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Sunday Spotlight: David Ojabo

The Chiefs’ main focus of the offseason remains unaddressed. NFL Draft prospect, David Ojabo, could be a piece of the solution for Kansas City. On February 2, 2022, General Manager Brett Veach addressed what the offseason would look like. Veach mentioned that the team would address the defensive line “right off the bat” this offseason. More than two months later, on April 16, that still hasn’t happened. The Chiefs have made moves on defense. Justin Reid, Jermaine Carter, and Taylor Stallworth joined the Kansas City roster. The only position that hasn’t seen any movement is the defensive end position.

There is talent left on the market. Jadeveon Clowney logged nine sacks last season for the Cleveland Browns and remains a free agent. Takkarist McKinley, a first-round selection (26th overall) by the Falcons in the 2017 draft, is still just 26-years old and remains a free agent. McKinley has 20 career sacks in his first five seasons. Rasheem Green, a 24-year-old former third-round pick in 2018, had a standout season for the Seahawks last season. Green remains on the open market after 6.5 sacks, and 15 quarterback hits in 2021.

The options are there for Kansas City on the open market, but none seem like options to bring security to the edge rush position. The Chiefs ranked 29th with just 31 sacks in the entire season in 2021. Bringing in fringe edge rushers who don’t bring a strong track record of production is not a sound strategy to fix one of the NFL’s worst pass rush units. As a result, it makes sense for the Chiefs to look to the draft to bring in support opposite of Frank Clark.

David Ojabo: Background

If the Chiefs are interested in a long-term solution in the pass rush department, David Ojabo fits the bill. Ojabo, 21, played two seasons at the University of Michigan. He was born in Nigeria and lived there until he was seven years old. After moving with his family to Scotland for ten years, Ojabo relocated once again to Blairstown, New Jersey, in 2017, where he would attend Blair Academy. Throughout much of his school years, Ojabo was a basketball star. This, up until his junior year of high school, he picked up a football at the Blair Academy.

Playing alongside eventual Ravens’ first-round pick, Odafe Oweh, Ojabo learned the ropes of the edge rush position. Despite his raw ability, the athleticism was clear, and Ojabo earned offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and countless other schools. He was recruited as a four-star recruit out of high school in 2019. The road to the NFL was always going to be an uphill climb for Ojabo after starting his football journey so late in life. After playing zero games as a freshman, he appeared in just one game his Sophomore season. The only sample size we have from Ojabo is his 2021 season in Ann Arbor.

In 2021, Ojabo logged 35 tackles, including 12 for a loss and 11 quarterback sacks. He defended three passes and forced five fumbles. Ojabo’s 11 sacks ranked second, behind only top-five draft prospect Aidan Hutchinson in the Big Ten last season.

David Ojabo: The Good

David Ojabo’s athleticism is off the charts. So much so that at times he covered tight ends more than 15-yards downfield while at Michigan. As a defensive end. Ojabo is an incredibly quick pass rusher with a good bend at the position. He uses various (sometimes unorthodox) pass rush moves to get to the quarterback quickly and pursue the strip-sack.

You like crab cakes bro? @DavidOjabo — Ramey (@HoodieRamey) January 26, 2022

Last season in the second game of the season, Ojabo showed off the spin move above. He shows off his elite athleticism, spins past the left tackle, then quickly closes on the opposing quarterback to complete the sack. For a player who has only played football for five years, the instincts to get to the quarterback are off the charts. Paired with an elite first step and a spin move that terrorizes opposing offensive lineman, David Ojabo, on film, looks like a middle of the first-round talent at the edge position.

Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo has made some SERIOUS money today. He’s been a game wrecker for the Wolverines #CFB — Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) October 30, 2021

An underrated aspect of Ojabo’s game can be found in the power behind his bull rush. Much of his flashy plays include his trademark spin move. What takes his stock to the next level are the other plays. Take the play above for an example of this power. Ojabo can build up speed and momentum with his quick first step, but this time, instead of slipping into his spin-chop technique, he squares up the tackle. The left tackle squares his shoulders to prevent being run over.

Thanks to Ojabo’s speed, this first contact takes place four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Ojabo then leverages his strength to keep distance with his left arm while simultaneously slipping past the blocker en route to the quarterback.

This blend of speed, power, and good football instinct has NFL scouts drooling. Mix in further development alongside NFL-level coaching, and Ojabo has the potential to develop into a star at the next level.

David Ojabo: The Bad

The largest hang-up in drafting David Ojabo in the first round of this year’s NFL draft is, without a doubt, his availability next season. Sadly, Ojabo tore his Achilles at this year’s Michigan Pro Day, leading up to the draft. The average recovery time for a torn Achilles tendon is nine months. This timeline puts Ojabo’s return to the practice field around November or December 2022. That’s Week Ten at the earliest. Now, of course, different players have different recovery timelines for injuries. Cam Akers of the Rams made headlines this season when he returned from a torn Achilles after just five and a half months.

That return timeline isn’t realistic, nor will it become the new norm for players returning from brutal injury. Furthermore, mostly without mention from league circles leading up to the draft, it has been how such a brutal injury can change a player. David Ojabo’s greatest asset is his explosiveness and speed. Both of those traits could never recover fully after such a terrible injury. The Chiefs need edge rush help from the jump in Week One. Ojabo will in no scenario be ready to start the season, and Kansas City would be taking a long-term risk in drafting Ojabo at all.

Beyond the concerns with injury, there are real concerns with the young pass rusher’s ability in the run game at the next level. With such a short time playing football at any level, there are still aspects of his game that require refining in the NFL. Many teams could live with a small project that they can develop, including the Chiefs (see: Joshua Kaindoh). However, Ojabo may prove to be more of a liability in the run game than he is a project to start the year.

If the Chiefs are looking for a Week One contributor at the edge, they will want a well-rounded player to play the bulk of snaps opposite Frank Clark right away. Ojabo is a raw talent who needs more time to refine his game at the next level before he can become an every-week contributor.

Following his injury, Ojabo will miss valuable time on the field both in training camp and in the preseason. By the time he is ready to cut his teeth on the NFL field, the Chiefs will (hopefully) be deep into the playoff hunt. Real production from Ojabo won’t come until 2023, meaning the Chiefs will be forced to look for edge help elsewhere if Ojabo is the pick at the back end of the first round.

Read our other NFL Draft Prospect Profiles:

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