When the Cleveland Browns selected defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with the 65th pick in the 2017 NFL draft at the top of the third round, they were getting the greatest player in UNC-Charlotte history, considering the 49ers have only been playing football since 2013.
Ogunjobi only played three years of organized football before signing on with Charlotte, but his raw talent made him the backbone behind the program’s transition to the FBS. The burly run-stopper lit Conference-USA on fire, recording 29 tackles for loss in two seasons at college football’s top division. The 49ers never had a winning season -- or even won a Homecoming game — but the raw Ogunjobi still did enough to cement his place as one of 2017’s top defensive line prospects.
Now he’ll have to prove his small-school bonafides can translate to the NFL. He only had two games against Power 5 opponents in his college career, and had only four total tackles in those showdowns. Can he be as effective against the rest of the AFC North as he was against Florida International?
What does Ogunjobi bring to the NFL?
Ogunjobi is a relative football noob whose strength and athleticism helped him overcome a lack of experience. His strength and girth in the middle often means two blockers have to keep him at bay — but despite an abundance of double-teams, he was still a monster against the run. He was a black hole that swallowed up tailbacks in the middle of the field, creating several X-and-long situations for opponents in college.
He identifies plays well from the snap, quickly picking up blockers and working to shed them. While he doesn’t have the quickest feet, he engages with his hands and shunts linemen aside in order to wrap up ballcarriers. Once he’s got a running back in his grasp, it’s lights out. If he can continue to grow as a nose tackle, he’ll be the kind of player who can collapse a pocket from the center-back.
What could keep him from being successful?
Ogunjobi’s stock rose after a decent performance in the Senior Bowl, then dipped back down after a mediocre showing at the draft combine. At 6’3 and 305 pounds, he’s actually a bit undersized to be an NFL team’s lead run-stopper in the middle of a 3-4 defense. He’s a good college athlete but doesn’t have the kind of elite speed or strength that could mitigate concerns about his bulk.
While he’s strongest against the run game, he won’t provide much in terms of pass rush. He only had 5.5 sacks his final two seasons, none of which came against Power 5 opponents. He works well in confined spaces and makes plays in traffic, but he is liable to over-pursue in the open field and get left in the dust by more mobile players.