Draft Analysis: Pick 3.77—Michael Ojemudia
Updated: May 5, 2020
Pick 3.77 has Vic Fangio's fingerprints all over it. Michael Ojemudia is not the most explosive or dynamic player, and he doesn't profile as a lockdown shadow corner in the mold of Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, or Champ Bailey. But he is an intelligent, savvy, and experienced zone defender.
The play below encapsulates what Ojemudia brings to the table. The Hawkeyes are in a cover 3 zone, and Ojemudia is primarily responsible for the deep third of the field. The coverage's weakness is in the flat, early in the play (before the LB can get over to defend that area). Ojemudia does a fantastic job staying shallow until his LB help arrives, while still being timely enough with his drop to make a play on the ball (top of the screen).
This play showcases so many excellent traits for a zone corner—intelligence, understanding of scheme and role, awareness, ranginess, and athleticism. It's plays like this that likely made Fangio's eyes light up.
Awareness: Eyes on the QB
A large part of Ojemudia's success can be attributed to his awareness. He's constantly looking back and forth between the quarterback and the routes developing in front of him. This allows him to make plays like the one here, where he flies upfield from his assigned coverage area (deep third) to make a tackle in the flat (bottom of the screen).
Despite having to turn his back to run downfield with his man, Ojemudia still stays aware of what the quarterback is doing. Here's another example where he keeps his eyes on the ball, this time allowing him to come off his man and break up the pass (top of the screen).
There are even reps where his eyes never leave the QB (circled).
Ojemudia has all the core assets you need to be a good zone defender: an understanding of route combinations, the ability to read the QB's eyes, and the awareness to play off help from teammates to get in the right position and make a play.
In addition to possessing excellent zone instincts, Ojemudia shows promise as a man corner. The USC game is especially informative because he and Michael Pittman Jr. spend nearly the entire contest lined up across from each other. Pittman is one of the better prospects in an amazing WR class, giving us a chance to see Ojedmudia play opposite NFL level talent.
On this play Pittman hits Ojemudia with an excellent release, chopping his feet, faking inside, and clearing Ojemudia's hands from his body. But Ojemudia is unfazed and mirrors each of Pittman's movements to perfection (bottom of the screen).
On this next play the receiver runs a corner route that he sets up well. By stemming to the inside before breaking outside, he forces Ojemudia to flip his hips all the way around. The combine tests this exact hip-flipping movement (1:26 of the video) because it's so necessary to mirroring receivers. It's a challenging movement, but Ojemudia executes it smoothly and is in position to contest the pass when it arrives (top of the screen).
This last clip shows Ojemudia playing off coverage on Pittman. He does a great job of diagnosing the slant and breaking hard on the ball (top of the screen).
Ojemudia's savvy again shows up on this play, as he reads that the pass is thrown slightly behind Pittman, and adjusts his angle so that he's on the correct side of Pittman's body to make the play.
Playing the Deep Ball
Pittman and Ojemudia did battle down the field as well. Ojemudia held his own throughout the game, running with the USC wideout on deep routes (top of the screen).
Of course, with Pittman the challenge is less about sticking with him down the field and more about making the play at the catch point. Ojemudia was up to that task as well, timing his jump well to meet Pittman at the correct moment (top of the screen).
Pittman is a few yards farther downfield on this play, but you can tell Ojemudia has things under control. He's not sprinting to catch up, but rather reading the pass and timing his play on the ball.
How Ojemudia handles faster receivers is an open question. Pittman is a quality player, but creating separation down the field is not his strength. It's players like Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler that will present the greater challenge (we'll find out how he holds up in practice!). But at the very least Ojemudia doesn't look lost defending the deep ball, and shows the ability to turn his hips and run, locate the ball, and time his leaps.
While Ojemudia came down with six interceptions over his final two years at Iowa, he should've had even more. A few passes hit him right in the hands. This play is another example of his good awareness (he does a great job to get into position to make the play), but it's also a should've-been interception that was sitting on a platter for the taking (bottom of the screen).
He's gotta catch these (bottom of the screen).
It's not like he has bricks for hands, but don't be surprised if he drops a few easy ones as a Bronco.
Ojemudia's best traits are his intelligence and awareness. He plays with an advanced understanding of scheme and role, and does a fantastic job playing off both the receivers' physical cues and the quarterback's eyes.
He also shows promise as a man-coverage corner and posted combine numbers (4.45 forty, 6.87 three cone) indicative of the athleticism necessary to stick with NFL receivers. How he fares against wideouts with top end speed remains an open question, but Ojemudia's athleticism, length, and football IQ make him a high floor prospect that should take well to Fangio's complex zone schemes.
It's possible that Ojemudia would have been available in later rounds, but you can see why Fangio was eager to snap him up.