Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, what’s the status of Michigan DE David Ojabo’s scouting report? The Wolverines star emerged in the 2021 season as a dominant force opposite teammate Aidan Hutchinson. He then lit up the NFL Combine, reinforcing his elite athletic upside. Shortly after, however, a torn Achilles suffered at his pro day cast doubt over his projection. What does Ojabo’s projection look like with the injury? Is he still worth a Round 1 pick?
David Ojabo NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 250 pounds
- Wingspan: 80 3/4″
- Length: 33 1/2″
- Hand: 9″
Ojabo’s Combine results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.55
- Broad Jump: 10′ 2″
- Vertical Jump: 35″
- Short Shuttle: 4.45
David Ojabo Scouting Report
It almost defies logic how quickly Ojabo broke onto the college football stage. He was barely a sleeper at the start of the 2021 season, with just 1 tackle to his name. By season’s end, he was a frequent first-round selection in 2022 NFL Mock Drafts. And in some mocks, he even rose over his teammate Hutchinson, who’s now the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick.
The early first-round talk is now likely moot after Ojabo’s injury. But there’s still a sense that he could crack the first 32 picks, even if he’s likely to miss his entire rookie campaign. What makes Ojabo’s athletic talent worth a first-round selection, even if he won’t be available right away? What makes Ojabo a prospect with special upside? Let’s take a closer look at his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report to find out.
Ojabo’s athletic profile
Right away, Ojabo’s high-level physical tools stand out on film. Hutchinson tested just as well as Ojabo at the NFL Combine, but Ojabo shows visibly superior functional athleticism on tape. At 6’4″, 250 pounds, with 33.5″ arms, Ojabo has impressive length and a fairly dense frame. That length provides a dangerous conduit for power. Additionally, he uses that length proactively to produce turnovers and disrupt passers in structure.
Ojabo’s frame is made even more dangerous by the exceptional athleticism contained within it. He has top-tier explosiveness off the snap and also has great torso flexibility. Ojabo can accelerate quickly while reducing his surface area and pinching the corner. Furthermore, he has a devastating ghost move, with which he uses his burst and contortion to shade by tackles with minimal contact.
Ojabo is an incredibly twitchy and energetic rusher, in addition to his contortion ability. He possesses elite lateral agility, which helps him keep an effective spin move in his arsenal. He hits a rare second gear with his speed around the edge, and his speed and length combine for dangerous range.
What’s even more impressive is that Ojabo has shown he knows how to combine elements of speed, power, and bend in rapid succession. He keeps his balance while flexing and contorting, and he’s flashed legitimate multitasking ability in a small sample size.
Execution beyond the physical traits
In his current state, many of Ojabo’s wins are a product of his physical traits alone. Nevertheless, that only makes his peak potential even more exciting. Already, Ojabo has produced at a high clip — and he isn’t even close to his ceiling from an executional standpoint. The flashes that are there, however, are promising.
First off, Ojabo displays a hot motor, though not quite as consistently hot as Hutchinson’s. Once in pursuit, his length and explosiveness make him hard to evade. He also has scary range in run support. In pursuit, he swoops down on ball carriers with his burst and wingspan, and he’s shown to take effective angles in space as well.
In run defense, Ojabo can absorb opposing power and establish half-man relationships — something his length and flexibility allow him to do. He can also latch onto opposing linemen and rip down their anchors with force. Those glimpses of extra physicality prove that the Michigan DE has three-down potential.
Moving to Ojabo’s pass rushing, the Wolverine DE also shows bright flashes of targeted hand usage. He’s shown he can time hand swipes effectively and capitalize on the displacement gained by his natural traits. Ojabo’s growth is also exciting. He improved each week in 2021, seemingly adding more rushing moves to his arsenal with each passing game. That coveted linear progression will entice teams to invest in his development.
Areas for improvement
The upside is tantalizing with Ojabo, and there’s enough there that he’s still in the first-round conversation even with his injury. Still, there are clearly areas in which he can improve, and most revolve around the executional portion of his game.
Most notably, Ojabo’s hands are still a work in progress. The Michigan DE doesn’t always have a pass-rushing plan, and that lack of a plan can sap away at his momentum and exerted power. Moreover, his hands can stall quickly at times when he doesn’t win off his natural traits. He needs to be more consistent capitalizing on displacement, or his rushes fade out at the apex.
When Ojabo actively utilizes his hands, he doesn’t always strike cleanly. He could tuck his elbows more to maximize force. Ojabo could also improve his stance to incorporate more lean and potential energy, further maximizing his burst off the line. Additionally, Ojabo isn’t yet proficient at stacking counters. His play strength also isn’t elite. Thus, he can be suffocated by stronger tackles.
Among other things, Ojabo can be inconsistent in run defense, and he doesn’t play full-time in that phase. Furthermore, he’s not great at reading and reacting to option plays when unblocked. He could also improve his efficiency of motion in space.
Ojabo’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
When we talk about Ojabo’s 2022 NFL Draft stock, we have to start with his Achilles injury. There’s optimism that he’ll undergo a full recovery, but even so, he’s likely to be out for most — if not all — of his rookie season. Ojabo may not hit the field until 2023, when he’ll be 23 years old, with one year of his rookie contract used up.
In a sense, that scenario helps to convey why selecting Ojabo in Round 1 would be appealing. The team that does select Ojabo in Round 1 claims that invaluable fifth-year option, which provides extra time and flexibility to extend talented players. For Ojabo, who still has room to refine his game when he returns to the field, that extended security could be valuable for himself and NFL teams.
So now that we’ve established the value of the fifth-year option, it’s time to ask another question: Is Ojabo worth it, even with the injury concerns? I’m inclined to say yes. It’s reasonable to suggest that if Ojabo fully recovers, he has the highest ceiling in the 2022 NFL Draft EDGE class. He’s supremely explosive with elite lateral agility and high-level bend, length, and power capacity.
Ojabo can still refine his hand usage and improve in run support. But already, the Michigan DE has shown he can capitalize on his searing explosiveness with violent, calculated rushing moves. His elite physical profile and astronomical upside, combined with his constant growth in 2021, make him worthy of a late first-round pick, even with his Achilles injury factored in. If he slips into Round 2, he shouldn’t last long beyond that.
Ojabo’s Player Profile
Ojabo draws attention in droves with his eye-popping pass-rushing reps. But his journey to football and through football is just as eye-opening, though in a different way.
Ojabo was born in Nigeria in 2000 and moved to Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2007. He lived in Scotland until his high school years, when he finally came to the United States. In high school, Ojabo quickly distinguished himself as an elite athlete. He was a track star, with a personal-best 100-meter dash time of 10.93 (for reference, Devin Hester had a 10.62 in college). Ojabo started playing football in 2017, and from there, he was hooked.
In testing drills during his recruiting cycle, Ojabo logged a 4.75 40-yard dash and a 33.3-inch vertical jump — impressive numbers for a 6’5″, 233-pound prospect who was still maturing. As a result, Ojabo earned four-star recruit status in the 2019 class. He fielded scholarship offers from Clemson, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Texas A&M, but Ojabo ultimately chose to don the Maize and Blue.
He signed with Michigan in July of 2018 and enrolled the following spring.
Ojabo’s career at Michigan
When Ojabo arrived at Ann Arbor, he quickly fell underneath a deep EDGE rotation. But the Michigan product didn’t let that discourage him. He worked hard behind the scenes and gained valuable experience on the scout team. At the end of the 2019 season, he was named Michigan’s Scout Team Player of the Year. That work led to game action the following season.
In 2020, Ojabo played in all six games, mainly as a special teamer. Although he only logged 1 tackle, he still gained valuable on-field experience in multiple phases. Along the way, he was able to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors. In 2021, however, Ojabo made it clear that the NFL is in his future.
On a team that starts Hutchinson, Ojabo broke out on his own accord. That’s not easy to do. He logged 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 14 games then declared for the 2022 NFL Draft after Michigan’s playoff loss to Georgia.
Ojabo’s 2022 NFL Draft ascension
Ojabo has always had the talent. In high school, he was compared to Carlos Dunlap by Rivals. Ojabo himself tries to model his game after Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones. His talent has always been apparent, and in 2021, he applied it better than ever.
The hype around Ojabo had crescendoed to unforeseen levels before his injury. But even with an Achilles tear on his report, the 22-year-old is still a worthy candidate for a first-round pick. His ceiling may be the highest in the 2022 NFL Draft. If healthy, he might have cracked the top 10. At a premier position like EDGE, that kind of player is very much worth stashing for a bargain price.
Ojabo still has room to refine his game. But he’s shown he can win against collegiate opponents on his physical traits alone. He’s shown he can apply rushing moves in conjunction with his physical traits. And while he’s still somewhat unrefined, he has the capacity to grow.
Ojabo can be a premier pass-rushing threat in the NFL, and each week in 2021, he proved it one more way. In a stacked EDGE class, Ojabo could very well have one of the highest ceilings. Injury or not, he’s a worthwhile Round 1 investment for a team needing a blue-chip pass rusher.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for David Ojabo
Positives: Explosive and athletic impact defender coming off a sensational season. Fast up the field, very sudden, and displays tremendous quickness off the snap. Quickly changes direction and immediately alters his angle of attack without losing momentum. Possesses an explosive closing burst bearing down on the play. Bends off the edge, rarely gets knocked off his feet, and shows speed in lateral pursuit.
Effective standing over tackle and coming out of a three-point stance. Can make plays up the field and off the line in space. Shows a variety of moves to get off blocks. Consistently penetrates the line of scrimmage. Easily exploits offensive tackles with speed and explosion.
Negatives: Controlled at the point by a single blocker and gets out-positioned by opponents. Lacks great strength at the point. Turned in just a single productive season at Michigan.
Analysis: Ojabo burst onto the scene last year and made an impact for the Wolverines, displaying a lot of next-level ability along the way. He’s an explosive pass rusher who can play in a variety of systems and has enough athleticism to be used both in space and at the line of scrimmage. Ojabo must add bulk to his frame and polish his game but comes with tremendous upside.
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