A week ago, I wrote a report on Indiana offensive tackle, Jason Spriggs. In that article, I highlighted the importance of having athletes along the offensive line to offset the impact of the ever growing presence of hyper athletes in defensive trenches across the league. So, obviously, it is just as important, if not more important, to get these freak athletes along the defensive line. Especially on the edges. Why? Edge defense is a whole new ball game when it comes athletic needs. Agility is needed in order to bend the edge efficiently and also counter, where straight-line burst and lower body strength are imperative to power through offensive linemen as well as holding against the run. On top of that, strong hands are important, as is physicality, but a good edge defender can be successful if they are just a great "lower body" athlete.
Luckily, the combine tests most of these traits. Agility can be tested through shuttles and 3-cone drills and speed/explosiveness can be tested through jumps and the 40 yard dash (specifically the 10 yard splits). Justis Mosqueda who has done great work for Bleacher Report, Optimum Scouting and Rotoworld, developed a predicative formula for Front Seven and specifically, edge players. The formula is called Force Players. With a closer look, you can see that the formula has been incredibly accurate in labeling successful edge defenders. Guys who have been successful without passing the formula, namely Chandler Jones and Michael Bennett, have above average lower body strength but have tremendous upper body power and play with high levels of physicality. The combine does not properly test for upper body strength, as a bench press test does not test hip explosiveness, where a lot of upper body power comes from in football. So it is hard to predict football players who succeed at such a high level, as Michael Bennett and Chandler Jones have done, in that way. The main point is that when you look across the league, it takes an incredibly special type of athlete to be successful on the edge of a defense.
Watching Emmanuel Ogbah, pegging his athleticism on tape is a tall task. He is generally very inconsistent firing off the snap, part of which can be anticipation or just natural explosive ability. Ogbah has flashes where he burst off the ball very nicely, but they are too few and far between to gauge what type of athlete he definitely is. Even last year, a raw player like Bud Dupree made it very apparent that he was a gifted athlete when he flashed on tape. Ogbah does not give that same vibe. On contact, it is rare that Ogbah's lower body can change direction. He looks very uncomfortable moving any direction but forward and looks awkward trying to turn a corner on the outside. His movement skills in general leave much to be desired and it would be asinine to do something like ask him to work in space. So, overall I am not sold on him as the elite athlete that makes up so much of the top tier defensive front seven players in the NFL...
So what is the point?
Obviously, it is not all bad when you watch Ogbah. If anything, there is a lot to like about his game. He has great size at 6-4, 275 pounds and has incredibly long arms. He has violent, strong hands and possesses a great anchor to play against the run with. Most importantly, he is physical. He knows what type of player he is. He is not some undersized edge rusher who will run circles around tackles, but he knows that. He uses his body incredibly well and he is a mean son of a bitch every time the ball is snapped. He never stops attacking the offensive linemen and because of how strong he is, he is able to make plays on a regular basis. He may not have the elite athletic ability, but he plays with that same motor that a guy like Chandler Jones has in order to make him the great player he is. On top of that, Ogbah plays with excellent awareness against the run, making him a factor on every down.
NFL Comparison: Ogbah has a lot of Justin Tuck to his game. Ogbah can move all over a formation and due to his size and style, can win from various spots on the field. He does not look like he is a great NFL athlete, but his strength, physicality, motor and field IQ will help him be a productive NFL player.
While I think a team would be wise to spend a relatively high pick on Ogbah, I do not think that team should be Philadelphia. The closer to the ball Ogbah is, the more he impacts the play and Philadelphia would likely ask him to play outside linebacker where I think his lack of movement skills would make him an odd fit. He would be an excellent sub package player a la Vinny Curry, but I have a hard time seeing him make a regular impact in this scheme. However, a team looking for a strong side defensive end would be very smart to spend a top 40 pick on the Oklahoma State defender.