Ravens’ Recent 1st Round Pick Pegged for 2022 Breakout

Ravens Odafe Oweh

Getty Baltimore Ravens rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh celebrates his forced and recovered fumble with teammate and mentor Justin Houston.

After flashing plenty of promise in his rookie season, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Odafe Oweh will be looking to make a sophomore leap in 2022 with new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.

Oweh only recorded 5.0 sacks in 2021, but led the Ravens with three forced fumbles and two recoveries, per Pro Football Reference. That is somewhat lackluster production for a first-round pick, especially after Oweh’s zero-sack 2020 season at Penn State, but Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton thinks there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the former Nittany Lion’s potential in 2022.

It start’s with Oweh’s next-level physical traits, featuring a 9.92 overall Relative Athletic Score, per Kent Lee Platte.

That freak athleticism is a main reason that Wharton is so optimistic about Oweh’s second year:

If there’s ever a position to bank on sheer athleticism in the NFL, it’s the edge-rusher position. Large humans who quickly explode out of their stance are difficult to find. As much as evaluators love to see collegiate production, sometimes factors beyond an individual’s control limit the raw stats.

Oweh ran an absurd 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2021 to go along with elite explosiveness and agility in the rest of his testing, and it started to translate to the NFL right away.

“Baltimore knew that gambling on Oweh’s immense upside was worth the risk,” wrote Wharton, noting that Oweh earned a selection to Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie team for his 2021 performance.

His 49 total quarterback pressures ranked third among all rookies in 2021, per Pro Football Focus, though he only started two games. But after Tyus Bowser tore his Achilles in January, Oweh will likely be a full-time outside linebacker and edge rusher for the Ravens, even with the recent signing of Vince Biegel and the expected return of Justin Houston.

That could lead to a statistical breakout, with Wharton predicting a double-digit sack season for Oweh in 2022.

Defensive Staff Changes Could Help Oweh

After overseeing breakout years from Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo at Michigan in 2021, Mike Macdonald and new Ravens defensive assistant Ryan Osborn could carry that success to Baltimore to aid in Oweh’s development. 

Hutchinson and Ojabo formed college football’s premier edge-rushing duo in 2021, with a combined total of 25.0 sacks and 75 total quarterback hurries, per PFF. Hutchinson was arguably the nation’s best defensive player and was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, while Ojabo was projected to be a top-15 pick before rupturing his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day. He ended up following Macdonald to Baltimore after falling to the Ravens in the second round, where he’ll also reunite with Oweh, his former high school teammate. 

If Macdonald and Osborn can continue the rapid development of Ojabo and Oweh and harness their insane raw physical abilities, the Ravens could have one of the league’s best young pass-rushing duos on their hands by the end of the season.

Ravens Still Need Edge Depth

Even if Oweh takes a leap forward in 2022, the Ravens will need another edge rusher to step up and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks until Bowser and Ojabo return to the field.

2021 fifth-rounder Daelin Hayes had a stop-and-start rookie year due to injury, but the Ravens loved his intangibles and versatility coming out of Notre Dame. 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson has thus far failed to live up to his draft position or “Sack Daddy” nickname after setting the all-time FBS sack record in college.

Both could benefit from the tutelage of Macdonald and Osborne in 2022.

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