Ifeadi Odenigbo‘s future is as difficult to project as his name is to pronounce. He had a fair amount of buzz last season as a seventh-round pick due to his at times dominant college career. But ultimately, he spent the season on the practice squad. Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower earned the last end spots ahead of him. And the latter was an undrafted free agent from the same rookie class.
Still, Odengibo’s stock on the team is interesting. His personality comes through in Brian Robison‘s “96 Questions” videos on YouTube. He seems popular with teammates. And his athletic traits, build and play style indicate some positional versatility. So let us dive in a little at some of his college tape to gauge his possible role on the Vikings.
Odenigbo lacks the overall length that Ade Aruna, Bower and Weatherly have, but is stout through his trunk and plays with tremendous strength. He is built similarly to Everson Griffen. Of course, he is not nearly as fast or quick with his change of direction. Odenigbo’s greatest ability is his bull rush. It is pretty much the only move he has consistently gone to since stepping on campus at Northwestern.
You can see the pure power in this clip. Odenigbo is quick off the ball, immediately gets under the tackle’s pads and drives him back into the quarterback before shedding to get the sack.
He did the exact same thing just minutes later with the same result.
The bull rush sets up everything for Odenigbo. It allows him to use the tackle’s forward momentum to burn by and turn the corner…
…or it sets up his solid spin-back once he gets to the quarterback’s level.
The problem early on for him, however, is his generally smaller stature. Bull rushes simply do not work as often on the NFL level for ends his size. And since most, if not all, of his pass rush arsenal builds off of the bull rush, he can be neutralized by stronger or more technically sound tackles. Weatherly and Bower, though not as productive in college as Odenigbo, have the length and more rounded arsenal to find earlier success. And thus, they saw more playing time.
The other thing with Odenigbo is that he is surprisingly average in run support for a guy of his strength. It seems to be largely instinct and technique issues for him. Tight ends have been able to overpower him when he tries to set the edge in run defense. He has proven time and time again as a pass rusher that he can overpower left tackles. Yet, in run support, that power seems to go away. Northwestern used him almost exclusively in passing situations, which could have contributed to his high sack numbers. But it also means he is pretty raw in the finer elements of the position, such as run support.
Which brings us to another element of Odenigbo that has not been discussed much. On the Vikings’ official roster page, he is listed as a “Defensive Lineman.” Every other lineman is specified as either an end or a tackle. It is a bit of a reach, but this could indicate the Vikings down the road plan for Odenigbo is as a situational interior pass rusher, like the role Robison currently holds. It is not the highest of ceilings for a player, but it could serve as the niche that allows Odenigbo to make the roster.
That is three down, two to go. Come back this weekend where we will examine the most tenured of the five young ends, Stephen Weatherly.