The timing for this couldn't be more perfect with the recent announcement of Jarret Johnson retiring. Ideally, the Chargers would spend money on a veteran edge rusher in free agency. If they choose to replace Johnson via the draft, they'll have a few options early on. One option could be Owamagbe Odighizuwa, from UCLA. Who before the combine was thought to be a late 1st to early 2nd round pick. After he worked out, all signs pointing to him being a 1st rounder. From mockdraftable, look at his spider graph compared to other edge rushers.
Image via Mockdraftable
His jump numbers, short shuttle, and 40 yard dash paint the picture that he's 1 of the more explosive players in the draft. I understand the Chargers are known for being anti-analytics, but here's a couple guys who have their own mathematical formulas with comparisons to Owa.
@JuMosq I think I had Merriman come up very highly for him. Very good list of comps.— Zach Whitman (@zjwhitman) February 23, 2015
Not the worst pair of guys to be compared to, is it? So the question is, what can "Diggy" bring to the field?
Grown Man Strength
Power. Without hesitation, I'd say Diggy has the most pop in his hands I've seen thus far. He will generate force with his entire body and by the time he punches you with his hands, the shock in the offensive lineman or tight end is apparent. Watch the lineman's head snap like a bobblehead below, then how much ground the left tackle loses off of Owa's punch.
Owa's power is real. This trait translates in the run game and is a reason he can be a stud base end/3-4 Sam linebacker. You need a unique skill set to excel at this position. As a Sam linebacker, you'll be facing tight ends 1-on-1 and sometimes face combination blocks that involve the offensive tackle. Because of this you want this player to not only be strong enough to hold his ground and not give up the edge, but you want to see a nasty, physical side from this player as well. You see that with Owa. Here is a poor tight end trying to block him.
He has no shot as Diggy tosses him like a rag doll and finishes the play down the line of scrimmage. You'll also notice something else when you watch Owa play, discipline.
Doing your job
Jarret Johnson was one of the best at "doing his job." He never tried to do too much, or play hero ball. If he made the play, fine, but it was about doing what he was asked to do. Diggy is in the same mold, he just happens to finish more plays. Here he is versus the left tackle from Texas, he locks out the lineman with his arms, stacks him so he can locate the ball carrier, gets "heel depth" of the offensive line, and sheds to make the tackle.
This isn't a sexy play by any means, but you can see just how good Owa is at doing his job. He could've easily ran upfield or tried to embarrass the lineman with power, instead he does his job and finishes the play. This was consistent every game. You're just not going to run outside of him. It takes a good player to be able to set the edge. It takes a special player to be able to set the edge, locate the ball carrier, and finish the play himself.
"Like a Bat out of Hell"
That's how I'd describe Owa's quickness off of the line of scrimmage. There are instances where he's 2 steps ahead of everyone else, as the picture below shows.
That explosiveness is what Diggy showed at the combine. From the edge, Owa can turn this speed into power and walk the tackle back into the quarterback. He can also use that 1st step to win inside and cross an offensive tackles face like he showed in UCLA's bowl game.
He's at his best when he kicks inside on obvious passing downs. His power will help him win on the outside, his athleticism overwhelms guards and Owa creates havoc in the backfield.
He showed this in the run game versus USC as well. He was just too quick to block, interior lineman have no answer for him. He has strong enough hands and plays with good leverage on the inside. This will help him hold up against the run.
Why isn't he a 1st round pick?
There are things we can account for when watching players and things that we just have no idea about. The medical side is one of those things. Diggy has had 2 hip surgeries in 2 years and one of the surgeries forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. I will not let that dictate an evaluation, but it would be ignorant to dismiss it.
On the field, Owa has his flaws as well. As a pass rusher, he doesn't have a plan. From the edge, you'd expect an athlete like him to be able to bend the edge as tight as possible to the tackle without getting blocked. In the handful of games I saw, Diggy only did this once. Is it because he's fresh off hip surgery? It could be, but I haven't seen it enough so I can't give him credit for that. Back to not having a plan. When you don't win with your athleticism, you have to have some sort of counter. For example, if your bull rush doesn't work, a veteran pass rusher would use a "push-pull" move. As a pass rusher, Owa doesn't disengage well or quick enough and lacks a counter move. This is something that can't always be developed and would be the reason he doesn't take the next step as a player.
1st round talent?
|Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10||8.5 – 9.0|
|Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round||8.0 – 8.4|
|Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round||7.8 – 7.9|
|Reliable Starter, 2nd Round||7.5 – 7.7|
|Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round||7.0 – 7.4|
|Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round||6.5 – 6.9|
|Productive Backup, 5th Round||6.0 – 6.4|
|Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round||5.5 – 5.9|
|Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round||5.0 – 5.4|
|Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round||4.5 – 4.9|
|Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations||4.0 – 4.4|
Diggy grades out to a late 1st round talent, at 8.06, but in this class? He's a top 15 player. Because there aren't as many "locks" or sure fire players as we saw a year ago, Owa is a player that you roll the dice on. He's already a smart, yet dominant run defender. His athleticism jumps off the screen and will flash as a pass rusher. He can win inside and outside with both speed and power. If you feel comfortable with his medicals, the decision is an easy one.
How he fits as a Charger
You slide him in as your starting strong side linebacker and he instantly takes care of any run game questions you had. Tourek Williams isn't in the same stratosphere are Diggy is. That's more of a compliment to the UCLA edge rusher. Last year the Chargers thought they drafted an athletic linebacker, well here's how he stacks up head to head versus Owa.
He has to learn as a pass rusher, but he also doesn't have to come off the field, he's far from a liability. You can play games with Diggy and Melvin Ingram on one side, while Attaochu wins with speed on the other side. The athleticism in the front 4 on passing downs would be a terror for quarterbacks. For what the Chargers do on defense, there might not be a more natural fit at the position considering what they need.