he set Marietta High School’s record for sacks (19) en route to a state championship.
Like Azeez, BJ left high school as a highly sought-after four-star prospect, receiving offers from all the college football powerhouses, including Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia. However, Ojulari initially committed to Tennessee in August 2019 before flipping to LSU in October. His reasoning was clear:
“One of the big things [is] one of the outside linebacker coaches is Coach O [Ed Orgeron],” Ojulari said the next summer. “That plays a big part. They got Coach [Kenechi Udeze] as a pass-rush specialist, and that’s what I do — pass rush. They’re really going to develop me and get me to the next level.”
It didn’t take long for the then-6’2″ and 220-pound pass rusher to make an impact at LSU. Were it not for Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., Ojulari would have been the best true freshman pass rusher in the conference. Nevertheless, he still made the Freshman All-SEC team and was primed to take another step in 2021.
Over the last two years (24 games played), Ojulari has racked up 20 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. His production is accentuated by going through a staff overhaul last season when Brian Kelly took over for Orgeron. Despite the upheaval, Ojulari remained a consistent force off the edge, allowing the Tigers to bounce back to 10-4 after going 6-7 in 2021.
BJ Ojulari Scouting Report
Kelly recognized Ojulari’s importance to the team in December, saying, “Elected as a captain for us. Led both on and off the field. He’s been an EDGE playmaker for us. I think when you’re talking about excellence both on and off the field, BJ Ojulari would be that guy that we would bring up.”
To recap, Ojulari dominated the high school circuit and shined for three seasons in the toughest conference on the collegiate field. But how will he fare in the NFL?
Where Ojulari Wins
As a lighter edge rusher, Ojulari wins with speed. He blows passed any tackles that dare jump-set against him, crossing their face off the snap. His first-step explosion jolts opponents, and his sudden change-of-direction ability allows him to disappear from one gap to another.
Ojulari visibly comes with a pass-rush plan, setting up linemen and almost always working the outside shoulder. He showcased a beautiful ghost move, feinting his inside hand to force the blocker to extend before recoiling and dipping under.
Additionally, he has the ankle and hip flexion to bend around the arc and explode toward the QB. But that bendability doesn’t affect his balance, which he is able to sustain throughout reps.
Ojulari can play in a two- or three-point stance but is at his best in a wide alignment. That gives him a runway to convert his speed to power, which he’s done consistently. While the LSU EDGE needs to add a more physical component to his game, Ojulari has already displayed a long-arm bull-rush technique that transcended his brother’s play in college.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Ojulari’s motor is never questioned, as he habitually generated second and even third-effort pressures and sacks. Once he realizes he’s lost the leverage battle, the LSU EDGE can drop his pads and use his lateral agility to put himself in a better position.
After beating an OT with a set of moves (such as a high-side, low-leverage rip), Ojulari reaches into the toolbox and pulls out counters to give him an easy win, such as a lightning-quick inside spin move.
Yet, Ojulari is more than just a pass rusher. He’s nimble on his feet in run defense, chasing down running backs and quarterbacks sideline to sideline with ease. In pursuit, he’s relentless, owning the straight-line speed to track down faster backs.
Furthermore, Ojulari proved he could use a blocker’s momentum against them, gripping their chest plate, keeping his eyes in the backfield, and pulling them aside when needed. His anchor and grip strength are solid enough to set the edge, but the room for improvement is even more exciting. And he routinely beat tackles/tight ends to his contain position against runs.
Another underrated aspect of Ojulari’s skill set is his tackling. His long arms naturally afford him a larger tackling radius. But he accelerates into contact and remains low, not leaving his feet unless needed. Lastly, Ojulari isn’t a one-phase athlete. He contributed on special teams, primarily on the punt coverage and field-goal-block units.
Ojulari’s Areas for Improvement
I love Ojulari’s potential. However, his areas for improvement appropriately cause concern. Ojulari’s biggest knock is his size. He needs to add muscle mass to be more than a pass-rush specialist. That role is needed, but teams can find that in the later rounds. The LSU EDGE has put on 20+ pounds since his high school days, and his frame can seemingly pack on another 10-15 without zapping his patented athleticism.
Ojulari’s lack of size shows up in his play strength, and when looming blockers latched onto him, he struggled to break away. It doesn’t help that Ojulari has a bad habit of raising his pad level mid-rep, exposing his chest for linemen to control. This shows up against the run, as tackles were able to out-leverage him and drive him off the line of scrimmage both vertically and horizontally.
Continuing the coachable issues list, Ojulari can overpursue angles, leaving cutback lanes for rushers to take advantage of. Too often, he would bite down too much against zone reads or take unnecessarily wide angles to contain.
Although the LSU EDGE is usually the one to torment tight ends, they occasionally get revenge. In the tape studied, there were times when Ojulari simply didn’t see the tight end before they chip-blocked him into the dirt. To his credit, he would swiftly bounce up and try to make a play, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
This isn’t truly a big deal, and he improved upon it last year, but the LSU EDGE is commonly the last defensive lineman to move off the snap. To be fair, he’s usually the furthest from the ball, but his snap anticipation is lacking. On stunts, Ojulari needs to quicken his process. His initial cut back inside is rapid, but he then takes too many steps to penetrate upfield, allowing guards/centers to reset.
Current Draft Projection for LSU EDGE BJ Ojulari
There’s a lot to like about Ojulari. His upside is tantalizing, stemming from his impressive athletic and long build. Rushing the passer with speed is his specialty. But unless he wants to get taken out of NFL games on early downs where runs are more prominent, he needs to bulk up.
Currently, Ojulari is all finesse around the arc. You can succeed at the next level in that role, but without an enhanced power element, the LSU EDGE won’t hear his name called until after the first round.
MORE: 2023 EDGE Draft Class
Ojulari is best as a two-point stance OLB or wide-nine DE, offering him space to operate. He doesn’t offer much versatility beyond that due to his limited play strength.
Ojulari has a wide array of pass-rush moves. He comes with a plan and executes it. But right now, I worry he will struggle to adjust to the NFL — as his brother did coming out of Georgia to begin his career with the Giants.
Nevertheless, I would’ve taken Ojulari off the board at the back end of Day 2 after his true freshman season. Now, Round 2 seems more realistic, with Round 1 not being out of the question. If he complements his speed and finesse with increased power from an NFL weight program, he can vastly supersede his draft slot within a couple of years.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for BJ Ojulari
Strengths: Athletic pass rusher who was a menacing force on LSU’s defense. Outstanding pass rusher who displays terrific hand technique and plays with excellent pad level. Comes off the edge with balance, body control, and speed. Easily changes direction or immediately alters his angle of attack and plays with a nasty attitude.
Agile, rarely off his feet, and fast-moving in any direction. Slides down the line of scrimmage to make plays against the run. Fast laterally, displays ability in pursuit, and runs down ball handlers from the back side. Gets out into space to make plays against opponents. Causes fumbles and creates opportunities.
Weaknesses: Lacks overall strength and gets out-positioned by larger opponents. Handled by tight ends. Primarily used up the field and wasn’t asked to make plays in reverse.
Overall: Ojulari has been a terrific defender for LSU the past two years and has shown a lot of progress in his game. He’s a multipurpose front-seven defender who can rush the passer as well as make plays in pursuit. Ojulari comes with tremendous upside but needs to improve his playing strength. However, he will offer immediate impact as a 3-4 OLB or as a one-gap DE.
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