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Trying to figure out Emmanuel Ogbah’s NFL future will make your head hurt

The Oklahoma State pass rusher looks unstoppable on some plays, and then he's getting washed out by a blocker on the next. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White went to the film room to try and understand.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Emmanuel Ogbah play makes my head hurt. That is definitely not a compliment.

I just don't understand how a guy can look so good on one play and so damned average on another.

And another.

And another.

It just doesn't make any sense!

Look, I had no idea who Ogbah was before I started doing his breakdown. The only thing I did know is that I had already done Laremy Tunsil's breakdown and one of the teams I watched him play against was Ogbah's Oklahoma State team in the bowl game last season. I couldn't remember any edge player shining against Tunsil in that game, so I was actually eager to take a second look to see if I had missed something or if maybe Ogbah just wasn't on his side much.

Turns out Ogbah didn't really make any plays against Tunsil that game, but he did rush from both sides, as I would come to find out he did in most games. So while he didn't beat Tunsil, Ogbah did aight against Ole Miss' right tackle, I guess. Truth be told it's not like he was lighting it up rushing from the left side either. Until Ole Miss took Tunsil out, moved the starting right tackle to the left side and brought in a backup right tackle in the second half of that blowout.

All of a sudden it was like somebody plugged some Energizer batteries into this Ogbah guy. He started flying off the snap of the football and was an absolute force rushing from either side, almost getting home with one sack, notching two more pressures and a pass knocked down. He had another decent rush on an inside move on the right side that forced the quarterback off his spot and into a sack by one of Ogbah's teammates.

OK, I know it was against backups, but where in the hell was that kind of play in the first half of that game?!

But hey, that was Laremy Tunsil I tried to tell myself.  Tunsil has been mentioned as possibly going No. 1 overall in this draft, so I figured maybe it was unrealistic to expect much more from Ogbah against him.

The pattern of uneven play from Ogbah continued throughout the other four games I watched. I don't think it was a lack of effort. However, it's hard to explain how a guy can almost literally put you to sleep for stretches of a game in which he is so quiet, then have you almost break your laptop because you jump up out of your seat in excitement at one of the plays he does end up making. Especially when it appears that he's going just as hard on most of the plays.

This is all exacerbated by the fact that Ogbah went to the combine and put on a tremendous show of athleticism. He weighed in at four pounds heavier than former Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, while measuring just an inch shorter than him. The he ran a blazing a 4.63 in the 40 as opposed to Bosa's 4.86 time. He also recorded a 35-inch vertical and over 10 feet on the broad jump, two numbers that are usually pretty good indicators of explosiveness.

What I wanna know is where in the hell was all this athleticism during most of these games?!

You would see it in flashes. And when Ogbah flashed, he fucking flashed, Jack! You might not hear a peep out of him for a couple of drives, then bam here he comes screaming around the edge taking down the opposing quarterback in a flash.

Or maybe he would come inside and beat a guard instead.

Or maybe he would just say fuck it and beat two guys for shits and giggles.

All of sudden you're sitting there with your mouth agape, wondering what in the hell just happened?

I'm sure the offensive linemen were thinking the same thing.

But between those plays? A whole lotta meh.

I'm going to attempt to explain why, but I gotta say, I'm still not sure I have a definite read on this guy.

First of all, Ogbah is by far the least physical of any of the defensive linemen I've broken down so far. He gave up the edge too often and when he stunted inside or lined up inside, Ogbah was much more likely to get washed down on running plays than to get penetration and force the issue.

Hell, he wasn't much of a factor at all against the run in most games, which is not what I'm used to seeing from top-level guys. Maybe I'd expect it if he was undersized like Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, but those guys were trying to get up to 250 pounds. A guy 6'4 and 273 pounds shouldn't have been getting pushed around like that. A guy that big and who tests the way Ogbah did should have at least been able to use his athleticism to damn near live in his opponents' backfield, even if he wasn't that powerful.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say if a team picks Ogbah high, it won't be because of his play against the run last season, that's for sure.

He would also make some pretty outstanding plays against the run occasionally. It was random, but so impressive that you couldn't dismiss it. It's like in every game he would be like, "Yo, I can do this, but only sometimes." It just made me want to cuss even more than usual.

It's evident that all the physical tools are there. Tall, long arms, fast, explosive, decent technique, 20 reps on bench press. He may not be He Man, but he isn't exactly weak. Still, none of that shit shows up consistently on film. How do you convince yourself to take a guy high who only plays up to his potential some of the time?

How Sway?

The shame of it all is that I really wanted to like this kid's game because he looooves to use a rip move.

If you've been reading my stuff for more than a month, y'all know my affection for the rip move. I sometimes despair at the fact that young defensive linemen don't use it nearly enough. If it were up to me, it would be required for every defensive line coach in the country to teach it to his minions at least once a week during practice. I don't know of any other move that is as useful or has the kind of success rate that a rip move does when done correctly. I'm talking about escape moves playing the run and pass rush moves rushing the passer, the rip move is where it's at as far as I'm concerned!

If there is one thing I can't criticize Ogbah for, it's his use of the rip move. Not only does he use it early and often, but it's also just about the only move you see from him consistently in all five games. He might have actually tried to use it too much. When it worked, Ogbah looked damn near unblockable. When it didn't, he looked like a rookie free agent.

So that brings me to No. 2 on the list of problems with Ogbah's play: the lack of diversity in his pass-rush moves.

I may not love arm overs, but a guy of Ogbah's height probably could have mixed in a few more of those to change things up a bit. I would have liked to see him try more power moves as well, but the few he did do weren't all that promising. He also didn't do many counter moves, like ever.

I'm not talking about just doing an inside move for the sake of doing an inside move when I say counter move. I'm talking about having a move that you can go to once your speed rush is blocked so that you come back inside and are still get pressure on the quarterback. At the very least, your counter move should keep you from running yourself completely out of the play and behind the quarterback.

Nah, Ogbah mostly just continued on past quarterback depth even when it was totally evident that his rip-and-run move was not going to work. He had no feel for when to continue on and when to stop and come back, which is something that instinctive pass rushers just seem to have a knack for doing.

I saw Ogbah run 10 yards or further up the field, over and over again, and the quarterbacks on those plays were either comfortably sitting in the pocket scanning the field for an open receiver and/or scrambling for positive yardage if everyone was covered. There just isn't any rational reason for a guy with Ogbah's kind of speed and explosiveness to let some of these not-very-good offensive tackles ride him that deep so consistently.

Now, when Ogbah really got off the ball well and did a good job sinking his rip move, as you might imagine, he usually was able to turn the corner a lot tighter. Not coincidentally, those were the plays where he was usually able to get pressure as well. The obvious question then becomes why couldn't he do that more consistently? Even after watching all five games several times now, I really don't have an answer for that.

So that brings us to problem No. 3 -- these aren't in order of importance, by the way -- Ogbah's maddeningly inconsistent get-off on the snap of the ball.

On one play, Ogbah would come off high and try to dick around with the offensive tackle at the line of scrimmage instead of trying to run around him. On the next play it would look like he had a rocket up his arse as he left the tackle in his dust.

I tried to come up with a rhyme or reason why it happened, but I just have no idea. He had plenty of one-on-one opportunities as an edge rusher in those four games, and if he had at the very least been consistent in how he got off the ball, there is no question in my mind that I would have seen him take down the quarterback a lot more.

Maybe Ogbah will learn a few more pass-rush moves after he gets to the league, but if he doesn't get better at exploding off the ball on every single play, those moves won't mean shit. If he isn't consistently flying off the ball, he will never be more than a mediocre player at the next level. Mediocre might be generous, in fact.

Until he learns how to turn the corner more consistently, he is going to have to rely more on power rushes to help him shorten the corner, but that won't work either until he also learns how to play with better pad level consistently as well.

Ogbah popped straight up out of his stance on his get-offs a lot, and it made it quite a bit easier for offensive linemen to move him against his will. Conversely, it also made it a lot harder for him to knock those offensive linemen back onto their heels. Bull rushes may never be a big part of Ogbah's pass-rush plan, but he will need to learn how to use them as a change up at the very least to keep offensive tackles honest. Also, not for nothing, but the guy has 35.5-inch-long arms. Teaching him how to do a long-arm move as a power rush ought to be a no-brainer.

As a matter of fact, it's fair to wonder why he hasn't been taught that move already.

But, again, if he continues to play too high half of the time, none of this is going to matter much.

Oh, did I mention that Oklahoma State didn't have Ogbah dropping much either? That means I didn't get to see him in space at all, so I have no idea how he would fare in coverage. If I had to guess, I would think Ogbah is athletic enough to at least do zone drops competently. Still, it becomes yet another question mark with a guy who already has plenty.

Let me give you the perfect example of what you may have to live with when it comes to Ogbah versus what he also might bring to the table.

Oklahoma State was holding on to a five-point lead with 3:03 left to go in the game and Kansas State at the 5-yard line, facing a fourth-and-three. If OSU can just get a stop, the game is probably over.

Ogbah lines up at left defensive end in a 6-technique, head up on the tight end to his side. At the snap of the football Kansas State's tight end and right tackle do a simple combo block on Ogbah as their quarterback runs a speed option to his side.

What you want to do as a defensive end on this play is knock the tight end back so that he and the right tackle are on different levels. Then you have to fight like hell with both of them to stay in the C gap and not let the tight end up to block the linebacker. If you can knock the tight end back and stay in your gap, then the quarterback either has to pitch the football, try to belly deep around the tight end or try to cut back. None of those options are good ones for Kansas State

The worst case scenario here is Ogbah doesn't get any push on the tight end, allows him to get up and seal the linebacker and gets washed all the way inside to the B gap by the right tackle, giving Kansas State's quarterback a short corner and a wide lane to turn up and score.

Annnnd that's what the worst case scenario looks like IRL.

So now Ogbah's Cowboys are down 34-33 after a failed two-point attempt by Kansas State with less than three minutes remaining on the game clock. Oklahoma State's offense ended up saving Ogbah's ass when they went down and kicked a field goal to put them back up this time by two points, 36-34.

Oklahoma State's defense could not afford to give up any big plays. Ogbah showed up in crunch time and made a big play to help his team win. He was lined lined up as the right defensive end and on the snap of the football he came inside to rush the left guard on a blitz. Ogbah beat the left guard so fast I'm not even sure the guy saw Ogbah blow past him. He pressured the quarterback into throwing an interception to end the game.


I guess ...

I just don't know how you draft a guy like Ogbah high and have any kind of confidence in what he will or won't develop into as a pro. That doesn't mean I can't see a team taking him in the first round. After all, guys his size and with his speed and production in college don't grow on trees.

A team will have to be honest and realize he is a boom-or-bust guy. They are just going have to bet on the boom, but they damn sure better be prepared if he ends up being a bust.

Even with Ogbah's testing numbers, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was out of the league in four years. On the other hand, he could also go to the right team with the right coach and work his ass off and all of a sudden become the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

I can't actually decide which is more likely at this point. Good luck to the team who decides to pull the trigger and take him. I have a feeling that they are really going to need it.