The Green Bay Packers will be looking to fill multiple holes in the 2022 NFL Draft. Wide receiver is an obvious need, but others exist as well. One deficiency the Packers may want to address is in their outside linebacker room. With Za’Darius Smith gone and Whitney Mercilus retired, Green Bay has little depth behind Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. With this in mind, it seems reasonable to expect that the Packers will bolster their defense with an edge rusher early on in the draft. One such player could be Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie.
Arnold Ebiketie Bio & Stats
Ebiketie spent the first three years of his college career at Temple, where he recorded a total of six sacks, 10.5 TFLs, and three FFs. After transferring to Penn State for his senior year, Ebiketie proved he could dominate against a high level of competition. Despite having to adjust to a new defense, he accrued 9.5 sacks, two FF, and a whopping 18 TFLs in 2021. He earned a selection to the 2021 All Big-Ten First Team and was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s top defensive end.
There appears to be some confusion regarding Ebiketie’s testing results at the NFL Combine and Penn State’s Pro Day (Ebiketie did not participate in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, or shuttle at the Combine). However, The 33rd Team’s site reports very good numbers. Measuring in at a shade over 6’2″ and 250 lbs., Ebiketie performed at elite levels in speed, agility, and explosiveness drills. He also recorded an impressive 34 1/8″ arm length and 10 1/4″ hands. His excellent results combined for an elite 9.14 RAS.
Ebiketie’s height and weight are outside some of the thresholds that Brian Gutekunst has valued in the past, as is his age (23). However, his athleticism and production could still be a tantalizing prospect for a team in need of reinforcements on the edge. Green Bay has a shrinking window with Aaron Rodgers at QB. This could force them to discard some of their traditional guidelines in favor of immediate contributors. As his film shows, Ebiketie is an edge prospect that will likely produce immediately as a pass rusher, though he may need time to develop as a run defender.
Arnold Ebiketie Film & Scouting Report: Run Defense
In the run game, Ebiketie flashes excellent length, good pad level, violent hands, and elite agility. At times, he was able to use these tools to hold up against single blocks from tight ends and offensive lineman on the edge.
Ebiketie showed off enticing disruptive ability in the run game. In certain situations, Penn State would move him inside, where he could use his speed and agility to penetrate upfield.
Ebiketie also displayed a physical, aggressive mindset in meeting pullers. He was adept at spilling runs on Counter and similar schemes.
Although he flashed numerous tools in run defense, Ebiketie may not be able to immediately contribute in that phase. The Penn State defense used a scheme that often left players only responsible for a single gap against the run. The penetrating, aggressive play required in this type of system is quite different from that used in Green Bay. Joe Barry’s Quarters-based defense asks its edge defenders to play the run with patience. Emphasis is placed on stringing runs out and allowing second- and third- level defenders to rally to the ball.
It could take some adjustment for Ebiketie to succeed in this style of defense. In addition to modifying and refining his technique, he may need to add additional bulk to his frame to help him clog up outside gaps and better handle double-teams. Even with this in mind, Ebiketie can probably match or exceed the play that Green Bay got out of its backup OLBs in 2021. Moreover, I believe that Ebiketie can provide an instant impact in the passing game.
Ebiketie may have one of the most well-rounded pass rush games of the players I’ve studied for the 2022 draft. He boasts a variety of effective physical traits, moves, and countermoves. In addition, he demonstrated an excellent ability to adjust in-game, using counters to attack how OL were blocking him. This type of pass rush plan is vital for edge players at the next level. His primary move is a devastatingly smooth swipe-rip paired with a speed rush around the edge. This combo, integrated with his excellent bend, often proved difficult for tackles to handle.
As seen in several clips from the above cutup, Ebiketie excelled at varying his rushes using inside shimmy fakes. However, fakes were not the only use he found for his feet. When tackles started to overset against his outside rush, he was capable of using his violent jab step and lateral quickness to exploit openings on the inside. In addition, Ebiketie often paired his jab step with a swipe and/or swim move to increase the effectiveness of the move.
At this point, most tackles were already in nightmare territory facing Ebiketie. He wasn’t done with them yet, however. When blockers were too slow with their punches or opened their chests, Ebiketie was able to meet them with a powerful bull-rush. He showed great technique on these reps, keeping good pad level and attacking one half of the blocker.
With his vast toolbox of moves and physical traits, Ebiketie presents a high floor as an edge rusher. However, his ceiling may be even more exciting. Though his speed rush makes up a large part of his game, Ebiketie’s get-off can be inconsistent. If he can tighten up his first step, his ability to threaten tackles with speed could reach a new level of effectiveness.
In addition, Ebiketie’s ability to effortlessly string together counters has the potential to propel him to dominance as an NFL pass rusher. This next clip is one of my favorite rushes from any edge defender I’ve seen in this draft. Ebiketie uses a nice first step to threaten upfield, then flashes a shimmy-fake to draw the tackle’s punch. He perfectly times what starts as a club-swim inside. Then, once the tackle tries to step inside with him, Ebiketie transitions back outside. All this takes place in about a second. Essentially, this sequence flattens the corner and gives Ebiketie a straight shot to the QB.
Already, Ebiketie shows the ability to string multiple moves together in a complex, deliberate plan. If he can continue developing this capacity, he could turn into a highly effective rusher in the NFL.
As seen in the clips shown so far, Ebiketie demonstrated massive potential in the passing game and the tools to succeed in the run game. However, film is not everything. How a player will fit in the NFL has just as much to do with their personal character as with their physical abilities and technique. Often, as fans, we don’t have direct access to information about this side of the scouting process. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to message Ebiketie’s high school defensive coordinator, Joe Bruneel. Joe is a Packers fan himself, and he graciously agreed to talk about what Ebiketie is like as an individual. I’ll present his words here, largely unedited.
“Where should I start? He started playing football his sophomore year of HS, which coincidentally was my first year ever coaching Football. When I first saw him, I said he’s rushing the passer. He was the same height as he is now, but much thinner.”
“As JV DC, we had a call named ‘Lion’ which would just tell Arnold to rush off the edge from his OLB position. I called that a lot that year and he was very good, but not great, but a good start to his football career. The jump from his sophomore to junior seasons was great. The jump from his Junior to senior seasons was even greater. The guy just kept getting better, and that’s really a tribute to his humility. He really is a humble, hard working guy. He’s the real deal when it comes to that.”
“Another great thing about Arnold was his ever present smile. Nothing seemed to ever bother him. And this was evident as a sophomore in HS. You can seriously just stand by Arnold and he radiates positive energy. He’ll put you in a good mood. There’s a reason why James Franklin [the head coach of Penn State] raves about him. You will be in a better mood after talking to him. That is special and rare. Notice I have not talked about his physical attributes yet, and yes, those are great. But what makes him special is the human that he is. The team that drafts Arnold will be so happy they did.”
On the whole, Arnold Ebiketie is one of my favorite draft prospects so far. Not only would he fill an important need at a thin position group, but everything I’ve seen and heard about him attests to his combination of top-notch character and talent. He can step in immediately and contribute to Green Bay’s pass rush as a rotational player. Meanwhile, the Packers’ starting duo of Rashan Gary and Preston Smith can give Ebiketie time to develop in other areas of his game. With his combination of physical talent, technical skill, and high character, Ebiketie would be a fantastic selection in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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