The Baltimore Ravens selected Osemele in the second round (60th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Iowa State. It wasn't exactly a glamorous pick, but got the job done. At the time, the Ravens desperately needed OL depth, and GM Ozzie Newsome nabbed a steal in the second round with Osemele. After a few seasons of solid play and finding his place in the lineup at LG, many are asking, is this his year?
The Ravens Offensive Line is looking downright scary this year, no doubt about that. In fact, the unit was ranked third in the league last year by Pro Football Focus. While the year before, they were ranked 23rd by the same service. What led to this quick turn around? Well part of the answer is the massive Kelechi Osemele.
To put it simply, Kelechi came to Baltimore and was thrown into the fire his rookie season. The 2012 future Super Bowl Champion Ravens were in desperate need of some O-Line depth. While RG Marshal Yanda and C Matt Birk anchored the unit, there were other noticeable flaws, such as starters LT Michael Oher and LG Ramon Harewood. Kelechi came in and produced, he impressed many by transitioning from guard to tackle, and earned the starting RT position, starting all 16 games for the Ravens. It was an impressive rookie campaign for Osemele, and it culminated with a Super Bowl Ring.
His following season was a little more disappointing, as Kelechi was sidelined with a back injury after just seven games. Kelechi had also transferred back to guard this year, as he was the starting LG. Could he bounce back?
The answer, a resounding yes. He recovered from his injury very well, and had his best year yet, leading the line alongside veteran Yanda. Kelechi was named to the 2014 PFF All-Third Year Team, as well as their 2014 All-Pro Second Team. The duo of Osemele and Yanda proved to be one of the best in the league. Kelechi excelled in OC Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, as he is very mobile for a man of his size. Let's look at some of the tape to see just how dominant he was last year.
For reference, he is #72.
On this play, look how he dominates from the moment the ball is snapped. He clears the lane for an easy Lorenzo Taliaferro TD.
Same game, same stuff. Kelechi has that burst off the line that is so coveted, look at how he picks up the LB and just manhandles him.
Here's a heads up play. He has no one to block, yet makes the heads up play to stop James Harrison's sack attempt. A+ on the awareness.
Absolutely savage. Look at the raw power and explosiveness.
Holy cow. Hit stick mode activated. Look how he sheds his man and then goes up field to open up lanes for Forsett.
Now, just to show you how much he has progressed, check out this gif from our sister blog Arrowhead Pride. In this game, the then rookie Osemele lined up against Justin Houston. Now I do have to cut him some slack since Houston is one of the best, but still. Watch how easily he is beat.
The Case for a Breakout
Wednesday, CBS Sports Senior NFL Columnist Pete Frisco listed Kelechi as one of his 'breakout players for 2015'.
His snippet on Kelechi reads:
Now firmly settled in at left guard, he is coming off a season where he dominated in the run game. He is athletic and strong and just needs a bit of seasoning in pass blocking. He teams with All-Pro Marshal Yanda to give the Ravens the league's best pair of guards.
Frisco seems to have hit the nail on the head. While dominating the run game, Kelechi has, at times been a little shaky in pass protection. One could chalk this up to lack of experience, and it is a plausible explanation. It's not something that can't be taught either. Likely, with some studying, Kelechi can hone his pass protection game.
If he doesn't 'break out' this season, still expect Kelechi to have a very solid floor. I don't see how he doesn't have a good year, Osemele looks to be the next great Baltimore lineman. Watch out for a very scary Ravens offensive line this year.