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Ifeadi Odenigbo NFL Draft scouting report

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Northwestern’s premiere pass rusher has a solid shot at a late-round selection.

Illinois v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ifeadi Odenigbo leaves Northwestern as one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the program’s history. The defensive end from Centerville, OH ended his Wildcat career second in program history with 23.5 sacks. Ten of those came in his 2016 senior campaign, a year in which he led the Big Ten in sacks. Odenigbo has seen his role expand every year at Northwestern and with each passing season his game continues to grow. Now, one Pinstripe Bowl victory and NFL combine appearance later, he’s ready to take the next step.

Measurements, Combine results

Check out Odenigbo’s combine results and physical measurements juxtaposed with the other defensive linemen in this year’s draft class, plus some NFL comparisons, via MockDraftable:

Notes

Odenigbo’s 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump tied for second-best at the combine. One of the players he tied in that category? Potential No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. His 40-yard dash ranked 13th. However, he is small for a defensive lineman in both height and weight, and, just like a DE that came out of Northwestern last year, has short arms. However, he does have a couple pretty favorable pro comparisons. Chris Long has enjoyed a long career and over 58 sacks, Shaq Lawson and Charles Grant were first round picks and there are a couple second-rounders in there, too.

Strengths

  • Odenigbo thrived in Northwestern’s base 4-3 defense as a pure pass-rusher. Wherever he ends up, this scheme and role will probably be best suited to his abilities. Odenigbo’s rare blend of speed, strength and an insatiable motor made him a consistent threat off the edge throughout his four years at Northwestern. These traits could very well translate to Sundays.

In this first clip, Odenigbo uses his speed to skirt around Iowa tackle Cole Croston, collapsing the pocket and forcing C.J. Beathard to hurriedly step forward. Recognizing Beathard’s vulnerable position and Croston being off balance, Odenigbo displays remarkable awareness and athleticism in spinning back away from Croston and wrapping Beathard up from behind for the sack:

All videos via BTN2Go

And this is just unfair:

  • We know Odenigbo is fast. But because of his rare speed, his bullish frame and ability to overpower offensive lineman can be underrated. These attributes will help him greatly if he’s asked to line up on the inside in a 4-3 or as a defensive end in a 3-4 at the next level.

In the below highlight, Odenigbo bulldozes Croston seven yards into the backfield and, without disengaging, pulls Beathard down with only his left arm (Northwestern rushed only three on the play):

  • It’s also worth mentioning that all of the above plays occurred on third down (the forced fumble happened late in the fourth quarter, as well). Northwestern’s 2016 matchup with Iowa might have been Odenigbo’s best game as a Wildcat and it couldn’t have come at a better time for a team that had started the year 1-3. Odenigbo racked up four sacks, five total tackles and a forced fumble on the afternoon. He’s always understood the stage and has a knack for the big play, and while these things won’t always show up on a scouting report, they’ll help him in potentially carving out a role for himself in the NFL.

Weaknesses

  • Odenigbo’s biggest weakness is that he has never proven himself to be a capable three-down player. Simply put, he’s not very good at defending the run. He’s certainly gotten better over time, but even last season, Pat Fitzgerald often had to take him out in obvious running situations. Some of that has to do with not being able to get off of blocks when he isn’t rushing the quarterback. Some of it is that when Odenigbo gets off the line awfully fast, that can actually hurt him in run defense. His thirst for the sack can result in him losing contain and finding himself out of position at times. The unrelenting energy he plays with can be a strength and a weakness.
  • Odenigbo is a specialist and he’s great at what he does. However, beyond his straight-line speed, spin move and bull-rush, he doesn’t have an overwhelming arsenal of maneuvers to break out as a pass-rusher. Expanding on this facet of his game will be crucial.
  • With an arm length of 32 5/8 inches, Odenigbo’s ceiling may be limited in terms of what he can add to this arsenal. In instances where his strength and speed aren’t enough to disrupt the pocket, this also affects his ability to disrupt passes at the line of scrimmage.

Career Stats

Year Games Tackles Tackes For Loss Sacks Fumbles Forced Fumbles Recovered Interceptions
Year Games Tackles Tackes For Loss Sacks Fumbles Forced Fumbles Recovered Interceptions
2013 11 9 6.5 5.5 0 1 0
2014 6 11 3 3 3 1 0
2015 10 19 5 5 0 0 0
2016 10 22 12 10 2 0 0

Projections

As it stands, Odenigbo appears to be straddling the line between seventh round selection and undrafted free agent. He is the 306th overall player and 26th ranked defensive end by CBS Sports, but ESPN views him more favorably, listing him as the 201st overall player and 18th best defensive end.

Outlook

Odenigbo’s ideal situation is a team that runs base 4-3 and can use him as a head-down pass rusher in third-down scenarios and, ideally, slowly develop him into a more complete player. It remains to be seen whether his physical and technical limitations will prevent him from ever establishing himself as an every-down end (or sticking around long enough to do so), but his pass-rushing skill will absolutely give him the opportunity to make a name for himself. It’s encouraging that his statistics improved every year at Northwestern and he certainly plays with an intensity and physicality that will earn him respect in NFL training camps and practices, even if he does wind up an undrafted free agent.