An edge rusher is a likely need for the New York Jets at the middle point of the NFL Draft. If the Jets want, there are some players on Day 2 who should be able to step in right away and contribute if not start.
One of those players is Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara.
Last year, despite having one of the better defenses in the league under coordinator Gregg Williams, the Jets were just No. 23 in sacks with 35. That needs to change if they are to take the next step as not just a defense but a team.
Julian Okwara (whose brother Romeo plays for the Detroit Lions) represents a good value pick for an NFL team in the middle of the draft. The Jets likely will need to address left tackle and wide receiver early in the draft. By the third round, however, a player like Okwara could be an asset to help the defense.
There are question marks, however. Even if the former Fighting Irish edge possesses huge upside.
SI Big Board: Okwara checks in at No. 42.
The lowdown on Okwara: A broken leg his senior season sees Okwara drop to a Day 2 or an early Day 3 pick. An out-and-out pass rusher, he isn’t the stoutest against the run. What he has is speed off the edge and good twitch.
Speed. Lots of speed.
If he can add good weight, Okwara could develop into an every-down edge player and complement a young defensive line for the Jets.
The question, beyond his health, is what else can Okwara do? He has all that pure speed coming off the edge but he will need to develop more to succeed in the NFL if he wants to grow into being more than a situational pass rusher. The speed rush will be figured out pretty fast.
There are plenty of positives and tools to build with here.
He does a nice job of batting balls and forcing the opposing quarterback to redirect. He is athletic and long. But, he needs work on his hands and can get stood-up by elite tackles. His 27 reps on the 225-pound bench press at the NFL Combine, however, was a good sign of his strength improving.
He could be a great value for some team on Day 2 looking to add depth and a pass rusher who will need to mature and grow his game. It isn’t likely that he makes it to the fourth round.
There is a solid work ethic here and also a player who is pesky and fights to the whistle. Round out his game and there is something big here.
Where he fits on the Jets: Okwara is a defensive end who could also play standing up in the Jets 3-4 depending on situation. For a team that needs help generating a pass rush outside safety Jamal Adams, Okwara could be a great fit.
He isn’t an every-down end. What he does well is get after the quarterback.
At the NFL Combine, head coach Adam Gase talked about adding explosive players on offense. Well Okwara, while far from a polished or a finished product, is a player who could add some explosion to the defense.
The Jets haven’t had an elite edge rusher for several years. Okwara, while needing some work, has the potential to add something going into the backfield.