Breakout 2021 Season Boosts Arnold Ebiketie’s NFL Draft Stock
At the end of the 2020 season, many wondered what Penn State’s defensive front would look like after Odafe Oweh and Shaka Toney departed for the NFL. That is…until Arnold Ebiketie showed up.
Just before the calendar flipped to 2021, Ebiketie announced he was transferring from Temple to come and play for James Franklin in Happy Valley. The Silver Spring, Maryland, native added on a little weight and transformed himself into a stronger player with the Nittany Lions. Now, he’s poised to become a strong addition to any NFL team.
Ebiketie was a force in the trenches for Penn State all throughout the 2021 season, piecing together what was by far his best collegiate season despite the improved competition. He finished the 2021 campaign with a team-high 9.5 sacks, a Big Ten-leading 18 tackles for a loss, and 62 total tackles, which are career-bests by a wide margin.
Ebiketie made his presence on the field even more obvious by coming up with some huge plays. Over the course of the season, he managed to register two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks, too.
Ebiketie’s season totals could’ve been even higher if he’d played in every game. He, alongside a handful of other NFL-bound talents, chose not to play in the Outback Bowl and instead focus on training.
In his first and only season with Penn State, Ebiketie was the defensive anchor and a consistent force on the edge for the Nittany Lions, earning himself first-team All-Big Ten honors. His contributions helped cement Penn State as one of college football’s best defenses in 2021.
Ebiketie took on a huge challenge by transferring from Temple to Penn State and going from the American Athletic Conference to the famed Big Ten. Yet, he flourished. From the moment he stepped on campus and put the pads on for spring ball, Ebiketie and his pass-rushing abilities immediately began turning heads.
Above all, what makes Ebiketie such an intriguing prospect is that he hasn’t been playing football for long. Originally a native of Cameroon, Ebiketie played soccer and basketball until he was a sophomore in high school. Thus far, he’s taken his game to new heights in each new phase of his career. With some professional training and coaching, Ebiketie could end up being a name we hear on Sundays for a long time.
Checking in at 6’2″ and 250 pounds, Ebiketie is on the smaller end of the spectrum for an edge rusher, but that doesn’t mean he’s easy to block. He’s able to utilize his standout physical tools, including enormous 34-inch arms, along with a quick burst off the line and violent hands to gain an advantage. In combination with his quickness and physicality, the tight bend he keeps around the edge makes up for some of the size and athletic traits that Ebiketie may be lacking.
His hands sync up with his feet, as well, being just as fast to make things difficult for bigger, slower linemen. Ebiketie’s initial punch can punish his opponent, especially if they’re not anticipating it. In the run game, those same quick, twitchy reflexes allow him to shoot through gaps and beat blockers to the ball.
However, where Ebiketie finds himself in some trouble is when he doesn’t gain control after the initial punch on those bigger linemen and in the run game if his size allows him to get pushed out of position.
Overall, he’s an extremely smart football player who possesses a consistent knack for getting into the backfield, which teams value heavily in today’s NFL.
Ebiketie didn’t make a huge impact on his stock one way or another during his Pro Day. However, his performance numbers are more than respectable.
According to NFL.com, Ebiketie has a prospect grade of 6.34, making him a raw player who has the tools to eventually become a starter or even a star in the big leagues. In most people’s eyes, Ebiketie could see some time in certain packages early in his career while refining his skills and eventually developing into an every-down starter.
In Pro Football Focus’s latest mock draft, Ebiketie is going in the second round, 41st overall, to the Seattle Seahawks. He is also seen getting selected as high as 30th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Regardless of the exact pick, Ebiketie is set to join a long list of Nittany Lions who have been selected in the first or second rounds of recent drafts. After capitalizing on his lone year in Happy Valley, Ebiketie could make a lucky NFL team quite happy once the NFL Draft rolls around.
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