It is not rare to see teenagers drafted into the NBA, NHL and MLB; however,
in the NFL it is pretty much unheard of at least
until now. At just 19 years old, Louisville defensive tackle Amobi
Okoye not only will be drafted before his 20th birthday, he has a chance
to be drafted in the top-10 a rare accomplishment for a rare talent.
Okoye is a native of Nigeria, where he spent the better part of the first decade
of his life. He began school at the age of 2 and excelled. He had the equivalent
of an American ninth-grade education by the time he was 12. The 180-pound 12-year-old
enrolled in football in an effort to maintain his weight.
What was originally a hobby meant for health developed into a college scholarship
and eventually made Okoye the NCAA's youngest player
(16). Showing improvement every season, Okoye became a fulltime starter his
junior year and a team captain his senior year where he posted 55 tackles with
eight sacks. Now Okoye is preparing to make the jump to the NFL
and be the youngest player in the league; however, being the youngest in a group
is something Okoye is accustomed to.
Okoye has many tremendous attributes to his name, working hard to develop many
of them throughout his college career; however, the most appealing of all his
age is something he hasn't had to work for. The thought of a 6-foot-2, 302-pound
defensive tackle that ran a 4.97 40-yard dash has played a full college career
and is coming off an outstanding season is enough to turn heads. Now add in
the fact that he hasn't reached his 20th birthday, and you'll catch the eye
of every general manager in the league.
Okoye, however, is much more than "a kid with a future." He has many of the
tools required for success right now. His size and quickness make him tremendous
against the run; his quick first step and athleticism make him equally effective
against the pass. He has displayed good power and strength, showing that he
can handle double teams. He also uses his strength, quickness and a combination
of effective line stunts to collapse the pocket quickly.
All of the positive characteristics, qualities and skills possessed by Okoye
have tremendous potential for improvement because of his age. Working with a
NFL coaching staff and NFL
training staff will only aide Okoye's development to help him continue to improve,
as he's done through college. Okoye has the potential to be a dominant player
for years to come.
Okoye's upside doesn't stop at his age or his on-the-field strengths. He's
also a hard worker who's mature beyond his years and a good team player.
All the attention garnered by Okoye's age has raised questions as well. Mainly,
is he being overvalued because he is only 19? Some believe that scouts and general
mangers are more interested in his age than his talents, attracted to the long-term
potential rather than the current player.
Also, Okoye's age raises concerns of maturity. Although he has displayed great
maturity thus far, how will he adjust to the fame of the NFL?
Okoye also needs some work on technique and the use of his hands. He has the
tendency to disappear at times during games; he will need to improve his overall
Despite a tremendous senior year Okoye's previous three seasons were not nearly
as impressive 66 tackles and 2.5 sacks during that time. However, he was only
16, 17 and 18, respectively, during those seasons.
Okoye is a great talent with tremendous upside. He figures to be a top-15 and
possible top-10 selection in April's draft.
Okoye has the tools to be an effective player within a year; however, it is
what he could develop into that's appealing. With the proper coaching Okoye
could be one of the league's elite defensive tackles for years to come.
The concerns surrounding Okoye are not limited to him, as most young defensive
tackles have the same problems. All of his negatives can be negated with time
and proper coaching.
Okoye not only has the most upside of any defensive tackle in the draft, he
may be the best defensive tackle in the draft. He potentially could go as high
as No. 6 overall to the Washington Redskins and doesn't
figure to fall out of the top 20. Expect the St. Louis
Rams to give him strong consideration if they don't outright select him
at No. 13 overall.
About Mike Mady
Mike Mady has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.
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