First Step Explosiveness
Twitched up athlete with ample burst and application when needing to bend the edge.
First Step Explosiveness
When he decides to drive out of the blocks and attack with speed, he’s usually going to claim wins with a high level of consistency. His actual get-off is impacted at times with a false step out of the blocks, which cuts down on how effective he’s gaining ground initially. If he cleans that up, he’s going to be a terror in speed rushes and in wide angled opportunities, where he’ll stress tackles and break down pass sets before even initiating contact.
Bright flashes of pass rush counters litter his film despite his relative inexperience in playing the game.
What is most intriguing and exciting about Ojabo’s game is the presence of a number of high-level pass-rush maneuvers. He’s shown a hesitation move out of his speed rush to freeze tackles to protect inside and oversetting tackles have been pinned by an inside spin move that features a firm “ice pick” by the outside arm to finish. That, paired with the speed rush and rip move off the edge, give him enough variance to be a viable threat early on, especially with his elite physical traits.
The ceiling is immeasurable if Ojabo can better negotiate the point of attack and further develop his rush move skill set.
There are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out and developed—understandably so given that he’s only played organized football since his junior year of high school. The finer points of stacking and deconstructing blocks at the point of attack are hit or miss and the quickness in which he transitions from initial blow to shedding counters needs to quicken for better results. But above all the inconsistencies, I am super impressed with his nose for the football and his natural feel for soft spaces in the pocket. He’s a ball-hunter and strips the ball from opposing quarterbacks on sacks at a surreal rate.
Michigan EDGE defender David Ojabo is sure to elicit excitement from NFL decision-makers and coaches alike given his raw tools and the bright flashes of high-level understanding of the game that peek through on film. Ojabo is very green in the grand scheme of things; he didn’t play organized football until his junior year of high school after being born in Nigeria and moving to Scotland at the age of 7. And yet, Ojabo is still very much a high-impact defender and shows surreal natural feel and instincts for the game despite the lack of experience—his nose for the football and brilliant rush counters are awesome to take in. And with a high school background in track (he won a prep state title in the 100m dash in 2018 with a 10.93s time), Ojabo has freakish burst and range as an athlete to help make an impact on the perimeter as both a pass rusher and in pursuit.
Ojabo isn’t a perfect prospect, but his ceiling may be as high as any 2022 pass rusher not named Kayvon Thibodeaux, and prospects with these kinds of physical gifts don’t last very long in April. Teams that implement wide-angled rushers will find great temptation in Ojabo’s game and will be best positioned to find an every-down role for him early in his NFL career as he continues to add seasoning and better understanding of the snap-by-snap workings of the game. The only thing standing between him and dominance as an EDGE rusher is more experience—finding a secure path to getting that experience will depend on his pro landing spot. I would consider that variable to be the biggest, most serious threat that could contribute to any variance in outcomes he’ll see as a pro player.
Ideal role: 3-4 outside rush linebacker (long-term) and a designated pass-rush specialist (rookie season)
Scheme tendencies: Multiple front, blitz-heavy system with several alignments in the box for rush personnel/base packages
Ojabo suffered an Achilles injury at the 2022 Michigan Pro Day and is expected to make a full recovery — although his availability for 2022 is in question.
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Washington (2021), Wisconsin (2021), Nebraska (2021), Michigan State (2021), Indiana (2021), Penn State (2021), Ohio State (2021)
Best Game Studied: Wisconsin (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Nebraska (2021)
First Step Explosiveness: See Above.
Flexibility: The ability to flatten at the top of the arc is impressive and has allowed his sack production to explode in 2021. His raw movement skills are pretty special and allow him to drive into resistance and carry speed and force effectively. I’m impressed with his body control as well on some of his rush counters to maximize his length and extension skills and sustain the needed force to clear hands off his frame and play through recovery contact from offensive linemen.
Hand Counters: See Above.
Length: Ojabo’s anatomical length is top-shelf and his ability to flash hands and dictate punch timing from tackles or alternatively use that length to seal hands off of his frame with rush counters is going to afford him a lot of luxuries when he’s attacking pass sets. Ojabo’s tackle radius is boosted by his reach as well and he’s got a prominent presence on the edge of the pocket to bat passes or swipe at the football and create turnover opportunities.
Hand Power: There are examples of violence and deliberate intent to dislodge hands from his frame. When his strikes do land, he’ll successfully chop or rip free. But in read and react situations, Ojabo appears to be a bit more prone to catching blocks and that’s where he’ll get bubbled from his spot. This is clearly an explosive athlete and there’s plenty of raw power at his disposal, but he needs to tighten his strike zone to help him win more reps early.
Run Defending: This aspect of Ojabo’s game represents the phase with the most improvement to be found. Right now, Ojabo is a slasher who wins by attacking forward and beating blockers to the spot; which there will be room for in the NFL as well. But if he’s going to be a more complete player, further navigating and deconstructing blocks with efficiency will need to be developed. He’s got the length and enough mass to stack blockers effectively, but needs to ensure his placement, timing, and extension skills are honed in order to protect his frame from being swallowed at the point of attack.
Effort (Motor): There are some lulls in his play but I’m inclined to think they’re due to uncertainty of how to navigate certain situations and not a matter of effort or enthusiasm. You’ll see him concede some space and struggle to recollect himself with high pads if he’s catching hands and unable to leverage into a low-man posture at first contact. But when he’s rushing the passer, he’s a demon off the edge and comes screaming through the frame with suddenness. Effort in flow and pursuit is tremendous as well; I’ve watched him get on his horse and run down opposing players while giving up 10+ yards to the ball and he does so while moving at a different pace than the rest of his teammates.
Football IQ: See Above.
Lateral Mobility: Ojabo is a phenomenal athlete and a player fully capable of driving in space as a reactive athlete to expand the edge if teams try to option off of his platform on the perimeter. His initial explosiveness translates beyond a linear path and he can offer the same suddenness to both crash across the face of an overset or to flip his hips open to the boundary against the run.
Versatility: I think there’s a lot of untapped potential for Ojabo as a pure athlete and the potential exists for him to become a very diverse defensive weapon. But with that said, I would ultimately prefer to see him land in a place that will offer stability and a clear, single role in the defense before adding a larger menu of responsibilities to his plate. In time, I see an every-down rush linebacker with the potential to play to the field or boundary, to or away from the run strength, and play forward or backward. But build him up methodically and with purpose.
TDN Consensus: 84.83/100 (Second Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 86.00/100
Marino Grade: 85.50/100
Harris Grade: 85.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 81.00/100
Weissman Grade: 86.50/100
Parson Grade: 85.00/100