The University of Houston has a top prospect in this year’s NFL Draft. Ed Oliver has been heralded as a big time talent on the defensive line, and should be taken in the first round. First rounders are easy to talk about. Often there are red flags or indicators that they might not live up to the hype, but in the sixth or seventh round is where you find the truly intriguing players. One such intriguing player is Oliver’s teammate Emeke Egbule.
Egbule made his way to the University of Houston as a tight end out of high school. Egbule made the transition from offense to defense for the cougars, first using his talent on special teams, where he played every game of his freshman season. By his junior year, he had won the starting job at linebacker, and put together two solid campaigns. Over Egbule’s 4 years at Houston he amassed 162 tackles, 5 sacks, and 1 interception.
When talking about Egbule though, it’s not really about the stats he’s already collected, it is about his potential and natural athletic ability. Egbule ran a 4.65 40-yard-dash at the combine, and put up 20 reps on the bench. He has a vertical jump of 33 inches and a broad jump of 119 inches. He’s also 6’2”, 245 lbs, and has 33” arms. All of this means that he measures very similar to the man the Vikings just handed a five year extension to, Anthony Barr.
The comparison to Barr is obvious, if you don’t look too deeply. Both played on the offensive side of the football, Barr played 2 seasons as a running back at UCLA, and both play with a certain fluidity and athleticism that is unique in game changing linebackers. The measurables are there, but where these players differ is their instincts for the game and their physicality. Barr was a star at UCLA and looked like it on tape. He knew how the game flowed and had pass rush moves to make his presence felt.
Egbule is not Anthony Barr. Maybe it’s because Barr played a much more physical position, running back, before his transition to defense, but Egbule looks to be scared to play with power. Certainly he has the strength and muscle to be physical, but he doesn’t seem to know truly how to. In addition, he often looks lost when the play isn’t coming to him. He does not have the instincts to be a difference maker. Yet.
There is something to be said about incredible raw, physical talent, and Egbule might just have that. He looks like he could be Anthony Barr’s protege, and become, maybe not as good, but similarly skilled. The best part about Egbule is that he might be had for a bargain price. Due to his rawness and need for polish, he is projecting to go in the sixth round or later. I highly doubt that no teams would take a flyer on an athlete like this.
So, why not the Vikings? Minnesota has two sixth round picks and two seventh round picks. Certainly if Egbule is available in the sixth they could stand to take a chance and have budget Anthony Barr. Also, who knows how good he could be. Scouts have been wrong before. If Egbule can get a fire lit under him and become a physical presence, while also learning how to play linebacker with his mind, he could be a game changer someday.
Projected Draft Round: 6-Undrafted
Likelihood the Vikings are targeting him: Likely
Likelihood the Vikings could land him: Somewhat unlikely, due to the unpredictability of the late rounds, and the fact that it isn’t a true need for the team
Best Traits: Fluidity of play, athleticism, measurements
Biggest Drawbacks: Instincts, Physicality, Football IQ