The Baltimore Ravens took a risk by selecting David Ojabo in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 29, as the former Michigan outside linebacker is coming off a torn Achilles suffered exactly six weeks before he was drafted.
But early indications suggest that gamble will pay off, as Ojabo shared his recovery timeline with Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated on May 4.
“So far no pain, good flexibility, already biking,” said Ojabo, recalling the five-and-a-half month recovery time of Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers.
“That lands me at August, September, maybe even October. Season’s still going,” continued Ojabo, “So, yeah, I anticipate playing.”
Ojabo was thought to be a potential top-15 pick before the injury, which occurred at Michigan’s pro day in March. In fact, Ojabo was frequently mentioned as a top candidate for the Ravens’ first-round pick due to his links to both 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Ojabo and Oweh played together in high school, while Ojabo’s first full college season came with Macdonald at the helm of Michigan’s defense.
But his injury plummeted his draft stock, as no team wanted to spend a first-rounder on an injured player, especially an edge rusher who relies so heavily on his burst and explosiveness. That dropped him into the second round where the Ravens happily drafted him with the 45th overall pick, which could turn out to be a steal if Ojabo can get on the field and make an impact as a rookie.
Ojabo Would Have Limited Role
While concerns about Ojabo’s explosiveness will remain until he’s finally back on the field, there’s reason to be optimistic about his ability to contribute this season.
First, his familiarity with Macdonald will allow him to quickly learn the Ravens’ defensive scheme and playbook, which will be similar to what Macdonald ran at Michigan with Ojabo last year.
But Ojabo’s initial role as a designated pass rusher will flatten his learning curve even further. His biggest weakness as a prospect was in run defense, and the Ravens won’t have any of the offseason to strengthen his ability to set the edge. Instead, they can let Ojabo focus on what he did best in college – chasing down opposing quarterbacks – which will also act as a natural limit on Ojabo’s snap count as he works his way back to full strength.
Ravens Still Need Another Edge Rusher
Still, it’s unlikely that Ojabo can carry a full-time load in his rookie year, leaving the Ravens still looking for another edge rusher with Tyus Bowser recovering from an Achilles tear of his own.
Veteran Justin Houston would be a sensible option after spending the 2021 season with the Ravens. He started 15 games and played 579 snaps last year in his age-33 season, and he’s already familiar with Baltimore’s defense and coaching staff.
The Ravens seem to think so, too, placing the rarely-used unrestricted free agent tag on Houston earlier this week. It essentially locks Houston into a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Ravens unless he signs with another team by July 22, which will count towards the NFL’s compensatory pick formula.
While Houston may be entertaining offers from other teams, it’s also possible he and the Ravens have a handshake deal in place as Baltimore signs their rookie class. To date, only sixth-round running back Tyler Badie has signed his rookie deal, with two first-rounders still to go. Once the Ravens lock down all 11 of their draft picks, they’ll then know exactly how much money they can allocate to Houston in 2022 and structure his contract accordingly.