Given the excitement around drafting players like Kyle Pitts and Richie Grant in the first two rounds of the draft, fans could be forgiven for overlooking the selection of Ade Ogundeji in the fifth round. However, whether the coaching staff always had big plans for Ogundeji or he endeared himself to the Falcons upon arrival, the rookie defender was one of the few young players to see action early and consistently.
Now that we’ve got the complete picture, let’s take a look back at one of the unexpected surprises of the 2021 draft class.
- 16 games (11 starts)
- 33 combined tackles & 5 tackles for a loss
- 1 sack (10 total pressures)
- 1 pass defense
- 1 fumble recovery
Rookie Year Highlights
- Week 5 vs New York – First career sack
- Week 7 at Miami – First career blocked field goal
- Week 12 at Jacksonville – 9 combined tackles (career-high)
In writing Ogundeji’s scouting profile for The Falcoholic, Eric Robinson concluded his piece with a statement that was simultaneously misguided and incredibly prescient: “Time and patience will be required with Ogundeji, but the potential may pay off sooner than later for Atlanta.”
While it seems as though we’ve yet to truly see the type of player Ogundeji will become, his selection paid off for Atlanta right from the jump. He played nearly 25% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in the season opener against Philadelphia – the first meaningful game of his career. Arthur Smith came into Atlanta expressing his desire to hold players accountable and make them earn their roles, which is why Ogundeji’s early and growing involvement in the game plan is almost more telling than his actual production.
The coaching staff clearly thinks highly of Ogundeji, who brings a lot to the table. He’s not a speed guy off of the edge but, with a combination of technique, length and power, Ogundeji can absolutely hang at the NFL level. Based on some of Smith’s comments about Ogundeji this season, it’s clear he’s got the mental makeup to thrive as a professional as well.
“Ade’s continuing to have a [good season], just a quiet pro,” Smith said.
From a coach like Smith, “a quiet pro” seems like an incredible compliment for a rookie. There’s still a lot Ogundeji can work on in his game, and it’s not like he was a one-man wrecking ball off the edge. But perhaps the reason I’m high on his potential is that I’ve been around players like Grady Jarrett and Foye Oluokun – both former Day 3 picks – enough to see a similarity in how they’ve approached the game and what I’ve read and heard about Ogundeji.
It’s clear there’s still some untapped potential with Ogundeji (as there is with all young players), but achieving that potential often comes down to more than just physical gifts. And if he can model his work ethic after Jarrett and Oluokun, I agree with Eric completely: that potential may pay off for Atlanta sooner rather than later.