Alex Okafor Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Texas DE

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Alex Okafor Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Texas DE
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Alex Okafor

Arizona Cardinals

Fourth Round, 103rd Pick

A two-time first-team All-Big 12 defensive end, Alex Okafor leaves the Texas Longhorns after a very productive college career.

While he was unable to compete with his peers at the NFL Scouting Combine, he fared extremely well at January’s Senior Bowl.

When projecting him to the NFL, however, it is unclear where he will fit best. Is he a 4-3 defensive end capable of holding the edge? Or will his deficiencies against the run force a defensive coordinator to come up with more creative ways to use him?

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Effective pass-rusher who utilizes a devastating bull-rush - A liability against the run, has trouble keeping contain
+ Displays active, violent hand use - Average athlete lacking fluidity and speed
+ Very good snap anticipation, impressive first step - Questionable recognition skills
+ Great size at 6'4.5", 264 pounds - Slightly limited in terms of scheme/role

 

Tools

Matt Miller Breaks Down Alex Okafor
At 6’4.5", 264 pounds, with a solid, muscular build and long arms, Okafor possesses ideal size for an NFL defensive end.

He is a relatively average athlete, however. A right hip injury kept him from participating in drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he recently had a chance to perform for scouts at his pro day. There, he ran the 40-yard dash in roughly 4.88 seconds, displaying the mediocre straight-line speed which was evident on film. Additionally, he recorded a 36” vertical jump, 9’4” broad jump and 4.40 shuttle in Austin.

It is unclear how much of a role a lingering hip issue played in his mediocre test results, but Okafor did not appear to be overly explosive or fluid when changing direction.

 

Intangibles

Okafor was voted a team captain as a senior. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree in corporate communication and a three-time member of the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, he excelled in the classroom as well as the football field. He appears to be a well-rounded person with a strong work ethic. His cousin, Eric Alexander, played football at LSU.

A durable player throughout his college career, Okafor had a 32-game starting streak broken up when he missed this year’s game against Kansas State due to injury.

 

System

A versatile defender for the Longhorns, Okafor lined up in several different spots in both three- and four-man fronts. He most commonly played left defensive end in the 4-3 defense for Texas, but the team was very creative in using him. He stood up at linebacker at times and also shifted inside to play 5-technique in a three-man front.

 

Pass Rush

Okafor utilizes a devastating bull-rush.
A productive pass-rusher with 19.5 sacks in the last two seasons, Okafor frequently won the edge at Texas.

Utilizing a devastating bull-rush, he gave pass protectors fits at the line of scrimmage. Though lacking speed and flexibility, he displays very good snap anticipation, often beating blockers with a quick first step.

He is rarely knocked off his feet, demonstrating balance. Violent, active hands help him keep blockers away from his body.

A concern, however, is that he might lack the variety and explosiveness to win the edge consistently at the next level.

 

Run Defense

Despite being a three-year starter on the Longhorns front, Okafor experienced his share of struggles against the run. The ability to shed blocks helps him make plays in the running game, but he is inconsistent keeping containment and does not hold the edge well.

Recognition skills appear to be an issue, as he often is fooled and has trouble locating the ball. He frequently guesses incorrectly one zone-read plays and play-action, struggling to process what is occurring in front of him. The following screenshots illustrate one of many occasions on which he wound up out of position, surrendering the edge.

On this zone-read option, Baylor’s quarterback will be keying on Okafor to determine whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself. Isolated on this play, the Longhorns defensive end chooses to follow the running back.

With Okafor following the running back and shifting inside, Baylor’s quarterback keeps the ball and has plenty of room to run as a result. An edge player must stay disciplined and keep contain there. He is not quick enough to change direction and cut off the run, so the Bears would gain 17 yards here.

 

Tackling

Okafor is a very good tackler who brings ball-carriers down at the waist. Sometimes he struggles to break down and tackle in space, but he is typically reliable, wrapping up rather than relying on his power. Since he lacks great fluidity, range and closing speed, he can struggle to put himself into position to make the play.

 

Hand Use

Equipped with a powerful punch, Okafor utilizes active, violent hands to win battles at the point of attack. Utilizing good leverage as a pass-rusher, he attacks the inside shoulder of blockers, forcing them off balance. He shows the ability to rip and shed blocks, flashing aggression at times.

Okafor uses violent hands to help him win the edge on this play. Hand use is one of his best attributes.

 

Future Role/Versatility

Though Okafor was used in a variety of roles and positions at Texas, he does not project as a versatile NFL defender. His best fit will be in a base 4-3 defense, lined up at end on either the left or right side. Some have suggested he may be able to make the transition to linebacker at the next level, but I have my doubts. He lacks the fluidity and range to play in space, excelling more at the line of scrimmage.

Early in his NFL career, he may be viewed as a pass-rushing specialist until he can show more discipline against the run.

 

Draft Projection: Second-Third Round

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