The 2022 NFL Draft is expected to be dominated by defensive players. That isn’t to say that the offensive side of the ball is weak, so much that the defense is particularly strong this year.
This year’s draft features headliners at several positions and multiple EDGE defenders could come off the board early. Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie isn’t expected to be one of those players drafted at the top of the first round, but he shouldn’t have to wait all that long to hear his name called.
Ebiketie is coming off of a break-out year in 2021 after transferring to Penn State from Temple. His explosive power was just too much for offensive tackles, and his 18 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks should get teams’ attention. The only question is just how long Ebiketie will last in the draft, and whether he could slip to the second round in this year’s stacked defensive draft.
The New York Giants appear to have a need at EDGE defender. What evaluators on the outside don’t know is how highly the team will value EDGE players under Wink Martindale. Could Ebiketie be a value pick for the Giants if they don’t select an EDGE at the top of the draft?
Prospect: Arnold Ebiketie (17)
Games Watched: vs. Auburn (2021), vs. Ohio State (2021), vs. Wisconsin (2021), vs. Michigan (2021)
Games Played: 28
Tackles For a loss: 28.5
Forced Fumbles: 5
Passes Defensed: 1
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 18.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Power, explosiveness, length, hand usage, play strength, competitive toughness
Projection: A starting EDGE defender with scheme diversity.
(Ebiketie is Penn State EDGE number 17)
Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie has a good combination of length, explosiveness, play strength, and competitive toughness to play the position at the NFL level.
Ebiketie primarily aligned as an EDGE defender in Penn State’s defense, though he moved inside in some circumstances. He played out of a 3 and 4-point stance as a defensive end, as well as a 2-point stance as a stand-up rusher. Ebiketie showed a good, explosive first step as both a stand-up rusher and as a down lineman.
He has a compact, dense frame that combines good natural leverage with a 6-foot-2, 250-pound build with uncommonly long 34 ⅛ inch arms. That combination of traits allows Ebiketie to play with good leverage throughout the rep, maximizing his power and play strength. He generally does a good job of using his length and hands to keep his body clean. Ebiketie has a very effective swipe move to knock blockers hands away, and also has the upper body strength to extend and lock out, preventing blockers from latching on when he bullrushes.
Ebiketie flashes the ability to rush with a plan and make use of counter moves. He often pairs a rip move with his swipe, and also does a great job of converting speed to power. He has enough agility to dart back inside if blockers over-set to the outside to protect against his speed.
His play strength and leverage also shows themselves in his run defense, and Ebiketie is able to set a firm edge against run blockers. He also flashes the ability to use his strength and length to disengage and make plays off of blockers if running backs press the gap he is defending.
Ebiketie is a heavy hitter who finishes his rushes well and arrives at the ball carrier with authority. He doesn’t sacrifice his tackling form to bring down ball carriers, and is generally a reliable tackler. Additionally, his explosiveness does make him a threat to force fumbles.
Ebiketie was asked to drop into coverage on occasion, and he was able to get adequate depth quickly on zone drops. That said, he probably shouldn’t be asked to play coverage often and is better used going forward.
Ebiketie does show some lower-body stiffness that prevents him from being a truly devastating pass rusher. In particular, he tends to flex at his hips and knees, and doesn’t appear to have elite mobility in his ankles. This can keep Ebiketie from flattening around the edge, turning particularly tight corners, and carrying all of his speed into the backfield.
He could also stand to improve in how he uses his hands to defeat cut blocks. Likewise, he can be washed out of plays by reach blockers.
Overall Grade: 7.8
Arnold Ebiketie projects as a starting EDGE defender at the NFL level. He has the versatility to line up in just about any defense. His length, athleticism, strength and experience will allow him to play as a down defensive end in a 4-man front, a stand-up rusher in a 3-man front, or a combination of the two in a “multiple” defense.
Ebiketie will likely be best in a defense that allows him to rush from wider alignments to help off-set the slight lower body stiffness he shows. That said, his power and explosiveness should make him a handful for defenders from just about any alignment.
While he was asked to drop into coverage on occasion, teams that routinely ask EDGE defenders to play coverage as a part of their blitz designs might want to look elsewhere. Ebiketie is capable of dropping into zones, but his ability to actually cover tight ends and running backs in space is a question at the NFL level.
Ebiketie might not have the lower-body fluidity shared by the best pass rushers at the NFL level, but he has the competitive toughness and an intriguing combination of traits to be a good starter.