This article was part of a pre-draft series on Michigan prospects.
David Ojabo had just one career tackle heading into the 2021 season, but then his life and career changed in a hurry. Ojabo was a major catalyst on Michigan’s defense, a unit that dominated far often than not and aided the Wolverines in their quest to beat Ohio State and win a Big Ten Championship.
Ojabo piled up 33 tackles (11 for loss), 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three pass deflections, and one fumble recovery. The 6-foot-5, 250 pound Ojabo was a force to be reckoned with. Ojabo’s story is an incredible one,
Ojabo was born in Nigeria, moved to Scotland in 2007, came to the United States for high school, and started playing football in 2017 — now he’s considered one of the best edge-rushers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
- Played well in big moments: Ojabo had a sack against Ohio State, 2 sacks and a forced fumble against Penn State, 2 sacks and a forced fumble versus Michigan State, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Wisconsin.
- Speed: Ojabo has a whole lot of speed in his arsenal, which aids in his pass-rush pursuit. He can get around the edge with the best of ‘em.
- Shiftiness as a pass-rusher: Speed is great, but speed isn’t great alone as a football player, you have to know how to use it — and Ojabo does. Ojabo has razzle-dazzle to his pass-rush arsenal and one heck of a spin move to evade stout lineman.
- His story: NFL teams are highly interested in the backgrounds of prospects, and Ojabo’s story is one of determination.
- Turnover machine: Ojabo’s five forced fumbles on the year= very impressive.
- Hard hitter: When Ojabo makes a tackle it usually leads to a quarterback or ball carrier feeling battered and bruised. Ojabo can really lay the wood.
- Measurables: A 6-foot-5 pass-rusher with speed and length? Every NFL team can use a David Ojabo.
- Needs to do better in run support: Ojabo’s recognition vs. the run leaves room for improvement. Ojabo isn’t tentative at all as a pass-rusher, but there’s more hesitation from him defending the run.
- Power pass-rush: There are speed pass-rushers and then there are the types that win with a bull-rush and just going at a lineman head on — this isn’t a strength of Ojabo’s just yet. He’ll need to add a little more weight and muscle to his frame to consistently win against tough and big NFL offensive lineman
- Pass-coverage?: Depending on where Ojabo goes in the NFL, he could be asked to drop in coverage with more frequency than he did at Michigan. Whether that’s in more of a zone coverage capacity or man defense, NFL teams will want to test his chops in this regard before draft day.
- Just a year of starting experience: Ojabo is good, but there’s just one year of tape to go off of. Some teams won’t flinch at this, for others it may cause more of a pause. While talented, there are elements of “raw” to Ojabo’s game.
What they’re saying
- ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “Ojabo can help the pass rush immediately. He doesn’t have (Aidan) Hutchinson’s all-around game. He has to get better against the run, but as a pure pass-rusher, he has a very high ceiling.”
- The Athletic’s Dane Brugler: “While still raw, he is a freaky athlete with sky high pass rush potential.”
- The NFL Draft Bible: “Springy standup rusher with very good length and great explosiveness. Ojabo struggles to read tackles and offers little as a power rusher.”
Projection: First Round
Ojabo could wind up being a top ten selection in the NFL Draft, but there’s a long way to go between now and draft day. Ojabo has a lot of good film, but the NFL Combine, Michigan’s pro day, and private workouts will all influence whether his draft stock rises even further or gets knocked down a peg.
There’s no denying that Ojabo had a great year for the Wolverines. NFL teams will fall in love with his high motor, his physicality, size, and speed. But for every five teams that love the prospect from Scotland, there will be one or two that will be more reluctant to draft him due to just one season of starting experience. Be that as it may it won’t matter much if the current projections hold up — there’s a strong chance Ojabo is a top 10 selection.