Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo could be latest trade-up target for Packers GM

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Brian Gutekunst carries a big stick. The Green Bay Packers general manager has shown that he’s not afraid to swing for the fences.

In the 2018 NFL draft, his first year as general manager, Gutekunst traded up in the first round to snag star cornerback Jaire Alexander. The following year, Gutekunst moved up in the first round to select safety Darnell Savage Jr.

His boldest move came in 2020 when the Executive of the Year candidate traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love. It was a move that sent shockwaves around the NFL universe.

Since replacing the late Ted Thompson in 2018, Gutekunst has proven to be a general manager that will attack weaknesses on the roster with aggressiveness.

No greater example of that was when Gutekunst signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in free agency during the 2019 offseason. Gutekunst then used the 12th overall pick on Rashan Gary. A trio of moves that bolstered the edge rusher position for the Packers.

With one or both Smiths possibly on their way out in Green Bay this offseason, Gutekunst could use that same aggressiveness to address the edge rusher position once again in the 2022 NFL draft.

A player that Gutekunst could try and trade up for this April is Michigan’s edge rusher David Ojabo. The Wolverine edge rusher is projected to go in the middle of the first round and will be on center stage during the College Football Playoff on Friday, Dec. 31, against Georgia.

The former four-star recruit enjoyed a breakout season this fall playing alongside likely No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. Ojabo has recorded 12 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

Ojabo is a twitched-up athlete that possesses an explosive first step. He runs the arc with speed and shows great burst to close on the quarterback.

With his blend of length and athleticism, Ojabo is a terror off the edge for offensive tackles. He’s made plenty of offensive linemen look silly with a spin move that would make the great Dwight Freeney proud.

“Ojabo wins by using pure athleticism and explosiveness,” Mason Thompson, an editor for Prime Time Sports Talk said. “It seems like he has a first and second gear, and he flips into that second gear when he sees any glimpse of the quarterback. He has a few moves he particularly uses, including a rip and dip and spin move that he’s already using.”

Ojabo started playing football five years ago. He’s unpolished but has all the tools in the shed to develop into a game-breaker.

The Michigan edge rusher is a little reminiscent of last year’s first-round pick Odafe Oweh. The former Penn State edge rusher only had four years of football experience under his belt. Oweh, like Ojabo started just one season at the collegiate level before being drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.

Both edge rushers were dynamic athletes that were short on game experience. However, you can’t teach the type of rare athleticism both edger rushers possess.

“I’d draft Ojabo because he has so much room still to grow,” Thompson said. “He’s only been playing football for five years and is already a fantastic player. His athletic traits are insane, and he has plenty to work with. His only real concerns come in the run game, which can be figured out with more experience. Ojabo already has absurd athleticism and explosiveness, which you can’t teach. The other traits that are concerning could come to him with more development, but having an edge athletically gives him a huge advantage to develop at the next level.”

If the Packers are going to trade up in the middle of the first round, it’s likely going to be for an edge rusher that possesses rare traits, like Ojabo.

The Packers have shown that they can turn a raw edge rusher like Rashan Gary into a star. Gutekunst could once again take a big swing at acquiring a potential difference-maker to help address a premium position.