We are on the cusp of the 2020 NFL Draft, and this will be an unusual year to say the least. Regardless of the manner of the draft, we are still expecting a handful of former Notre Dame Fighting Irish players to be drafted — and another handful to become UDFAs.
We’re going to take a quick look at both handfuls over the next whatever hours, as we get ready for the big weekend ahead.
Julian Okwara — DEFENSIVE END
It came as little surprise when Okwara committed to the Irish and followed in the footsteps of his brother Romeo. Julian was a better prospect than his brother was, and the 4-Star arrived in South Bend oozing with talent and potential. As a freshman Julian contributed greatly over the course of the season, but made only a slight impact.
Okwara showed steady improvement in 2017 and solidified himself as a starter in 2018. His senior year in 2019 was supposed be an awakening of sorts on the field and as a captain, but after he got off to a slow start for the season he showed only a few flashes before he suffered a season ending injury. His career totals at Notre Dame are 77 tackles with 23 TFL and 14.5 sacks.
How does he fit in the NFL?
There is no doubt that at 6’4” and 252 pounds, Okwara’s athleticism will be of great value to any team in the NFL as a pass-rusher, but will have to get much better against the run to become an every down player. His path as a future starter may end up being a short wait should he fulfill his potential.
Where will he go?
As an EDGE player, Okwara’s value is immense. While he has lacked in production against the run, it isn’t from a lack of power and strength. His ceiling is high enough to justify a first round selection (as he was projected to be just 6 months ago) but has slid down draft boards for one reason or another — and the lack of a pro day performance because of the coronavirus pandemic goes against him.
PROJECTION: 2nd Round
For several years I had no doubt that Okwara would be a first round selection. While that can still be the case, it is much more likely that he slips into the second. He has all the potential former Irish and NFL great Justin Tuck (3rd round by the Giants) possessed, and as a pure pass rusher — maybe more.