2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report


Albert Okwuegbunam

January 8, 2019 11:00 AM PST


DeAndre Swift Scouting Report picture

School: Missouri

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 255

Eligibility: RJR

Uniform: #81

Position: TE


Evaluated by: Austin Smith
smith.austinj14@gmail.com
January 8, 2020

Prospect Overview

I've been a big fan of Okwuegbunam since his redshirt-freshman season. The big tight end caught 11 touchdowns that year, and at times, he looked like a man among boys thanks to his size and ball skills. However, a variety of factors led to him falling short of living up to the hype that his breakout season inspired. His role never expanded as the offense transitioned from Gary Pinkel's personnel to Barry Odom's, and his productions never took that major leap that many expected. In 27 career games, Okwuegbunam finished with 98 receptions, 1,187 yards, and 23 touchdowns. He was also a finalist for the Mackey Award in 2018 for the nation's top tight end.


Some thought he would declare for the draft following that 2018 season. With quarterback Drew Lock leaving, it made sense for him to move on as well, but he chose to return to school. I thought there was a strong chance Okwuegbunam would be selected on day two, and I'm not sure that changed over the past year. Still, I never blame kids for returning to school. An education opens the door to a plethora of opportunities, and the college experience is an invaluable opportunity to grow and mature.


Albert Okbuegbunam Scouting Report image 1

Positives

The intrigue around Okwuegnubam starts with his size. He's got an excellent frame for a tight end and broad shoulders, which offer natural separation from defenders. On top of that, he moves very well for his size, and the combination makes him a difficult matchup for anyone on the field. We often saw Okwuegbunam use his body to fend off smaller defenders similar to the way we've seen successful tight ends do for years. His athleticism also gave most linebackers a problem in coverage, and that entails more than just his straight-line speed.

Okwuegbunam will run well, but the reason I see him being a strong route-runner at the next level is that he gets the most out of his quickness. He plays with outstanding balance, and he sinks his hips well to get in and out of his breaks quickly. While wide receivers usually do this easily, it's more difficult for a player that is 255 pounds. Still, Okwuegbunam does it, and it will make him an excellent possession target for NFL quarterbacks. His balance often comes in handy when blocks where he rarely lunges or allows a defender to manhandle him.


Albert Okbuegbunam Scouting Report image 2

However, it may be Okuegbunam's ball skills that I'm most fond of, and it starts with his eyes. I envision him being the type of player that catches a lot of balls that are thrown before he has made his break. Okwuegbunam does an excellent job of getting his head around and locking on to the football with his eyes. Focus is just as important for a pass-catcher as the strength or flexibility in their hands, which he has also displayed during his time at Missouri. Okwuegbunam has no issues extending his hands to the ball and catching it away from his frame, and I like his toughness over the middle. I've seen him leave his feet for the ball on a number of occasions without any hesitation for fear of the hit that's coming. This is also one of the traits that make him so valuable in the red zone, and once again, his balance shows up when adjusting to off-target throws.

Areas for Improvement

His blocking has a lot of room for improvement, although his size and balance suggest it can be a strength. My biggest complaint is his ability to finish. Okwuegbunam does a very good job of getting an initial punch on the defender, but that is where things usually end for him. He has to do a better job of playing with leverage, and when he does get locked on, Okwuegbunam must drive his feet in order to get movement. We rarely see him drive his feet, and that has to change for him to be the kind of inline blocker that his size suggests he can be. I also think Okwuegbunam can do a better job as a blocker on the move, although his balance puts him in a good position there as well. When asked to trap or get up the field and block, his initial contact is solid, but once again, the feet go dead. I'd like to see him develop that mean streak that ensures that he will finish those blocks.


Albert Okbuegbunam Scouting Report image 3

As big as he is, adding more size would help with his blocking as well. As I said, Okwuegbunam does get an adequate punch on his opponent, but the added strength would make it much more jarring. The added strength would also help him in his routes. I noticed on several occasions that aggressive defenders that were physical with him off the line were able to throw him off a bit. No one should be able to have that kind of impact on Okwuegbunam with his size. I'd like to see him be more of the aggressor in his route and run through that kind of contact with enough power to stay on his path.

Draft Stock

The lack of progression over the years will trouble some evaluators, and though Okwuegbunam has had success, I don't believe he has developed as a player the way we would have hoped after the 2016 season. There is part of me that wonders why the staff didn't target him more in the offense, but it seemed as if part of that blame belongs with the offensive coordinator. It's not easy to make a tight end one of the featured players in an offense, especially a more traditional one like Okwuegbunam. Still, I believe teams will see his physical gifts, and the accomplishments he did have at Missouri, and believe that they can help him reach his overall potential.


Okwuegbunam, in general, is a humble worker and person. The mature process in which he took to decide to return to Columbia for the 2019 season was a testament to that. Overall, I do believe he is one of the best traditional tight ends in this class. Some may prefer to go after more of an H-back type, in which he may be passed over. Still, the teams that want a big, reliable target will find it hard to look past Okwuegbunam.

Player Comparison

Based on the role he typically played at Missouri, I think there are similarities to Mark Andrews. Both were heavily used split out wide and even targeted in one-on-one situations. Like Andrews, Okwuegbunam uses his size and athleticism to make for a difficult matchup with the biggest difference being that Missouri transitioned away from the pass-happy, spread system more and more once Odom took over as head coach. However, the guy I think he could grow into would be Greg Olson. The route-running and reliable eyes and hands are very similar, as is the balance. He’s not currently the blocker that Olson has been in his prime, but I do believe he could become that with work.

Games Evaluated

vs. Georgia (9-22-18)
vs. Alabama (10-13-18)
vs. Memphis (10-20-18)
vs. Florida (11-3-18)
vs. South Carolina (9-21-19)
vs. Ole Miss (10-12-19)

Notes from Film

  • Watching him run routes is impressive for a player his size. He has a good understanding of sinking his hips and going into his breaks with good balance in order to come out as quickly as possible. There aren’t many tight ends in the NFL that can separate in their breaks or even run complex routes.
  • As an in-line blocker, he does a very good job with his punch or strike to jar defenders but that’s usually where he stops. He has to do a better job of pumping his feet in order to drive defenders.
  • As an H-back, I like his willingness to deliver a blow on trap and counter blocks. He has a descent understanding of leverage and has no problem with contact.
  • Certainly doesn’t have the nastiest demeanor coaches want in a blocker. That will be a question from coaches is can he find that desire to finish blocks. There are plays he just gives an initial shot to his opponent then turns to see what is going on in the play. He’s got to understand the play is just between him and the man across from him until the whistle blows.
  • As good as his size is at six feet, five inches and 255 pounds, he still has room on his frame for added muscle, and a year in an NFL weight room will likely do him some good.
  • Impressive rep from Missouri’s game with Georgia in 2018. He gets lined up on the perimeter and DeAndre Baker is walked up on him at the line of scrimmage. Not only does he get a free release, but he also gets great separation on a slant and makes the catch for a first down. Baker was an All-American that year and Okwuegbunam beat him several times, and had a career-best nine catches in that game.
  • One area he will have to get better is how physical he plays in the route. He looks good running routes when no one is being physical with him, but there are times when he lines up at receiver and corners give him trouble in his route. For a guy his size, that it not going to fly in the NFL. At tight end, you have to be physical enough to play through that kind of press and even the contact from bigger players like linebackers. That will be an area he could struggle early in his career until he adds the aforementioned bulk.
  • Love his ability and willingness to high point the ball in traffic. Tight end has to make plays over the middle and he doesn’t seem to be worried about the consequences of going up to get one inside.
  • As much as I think he can succeed as a route runner, he sometimes has issues when the defender is lined up to take away the route he is running. For instance, there have been a couple of times where he was running an in-breaking route and the defender responsible for him was aligned inside. Okwuegbunam got a little too involved with head-fakes to try and get the defender off his spot, and that won’t work against NFL defenders. The only thing that will get them to open up favorably or retreat off their spot is too push them off their spot. The best way to do that is at full speed in a straight-line at the proper angle. The fakes only slow you down, and pass catchers that don’t play at full speed don’t get open.
  • Appears to have very good straight-line speed for a tight end. If I had to guess, I’d put him in the mid-4.6’s.
  • Does a very good job of getting his head turned around when he is running possession routes. Receivers can fall into a habit of turning their head at the same time they turn their shoulders towards the quarterback. That is a hindrance to being a good possession receiver. Any good pass catcher will tell you that you catch a ball with your eyes. The hands are just your eyes’ tool of choice. So, getting your head turned as quick as possible helps get your eyes on the ball quicker, which gives you a better chance at catching the football. For quarterbacks that aren’t afraid to let a ball go before the receiver is out of their break, this is a necessary practice, and he does a good job of it.
  • Nice display of body control on a ball thrown to him on the sideline for a touchdown against Memphis. Showed nimble feet to tiptoe the sideline and nice torso flexibility to make the catch without adjusting too much to carry him out of bounds.
  • I’m starting to understand why he didn’t put up huge numbers at Missouri in 2018. They have him run a lot of quick outs and hitches, and Drew Lock was rarely set and ready to throw the ball quickly. It’s almost as if he had already made up his mind to push the ball down field and looking at that quick route was more of a formality.
  • Gets utilized often in the red zone and it’s usually when he is lined up in the slot. Putting a linebacker on him in those situations is asking for trouble with his athleticism. That will give him added value in eye of NFL evaluators.
  • Comfortable lining up on the line, in the backfield or split out wide.

    Scouting Video Courtesy of JustBombsProductions




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