Cleveland Browns: An in-depth look at Cleveland’s mystery man, Emmanuel Ogbah

After an underwhelming 2018 campaign and entering the last year of his rookie contract, what does the future hold for Cleveland Browns defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah?

The Cleveland Browns selected Emmanuel Ogbah with the first pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. The near first-rounder came into the draft after an impressive junior season with Oklahoma State where he was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, recording 16.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.

He followed up his junior campaign with the Cowboys by running a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, further vaulting him up draft boards. However, since his rookie season in 2016, Ogbah has struggled to take the leap to the next level, struggling with injuries and consistency in both his pass rush and run defense.

Ogbah played his entire rookie season and recorded 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, and 16 hits on the quarterback, playing a combination of 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 edge rusher under defensive coordinator Ray Horton. He displayed enough to generate optimism heading into his second year in the league, nonetheless playing across from the first-overall pick in 2017, Myles Garrett and with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

On the verge of making the leap in year-two, Ogbah broke his foot in a 2017 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, coming off of a game where he recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss the week before. He finished the 2017 season with four sacks, five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, and six passes defended, grading well against the run in just ten games.

Ogbah’s third season, and second under Gregg Williams playing a combination of edge rusher and three-tech defensive lineman, he again failed to take the next step necessary to prove he can be a dangerous pass-rusher in the NFL. Again fighting off injuries, Ogbah missed two weeks following an ankle injury in opening weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing 14 games this season, he finished with just three sacks, three tackles for loss, and eight quarterback hits; he did, however, excel in one statistical category: batted balls.

Overall, Ogbah managed to grade out with an average 59.6 by Pro Football Focus and failed to demonstrate an effective attack opposite Garrett, failing to register a sack or a tackle for loss in the last four weeks of the season.

The question must be asked, where does Ogbah stand heading into 2019, the last year of his contract? The good news for him is the hire of new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who runs a blitz-heavy 4-3 defense which should play to Ogbah’s strengths.

Given Ogbah’s flexibility to play on the edge or as a three-tech defensive lineman, he could find himself best utilized within Wilks’ notoriously successful defense. If he wants to avoid the one trick pony, run-stopper label and earn himself a nice payday, Ogbah must develop a better off-the-ball get up and show an ability to get after the quarterback.

The bad news for Ogbah, however, is that the last year of his contract is very trade friendly. Although he has shown enough to see if the best can still be brought out of him, Ogbah was drafted by the Sashi Brown regime, and with the emergence of Genard Avery as a pass-rusher and the evident pursuit of another defensive lineman in the 2019 draft, he could find himself on the trade block and his contract would not be a barrier.

If Ogbah were to be traded before the first of June, Cleveland would only be forced to eat less than $1 million in dead money and could get away without any dead money if he were traded after June 1.

The defensive enigma that is Emmanuel Ogbah remains a mystery, and 2019 will serve as a make-or-break year for the former 32nd overall NFL draft pick. I hope to see him thrive in a Cleveland Browns uniform and under Wilks, but due to his production, his standing within the organization and in the league remains a question mark.