Arnold Ebiketie could not have timed his decision to transfer from Temple to Penn State any better. The twitched-up, powerful pass rusher joined Penn State as Micah Parsons and Odafe Oweh headed to the NFL. Their success as rookies is, at least, a small factor in why he looks increasingly likely to hear his name called on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Indeed, after Parsons’ Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign – one which saw him record 13 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys – and Oweh’s encouraging five-sack season for the Baltimore Ravens, just having the words ‘athletic Penn State pass rusher’ on the resume is likely enough to make scouts and decision-makers sit up and take notice.
Ebiketie obviously does not find himself 22nd on The 33rd Team big board simply because of the school he played for in 2021. His tape shows a player who blends athletic ability with an intriguing set of tools while still possessing room for growth. That combination should greatly intrigue teams looking to add more juice to their front seven.
Between his physical gifts, pass-rush arsenal, and impressive production in his sole year with the Nittany Lions, Arnold Ebiketie is a prospect worthy of increasing hype as the draft draws ever closer.
Ticking the Athletic Boxes
Ebiketie may be a slender pass rusher at just over 6ft 2in and 250 pounds, but his athletic gifts present plenty to intimidate opposing pass protectors.
His arms are over 34 inches long, putting him in the 74th percentile for edge rushers, according to Mock Draftable, Ebiketie posted elite explosion and agility grades in his pre-draft workout, which saw him record a Relative Athletic Score of 9.14.
Running the 40 in 4.66 seconds and recording a 10-yard split of 1.63 seconds, which – as Wade Phillips explained on The 33rd Team’s defensive end scouting call – is within the desired threshold for edge rushers. Ebiketie checks every box other than size when it comes to his physical attributes.
We are long since past the point where being undersized is a barrier to pass-rush success at the highest level. Ebiketie thrived at Penn State with the traits he displayed in his workout evident throughout his film from a first-team All-Big Ten 2021 season.
Arnold Ebiketie’s Well-rounded Skill Set
As his 33rd Team scouting report details, Ebiketie can “win as both a speed rusher and a power rusher.” He uses his length extremely well, getting heavy hands into the chest of offensive tackles and using them to displace the hands of linemen and keep his chest free.
The force in his hands, combined with his ability to get low and play with leverage and his success in generating speed to power, has consistently enabled Ebiketie to produce an effective bull rush.
Ebiketie can win inside because of the pop he has in his hands, which has consistently presented guards with significant problems, while he has developed well-refined two-hand swipe and rip moves to help him defeat pass protection playing from a two and three-point stances, lining up on the edge and as a 3-technique on the interior.
Pairing his explosiveness with impressive bend and body control to turn the corner, there is no doubt Ebiketie’s home at the next level is on the edge. He will enter the league with a strong understanding of the need to ‘play half a man’ when getting after the quarterback—something Phillips detailed during the scouting call.
Ebiketie demonstrated his ability to win in this way in some of Penn State’s biggest games of 2021. He beat left tackles from Ohio State and Michigan by getting them to open one shoulder and then attacking the other.
That is not to say Ebiketie goes into the pros as a complete pass rusher. On the contrary, he still needs to develop his repertoire and play with a better pass rush plan and more consistent leverage.
The defensive line coach that lands him will be building on a pro-ready foundation and can afford to have confidence in his ability to make an immediate impact defending both the pass and the run game. Ebiketie has showcased proficiency in anchoring and getting off blocks against the run, delivering tackle for loss and sack numbers that increase his odds of producing in the pros.
Ebiketie enjoyed a superb year playing tougher competition than he faced during his time at Temple. He racked up 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks as his traits and pass rush skill set translated into career-high numbers. Ebiketie also forced two fumbles for Penn State after forcing three in his final season at Temple, illustrating the force with which he hits when he gets to the quarterback.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ebiketie’s pass rush win rate on snaps excluding screens, play-action, and designed rollouts was 32 per cent, superior to that of Kayvon Thibodeaux, George Karlaftis, Jermaine Johnson II and Travon Walker.
College production is not necessarily an indicator of success at the NFL level. In fact, as Peter Engler and Mike Tannenbaum outlined in their piece looking at the importance of college pass rush numbers, sack and pressure rates are on average more likely to decline in the pros than they are to improve for most prospects.
That is bad news for prospects such as potential No. 1 pick Walker who delivered little in the way of meaningful production in college.
Thanks to his stellar year at Penn State, Ebiketie is working from a much higher baseline. Dominance like his single season in the Big Ten will be difficult to reproduce in the NFL but, thanks to his breakout 2021, Ebiketie has given himself a better statistical chance of vindicating a prospective first-round selection.
Worthy of Buzz
Arnold Ebiketie is a prospect with a high-floor skill set. His athleticism and room to grow give him a similarly high ceiling. The numbers and the athletic testing are backed up by strong tape that should have him high on the draft boards of teams around the NFL.
Any further late-process buzz Ebiketie receives is the least he deserves.