A couple of common underlying themes for the Baltimore Ravens 2021 draft class is versatility and upside. No pick more personifies this better than outside linebacker Odafe Oweh who the team selected No. 31 overall out of Penn State.
While he didn’t have the prolific sack production with the Nittany Lions of a typical first-round pass rusher, he was still highly disruptive and is a more complete player than many give him credit for. He possesses elite athleticism and arguably the highest upside of all the Ravens’ rookies.
Ravens DC Wink Martindale says rookie Odafe Oweh can already do some things on defense better than the team's veterans. And that's not a knock on the vets.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) May 18, 2021
"How he plays against the run on first and second down is better than any outside 'backer I’ve seen in a long time."
For someone who only has five years of experience playing football between high school and college prior to getting drafted, Oweh has come a long way and is already acclimating to his new environment. He looked good at the Ravens rookie minicamp this past weekend where he hit the practice field for the first time and began digesting the playbook.
“I’m obviously relatively new, but it’s just really encouraging, because I’ve been playing for five years, but I’m making plays out there [with] an NFL team,” Oweh said. “I came from a 4-3 defense, and I’m playing outside linebacker. So, I’m picking it up pretty well, and it’s making me feel good about my versatility and what I can do, and I’m just seeping in more and more information, and I’m getting it right now. So, it’s a good start.”
Even though he is no longer enrolled in school, the studying doesn’t stop in the NFL, it intensifies. The true masters of their crafts are tenacious students of the game who watch copious amounts of film on themselves and the opposition. Oweh is already going the extra mile to get up to speed and set himself up for success in his rookie year and beyond.
“It’s just a lot of repetition and studying. I’m not in school anymore; I actually, technically, am. It’s academics with football, so it’s just a lot of studying,” Oweh said. “Outside of watching film with your positional coach, studying the installs with your positional coach, you’ve got to do the extra, and that’s what I’ve been able to do, and I’ve really seen the dividends”
“Just being able to study it, watch extra film, watch on the film the technique on what I could do better, and it’s helping. People say that all you’ve got to do is study, and it’s true. You’ve got to study and put in the extra work, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The Ravens coaches know that mistakes are a part of the learning process and that no one will be immune from making them. However, if a rookie player does make a mistake, they want it to be played through with the same maximum effort they use on any other play.
“That’s part of the art to the whole thing - we want him to play fast,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “If we’re going to make a mistake along the way – I think it goes for really any rookie – make it going full speed. We want to play 100 miles an hour, so let’s do that. Then we’ll work back from there, in terms of our assignments and responsibilities.”
Harbaugh was impressed by the aptitude, intelligence and work ethic that Oweh showed during minicamp and believes he’s acclimating well.
“He’s also a very smart player, and he picks things up quickly,” Harbaugh said. “[He has] a nice demeanor... works extremely hard. So, I do think he’ll pick things up quickly.”
The fact that the 22-year-old has only been playing the game since his junior year of high school, was able to earn a scholarship to a Power 5 program and get drafted in the first round is a testament to his ability to learn and adapt, in addition to his tremendous talent. If he continues to be a quick study, his learning curve won’t be nearly as steep as his previous experience or lack thereof would lead some to believe.