Brian Gutekunst has been general manager of the Green Bay Packers long enough for us to have data on his style. As someone who studied under both Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson, Gutey has traits from both former GMs.
Like Thompson, Gutekunst is a true draft-and-develop type who prefers to build through the draft. However, he has some aggressive Wolf-like tendencies in player acquisition. Gutekunst hasn’t been afraid to attack positions of need in free agency, is adept at building the bottom of his roster, and he isn’t afraid to trade up in the early rounds of the draft.
One trait Gutekunst inherited from his mentors is a love of big, athletic prospects. His staff doesn’t always look for pro-readiness but rather traits and ceiling potential. He also prioritizes premium positions over luxuries with his early-round selections. With those traits in mind, there are few prospects in this draft class as “Packers” as Michigan linebacker David Ojabo.
Ojabo checks all of the Packers’ boxes: He’s an athletic freak with an impressive 9.37 Relative Athletic Score. He comes from a respected program that regularly produces NFL-level prospects, and he plays a premium position (edge). Ojabo is the type of player Green Bay covets, and he should be within their grasp.
Ojabo is relatively new to the position, as he only has two years of high school experience and two in college. He only played in 20 games for the Wolverines. But he exploded onto the scene in 2021, registering 11 sacks, 24 tackles, and a whopping five forced fumbles. He and teammate Aidan Hutchinson terrorized the quarterbacks of the Big Ten.
While Hutchinson is expected to go as early as first-overall, Ojabo is also a clear first-rounder. Hutch is the more polished player right now, but Ojabo’s ceiling is sky-high. You can’t teach that physical profile, and Ojabo is still green. But he has the tools to be a star with the right coaching staff.
NFL.com’s profile of Ojabo cites an NFC scout that thinks Ojabo can rival his teammate at the pro level. “I’m not saying he’s going to be a better overall player, but I think Ojabo will be a more productive rusher than (Michigan teammate) Aidan Hutchinson.”
Right now, Ojabo has the potential to be a disrupter in pass-rush, but he’ll need a lot of work before he can be relied upon as a run defender. However, he got better as the 2021 season went on, and he shows a willingness to improve.
Despite a limited experience at outside linebacker, he has great instincts. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs said this on Ojabo’s football IQ:
“The finer points of stacking and deconstructing blocks at the point of attack are hit or miss and the quickness in which he transitions from initial blow to shedding counters needs to quicken for better results. But above all the inconsistencies, I am super impressed with his nose for the football and his natural feel for soft spaces in the pocket. He’s a ball-hunter and strips the ball from opposing quarterbacks on sacks at a surreal rate.”
Ojabo likely reminds Packers fans of fellow Wolverine Rashan Gary. The similarities are striking. Both were physical demigods lacking polish, both had fellow teammates on the edge viewed as more pro-ready (Chase Winovich in Gary’s case), and both were considered moldable clay for the right coaching staff. Plus, like, they went to the same school.
Gary was a polarizing pick at the time, but he burst onto the scene last season and justified Green Bay’s decision to take him. The former outside linebacker coach who developed Gary, Mike Smith, moved to more purple pastures. But new OLB coach Jason Rebrovich has an impressive track record and could develop Ojabo into a great NFL player.
The bad news is Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles at his pro day and won’t be ready to contribute at the start of the season. Even with the injury likely to hurt his draft stock, he’s still expected to go in the first round.
Using a first-round pick on a player that might need a redshirt year is a tough pill to swallow, but Green Bay and Ojabo are a match made in heaven. The Packers have two first-round picks and can use one on an immediate contributor while giving Ojabo the time he needs.
Green Bay also has two premium starters at the edge position in Gary and Preston Smith. The team needs depth on the edge, but Ojabo wouldn’t be thrust into a starting role regardless of injury status. Meanwhile, the Packers are a patient team with a good position staff and a successful history of molding their raw, athletic picks into the player they need. They would be free to develop Ojabo into a future star without throwing him into the fire too soon. In a few years, he could replace Smith as a starter, and he and Gary can destroy NFC North quarterbacks for years to come.
With the ammunition to get an impact player right away AND an ideal development prospect to develop, the Packers would be well set up for immediate and long-term futures. Ojabo is the type of prospect Brian Gutekunst loves and would be a slam-dunk pick at the end of Round 1.