We are officially in full-time draft season. While writing this, we are exactly three weeks from the start of the first round. For the Patriots, as of now fans don’t have much to look forward to until the second half of Friday thanks to the Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy trades, as New England doesn’t pick until the top of round 3. The good news, however, is that barring a trade up (very possible), the draft will still have plenty of talent for the Patriots to choose from. For this prospect, he has seen his stock go from virtually non-existent to a borderline top-100 pick.
Larry Ogunjobi, Defensive Tackle, Charlotte
Larry Ogunjobi was part of the first ever recruiting class for the Charlotte 49ers football program. He’s a great, smart guy. I got a chance to interview him after the Senior Bowl, which you can listen to here. A chess piece on their defensive line, Ogunjobi moved all around and was clearly the most talented player on their defense. At the next level, teams should look at him as a penetrating 3-tech, who could very occasionally kick further inside and shade over the center.
Larry Ogunjobi is an extreme athlete. Take a look at his athletic testing web, courtesy of mockdraftable.com.
At 6’3”, 305 pounds, Ogunjobi ran a sub-5.00 second 40 yard dash, and was in the 80th percentile of all defensive tackles in the vertical jump after rising up 32 inches. To further show his explosion, look at his 96th percentile broad jump that came in at 116 inches. He had an above-average 3-cone time as well, clocking in at 7.55 seconds. All of this translates to the field when you watch him penetrate from the interior of the line. He consistently took on and beat double teams, and understands how to battle “half a man” very well.
When rushing the passer, you don’t want to meet a lineman head-on, you want to position yourself to be attacking one of his shoulders, hence battling “half a man.” In the interior, this can be countered easier since interior offensive linemen don’t have a free shoulder, but Ogunjobi still successfully does this and knows how to attack double teams that come to try and mitigate it. He’s also polished as a scraper in twists and stunts, pulling around and filling a vacated hole that his “smashing” defensive partner left. If drafted to a spot that can use him immediately, he will provide day-1 impact as a pass rusher.
He needs to get stronger. The bench press is honestly one of the least useful combine drills for a number of reasons, but when play strength is questioned on tape, and then a prospect tests below average at the bench press as Ogunjobi did, it just reaffirms what you’re seeing. He is a fairly smart player when it comes to defending the run, he understands how to manipulate blockers to see past them and disengage when he needs to, but his strength (or lack thereof) is going to make it much more difficult to do so against NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
He also has to deal with the level of competition questions that all small school prospects go through, but his game against Louisville and Heisman award-winner Lamar Jackson should help some of those concerns.
In the aforementioned game against Louisville, Ogunjobi gets matched up 1-on-1 with the right guard. The guard is left on an island, and is no match for Larry. He works to get to the guards outside shoulder, and gets past him with an easy rip move, forcing Jackson off his spot.
Still in the Louisville game, Ogunjobi is shading the center as a 1-technique. He penetrates, and beats his man easily. Instead of rushing upfield however, he shows off his awareness by diagnosing the tunnel screen and working over towards the receiver. He forces the receiver to widen his loop inside, allowing his linebackers to close in and minimize the gain on the play.
Ogunjobi again works to the outer half of his man (also note: in the three plays shown so far he’s lined up as a 1-technique, and 3-technique over both guards), and prevents the guard from landing his hands on Ogunjobi, working past him and even showing off a little bit of bend from the interior, nearly stripping Jackson.
Here, Larry takes on a (weak) double-team, but pays attention to his man, the guard. He drives him backwards, and as soon as the center leaves the double team to protect the middle, Ogunjobi disengages from the lineman and lays a monster hit on Jackson.
Let’s get into this play a little more, because it’s a lot more impressive than it may look on the surface. Ogunjobi is lined up as more of a 2i-technique, meaning he’s in the gap between the guard and center but shaded towards the guard. The offensive lines plan for him here is to double-team him. Seeing this, instead of working to the guards inside shoulder like he might if it was a single team, he gets head-on with the guard, essentially making the double-team useless. As soon as the center bails from the double-team, Ogunjobi works back to the inside shoulder and immediately rips past the guard to get the pressure on Jackson. This is the type of nuance that exemplifies his ability to be an immediate contributor at the next level.
Finally, in a game against Georgia Southern, Larry is the sole interior defensive lineman. He reads the stretch play, and instead of trying to cross the face of his man, which would’ve given the offensive line leverage over him as well as the RB’s cutback lane, he works behind him and disengages as the RB crosses his face, forcing a tackle for loss.
The Patriots love to kick their EDGE’s inside, like Trey Flowers, to generate interior pass rushing advantages. This is a skill that Alan Branch and Malcom Brown (who are both excellent at what they do), don’t really have. Branch and Brown are more enforcers than disruptors, which is why Flowers is often kicked inside. Imagine being able to leave Flowers outside but still gain that interior pass rushing advantage he brings when he kicks inside? That’s what it would be like to have Ogunjobi on the Patriots.
He would mesh beautifully with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, and even Vincent Valentine. Ogunjobi should be there when they pick 96th, and even though they drafted Valentine early last season and Malcom Brown in the first round a couple seasons ago, Ogunjobi meshes with the current talent of the defensive line so perfectly he would be a great fit in New England. I’m not sure if they would target another IDL so early, but if they do, Larry Ogunjobi should be who Patriots fans want to see called.