Fifth-round CB Amani Oruwariye emulates his game after new Lions teammate Darius Slay

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Amani Oruwariye

Allen Park — When Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye was going through the pre-draft process, he was often asked in interviews who he emulates his game after.

And each time, Oruwariye would give the same answer: Lions cornerback Darius Slay.

After Detroit selected Oruwariye with the No. 146 overall pick in the fifth round on Saturday, Oruwariye will have a chance to complement Slay and push for the starting spot as the No. 2 cornerback.

“I’ve watched him a good amount,” Oruwariye said on a conference call with reporters. “A lot of people ask me what kind of things from certain guys in the league that you try to implement your game after, and I just tell them like, ‘Darius Slay plays the deep ball really well.’

“It’s just great techniques. That’s what I think I’ve watched on him from film. He’s somebody that I’m going to really lean on and seek advice from and try to gain my game after.” 

In addition to Slay, Oruwariye said he also tries to model his playing style after San Francisco’s Richard Sherman and Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey.

“(Sherman) kind of fits my body type and probably can anticipate plays based on how he watches film and just knowing what’s coming,” Oruwariye said. “Ramsey, he’s another example if I want to take the ball away and brings that physicality. All three of those guys are great corners in the league that I can definitely take something from and learn from.”

Oruwariye earned All-Big Ten honors the past two seasons and was even a second-team selection despite not starting in 11 games he played as a junior. As a senior, he was an all-conference first-team selection after recording 51 tackles, 15 passes defensed, three interceptions and two tackles for loss.

Oruwariye ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and has size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) to go along with his playmaking ability.

“(My size) just allows me to be able to match up with bigger receivers that the league brings,” he said. “It allows me to use my body to my ability and really dominate at the line of scrimmage and go up with receivers and make plays on the ball. So, it’s just a lot of strengths that my size brings.”

Lions general manager Bob Quinn said Oruwariye was one of seven or eight players the team was hoping were still available in the fourth and fifth rounds.

"He was a guy that we talked about in Round 4 to be honest," Quinn said. "Obviously we had (fourth-round pick) Austin (Bryant) graded a little higher. We sat there and a couple other names came off the board in different positions, and we're really glad that Amoni was there."

Quinn stopped short of saying whether he expects Oruwariye to come in and start right away.

"In the fifth round you're hoping for a guy to come in and compete, earn a roster spot, earn a role on the team, compete on special teams and then try to beat out the guys that are ahead of them," Quinn said. "The way we do it, we put all our rookies right at the bottom of the depth chart and they have to work their way up."

Oruwariye was the fourth straight defensive player the Lions took in the draft, following Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai in the second round, Boston College safety Will Harris in the third round and Bryant, a defensive end from Clemson, in the fourth round.

However, it was a longer wait than Oruwariye likely anticipated. He was projected by several outlets as a Day 2 pick, but he ended up sliding into the third and final day.

“It’s the draft. That’s what I try to explain to people  don’t read into anything, don’t look at things. All of that doesn’t really matter,” he said. “What matters is finding that one team that will give you the opportunity and believes in you. I was just patient. I knew my time would come, my opportunity would come, so I’m not going to sit there and dwell on what didn’t happen and what should’ve happened.

“I’m just going to make the other 31 teams that didn’t draft me pay when my opportunity comes and just hold my standard. I’m going to work hard regardless of where I’m picked. It doesn’t matter what day, when, where  I’m going to work hard. That’s just how I am, that’s my standard.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

Meet Amani Oruwariye

Position: CB

College: Penn State

Round/overall: 5/146

Notable stats: Recorded 79 tackles, 27 pass breakups and seven interceptions in 24 games over his final two seasons.

Analysis: The Lions have shown a liking to take players who are bigger than average for their position and at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Oruwariye fits the bill. Despite being a one-year starter, he’s a playmaker who has continued to get better over his career and helps the Lions address a need in their search for a No. 2 cornerback alongside Darius Slay.

Detroit Lions draft picks

First round (No. 8 overall): Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson

Second round (No. 43): Hawaii LB Jahlani Tavai

Third round (No. 81): Boston College S Will Harris

Fourth round (No. 117): Clemson DE Austin Bryant

Fifth round (No. 146): Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye

Sixth round (No. 184): Old Dominion WR Travis Fulgham

Sixth round (No. 186): Maryland RB Ty Johnson

Seventh round (No. 224): Georgia TE Isaac Nauta

Seventh round (No. 229): Arizona DT PJ Johnson