Notre Dame Football NFL Draft fits: Julian Okwara and the Kansas City Chiefs

Searching for a pass rusher to compliment Frank Clark, the Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to draft Julian Okwara from Notre Dame.

The Kansas City Chiefs finished the 2019 season with 45 sacks, which was 11th best in the NFL. After trading a first-round draft pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2020 to acquire pass-rushing specialist Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks, the Chiefs are reportedly looking to find a pass rusher in the draft to complement Clark on the other side of the defensive line. The answer might be at Notre Dame.

Last season Clark tallied eight sacks, while linemate Chris Jones recorded nine sacks, Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah each amassed five and a half sacks and Tanoh Kpassagnon had four sacks. Jones and Ogbah are both unrestricted free agents after the season and are not a lock to be resigned by the Chiefs.

If Kansas City is indeed in the market to draft an edge rusher in the draft, they would be wise to target Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara. He represents one of the better edge-rushing options as a speed pass rusher.

Okwara possesses the size, speed and athleticism to be an impact pass rusher in the NFL. With explosive quickness, a dominant first step and excellent counter moves, Okwara looks every bit the part of an elite pass-rushing option.

Presently, he projects as an edge-rushing defensive end or as a pass-rushing outside linebacker best suited for a 3-4 defensive scheme. Okwara is a high motor player with a nose for the football. He has a very high football IQ, is excellent in pursuit and wears down offensive lines with his relentless effort.

However, Okwara remains a raw developmental project. Currently, he relies on his impressive athleticism for success in the pass rush. He needs more experience and seasoning to improve upon his pass-rushing techniques if he hopes to elevate himself among the elite status of NFL pass rushers.

If he aspires to take that next step in the NFL, he will need to put on additional mass and strength. Currently, he lacks lower body strength and hand strength to allow him to get past stronger offensive linemen. In fact, he has shown the propensity to be handled by tight ends in solo blocking coverage.

While Okwara has a long wingspan and large tackling radius, he needs to improve upon his tackling skills, which have been inconsistent and even poor in the past. If Okwara can make some minor improvements, he has the skillset to be an elite three-down pass rusher in the NFL.

Okwara broke his left fibula in a game in November but hopes to be fully healed in time to participate in the NFL combine. He is currently projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick. However, given the elite athletic prowess Okwara possesses, there is a good chance he moves up the draft board with a good showing in the combine.

Next: NFL Draft Fits: Kmet and the Cowboys

If the Chiefs are able to select Notre Dame’s Okwara in the first round, he represents a high upside prospect that could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in tandem with Frank Clark and the rest of the talented young defensive line in Kansas City for years to come.

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