Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo to enter NFL Draft

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan linebacker David Ojabo not surprisingly has declared for the NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ojabo, who late in the season launched himself into first-round projections by NFL Draft analysts, announced Tuesday he is moving on from Michigan. He had 11 sacks and set a single-season program record with five forced fumbles, helping lead the Wolverines to a 12-2 record.

Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo was second on the team this season with 11 sacks.

Ojabo collected 35 total tackles this season, had three pass breakups and forced five fumbles, forming a fearsome pass-rush duo with Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson.

In a statement posted on social media platforms, Ojabo thanked his family, Blair Academy, the prep school in New Jersey where he started playing football as a junior, his Michigan teammates and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“Coach Harbaugh took a chance on a kid who had only played the sport for a year,” Ojabo wrote. “I am eternally grateful for that opportunity.”

With his departure, the Wolverines must replace the pass-rush duo that included Hutchinson, a consensus All-American who set a single-season sack record at Michigan with 14.

Ojabo was born in Nigeria, raised in Scotland and arrived at Blair Academy having played soccer and basketball. He began playing football as a junior in high school, then played a mere two dozen snaps for the Wolverines entering this season.

For his play during the 2021 season, Ojabo was named an AP second-team All-American and an All-Big Ten first-team selection.

“Coming into the season, I was unknown,” Ojabo said a week ago during a news conference before the Orange Bowl national semifinal game. “Looking back at it, seeing where I'm at now, it's a blessing.”

Hutchinson returned this fall after his 2020 season was cut short by a broken ankle that required surgery. He was projected at the time to be a first-round selection, but now after his standout season is appearing on several NFL mock drafts projected as the No. 1 overall selection.

Ojabo, meanwhile, was at No. 9 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s latest Big Board, from unknown to a potential first-round NFL pick. Despite not recording a stat line in the Wolverines’ 34-11 loss to Georgia last Friday in the Orange Bowl, Ojabo still projects to be a first-round pick in the April NFL Draft.

It couldn't have come as a shock to Michigan's defensive staff that Ojabo would join Hutchinson in the draft, which suggests the coaches already have been planning how to replace the duo. Mike Morris, Taylor Upshaw, Jaylen Harrell, Braiden McGregor, T.J. Guy, along with early enrollee freshman Derrick Moore, likely will be the candidates.

Last week as the team prepared for the national semifinal, Ojabo said he would delay his NFL consideration until after the game.

“But it's really obvious, coming from unknown to now, it's a big jump,” he said.

Now he’s prepared to make another big jump.


Twitter: @chengelis