The 2022 NFL draft is just a little over a month away. The Ravens are slated to select No. 14 overall in the first round barring a trade up or back. Baltimore could go a number of directions with this pick but many expect them to address one of their biggest needs by drafting an offensive tackle, defensive lineman, cornerback or edge rusher.
The latter, edge rusher, could be a more pressing priority after the Ravens were spurned by Za’Darius Smith earlier this week. Had he signed, Smith would have filled a vacancy at outside linebacker. Now, it remains a much-needed position to acquire for the Ravens.
One draft prospect the Ravens have been linked to for some time now is David Ojabo out of Michigan. Ojabo is viewed as one of the top edge rushers in the draft after a breakout 2021 season in Ann Arbor. He thrived alongside potential first-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson to the tune of 11 sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss and five forced fumbles.
Unfortunately, his draft stock may take a significant hit now in light of recent news. During his Michigan pro day on Friday, Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles injury — an unfortunate development for a talented young prospect.
Tests confirmed that LB David Ojabo tore his Achilles, per a Michigan source. Doctors expect a full and complete recovery.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2022
Rams’ RB Cam Akers tore his Achilles last summer and was back in about six months, and doctors expect Ojabo to be on the same timeline.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that doctors expect him to recover in similar fashion to Los Angeles Rams’ running back Cam Akers. Akers suffered the same injury in July 2021 but was back on the field in roughly six months. He returned for the postseason and slid into a workhorse role for the Rams.
This would be best-case scenario for Ojabo, but the projected six-month recovery may be difficult to bank on 100%. Akers’ quick return to action took many by surprise and is more the exception than the norm. A lot of athletes who undergo Achilles’ surgery take closer to a year or so to recover fully.
Even if teams believe Ojabo will return in six months, this injury will almost certainly negatively impact his draft stock. Prior to this, he was viewed as a first-round lock and possible Top-10 selection. Now, it’s fair to wonder if he could fall out of the first round entirely. At the very least, his ceiling now is probably a late first-rounder.
Ojabo to Baltimore was popularly-mocked for a number of reasons. Aside from him filling a positional need for the Ravens, he thrived under Mike Macdonald at Michigan last year. Now, with Macdonald becoming the defensive coordinator for the Ravens, he’d be plenty familar with Obajo’s skill set and how to best utilize him.
Also, the Ravens drafted a somewhat similar prospect to Ojabo in the first round last year in Odafe Oweh. Like Oweh, Ojabo has high-end athletic traits but many say needs some more refinement in pass-rushing technique. Also, the two played high school football together in New Jersey and are close friends to this day.
Picking Ojabo at No. 14 in the first round is almost certainly out of the question now, unfortunately. They aren’t slated to pick again until No. 45 in the second round. Could Ojabo fall far enough to be available at that spot? Probably not.
But, with two third-round picks and five fourth-round picks at their disposal, the Ravens have a lot of ammunition to engineer a trade-up if they wanted to. If they felt highly enough about Ojabo’s potential and confident enough in his recovery, trading up into the late-first or early-second territory to snag him could be a feasible scenario.
Either way, here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for Ojabo and a promising NFL career, whether it’s in Baltimore or elsewhere.