Raiders Draft

Raiders Draft Profile: The Fall Of DE Julian Okwara

The Las Vegas Raiders have a solid defensive line but could add defensive end Julian Okwara to bolster their depth.

Okwara is a defensive end who stands at 6’4″, weighing 248 lbs. He is the brother of Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara. His brother went undrafted, but the younger Okwara should have no problem having a team call his name when the time comes unless he hurt his cause that much. While his performance slipped a bit in 2019, and was later sidelined due to a broken fibula, he had a pretty good collegiate career with the Fighting Irish:

  • 2016: He played in 11 games, had four tackles (two solo, two assisted).
  • 2017: He saw the field in nine games, had 17 tackles (10 solo, seven assisted), 4.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception
  • 2018: He played in 13 games, 39 tackles (26 solo, 13 assisted), 12.5 for loss, eight sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception.
  • 2019: He partook in nine games, had 19 tackles (nine solo, 10 assisted), seven for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Raiders Draft: From 1st round to undrafted?

His subpar senior year dropped his stock bad, he already seemed to struggle against the run at times, and his injury added to it. Also, not doing some combine drills at the NFL Scouting Combine and not having a Pro Day while recovering from his injury and the virus pandemic, has some people pegging him as an undrafted free agent when all is said and done.

Related: Reggie Robinson Draft Profile

It’s tape like this that will make scouts cringe.

He could definitely be regressing, and a lost cause, but this is also a man who was viewed as a late first rounder just a season ago had he declared for the draft early. I can’t recall how many prospects have had a similar scope in one year. He literally could have been in the top 32 of last year’s draft if he had been in it. This year, some say he won’t even crack the Mr. Irrelevant mark? I’m not buying it, I’m looking for the comeback, because this is the player I know:

Pass rushing rebound

Okwara has proven to be a solid pass rusher, that alone should net him a mid-round pick. He is a natural 4-3 defensive end but has said he has no problem switching to outside linebacker if needed. He prefers to stay at end and knows he needs to boost up his play, especially against the run-in order to stay there. I believe he will rebound well and will for sure be drafted. He was a captain of the Notre Dame defense for a reason. Someone will take the gamble, and I believe he will rebound just fine.

Raiders Draft selection

I’m going to put aside most of his 2019 season and peg him as a late second round to early fourth round pick at the latest, and I only put him that far of a slide because of his injury and how he comes back from it. So far, it’s been a non-issue to him. Maybe it’s bias, but I’ve seen him take over games, and I would gamble on him.

Team fit

I have seen two fits for Okwara. The Giants could reunite him with Julian Love or the Dolphins might take the chance, but I am looking at Detroit to bookend him with his brother, or can see him fitting in nicely as a rotational player with the Raiders, or even the Steelers.

Road to redemption

Don’t forget about Okwara, he had an off year and if history serves right, he will come back with a chip on his shoulder and make it a point to prove people wrong. His burst and agility when pass rushing will outweigh his strength maneuvering through tackles against the run, but how long for? He will have to commit to stopping the run if he wants to be an every-down player. Otherwise, he will just be delegated to a situational rusher, but even then, he still should hear his name called.

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Top photo by Rick Kimball/ISD

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