After Achilles injury, Michigan's David Ojabo goes No. 45 to the Ravens

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Former Michigan pass rusher David Ojabo launched himself into the NFL Draft first-round conversation after his breakout season last fall. In his draft preparation, Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles during his Pro Day last month, but he still made a splash in the NFL Draft.

Ojabo, projected as a top-15 selection before the injury, went 45th overall to the Baltimore Ravens in the second round on Friday. He will reunite with Mike Macdonald, who was Michigan's defensive coordinator last season before taking that same role with the Ravens.

Former Michigan standout David Ojabo was the third Wolverine selected among the top 50 in this year's draft.

"I really had no clue," Ojabo told reporters Friday night when asked where he thought he'd be selected. "I was waiting and waiting to see my phone ring and I saw the Ravens coming up (to make a pick) and hoped for the best. God's plan is coming through."

 Aidan Hutchinson, who had 14 sacks last season at Michigan, was the Wolverines' highest draft selection, going No. 2 overall to the Lions on Thursday. Safety Daxton Hill went to the Bengals late in the first round with pick No. 31.

The last time Michigan had three players chosen among the first 50 picks was 2007, when four were picked through 48 selections: CB Leon Hall (Cincinnati Bengals, 18th), DT Alan Branch (Arizona Cardinals, 33rd), OLB/DE LaMarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers, 46th) and LB David Harris (New York Jets, 47th).

Michigan has nearly a dozen draft-eligible players — among them running back Hassan Haskins, offensive lineman Andrew Stueber, defensive backs Vincent Gray and Brad Hawkins, and linebacker Josh Ross — who are all waiting to hear their names called. The seven-round draft concludes Saturday.

This has been a long, curious journey for Ojabo, who is from Nigeria but moved to Scotland with his family when he was a young boy. There, he played basketball and soccer and ran track. He first played football during his junior year of high school at Blair Academy in New Jersey.

While at Blair, he befriended Odafe Oweh, now an outside linebacker with the Ravens, who was a first-round draft pick last year. Seeing Oweh playing football in high school is what triggered Ojabo to take up the sport. Now, the two will be teammates again.

During Ojabo’s interview session at the NFL Combine, he was asked to describe himself. He made it clear he is still relatively new to football. 

“I’m a Scottish guy, born in Nigeria and just trying to learn this new sport and just be the best at it, honestly,” Ojabo said.

The 6-foot-5, 249-pound Ojabo had 11 sacks last season and set a program single-season record with five forced fumbles.

What NFL scouts saw in Ojabo was tremendous upside and untapped football talent still waiting to be discovered.

“I got myself here, so I'm sure they see something,” Ojabo said at the combine.

There were questions about how much the Achilles injury would affect his draft stock. Would he slide to the second round? Would a team take him late in the first? After all, the thinking was that Ojabo, considering how little time he has played football, would be a project his first year as he developed an NFL-caliber game.

“He had the Achilles (injury) or he would have been a top-15 pick,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said on a recent ESPN podcast. “We don’t talk about this great pass rusher who had 11 sacks opposite of Aidan Hutchinson. You talk about character through the roof on David Ojabo, what a great kid he is, but when will he be back, do you have to redshirt him this year, where does he go, does he even go in the first round will be very intriguing.”

Ojabo ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.45 seconds.

"Once he gets on the field and assuming he’s back to full strength, you’ve got a serious pass rusher,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said recently. “He’s just going to keep getting better as a pass rusher."

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis