As the Denver Broncos prepare to report next week for training camp, the team’s third-round draft selection Michael Ojemudia looks to start during his rookie season. Broncos rookies initially reported for training camp on Thursday, taking their first of two COVID-test’s, self-quarantining Friday and Saturday, and testing once again on Sunday. Rookies should be able to step foot onto the Broncos facility on Monday, assuming their two tests come back negative.
With that in mind, we’ll be starting our microscope series on the Broncos rookie draft class of 2020, analyzing how each player fits on the roster and what their path towards playing will be this season.
How will Michael Ojemudia impact the Broncos in his rookie season?
Ojemudia has the potential to be a very promising prospect for the Broncos, coming out of Iowa. He’ll require some development from head coach Vic Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell before he’ll be ready to start, but once he refines some areas of within his game and generates more experience and comfortability, he’ll be an ideal fit for the Broncos’ scheme defensively.
Fangio’s scheme relies on a combination of match-zone concepts which puts his players in a position to succeed regardless of their talent or skill levels. Fluctuating between man coverage on the boundary, and zone coverage towards the field side is great news for Ojemudia, who stood out in college for the Hawkeyes who also ran a similar coverage scheme. His size, length, and 4.4 speed will help him cover ground whether it be in zone or man coverage.
When you watch Ojemudia on film, his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes, quickly react at the top of a receiver’s route, and attack the football to force an incompletion was arguably his best skill in college.
Ojemudia’s other high-end trait was his physicality at the cornerback position. Unlike many defensive backs, he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, which will be vital for him in the Broncos’ defense that demands their cornerbacks to tackle. For reference, Ojemudia loves the physical aspect of the game so much, he considered leaving the University of Iowa when they moved him from his linebacker-safety hybrid role to cornerback.
“I was doubting whether I even wanted to be here, to be honest,” Ojemudia said in an interview. “I didn’t really like the position. … I always wanted to be physical and just jam everybody.”
The overall level of physicality shows up throughout Ojemudia’s film. Pairing that with his ability to read, react, and break on a route before the receiver can secure a catch, made it difficult for opposing quarterbacks complete passes in his direction. In 2019, Ojemudia only allowed a completion on 56.9% attempts targeted through the air, allowing a passer rating of 55.6.
There is a chance he could fulfill the role of a hybrid-nickel player on the Broncos defense where former Bronco and current Philadelphia Eagles safety Will Parks excelled last season under Fangio. Ojemudia possesses the traits to make that transition smoothly, having prior experience as a safety and linebacker, and it would allow the Broncos coaching staff to find another way to get him onto the field in 2020.
What does Ojemudia’s path towards playing time look like in his rookie season?
For Ojemudia to get onto the field in 2020, he will have to improve on tracking the football in the air and will have to demonstrate that he can play press-coverage, which he was rarely asked to do at Iowa. His physical play style suggests that it won’t be an issue for him, but he will have to demonstrate that he can consistently.
Outside of those few holes in his game, there shouldn’t be any barriers between Ojemudia and a starting role on the Broncos defense. One of the biggest storylines for the Broncos in 2020 is the team’s open competition for the third spot on the depth chart at CB.
In order for Ojemudia to start during his rookie season, he will have to beat out De’Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris, and Isaac Yiadom in training camp. Yiadom and Harris both struggled often in their first year under Fangio’s scheme, but they also had their share of big moments, particularly Yiadom, who closed out 2019 on a strong note after struggling during the first half of the season. Bausby will likely be the favorite to start for the Broncos in 2020. At this point in his career, Bausby is more technically refined, familiar with the scheme, and won’t have to make the transition from the college game to the NFL, while Ojemudia will have to undergo that transition.
The winner of the Broncos’ third starting CB position will likely come down to who is able to get up to speed quicker: Ojemudia as he transitions from the Hawkeyes to the Broncos, or Bausby as he attempts to bounce back from the injury that sidelined him for the remainder of 2019. As mentioned earlier, if Ojemudia can fulfill the role that Parks provided the Broncos last season, there will be a chance that he solidifies his role in Fangio’s defense.