Hello Giants fans! Since it has been the trend to show off our man crushes of the 2013 draft, which Invictus and Raptor have done an incredibly great job of, I decided to do the same with my man Alex Okafor. A Senior Defensive End from Texas, Okafor had a dominant final season for the Longhorns, with 54 total tackles (16.5 for a loss) and a whopping 12.5 sacks. He also forced four fumbles, two coming in the game against West Virginia. This guy is the prototypical Left Defense End that the Giants would love to have replace Tuck sometime in the near future. He's got the strength you want from your lineman and a bull-rush that is a thing of beauty. We'll get more in depth with that with the actual film study though.
You can almost hear the Right Tackle saying "Yup, I got beat"
Arm Length: 33 7/8"
40 Time: N/A
Bench Reps: 21
Overall: Okafor, while not being an underwear athlete, doesn't show any signs of being an inferior athlete in the NFL either. He thrives off of his first step and leg power, neither of which are demonstrated in any pre-draft workouts. With proven bull-rush ability Okafor could easily maintain his current weight and still be an impressive Left Defensive End at the pro level. Some may argue that he should gain weight, but if he's got the power at the weight he is at, why mess with his first step by adding weight? Sam Montgomery added 20 pounds of muscle and his first step decreased drastically. Okafor is at the "just right" stage as far as weight is concerned.
The first thing that needs to be noted, at least in the case of Okafor, is that Texas used him in sort of an odd way. What I mean by that is they often had him line up in a 2 point stance (basically an Outside Linebacker type stance) for most of his snaps. Of the 81 snaps that I've evaluated, 50 of Okafor's snaps come from a 2 point stance. Now this doesn't mean he is an Outside Linebacker, he almost always goes up against the Tackle or stunts inside, and isn't used for coverage or any other duties a Linebacker would possess. I'm of the personal opinion that when Okafor has his hand in the dirt, he's a much better player, but since a majority of his snaps are out of a 2 point stance it changes how I have to evaluate his pre-snap positions.
The first thing that I look for from a Defensive End, no matter what the stance they are in, is how he is poised to come out of his stance. Is he leaning forward and ready to pass rush? Is he sitting back on his haunches anticipating a running play or possibly a screen? Is he tight and compact in his stance or does he get sloppy and lower his ass, taking on a more vulnerable position? From what I see Okafor has a pass-rusher type stance. He doesn't dedicate all his weight to his hand (when he's in a 3 or 4 point stance) or lean too far forward in his 2 point stance, but there is no doubt that he represents either a tight spring or possibly a coiled snake when he's in his stance. Okafor has a natural forward lean that indicates he wants to go forward. This is one of the many reasons that his bull-rush is such a success.
The next thing I looked for from Okafor pre-snap is was he cheating? What I mean is that he seems to stunt quite often in the Texas defense, and often times you'll see a guy cheat towards the way he is stunting before the snap. A smart Offensive Lineman (Barrett Jones for example) will catch this and call it out, making it easier for the blockers to know their assignments. As a LDE, Okafor naturally leans in to his right so he's positioned better to make a play, but I never see him blatantly cheat in one direction and give away a defensive play pre-snap. This is a small but important key to any defensive players game, a defense is reactionary and needs all the advantages it can get. Dumb giveaways like cheating towards a side doesn't make their life any easier.
The last thing I'm looking for is whether or not a player is comfortable in his stance. This sounds like an odd thing to look for, but it's very important. While technique is great, and will separate good players from great ones, it is still important that a guy can get in his stance in what should be second nature. You can tell a player to get his ass as high up in the air as it can go, but if he's uncomfortable firing out from that stance, he won't be effective at all. That's why I cut players slack if their stance isn't absolutely Grade-A perfect. Some players just shoot out better if their back is a bit more parallel to the ground as opposed to slanted downwards towards the ground. As a former Defensive Lineman myself I preferred to have a flat back that ran parrallel to the ground while some of my teammates had their asses higher in the air, which led to having their backs slanted down towards the ground. It's all in comfort and preference. With Okafor I see that he's just naturally more comfortable with his hand on the ground. Sometimes when he comes out of his 2 point stance he'll have his pad level too high, which is an indicator that he needs to be lower. When he has his hand in the dirt he looks comfortable, and it's proven that he is since he fires out with a low, hard first step that is hard for any Tackle to beat.
Here is Okafor with his hand in the dirt. Notice he's leaning forward, with only the balls of his feet touching the ground. Also has good bend and seems naturally inclined to be in the position, showing off a compact stance and good feet width/positioning.
During/After The Snap
The first thing you look at when ANY type of Lineman comes out of their stance during the snap is the first step. Invictus and Raptor both said it, but it's worth repeating. A good first step requires a player to come out with a low pad level and has to be quicker than the first step of the player across from you. If you beat the other guy off the ball, your chances of winning that one on one battle go up tenfold. It's especially important for a Defensive Lineman to have a great first step because they don't have the knowledge of the snap count like the Offense does. Okafor has a very good first step, not quite elite, but good enough to win most battles with Right Tackles. He steps down hard with his right foot, controlling the space around him and usually doing a good job of replacing the Tackle's feet.
After the first step it's very important to watch the pad level of a player. If the first step doesn't win a battle, the pad level will. Leverage is key to winning the battle of the trenches, and it's something Okafor is very good at doing. On the occasions where Okafor plays high coming out of his stance, he loses his battle. Period. He doesn't have the elite strength to toss his man aside, so it all comes down to leverage for Okafor. Fortunately he's very good at coming out low and getting underneath the pads of a Tackle. This allows him to manipulate where he wants the Tackle to go, and overall gives him total control of his gap. Often Okafor uses this leverage combined with his lower body strength to create a beautiful bull-rush, one that has the Tackle being pushed (man handled if you prefer) backwards into either the Quarterback or Running Back and either creating a tackle for a loss or at the very least causing disruption and chaos in the backfield.
Another thing I'm looking for out of a Defensive End is whether or not he can use his hands properly and disengage from a block. It's one thing to stalemate your opponent and hold your gap, it's a totally different animal when it comes to sweeping your hands across your chest and removing their arms from your body. Quick hands lead to solid tackles made at or behind the Line of Scrimmage, and it's something that Okafor seems to need work on. There are times where he will use his lower body strength to maintain his gap, only to get held up by the Tackle simply because he doesn't use his hands to disengage and pounce onto the Running Back. This leads to the runner going right by him instead of being taken down like a wounded gazelle right at the LOS. Fortunately this is a technique that can be taught through coaching, and not many college players excel at this skill when entering the NFL.
Change of direction and motor are the two final things I'm looking for when I'm watching a Defensive End. If you end up guessing wrong and shooting a gap, or end up on the wrong side of a block some how, I'm looking to see if that player can pop his hips back towards the direction of the play and flow to it smoothly and quickly with not a lot of wasted motion. This is something Okafor is slightly above average at. He has good, fluid hips (nothing like Invictus's guy Richardson, I don't know how that man flows so well for his size) and can shift his weight in a different direction without losing a lot of time. The problem comes when he has to shift gears and change directions while disengaging from a block, which while it's admittedly a tough thing to do, it's also something Okafor should be working on. As far as motor is concerned, it is what it is. Will a guy give 100% every play? Will he chase down a play even once it's past him? Will he do his job and provide backside support in case a runner cuts back? This receives excellent markings from me as far as Okafor is concerned. Of the 81 snaps I watched, there were only two or three that you could point at and call a "low motor" play. This isn't rare, guys get gassed and sometimes it's hard for them to go 100% all the time. With a good NFL conditioning program Okafor could probably end up changing his number to missing out on only one play every 100 snaps.
Alex Okafor wears #80, and is highlighted by the little gray box before the beginning of each snap. A majority of the time he'll be at the Left Defensive End position and is relatively easy to spot.
The WVU Game
0:00-0:07 - (This is his 2 point stance I talked about earlier) stunts inside, and helps assist on the tackle for a minimum gain.
0:08-0:16 - gets a good bull rush in on the Tackle, and gets one hand up trying to knock down the pass.
0:17- 0:24 - stunts to the inside and generates a moderate amount of pressure.
0:24- 0:32 - beats the Tackle to the inside with good handwork, appears to be ready to make the Tackle, but suffers from what looks like holding.
0:33-0:37 - tries going around the Tackle but Geno gets the ball of quickly.
0:38- 0:45 - Good first step but seems to run a bit too far upfield.
0:46- 1: 03 - Great use of hands to get off the blocker that initially pops him, collapses Geno's pocket and forces him to scramble. Very good play, would have been a sack on a slower Quarterback.
1:04- 1:10 - takes a wide, looping stunt to the edge and doesn't generate a lot of pressure. But then again that wasn't the best designed stunt either.
1:11 - 1:16 - comes out of his stance unblocked, and should probably sit down in his gap and protect the backside just in case. But in his defense he may have been reading the blockers and simply followed them.
1:17- 1:25 - comes off unblocked at first again, but gets slightly held up by the Running Back. He still prevents himself from going down and gets a decent amount of pressure on Geno.
1:26- 1:30 - runs too far upfield plus it was a quick throw by Geno. Not a lot too see on this play.
1:31 - 1:38 - This play is confusing. It seems like he jumped a bit pre-snap (they may have called it), but other than that he has a good bull-rush here against the Tackle and might have had the sack.
1:39- 1:44 - Lines up in what seems to be the 3tech here and sees a double team from both Guard and Tackle. Does a good job of getting skinny and generates decent pressure despite the double team. Good play in my eyes.
1:45 - 1:52 - Good first step, almost has the sack but gets tripped up by the Running Back. Continues to pursue and Geno throws it away.
1:53- 1:59 - Gets his arm up and comes off the edge at a good, tight angle. Geno just gets it off quickly.
2:00 - 2:07 - Okafor tries going inside here but gets caught, and executes a pretty unspectacular spin move to try to correct his mistake. Not much here.
2:08 - 2:15 - It takes a while for Okafor to disengage on this play, needs to use his hands quicker. But still gets off the block quick enough to hassle Geno and force a throw away.
2:16 - 2:21 - Engages his blocker well with a good first step, but it's a run up the gut that doesn't involve him.
2:22 - 2:30 - Bad play here, he gets blocked by the Tackle because his pad level is too high.
2:31 - 2:36 - Okafor fires off low and hard, but he aims for the wrong gap and the RB goes by him to the other side.
2:37 - 2:43 - Does his job here and replaces the Tackle's feet, but the play goes away from him entirely.
2:44 - 2:49 - Pushes the Tackle back and takes a swat at the ball. It's not Okafor's job to recognize the WR screen here since no blockers from his side swing out to lead block. Solid play.
2:50 - 3:06 - This is why I like seeing Okafor with his hand in the dirt. He explodes hard and fast off the line, absolutely dominates the Tackle with a beautiful bull-rush, and strip-sacks Geno for what turns into a Longhorns Touchdown. Absolutely awesome work off the edge here by Okafor.
3:07 - 3:12 - Ends up getting pushed away from the play on this one. Not so hot here.
3:13 - 3:19 - Initially engages the Tackle well here, but ends up getting his pad level too high and is pushed out of the play at the last minute.
3:20 - 3:39 - Lines up in the "Wide 9" technique right here, has a very fast burst around the edge and probably would have had the sack if the DT wasn't completely unblocked on this play.
3:40 - 3:46 - Ends up stunting inside and taking himself out of the play on this one.
3:47 - 3:53 - Another Wide 9 set here, but Geno gets the ball off too quickly for Okafor to do anything significant.
3:54- 3:58 - Wide 9 again, Okafor almost gets a piece of the ball after a quick throw by Geno. Seems to cause Geno to throw a bit off target.
3:59 - 4:05 - A stunt to the inside that once again puts him out of position to make a play.
4:06 - 4:14 - Gets nicked by the Running Back on this play, almost has a good release to the Quarterback if he's able to elude being touched there.
4:15 - 4:20 - The stunt to the inside on this play takes him away from the screen.
4:21 - 4:27 - Drops into coverage and shows that he's not a 3-4 OLB. I guess he doesn't do a terrible job being withing range of the Wide Receiver, but he doesn't have the technique to drop make and cover guys in the NFL. Bad defensive call here in my opinion.
4:28 - 4:37 - Does a very good job getting around the Tackle on this play, if he had Devon Taylor arms he may have got the strip sack here. Good work coming off the edge though.
4:38 - 4:45 - Okafor stunts inside and hits a wall of blockers. Next.
4:52 - 4:59 - I think Okafor jumped here, and it's possible he got called on it. If not, the flag was for holding on the Tackle because he got hugged from behind.
5:00 - 5:06 - A great heads up play here by Okafor. He goes unblocked by the offense and immediately sits down in his gap and waits to see if the RB will cut back to him. He does, and Okafor is there to make the tackle. That's a smart play right there.
5:07 - 5:37 - Just another reason I love seeing Okafor with his hand in the dirt. He executes another phenomenal bull-rush, bullying the Tackle all the way back until he is able to stick his arm out for the strip sack. One of my favorite plays because it demonstrates A) A fast first step, B) The ability to stay low and use his bull rush, and C) Good technique and field awareness to know where the ball is and disengage from the Tackle just in time to knock it loose.
5:38 - 5:45 - The play goes away from him here, and he slides down the invisible LOS in backfield pursuit.
5:46 - 5:52 - I think Okafor gets too tall here, but it doesn't matter much since the play goes up the gut anyway.
5:53 - 5:58 - Seems to not hold tight enough to the edge, but Geno gets rid of it quick anyway.
5:59 - 6:05 - Okafor runs a bit too far upfield here, but the real problem is he doesn't disengage from his blocker at the right time. A second sooner and he has that as a TFL.The Tackle may have gotten away with a slight hold, but I don't think that's a credible excuse.
6:06 - 6:13 - Runs too far upfield and the RB goes where Okafor should have been. An "Osi-like" play here, he needs to hold his gap here and force the RB to the inside.
The OSU Game
Note: This tape is slightly harder to judge Okafor by, being as OSU swings a lot of passes out to their Running Backs and also will work in some Wide Receiver screens. Unless a DE has JPP-like athletcism, it's hard for them to quell these plays.
6:14 - 6:20 - Okafor drops into coverage here and tries to chase down the WR. He does do a good job directing the receiver back to the sidelines, but isn't fast enough to close in and make the tackle.
6:21 - 6:27 - A good bull-rush here, but it was a quick swing pass.
6:28 - 6:33 - Okafor is able to diagnose where the ball is going here and he ducks inside to make a tackle on the runner for a minimum gain.
6:34 - 6:41 - Another swing pass, not a lot for Okafor to do here.
6:42 - 6:48 - Goes unblocked here, and almost goes too far upfield, but redirects his hips and is able to wrap up the RB for a nice tackle.
6:49 - 6:57 - Stunts inside here and gets caught up in a wall of blockers.
6:58 - 7:04 - Okafor gets fooled by the play here, and the runner sweeps by him, looking to get the far edge near the sideline.
7:05 - 7:14 - Play goes away from him, if you notice the QB rolls back out towards Okafor's side, Okafor should have stayed firm in his gap and made sure the QB didn't have the ball on a bootleg, and then pursued the runner. Didn't see him stay home and check first.
7:15 - 7:22 - Begins to get pushed back initially, but fights his way forward. Too late though, he's out of position to do anything concerning the runner.
7:23 - 7:29 - Okafor does a good job avoiding the blocker who pops him on this play. That guy could have got under his pads and pushed him back, but Okafor did a good job of sliding off the block. He ends up putting a hit on the ball carrier and assisting in the tackle.
7:30 - 7:36 - A decent bull-rush here, I would have liked to have seen him disengage sooner though.
7:37 - 7:45 - He recognizes the screen pass here and goes out to try chasing down the runner. Could have sprinted a bit faster to help with the tackle though.
7:46 - 7:53 - Goes unblocked here, and Okafor demonstrates good gap discipline by staying home. A good thing because it looked like the QB could have possibly been bootlegging.
7:54 - 8:06 - Okafor charges hard off the edge here, and almost seems like he's going to be too far out to make the play. But he recovers and leverages his pads underneath the Tackle's hands, and then steps up and makes the sack.
8:07 - 8:14 - Play ends before Okafor really has the chance to even do anything.
8:15 - 8:23 - Stunts inside and seems to generate pressure up the middle, but it's a screen. The stunt was an awfully untimely call for this play.
8:24 - 8:29 - Pushes through his blocks but the play goes away from him.
8:30 - 8:34 - Does a good job holding his ground against the Lineman, and rushes to seal off the edge before the runner can get there. He does, and the runner is forced back inside.
8:35 - 8:40 - A solid bull-rush here, gets into the QB's face a little bit.
8:41 - 8:50 - Stunts inside here, and seems to be in good position to make the tackle if the play doesn't get cleaned up earlier.
8:51 - 9:01 - Okafor works the Tackle back some and disengages when it appears that the QB is beginning to roll out. Good instincts on his part there, don't want to be held up by the Tackle if the QB looks like he's about to take off for the sidelines.
9:02 - 9:14 - You notice Okafor slide more and more to the right of the screen as the play progresses. Towards the end he tries to use his hands and redirect himself back to the QB, but he does so too late. Needs to start that change of direction a second or two earlier.
9:15 - 9:20 - Another bull-rush here, he churns his legs well and gets his arms up to swat at the ball.
9:21 - 9:26 - Okafor gets a good initial push, but the QB releases quickly here.
9:27 - 9:31 - Not a good first step here, and doesn't really commit to a pass rush move. No pressure here.
9:32 - 9:42 - Beats the tackle to the inside here with a good rip move, causes pressure from inside the pocket and forces the QB to roll out.
9:43 - 10:00 - A good first step and push, but another quick release by the QB.
10:01 - 10:08 - Stunts, but never even heads towards the LOS. Not sure what he was doing here, but the play got cleaned up early regardless.
10:09 - 10:20 - He pushes the Tackle back with his legs here, but he also guesses early and goes into the wrong gap. The runner goes where Okafor should have been. Needs more patience here.
10:21 - 10:26 - Stalemates the lineman here, but doesn't disengage quick enough and ends up missing the Running Back here.
10:27 - 10:32 - Not a lot of pressure here, sees a chip from the RB.
10:33 - 10:40 - Diagnoses the play early and begins flowing to it from his position on the LOS.
10:41 - 10:48 - A decent first step and push here, but the play goes up the gut.
10:49 - 10:54 - Pushes his man backwards, but again doesn't disengage quick enough to make the play. Maybe he needs to sit in on Michael Strahan's lessons with JPP on better hand usage.
10:55 - 11:01 - A stunt to the inside here, generates decent pressure from up the gut, results in an incomplete pass.
11:02 - 11:09 - Good first step and bull-rush here, keeps churning until he's on top of the QB and helping create a sack. Not sure who exactly knocks the ball out, but Okafor sure as heck helped.
11:10 - 11:14 - Another good bull-rush here, forces QB out of the pocket.
11:15 - 11:21 - Lines up in the 9tech, and has a decent bull-rush. QB has a quick release.
After watching these two games, I really started to like Okafor a lot more than I already did. I went in knowing he had a knack for making big plays, but what I really found amazing was his bull rush. Doesn't quite have the wide array of pass rush moves you'd think a guy with 12.5 sacks would have, but that's something that can be coached. His first two lethal weapons he possesses are the bull-rush and the ability to come off the edge with speed. That combination should get him through his rookie year as he becomes a more polished pass rusher.
Like I said, the only thing he really has to work on is his hand usage. If he begins to disengage from his blocks earlier, he'd be a great run defender. He's solid against the run now, but it's going to take the hand usage to get him to the next level. Overall this is a guy that the Giants should be jumping all over to grab at #19, he'd be a nightmare (for other teams that is) across the line from JPP. With his quick first step, powerful legs, and big play ability, I imagine he's pretty high on Reese's radar.