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Anfernee Orji Saints

Why Anfernee Orji Can Make Saints Roster As UDFA

  • Justin Melo
  • June 1, 2023
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The New Orleans Saints agreed to terms with 13 undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft. The standout among the group? Former Vanderbilt linebacker Anfernee Orji. Orji finds himself in an excellent position to make the Saints’ 53-man roster.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Orji may be undersized, but he’s an elite athlete. Orji was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and ran a 90th-percentile 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. Lower-body explosion was on display via a 122-inch broad jump and a 38.5-inch vertical. Orji also showcased outstanding change of direction by running a sub-seven in the 3-cone drill. Orji’s results helped him capture a Relative Athletic Score of 9.23 out of 10. Athletic comparisons include Brian Asamoah and Patrick Willis (!), per MockDraftable

The Rockwall, Texas native utilized his rare athleticism to be an extremely productive defender in the SEC. In 2022, Orji posted a career-high 106 tackles, which accounted for an SEC-leading 8.8 tackles per game. Across four seasons at Vanderbilt, Orji totaled 269 tackles, 21.0 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, 3.0 sacks, three fumbles forced, and one interception. Orji was the Commodores’ best defensive player this past season.

Orji is a high-level run-stopper. He routinely diagnoses the action and plays with terrific pursuit. He is a secure, wrap-up tackler with great acceleration to reach ball-carriers. Orji is a disruptive player when tasked with playing downhill from the box.

Orji’s athleticism especially shines in pass coverage. He’s highly instinctive in zone coverage, and athletic enough to cover tight ends and running backs alike in man coverage. Orji makes smooth transitions where his change-of-direction skills allow him to turn and run with his assignments. Orji carries routes vertically with little issue. Orji is a modern-day linebacker that is ideally built to combat opposing pass-happy offenses.

Of the Saints’ undrafted free agents, Orji received the second-highest guaranteed money. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis signed him to a contract that contained $216,000 in total guarantees, according to reports. In some cases, it’s more lucrative than what a sixth or seventh-round draft pick may earn. It increases Orji’s chances of making the Saints’ roster. Only Mark Evans II, an offensive lineman from Arkansas Pine-Bluff, signed a contract with New Orleans with more guarantees ($241,000).

The Saints lack great depth at linebacker, so they aggressively pursued Orji’s signature. Demario Davis and Pete Werner are penciled in as starters. Orji should compete for a reserve role alongside the likes of D’Marco Jackson and Ty Summers—not exactly a murderer’s row of roadblocks standing in Orji’s way.

Special teams is often the quickest pathway for an undrafted rookie to prove he belongs on the field. Orji is an experienced special teamer who totaled nearly 450 career snaps in the kicking game. Orji possesses the profile of an excellent NFL gunner. His red-hot motor and overall sense of urgency should quickly make him one of New Orleans’ most important special teams defenders.

Orji will add quality depth to the Saints’ linebacker corps. He appears primed to compete for a roster spot throughout training camp and the preseason. Orji and the Saints are a perfect fit that marries need with opportunity.

Written By

Justin Melo