NFL Draft

NFL Draft Prospects: Bowl Opt-outs

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Bowl season has historically been the last opportunity for players and NFL Draft prospects to compete with their college teammates but that hasn’t been the case lately. In keeping with the times, we’re taking a look at two of GOWi‘s top prospects that won’t be participating in their team’s bowl game.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – It’s NCAAF Bowl Season. As enjoyable as it is to flip on the tube and watch two teams who’ve never heard of each other go head-to-head with nothing on the line, it’s a different story for the players. Foregoing the team’s bowl game is the trendy thing to do these days – in 2020, we call it opting-out.

The decision to forego bowl games is often met with criticism. Questions arise regarding loyalty and commitment but at the end of the day, these young men have to prioritize their future. Call it a business decision – that’s how we justify the actions of NFL organizations.

This may just be the shortsightedness of my naïve, millennial mind but NCAA bowl victories are just bragging rights unless we’re talking about the CFP. The entire bowl season is nothing more than another money-making opportunity for the NCAA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still watching, but let’s call a spade a spade.

We’ve very recently seen the risks involved with participating in bowl games. Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt both suffered ACL tears that ruined their rookie seasons before they even started. Smith seems to have made a full recovery and is having a decent 2020 season but his draft stock dropped from a potential top-5 selection to a second-round pick.

Butt, on the other hand, hasn’t been the same player, and his draft stock plummeted from a likely second-rounder to a fifth-round pick. Both players missed out on millions, and for what? It’s difficult to argue against a young man mitigating the risks to his own financial future.

The list of 2021 NFL draft prospects that are on a similar wavelength as me grows almost daily. A couple dozen players have already opted-out, many of which will be selected early. I’d like to talk about two such prospects that blossomed in 2020 and will continue to garner more attention as we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft – Azeez Ojulari and Larry Borom.

Azeez Ojulari – Georgia, EDGE

Ojulari shows an impressive blend of balance, agility, and flexibility. He can bend and dip his pads under any tackle. The redshirt Sophomore does a great job of making himself a thin target yet maintaining his balance. He is one of the most gifted movers of any edge rusher in this class.

Ojulari also displays a nice combo of length and hand technique. He’s found a variety of ways to beat the hands of the man across from him. He’s generated 32 pressures (6 sacks) on just 168 pass rush opportunities this year. Ojulari’s 19% pressure rate is third in the SEC among qualifying edge rushers.

While Ojulari has been productive rushing the passer, there’s still some things we’re not seeing on tape. He struggles to detach from strong blockers and can be defeated when his initial rush-plan doesn’t win. His plan is predictable as he aims to win around the edge every time. He doesn’t have an inside counter right now.

While not the biggest edge setter in college ball, Ojulari still shows good contact balance. He can win at the point of attack if he can keep blockers off of him. It isn’t over for Ojulari if the blocker gets inside, as he displays a decent anchor for a 6’ 3”, 240-pounder. He’s a strong hands tackler and has only missed 3 tackles on the year while recording 20 defensive stops.

Ojulari may not have the beef to defend the edge for a 4-3 NFL defense, where he’d be asked to play inside the tackle more often. He looks destined to defend the edge from a 2-point stance. He’ll likely be assigned coverage duties in this role.

While it may be a small sample size, Ojulari has allowed 6 of 8 targets to be completed into his coverage on 68 opportunities. Those completions have gone for just 35 yards with an 82.8 passer rating. Ojulari has the athleticism and length needed to hang with NFL-caliber tight ends.

While Ojulari might be generating some first-round attention, he isn’t getting it from me, yet. There are still some bad reps on Ojulari’s tape. We need to see more consistency holding the edge and less losses as a pass-rusher.

I currently have a second-round grade on Ojulari and he has the potential to rise throughout the draft process. His frame and skill set remind me of Leonard Floyd. Ojulari would be wise to put on at least 5 pounds. He will likely impress enough at the NFL combine to jump into the late first-round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

 

Larry Borom – Missouri, OT

Borom is having himself a year. After starting just half the games in 2019, the redshirt Junior has settled into a starting role at right tackle. Borom seems to show up every year looking more fit and capable. He’s matured his body into a 6’ 6”, 332-pound frame that will translate well to the NFL. His arms are long and his hands are powerful.

With Borom’s huge frame, it’s no surprise that he lacks elite movement skills. He is a bit of a plodder in the second level and can look lost at times when he’s in space. Still, Borom has an explosive first step, whether he’s moving forward or backward. Borom shows an efficient kick-step and doesn’t over-set. He can mirror just fine laterally and his arm length allows him to reach what his feet can’t keep up with.

Borom is usually the first to get hands on pads and those hands are big and strong. He often gets inside and ends the pass-rush before it’s even begun. Against bull-rushers, Borom can settle into his hips and shows a strong anchor.

Following middling production, in 2019, in which he allowed 20 pressures on 474 pass-blocking opportunities, Borom has really come into his own. He’s allowed just 4 pressures (1 sack) on 595 pass-blocking snaps this year. That 99.3% win-rate is top-five among Power 5 right tackles.

As a run-blocker, Borom does a good job of getting to the spot. His contact has been inconsistent, as we see reps where he puts hands on and drives the defender to the whistle. We’ve also seen reps where the defender gets separation, though it’s rare to see Borom actually lose a rep at the point of attack. He has a tendency to lean when he’s driving and doesn’t follow through with his hips with enough consistency.

Regardless of how well he’s performed, Borom will be limited to the right side of the line, due to his athleticism. There’s room to grow as a run-blocker, though Borom has already proven himself to be among the top pass-blocking right tackles in this class.

The improvements he’s made have already shot him up draft boards, and my board is no different. I have a second-round grade on him and the top right tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft class, though by a very small margin.

 

While we won’t see Azeez Ojulari or Larry Borom during the bowl season, we’ve only just begun to get to know them, though we like what we’ve seen so far. Both of these players have earned a second-round grade with their play during the 2020 season but could continue to rise as we dive farther into to nuanced process of scouting NFL Draft prospects.

We’ll continue to give you all the Ojulari and Borom updates here at Game On Wisconsin. Stay patient for more NFL Draft coverage as the offseason approaches. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

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