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Arizona Cardinals Player Analysis: Alex Okafor

January 13th, 2014 at 5:02 AM
By Steve Smith

'University of Phoenix Stadium, Home of the Arizona Cardinals (3)' photo (c) 2009, Ken Lund - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
His season never really got started.

The Arizona Cardinals needed help with their pass rush and took a step toward shoring up their defensive line depth and talent by drafting defensive end Alex Okafor of Texas with the 103rd overall pick (fourth round) in last year's NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-4, 264-pounder had his season cut short when he suffered a torn biceps tendon in the Red Birds' 31-7 loss to New Orleans Saints in September. Okafor registered just one tackle in three games so the 2013 campaign was a lost season for him.

Still, the Cardinals have not lost faith in him. Let's take an updated look at his profile per nfl.com:

Strengths: Good potential. Possesses NFL size and length, and has room on his frame for growth. Powerful punch and arm extension takes linemen into the backfield and allow him to hold up and split double-teams. Gets off the ball quite well, will challenge the upside shoulder of right tackles and can step inside to get into the B-gap as a counter move. Flashes quick hands to move past tackles on his way to the quarterback or disengage to chase plays to his side. Can get low to swallow running backs coming into his area and stop quickly to rein in quarterbacks before they step out of the pocket. Feels the cut block an defeats it with his hands. Good hustle to the sideline and downfield to chase ball carriers.

Weaknesses: Best as a strong-side 4-3 end providing strength against the run and some pass rush, lacks short-area quickness to play standing up in the NFL. Runs high and stiff when dropping into coverage or trying to change directions quickly in the open field. Gets stuck on some man-up blocks, allowing running backs to run around him instead shedding to make a play.

NFL Comparison: Ray Edwards, Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons.

Bottom Line: Rookie season cut short in Week Three. Okafor offers a different skill set than what many of his 2013 peers put forward, powerful hands and length to press and attack. He dealt with an ankle injury in 2012 and was forced to miss his first start in 33 consecutive games, but Okafor certainly finished the season on a high with 4.5 sacks in the school's bowl game against Oregon State. He projects as a true left defensive end in the NFL.

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Tags: Alex Okafor, Arizona, Arizona Cardinals, Football, NFL

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