NAME: Bobby Okereke
CLASS: RS Senior
JERSEY: No. 20
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 234 lbs
Key & Diagnose – Okereke gets criticized in this area, but I actually think he’s a smart player who generally reads his keys and reacts in a timely manner, even if he isn’t overly instinctive. Consistently playing forward and looking to fill his gap. ID’s pullers and lead blockers quickly and will fly up to meet them in the hole. Can lose sight of the ball at times, in which case he’ll spend some reps looking silly as well.
Range – Legit range. Not the fastest starter out of the blocks, but can open up, cover ground and make plays to the perimeter. Not sure there is a second gear in there, but still closes on the ball better than many linebackers do. Wish he was more explosive out of the blocks to get a head start on shooting through gaps to play more behind LOS.
Tackling/Finishing – Too many misses. Has to wrap up and finish, allows too many runners to tear through his tackles and doesn’t get them on the ground enough 1v1. When runners squared him up, didn’t finish nearly as often as I would have liked to see, largely due to the struggle to mirror laterally against quicker ball carriers. Not an athletic issues, needs to stay alert on his toes and finish. There are flashes of perfect form and big hits however, suggesting he can improve in this area.
Coverage – Athletically talented enough to match up in man coverage against most tight ends and running backs, but needs to play more under control. Has to slide out and then stay square with running backs releasing outside the box, as to not get beaten cleanly on Texas routes (San Diego State). In zone coverage, covers a lot of ground and generally shows good awareness of routes developing around him. Keep feet active in zone. Don’t see natural instincts to make a lot of plays on the ball.
Block Deconstruction – Needs a ton of work in this area. Comes into blocks high and can get engulfed. Doesn’t use his hands well to disengage, needs to be a lot more forceful in his ability to stack-and-shed. Have seen him go for a few rides before. Will he take the fight to blockers more aggressively? Even when he does at times, gets caught up in wrestling matches around the box. Inability to clear contact cleanly inhibits his ability to knife gaps. Has to at last show the ability to dip under blocks and finish tackles through contact if he won’t shed blocks.
Change of Direction – More laborious here than I would have liked to see. Adjusting his angle on the fly was a struggle. He seems to get sloppy with his feet when gearing down and changing direction, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he tests better than he looks on tape in this regard. Definitely some hip stiffness when flipping and carrying the seam or another vertical route. Overall, he’s a solid athlete, but probably needs to be an elite one given his other weaknesses.
Competitive Toughness – Plays hard and will show good effort in pursuit. Selected as a captain this season. Not a snap-to-snap banger in the trenches, but won’t hesitate to fly up and lower a shoulder into a lead blocker or puller despite his size. I would say he checks the boxes in this area, while not showing anything demonstrative on tape.
Pass Rush – Has good sack production at Stanford, and will finish with a big hit when given the chance. Most of his positive plays as a pass rusher were unblocked or hustle plays, when he blitzed he didn’t show much in the way of moves, and his size allowed him to be handled by most blockers with ease.
Discipline – Can get twisted in knots by misdirection, backfield motion or boot action. Needs to keep his eyes on the ball and stay assignment sound at all times. When he doesn’t get moved off his spot by window-dressing, understands and attempts to execute his assignment consistently. Smart player with plenty of experience.
Athleticism/Size – His listed measurables are small, but I’m not even buying those. Probably closer to 6-foot, 225, but plays more like a box safety on tape. His size is an issue given his playing style, but does appear to have decent length. Athletically he checks boxes, but I don’t see him as a standout in any way.
BEST TRAIT – Range
WORST TRAIT – Block Deconstruction
RED FLAGS – None
A three-year starter at Stanford, the biggest disappointment with Okereke is how little he improved from the 2017 season to the 2018 campaign. The reality is that he may be maxed out at this point, incapable of playing off blocks and not instinctive or explosive enough to beat blockers to spots on a regular basis in the run game.
There is a higher ceiling in coverage perhaps, as Okereke has decent movement skills and the ability to cover ground in zone, but I thought he missed some opportunities to make plays on the ball or lock up a route on tape. Generally speaking, if you don’t have elite size, strength or athleticism as a linebacker (or any position really), you better be technically and mentally outstanding, and I’m just not sure Okereke is that type of player. His range, competitive toughness and football IQ will keep him around a roster if he can stand out on special teams as I expect he will.
PROS: Super explosive linebacker who fits the mold of a pursuit WILL at the next level. Excels at knifing down into the line of scrimmage and shooting gaps. Does very well to time his attacks and knows how to play with patience to force the RB to declare. Has true sideline-sideline range when pursuing boundary plays and can beat ball-carriers to the corner, limiting second-level runs. Does have a quick eye for the game and good instincts, though he will trust himself too much and get fooled by misdirection. Takes on block with clearly understood technique and good effort. Long speed/burst profile proves valuable in coverage reps and as a blitzing LB.
CONS: Struggles mightily as a tackler. Regularly lunges into contact from quite a ways away; seems a bit stubby in the arms and cannot carry wrap through to the ground. High-waisted frame leads to laborious change of direction; will get exposed in space by hesitation moves/jukes. Despite willingness and explosiveness into contact, widely struggles to handle climbing offensive linemen. Can be far too passive waiting for them to arrive despite the fact that he clearly sees them coming; takes on contact without requisite hip bend and powerful hands to exchange power. Either ends up in the third level or in the first level, never maintaining leverage on second level; eats turf often.
Instinctive player who will over-pursue, especially when threatened to the boundary. Neglects his in-the-box responsibility and can allow big plays to shoot up the middle when displaced. As a coverage ‘backer, change-of-direction questions remain: will struggle to get his hips flipped at times and allow separation, though there are some positive reps here.