Every NFL Draft there are several prospects that shoot up draft boards based on a variety of things. In the case of 2020, expect Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara to do just that. The main reason is the frame of the 6-foot-4-inch, 252-pound Nigerian native.
With a clear need at the EDGE position, would Okwara be a good fit for the Los Angeles Rams? Let’s take a look.
College Stats and Honors:
2019: 19 tackles, seven for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Career: 79 tackles, 24 for a loss, 15.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Honors: Team captain (2019), Pro Football Focus Defensive Team of the Week (2019 Week 5 vs Virginia), AP Preseason Second Team All-American.
Okwara has a couple of physical advantages that helped on the collegiate level and could potentially aid him in the NFL domain. As mentioned above, Okwara has the desired height at the position. He’s complemented with a set of long arms that he generally uses to his advantage. His burst off the snap is remarkably quick and will often force offensive linemen out of position.
Okwara’s athleticism has allowed him to master bull-rushes, which is an intriguing skill for prospects to have. Another rare skillset is his ability to drop back in coverage if need be. This could be especially useful against teams that utilize dual-tight end sets.
While Okwara does have the athleticism and size to thrive in the NFL, it would benefit him to bulk up. The offensive linemen on the next level are bigger and stronger. Gathering more strength would truly up his game because he relies primarily on outrunning linemen off the edge. While that can be great to have in his arsenal, it makes him completely one-dimensional as a pass rusher. It would also be beneficial against the ground game too.
Identifying Okwara’s contribution on the NFL level or success rate is going to be difficult. While Okwara did make vast strides in 2019 before sustaining a season-ending injury, he didn’t really dominate long with the Fighting Irish. Even with the success he did see, he also struggled finishing tackles. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a defender appear to secure a tackle or sack only for the play to fall apart.
Expected Draft Round
Depending on where teams draft Okwara, he could be a high-risk, high-reward prospect. Okwara certainly has the correct tools to make an impact, but still has a huge learning curve. Based on that, teams should proceed with caution, but will likely draft him in the first round due to his potential.
Chances are, the Rams won’t see Okwara unless the trade up to the first round to get him. Personally, I don’t recommend that. But if he somehow drops to the Rams at pick 52, I would be okay with that selection. The Rams have a clear need at EDGE even if they somehow bring back Dante Fowler. To learn from the likes of Fowler and Clay Matthews would be amazing for a guy like Okwara.