The last stop on the Texas Longhorn segment of my 2013 NFL Draft prospect series focuses on defensive end Alex Okafor. Okafor and fellow defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat combine to be the best defensive end tandem in all of college football
Okafor is expected to have another huge season for the Longhorns, and while he is already considered to be a first-round pick by the community of draftniks out there, Okafor could really drive his stock upward with another big season in 2012.
The NFL is starting to become more and more dominated by the passing game. With the increasing focus on throwing the football, teams will stock up on receiving threats and pass protectors for their offense, but this also creates the need for pass rushers and defensive backs on the other side of the football. As a result, the defensive end position is once again becoming a premier position in the NFL.
Tale Of The Tape
- Class: Senior
- School: Texas
- Position: Defensive End
- Height: 6'4 1/2
- Weight: 265
- Hometown: Pflugerville, Texas
Okafor came to Texas as a highly recruited high school player: an All-American selection by multiple media outlets and the #1 strongside defensive end prospect in the country. He was a five-star recruit who had multiple offers from big time programs, but he decided to stay close to home and play for the Longhorns.
Texas inserted Okafor into the rotation on the defensive line as a freshman. In his sophomore season, the Texas coaching staff moved him inside to defensive tackle. The Longhorns coaching staff had veteran defensive ends they wanted to start, but they still wanted Okafor to be a part of their defensive line.
When you take a 250 pound defensive end and move him inside, the match up is going to be in favor of the offensive lineman, who is usually around 300-320 pounds. But Okafor didn't complain, he just did whatever was necessary to help his team win.
Okafor was looking forward to his move back to defensive in 2010.
"It's refreshing to be back at end," Okafor said. "I'll take on a tight end any day compared to a guard."
Cedric Golden of Statesman.com
You could just tell Okafor was happy to be back at defensive end when he began to talk to reporters about the transition that summer.
"It’s been a great adjustment," Okafor said. "I’ve got an extra bounce in my step going back to end. Playing tackle, you don’t get to use your speed as much, so you might have thought you lost it. But I feel like I’m still athletic. I feel like I can still get off the ball and rush the passer."
As a junior in 2011, Okafor started all 13 games at defensive end for the Longhorns. He registered 58 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, three pass breakups, 17 pressures, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He finally got his chance to start at the position he needed to play at, and he produced in a large way for the Longhorns.
It's also impressive that Okafor had his breakout season last year considering the Longhorns had just lost their defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp. Manny Diaz stepped into the defensive coordinator role, and he had some big shoes to fill. You have to give Diaz some credit for the breakout Okafor had in 2011, because he basically called it last August.
"I call it the Matrix Moment," Diaz said as he made the connection between the defensive end and award-winning actor. "When does the competitive greatness come? Like when Keanu Reeves in the Matrix starts seeing all those little green circles and numbers and stuff and [Okafor] says, ‘You know what? I can play. I’m at a different level out here.’"Christian Corona The Daily Texan
Alex Okafor 2011 Junior Highlights (via godzillatron24)
- Very fluid athlete
- Due to his fluidity and smoothness, he could easily make the transition to the 3-4 OLB position in the NFL
- Has large arms that he uses to his advantage against offensive lineman
- Smart player, very aware of what is going on around him on the football field
- Thickly built
- Possesses the lean and muscular frame you look for in pass rushers
- Versatile player who can line up at either defensive end or defensive tackle
- Has a good but not great first step off the line of scrimmage
- His speed allows him to take the edge and blow by the offensive tackle
- Does a good job of dropping his pad level to beat offensive lineman around the edge
- Great against the run, holds his ground and takes up space very well
- Can shed blocks and make plays in the backfield
- Needs to gain more weight (10-15 pounds) and continue to add more muscle and weight to his frame
- He may be relying too much on his athletic ability right now in college, but he must begin to learn a variety of pass rushing moves to use in the NFL
- His bull rush needs some work, adding more strength will help him become consistent in that area
- Needs to work on his lower body strength in order to get a better balance and prevent lineman from beating him by overpowering him
Okafor is another defensive end prospect that has the size and athleticism to become a great player in the NFL. He has managed to improve as a football player every season since he has been a Texas Longhorn. He should be looked at by almost every 4-3 defensive team in the NFL, but 3-4 teams will also be intrigued by his skill set.
I believe that while Jackson Jeffcoat is the more explosive player with better pass rushing moves, Okafor has the thicker build. If Okafor learns more pass rushing moves and adds more weight, he will become dangerous in the NFL no matter what defense he plays in.
If he has another dominant season, which I think he will, then Okafor could be one of the first defensive ends drafted in 2013. He continues to improve each season, so it looks like he is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.