In the mind of some, the Baltimore Ravens swung for the fences drafting Odafe Oweh with the 31st overall pick, an athletic but raw edge rusher out of Penn State.
The rookie scoffed at the notion that he “snuck” into the first round.
“In my mind, I feel like I went right where I was supposed to be,” Oweh said, via the team’s official website. “I don’t feel like I snuck into anything, but I feel like Baltimore is my home, was where I was supposed to be, where God wanted me to be.”
Oweh, who didn’t start playing football until partway through high school, was drafted high due to an extremely athletic profile. The edge defender lacked production numbers at Penn State, compiling seven sacks and 37 tackles in three seasons. He didn’t record a sack in seven games in 2020.
Yet, the draft is as much about what a player can become as what he’s done. The Ravens believe Oweh can grow into their latest productive pass-rusher.
The rookie said he made strides already learning the defense during minicamp.
“I’m obviously relatively new, but it’s just really encouraging, because I’ve been playing for five years, but I’m making plays out there [with] an NFL team,” Oweh said. “I came from a 4-3 defense, and I’m playing outside linebacker. So, I’m picking it up pretty well, and it’s making me feel good about my versatility and what I can do, and I’m just seeping in more and more information. It’s a good start.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the club is preaching to Oweh to play with his hair on fire and trusts the coaching staff to teach the rest along the way.
“That’s part of the art to the whole thing — we want him to play fast,” Harbaugh said. “We could put a period after that. Let’s do that. And if we’re going to make a mistake along the way — I think it goes for really any rookie — make it going full speed. We want to play 100 miles an hour, so let’s do that. Then we’ll work back from there, in terms of our assignments and responsibilities. He’s also a very smart player, and he picks things up quickly. [He has] a nice demeanor. You saw him out there today, works extremely hard. I do think he’ll pick things up quickly.”
Oweh’s upside is enormous at a position of need for the Ravens, which watched Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue leave in free agency. Baltimore is betting the 22-year-old can quickly grow into an impact player.
“It’s a lot of hard work, which I pride myself on,” Oweh said of the tough coaching he’s receiving. “It’s a lot of seeping in information, trying to be able to pick up things fast and then be able to do it fast on the field as well. The tempo is obviously different. Practice is game tempo, and walkthroughs are like practice tempo. It was a great adjustment. I love the way it’s going right now, and I can feel myself getting better.”
Oweh will benefit from offseason work in 2021 compared to last year’s rookies like Patrick Queen, who didn’t have the on-field time to work with coaching staff ahead of training camp.
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