Long before the Von Miller trade edge rusher looked like it would be a priority for George Paton in his second offseason as the Denver Broncos general manager. Paton show interest in Leonard Floyd during free agency in 2021 before the edge rusher elected to re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams, and the Broncos were involved in talks to move back into the first round of the ‘21 draft to acquire the Miami Hurricanes Jaelen Phillips. Neither move materialized, which meant the trade deadline deal that sent Miller to the Rams caused the Broncos’ pass rush to crater.
An unranked recruit out of Albert Einstein High school in Kensington, Maryland, Arnold Ebiketie signed with Temple. Across his four years with the Owls he played in just 16 games, and finished his career there with 58 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, six sacks, and three forced fumbles. He transferred to Penn State for the 2021 campaign, where it call came together for a true breakout season: In 13 games with the Nittany Lions Ebiketie finished with 62 total tackles, including 18 for a loss, 9.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Better than the stats, he showed off an appealing combination of bend, twitch, and hand usage which suggests he’ll be a constant nuisance on passing downs in the pros.
If the Broncos are looking for an edge rusher after 9, Arnold Ebiketie makes a lot of sense. pic.twitter.com/97F9LFJUwW— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 8, 2022
At a glance:
A savvy, bendy edge rusher who has the makings of a very good rush repertoire.
Measurables (Senior Bowl)
Height: 6-foot-2 3/8”
Weight: 256 pounds
Wingspan: 82 1/8″
Hand: 10 1/2″
No Official Athletic Testing at this time
Ohio State (2021)
Solid overall build for a shorter edge rusher with a long levers and a 82 1/8” wingspan. Good athlete with a combination of good agility, explosiveness, lateral quickness, and solid balance. Displays solid play strength on initial contact with his punch. Displays good competitive toughness with his down to down consistency, motor, and second effort. Displays good mental processing with play recognition and the way he’ll set up an opponent for later reps.
At his best rushing from a seven or nine technique where he can use his quickness and bend to bait a tackle to overset. Has solid burst overall with solid get off, he displays an ability to attack upfield and threaten around the arc. A very good pass rusher with good ankle flexion, he has the ability to corner around the arc. Understands how to make himself a small target for blockers and will use the threat of outside rush to win inside by taking advantage of opponents oversetting; he plays the mental side of the game and sets up/bait his opponent over the course of a game. Is a solid run defender when the action is working away from him, is a solid gap shooter and has the hot motor and the footwork to make his way through clutter to find the ball. Very good use of hands overall with the requisite placement, quickness, and reactive athleticism to find success at the next level. Toolbox includes a speed rush, speed to power, dip, as well as developing swim, chop, rip, and long arm. No real exposure to coverage snaps, but game is projectable there with the hip fluidity and savvy to be a serviceable spot dropper.
Lean lower half inhibits his ability to generate power and creates some balance issues. Pad level will need to become more consistent in league or these issues will become exasperated. Adequate play strength shows up when he’s defending the run, stunting, and disengaging from blockers, is not going to win vs. power consistently in NFL.
Does not have an elite first step, but could improve at keying snap which would improve burst on down to down basis. Is an adequate run defender overall who may face an adjustment period into professional league. Balance and strength issues create problems holding the point of attack vs. down blocks and playing force vs. zone in his direction. Will need to improve vs. pulling blockers in league. Lacks true versatility: at his best rushing from a seven technique or wider.
Since learning under Dan Hatman of the Scouting Academy I’ve followed the 7 point grading scale where a 1 (poor) is a trait that fails to meet NFL standards and a 7 (elite) means the player will be among the best in the NFL at that specific trait. Every prospect is graded on five critical factors that influence all football players, while every prospect is also evaluated for traits that will determine success at their likeliest position in the NFL.
Critical factors (universal traits for all prospects)
Athletic Ability: 5/7
Competitive Toughness: 5/7
Play Strength: 3/7
Mental Processing: 5/7
Play Speed: 5/7
Position-specific traits (ED)
Upfield burst: 5/7
Pass rush: 6/7
Vs. Run: 3/7
Use of Hands: 6/7
* limited sample size
Arnold Ebiketie has come a long way since he was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon. After four years at Temple he transferred to Penn State and proved his game holds up against Big Ten competition. While he lacks the elite athletic tools of Odafe Oweh, he’s a more refined technician with his rush repertoire and quick hands to compliment his sneaky good bend.
It’d be to Ebiketie’s benefit if he had an opportunity to serve as a pass rush specialist early in his career as this will protect him from some of the more rugged run games he’ll face in the NFL. It will also buy him time to continue to expand and refine his rush repertoire while he improves his balance. In time, he has the tools to blossom into the kind of slippery technician who gives tackles fits.
Fit with the Broncos
With five picks in the top 100 of the 2022 NFL Draft, established edge rushers like Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, and a desperate need to juice up the edge rush, the Broncos are an ideal landing spot for Ebiketie. Workouts and interviews over the next couple of months will have a dramatic impact on where he ultimately lands. I believe he could go as high as the end of the first or slip to the top of the third. If the Broncos were to draft Ebiketie he would be an early contributor on passing downs and should quickly carve out a notable role in the edge rotation, and push for a starting role in time.