By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
As has been the case for the past ten years, since John Abraham was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets are once again searching for a dominant pass rusher in the 2016 NFL Draft. If found, it could be the missing piece their defense needs to go from very good to elite.
It is true that they may have found one when they selected Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin in the third round of last year’s draft, but he is still a work in progress and time will tell just how good he can be. Even if he turns out to be as effective as he appeared at times in 2015, it would not hurt to find another quarterback killer on the opposite side of the defense.
There is certainly a decent amount of potential candidates in the 2016 draft class, but only a few with as high as a first round grade. On top of that, one of the highest rated, Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky, has a number of red flags on his resume, including repeated failed drug tests during his time at Ohio State.
With the thought being that Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson are likely to be gone when the Jets pick in the first round, it seems improbable that the Jets will have a shot at either of those two. Among the next couple of names on the list of DE/OLB prospects is Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah.
In his three years at Oklahoma State, two of which were as a starter, the 6’4 273-pound Ogbah racked up 133 tackles, 35.5 for loss, 26.5 sacks, nine passes defensed and five forced fumbles. In this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, Emmanuel wowed onlookers by posting a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash, further improving his draft stock.
Projected to be chosen anywhere between the bottom third of the first round to the middle of the second, Ogbah should be there for the taking with the 20th pick, if the Jets like what they have seen from him and consider him to be the best player available when they choose.
While playing in a limited role during his redshirt freshman season in 2013, Emmanuel took part in every game, totaling 20 tackles and 6.5 for loss as well as tying for the team lead with four sacks.
In 2014, Ogbah was inserted into the starting lineup as a sophomore and he rewarded the coaching staff’s decision by accumulating 50 tackles, 13 for loss, 10 sacks, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles. His spectacular play that year led to him being named as the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
During his junior year in 2015, Emmanuel took his play to an even higher level, recording 63 tackles, 16.5 for loss, 12.5 sacks, four passes defensed and three forced fumbles. His 12.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss led the conference. He was so impressive in 2015 that he was recognized as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award, which is given annually to college football’s top defensive end.
An incredibly thickly built, well-proportioned athlete with a potent combination of speed, length and power, Ogbah is a true threat no matter where he is lined up on the defense. A highly effective pass rusher who can either bull or maneuver his way through the offensive line, he recorded a full sack or more in 16 of his last 21 games. Emmanuel also flashed the ability to drop into coverage at times during his college career.
Much more powerful than the 20 bench reps he put up at the combine, offensive lineman have an extremely tough time trying to redirect Emmanuel away from the action and TE’s do not stand a chance against him. In addition to his exceptional strength, Ogbah is incredibly skilled with the use of his hands and is able to punch and rip his way through in order to set the edge against the run.
Additionally, Ogbah has proven that he can perform admirably against stiff competition, playing extremely well against Kansas State’s G/T Cody Whitehair and Texas Tech’s LT Le’Raven Clark, who are both expected to be chosen in the first two rounds of this year’s draft.
Although he is quick to react to the ball, Ogbah can use some work on his overall awareness as the play develops. He also has a tendency to get caught up in blocks at times, preferring to try to fight his way through blockers as opposed to finding a way around them. His footwork can use some improvement at the pro level as well, in order to allow him to work his way around the edge of the offensive line more quickly.
Emmanuel may not possess the acceleration necessary to win with battles with his speed alone, but he exhibits the power and non-stop motor to help compensate for that, and his production speaks for itself. Known as a team player with a remarkable work ethic, Ogbah’s arrow is pointing up as long as he receives the proper guidance from his future NFL coaching staff.