David Ojabo was trending as a Top 10 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. A blossoming prospect, who arguably owned the highest ceiling this class of pass rushers, tore his Achilles’ tendon at his Pro Day on March 19th. It was a tough scene in Ann Arbor, MI.
The ramifications on his draft day slide will be significant. The Achilles’ tendon injuries are difficult to return from, as NFL players have been proven to display decreased performance and shorter careers after surgery (1). This is pertinent to Ojabo, as he has feasted from his athletic abilities. In 2018, he won a NJ High School prep state title in the 100m dash with a time of 10.83 seconds. More recently, prior to injury, he displayed an elite RAS score during the combine testing.
Ojabo has an interesting background that makes him a prospect that is easy to root for. Born in Nigeria, he moved to America in 2017 and only started playing football his Junior year of High School.
After a slow start at Michigan his first two years, Ojabo broke out in this past season with 11 sacks. When describing Ojabo, Greg Cosell said he was destined to be a ‘very, very good pass rusher’ on the Ross Tucker Podcast.
The scenario of the Buffalo Bills selecting Ojabo with their 25thpick has credibility. Historically under McDermott, the Bills dress 5-6 DE and rotate heavily. Currently, we have Von, Groot, Boogie, and Epenesa. The 5th DE spot is vacant, and it couldn’t be filled any better than with a high upside pass rusher who needs some time to heal and develop.
So, when the Bills do select Ojabo, what kind of timeline will he require to return?
The Achilles’ tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel. It is the biggest and strongest tendon in the human body, which is responsible for running, jumping, and all explosive movements. In other words, it is perhaps the most important body part to play in the NFL.
The average return to play is around 11 months. (This is in line with Ike Boettger’s timetable.) However, a third of those studied occurred in the preseason or training camp, which likely required them to miss a full year. The earliest returns studied were around 8 months post op. This would project David Ojabo to return to play around mid-November. However, Cam Akers recently was able to return for the 2021 NFL playoffs in 5.5 months after his Achilles’ repair. Unfortunately, this scenario is unlikely given that Cam was rushed back for the playoffs only.
This leaves the question: would the Bills take a high ceiling pass rusher who needs a virtual redshirt? I am tHIGH on the possibility.
- Jack RA 2nd, Sochacki KR, Gardner SS, McCulloch PC, Lintner DM, Cosculluela PE, Varner KE, Harris JD. Performance and Return to Sport After Achilles Tendon Repair in National Football League Players. Foot Ankle Int. 2017 Oct; 38(10): 1092-1099. doi: 10.1177/1071100717718131. Epub 2017, Jul 25. PMID: 28742993.