Alex Okafor has the potential to be a star. So, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals made a great value pick when they took the sack machine in the fourth round.
Okafor, who recorded 12.5 sacks in 2012, should do very well in Arizona. For starters, he has former Longhorn teammate Sam Acho (who was also drafted 103rd overall at defensive end) to help show him the ropes and be a mentor. Okafor said Acho told him that he has an extra room for him if need be which could help out with him settling into the valley and feeling more comfortable at home, which would make him more relaxed on the field.
That couldn’t hurt with him trying to make the transition from college to the pros. Over his college career, he totaled 178 tackles (92 solo), 22 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, 54 quarterback pressures, eight forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Mack Brown, Texas’ head coach, said that Okafor was an unselfish player who played anywhere they asked him and he never griped.
Because of that, he became a great team leader. Okafor is only 22 years old, so he’s got a few years left to grow and is only going to get bigger and stronger, even after putting up 21 reps at 225 pounds at the NFL Combine.
In an interview, Okafor said he was one of the few that get the opportunity to live his childhood dream and has to capitalize on it. It sounds to me that he’s a self-aware man who knows what he wants, and, as we all know, you can do anything you set your mind to. With his track record, I believe he will back up his words.
Okafor is best as a 4-3 defensive end, and with his stiff upper body and struggles he has changing directions it makes him a poor candidate to make the change to outside linebacker. However, with his college achievements and his willingness to play any and everywhere and his mindset, who am I to say he can’t play standing up as an outside linebacker.
Okafor is almost a spitting image of Acho as a player, except only bigger. With the abundance of players the Arizona Cardinals have at linebacker I’d love to see him do what he does best and strike fear into opponents’ ball-carriers. It’s still too early to say he can’t play outside linebacker but with the need for another play maker on the defensive line, I believe defensive line is the best fit.
The Cardinals will likely run a 3-4, but Okafor could still see some time as a five-technique (a 3-4 defensive end). He has the size and the experience on the defensive line to make an impact, as evidenced by his 18 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in 2012. Okafor was a bit inconsistent, but he has showed that he has the potential to take over a game. In the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State, Okafor registered 4.5 sacks.
Bruce Arians and his staff will be the only ones to make that decision, and I’m sure they will him in the packages he fits best in. If they send him after the quarterback a lot, Okafor will be able to make a big impact. Expect Arians to allow Okafor to live up to his full potential, and expect Okafor to help the defensive line right from the get-go.