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Cowboys 2022 Draft target: Michigan DE David Ojabo

Cowboys fans have trauma from the last pick of a Michigan defensive end.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cowboys have major room for improvement in the trenches before next season, with team needs on the offensive and defensive line even before free agency hits. Dallas has been linked to first-round defensive end talent for the past few seasons, but opting for the best players available in CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons instead.

Now, Parsons expects to factor into their front seven plans for years to come, but the potential losses of Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, and possibly even DeMarcus Lawrence make defensive end a strong need. If Cowboys fans are willing to forgive the Taco Charlton pick from years ago, another Michigan edge rusher could be the answer with the 24th overall pick.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Capital One Orange Bowl - Georgia v Michigan Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

David Ojabo has been a fast riser in draft rankings, settling into late-first-round range and ending up in plenty of Cowboys mock drafts. The 2021 season was Ojabo’s only year as a starter for Michigan, but he helped lead the Wolverines to the College Football Playoffs for the first time, with 11 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Whichever team gets their hands on Ojabo will have plenty of promising traits to work with as they look for a more consistent player against NFL competition. The upcoming combine will be another chance for Ojabo to match what he’s put on tape as an athletic, lengthy rusher that moves well in space.

Michigan DE David Ojabo: Strengths

Ojabo shows off a variety of rush moves that help him get to the quarterback, using a strong inside counter to clear lineman’s hands. At his best, Ojabo plays with great pad level that prevents blockers from getting into his frame. His length and quick hands allow him to bend the corner with good ankle flexibility.

Ojabo’s sudden change of direction ability and thick upper body make him hard to contain on the edge. This is a player that can hold up at left end with above average play strength, and the quick-twitch ability to beat left tackles as well. Michigan dropped Ojabo into coverage at times, and the 6’5”, 250-pound end looked fluid covering ground. Ojabo takes good pursuit angles against the run with the motor to make plays downfield.

Ojabo’s first step and burst off the line may be areas for improvement, but he makes up for it with a strong punch and knock-back ability that lets him use his speed to rush.

Michigan DE David Ojabo: Weaknesses

For all of the splash plays that Ojabo made, many in big moments for his Michigan team, there are plenty of concerning reps on his tape. Ojabo struggles with leverage when stronger blockers can lean into him, playing with too high a pad level and losing hand fights along the line.

If Ojabo doesn’t make quick work of his blocker, they’re usually able to recover as he lacks an explosive first step or elite get-off. The most consistent issue for Ojabo is his ability to play the run. Far too many running plays against Michigan were cleaned up by potential number one overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, while Ojabo was blown off the line of scrimmage. When Ojabo does disengage to play the run, he struggles to break down quickly and misses tackles.

When trying to turn the corner as a pass rusher, Ojabo can run a wide arc and get pushed well behind the pocket, allowing quarterbacks to step up or roll out to his side.

Michigan DE David Ojabo: Summary

Defensive line is a deep position in this year’s draft class, and it’s also where some of the top picks of the first round will come from. After this run on the premier talent, teams picking in the late teens and beyond could see Ojabo as their best chance to add talent at defensive end.

Pass rushers with the raw traits and build of Ojabo are hard to come by. Even if the Cowboys manage to keep both Lawrence and Gregory, they could use another depth piece on the edge.

More realistically, another team sees Ojabo as a day one starter and drafts him before Dallas comes on the clock, or the Cowboys end up in position to draft Ojabo as a replacement for one of this year’s starters.

Expecting Ojabo to make the immediate impact that most rookies struggle with is a great way for this Cowboys team in need of immediate impact to walk away disappointed from the draft. Ojabo would be an ideal scheme fit for Dan Quinn’s defense, but the Cowboys have proven they’ll pass on positional needs for the best overall players in recent drafts.

When weighing all of their roster needs, it’s hard to find the same path for Ojabo to be the pick at 24th overall that many mock drafters are with two months before the draft.