When The Draft Network was born, each member was assigned a Power-5 conference to scout. I was given the Big 12, as my focus in football is usually on the offensive side, specifically the passing game. The conference is known for dominating, high-flying passing offenses. Little did I realize, my favorite prospect from the conference would come on the defensive side of the ball.
The first defense I focused on was the Texas Longhorns, as I knew they had multiple potential draft picks. While players such as Kris Boyd, Gary Johnson and Davante Davis showed NFL-level traits, defensive lineman Charles Omenihu was the true standout.
In the Summer, I noted Omenihu as a potential riser during his senior season and the pre-draft process. Despite modest production to that point in his career, the flash plays were always prevalent. The length and athleticism in his 6’6 and 275 pound frame was obvious, and he was a natural block shedder.
This season, Omenihu’s flashes turned into consistent play. He lived in the opponent’s backfield, racking up 18.0 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Playing on the edge and the interior, his versatility was fully utilized. It was enough for Omenihu to be named Big 12 defensive player of the year and be invited to the Senior Bowl.
Ahead of the Senior Bowl, I’ve looked into the loaded defensive line class for the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s as impressive as many analysts have suggested, with deep groups at both EDGE and interior defensive line.
How exactly will this impact the 2019 NFL Draft? In Ben Solak’s most recent mock draft, released today, he projected 8 of the top 14 selections to be either interior defensive lineman or EDGE prospects.
With all of that talent, it’s interesting to see where a player like Omenihu fits in. Despite the production and athleticism, Omenihu would be a bit of a tweener in a 4-3 defense. Some general managers may value that versatility, but others could struggle to find a natural fit for him along their team’s defensive line.
Count me in the group that cares a little less about a player without a natural position. The best coaches can adapt scheme to the talent of their roster. If I’m an NFL head coach, bring me the best talent and I’ll figure the rest of it out.
That’s where I stand on Omenihu. Yes, his best fit is as a 3-4 defensive end, a front that few NFL teams still employ. But, I’d rather have Omenihu’s ability than a lesser player who fits a specific scheme. Why? Because Omenihu is a first round player.
Few NFL prospects have the natural tools of Omenihu. With elite length and mobility, he constantly gets underneath the offensive lineman’s pads in order to win the leverage battle. After that, his block shedding is a revelation.
This sack against Kansas State came against a tight end, but is a clear example of how immediately Omenihu can disengage from blocks:
Against Kansas, Omenihu showed these traits once again (left defensive end):
Omenihu initiates the engagement with the offensive tackle, keeps him at bay with his length, works across face and uses a swim move to clear his path to the quarterback. The offensive tackle didn’t stand a chance.
When rushing the passer, Omenihu uses what is known as the “long-arm” technique to keep offensive lineman from getting into his pads. He’s difficult to block as it is, but when employing this power move that plays to his strengths, Omenihu is a completely different animal (now playing the 3 technique on the right side of the defensive line):
Omenihu would use this technique again against Oklahoma State. On this rep, notice how he uses the long-arm technique to create leverage and get his body tilted almost horizontally. When the offensive lineman does a good job of slowing Omenihu’s initial rush, he counters with a rip move for the sack:
While Omenihu isn’t the bendiest pass rusher, he has better than average traits on the edge. With his complete package of athleticism, strength and multiple pash rush moves, he can beat offensive tackles in a variety of ways.
Omenihu was lined up as the defensive end on the right side for this rep against Baylor (snatch and rip move):
Against USC, he was lined up as defensive end on the left side (speed rush):
Each of these six sacks have come in different ways for Omenihu, which speaks to his versatility as a pass rusher. Additionally, as you’ve likely noticed, Omenihu was used in a variety of technique alignments along the defensive line.
His block shedding translates to his run defense, as he can stack and shed or shoot gaps with burst. Georgia learned that the hard way:
With Omenihu’s well-rounded skill set and versatility, his ceiling is as high as nearly any other defensive lineman in the class. While his weigh-in and practices at the Senior Bowl could be the key to his draft stock and projection, his potential role at the next level should be one that utilizes his wide-ranging abilities.
It’s likely a matter of time before people realize just how impactful the addition of Omenihu could be to an NFL defensive line.
We’re just seven days away from Mobile.