FAB 3. Haynes, Okoronkwo Stand Out At Senior Bowl
It was clear from the very first Senior Bowl practice that UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport was overhyped and wasn’t going to live up to the buzz. He has great raw talent and size, but there are a lot of deficiencies in his game that lead me to believe that Davenport won’t make an immediate impact as a pass rusher and may need a couple of years to truly develop and live up to his potential.
It was also apparent that two undersized defensive ends – guys that will likely have to play 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level – were the best pass rushers in Mobile, Ala. I’m talking about Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Ole Miss’ Marquis Haynes.
At 6-foot-1, 243 pounds, Okoronkwo is far from being physically imposing. But he is actually quite physical with a surprisingly strong punch, and is lightning quick around the edge.
“I think I showed in those one-on-one pass rush drills that there was no question what I could do off the edge,” Okoronkwo said at the Senior Bowl. “In today’s game, the game is getting even faster. It’s becoming even more of a passing league. All that extra weight isn’t going to get you to the quarterback. Guys like me and Von Miller and even guys Justin Houston, it’s becoming more of a popular trend to get faster guys that can get to the quarterback or drop back in coverage and be used more like a Swiss army knife. I feel like I can stack back and play linebacker or I can play up at the line as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. It doesn’t matter to me. I can help out with all of those positions.”
Tampa Bay dabbled with using a 3-4 scheme last year, and even went to a 3-3-5 in order to keep talented rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith on the field alongside Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. PewterReport.com’s Trevor Sikkema and I have strongly suggested that the Bucs keep moving in that direction given their existing personnel and so that they can take advantage of drafting undersized pass rushers like Okoronkwo or Haynes.
“I interviewed with the Bucs and it was cool,” said Okoronkwo, who had 20 career sacks and five forced fumbles for the Sooners. “It was a good interview. I could help their pass rush. I would love to help the Bucs increase their sacks and play next to Gerald McCoy. That would mean everything to me. That guy is one of the OU greats. I feel like he would take me under his wing and show me all the things he knows from being dominant in the league for so long. We would up the sack total immensely playing together.”
Okoronkwo has some pretty impressive stats against some of the best left tackles and quarterbacks in college football. He beat Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair, who is now a center for the Chicago Bears, for a sack in back-to-back years, posted 11 tackles and a sack against Texas’ Connor Williams and also beat Ohio State’s JaMarco Jones for six tackles and 1.5 sacks. Okoronkwo has sacked the likes of Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, who he’s captured three times.
“Connor Williams from Texas, I really like his game,” Okoronkwo said. “He’s a guy that you can him a head fake and some real choppy steps and he maintains good technique. With him it’s more ‘How is he setting up?’ It’s a real chess game. Another guy is JaMarco Jones from Ohio State. He’s really long and he’s not a guy you can go into without a plan.
“And then of course, the best is Orlando Brown. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever gone against. He can adapt to everything. We played chess against each other every year and made each other better. Iron sharpens iron. I feel like I made my biggest strides when Orlando came. After going up against him I feel like it got easier going up against everybody else.”
Brown, Oklahoma’s massive, 6-foot-7, 345-pound left tackle, is a first-round draft prospect that helped make Okoronkwo better. Because of his size, draft projections are all over the map for Okoronkwo, who is a potential first-rounder in some mock drafts and is a projected third- or fourth-round pick by other draft analysts. Okoronkwo’s impressive week at the Senior Bowl should help solidify a Day 2 ranking.
“When a team drafts me you’re getting a leader,” Okoronkwo said. “I was a team captain and I would bring everybody on the defense to watch extra film. I made everybody around me better. I’m going to make an impact as a rookie. I’m very mature. I do my job, I’m where I’m supposed to be and I work very hard. I have high expectations for myself.”
If Tampa Bay transitions to a 3-4 defense this offseason, or at least stays multiple, the Bucs would be an ideal team for Okoronkwo’s skill set. According to Pro Football Focus he generated 46 QB pressures, including his eight sacks, on 373 pass-rushing snaps, meaning 12.3 percent of those snaps resulted in a pressure of some kind. By comparison, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb’s pressure rate was 13.7 percent.
“At OU we ran a 4-3, a 3-4 and a 3-3-5,” Okoronkwo said. “I played WILL [linebacker] in the 3-3-5 and also defensive end, I played outside linebacker in our 3-4 and I played weakside defensive end in our 4-3 scheme. That would be doing exactly what I’m used to. There wouldn’t be any learning curve because at OU we had a complex playbook. Learning the playbook won’t be hard for me at all and I can come in and make an immediate impact.”
Haynes is not as polished as Okoronkwo and needs work in the run game, but the dude can rush the passer. That was evident when he dominated some of the 1-on-1 pass rush reps as an edge rusher, and also showed his explosiveness in some run drills where he rocked back a few tight ends.
Haynes was a four-year starter for Ole Miss and produced 32 sacks and 12 forced fumbles. He was a model of consistency as Haynes recorded no less than seven sacks in a single season and notched three forced fumbles in each of his four seasons with the Rebels.
“I attribute those turnovers to my teammates, really,” Haynes said. “Whenever they say they needed a turnover, I came through and got them a turnover when we needed it. For me, it’s all about heart, determination and tenacity to perform well and never back down from any challenge. Being 6-foot-2, it doesn’t matter as long as you have the heart and the strength and the power – you can do anything.”
Haynes has plenty of that. He has long arms and strong hands that allow him to fend off offensive tackles and surprisingly set the edge.
“I think I surprised a lot of people because they think I’m small they don’t think I’m very powerful,” Haynes said. “But once they go against me one-on-one they know I’m a handful. Wherever teams want to use me – as a 4-3 defensive end or as a 3-4 linebacker in coverage or rushing the passer – I’m here to show I can do both and compete.”
Check out Okoronkwo’s rushes at 4:45, 5:30 and 8:00, and Haynes’ rushes at 17:30 and 22:30
Like Okoronkwo, Haynes has an impressive burst, surprising speed and a knack for getting to the quarterback – traits that Tampa Bay could use after finishing last in the league in sacks in 2017 with 22.
“I did meet with the Buccaneers,” Haynes said. “It was a pretty good experience. If I was a member of the Buccaneers I know I could contribute a lot of sacks and get a lot of wins with my hard work, my work ethic and my speed. I’m a humble person that is ready to work and not give up.”
When asked if he could give up what time he’s looking to run in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine next month, Haynes smiled.
“You just have to wait and see on that,” Haynes said. “I ain’t going to give away my secrets too easily.”
And we’ll have to wait and see if the Buccaneers are open to drafting undersized pass rushing terrors like Okoronkwo and Haynes and using their speed and explosiveness off the edge in a 3-4 scheme or if they will look for more traditional 4-3 defensive ends that can get to the quarterback.