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Why the Ravens selected Odafe Oweh

Oweh can become an apex predator with some fine tuning.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens selected Odafe Oweh out of Penn State with the No. 31 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Ravens added Oweh in tandem with Rashod Bateman as a first round pairing, addressing two of their biggest needs with experienced Big 10 talent.

Oweh played as a traditional defensive end in Penn State’s one-gap penetrating style defense. He spent the lion’s share of his reps as a 5-technique with his hand in the dirt. In other words, Oweh was asked to fight offensive tackle’s most of his time in Happy Valley.

He registered five sacks and 24 total pressures on only 197 pass rushes in 2019, per Sports Info Solutions. Odafe followed that up with 20 pressures on 171 pass rushes to go along with 21 run stops in 2021. An ascending run defender, Oweh’s processing and reactions increased seemingly every game.

Oweh has prodigious height, length, speed, explosiveness and agility among Ravens drafted edges. He’s the tallest (6047), fastest (4.37s), longest (34.5-inch arms), most explosive (11-foot-4 broad jump, 39.5-inch vertical) and most agile (6.9 3-cone) edge defender that the Ravens have ever drafted.

The Ravens will be transitioning Oweh from a weakside defensive end into a RUSH linebacker. Oweh’s length, explosion and block stacking abilities give him the tools to be a perfect match for the job. There will certainly be a learning curve. Having Pernell McPhee to show him the way is a certain blessing.

The New Jersey native pass rusher shows flashes of being able to win around the arc with bend, burst and swipes. At 22 years old, he has violent hands and can jolt offensive linemen back, but needs to be more consistent with counters when his initial plan fails. That’s where the Ravens must feel confident in their plan for Oweh.

The former Nittany Lion should be able to quickly help set the edge and bring juice on games as an unblocked rusher with more closing speed than maybe any player in this draft class.

The recurring themes are get off, explosion and the ability to overwhelm tackles with those abilities as well as his tackle-like length. He shows a good stab/long arm and can work to shed once he has blockers retreating.

In space, Oweh seems to hesitate at times, erring on the side of caution in situations where he’s unblocked, particularly against mobile quarterbacks in space. Getting him to speed up his process and learn how to use his speed and length to “banana” pursue and wrestle down runners from behind will be early steps.

Oweh is obviously a unique physical talent. He shows flashes of aggressive, violent strength at times — but not enough. Continuing to bring out the downhill force will take Oweh’s game to another level. At times, he can dance with his opponent too long, trying to out finesse them. His agility and speed make that possible, but in certain situations you just want to see him run through contact.

Oweh has the length and size to play RUSH for Don Martindale, with the speed and agility to learn SAM responsibilities over the next few years. With his incredible movement skills, the 22 year-old could become a special weapon used in a stunt-heavy, blitz-heavy defense while providing stable run support with explosive pursuit.

Worst case? You have a freak athlete who knows how to play the run, while maybe not achieving the sack production he’s capable of. Best case? With a little development, Oweh becomes an apex predator — of the most unique athletic edge rushers in the NFL who is used to create havoc as a pass rusher, in space and against the run.