The NFL Draft is an inexact science. Sometimes despite their best scouting and evaluation efforts, teams select a player high and for whatever reason the player never develops. Then there is the other side of the coin – a player is drafted low and exceeds expectations. Such is the case with Houston rookie outside linebacker Duke Ejiofor, a Wake Forest ex.
The former Alief Taylor defensive end was the sixth-round selection (177th overall) of his hometownTexans. At 6-foot-4, 275-pounds, Ejiofor has 4.53 speed in the 40, a 39-inch vertical leap, 34.9-inch arm length, 9.75-inch hands and the ability to rush the quarterback.
Most draft experts predicted Duke had the skillset to go higher in the draft. Unfortunately for him, labrum surgery limited his ability to work out for scouts. As a result, his draft stock dropped. That didn’t stop Texan GM Brian Gaine from taking a chance on a local star and Ejiofor is glad he did.
“It feels awesome. I never thought I’d be able to play in my hometown,” Ejiofor said. “To be here is an amazing feeling.”
Ejiofor had to get healthy to show the Texans exactly what they had in him. Training camp and preseason games would have to be his opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
“I missed OTA’s, I missed the spring so to be able to practice again, get practice reps and learn the system, that has allowed me to produce in the games,” he said.
Ejiofor has shown an array of polished pass rush moves that are unique for a rookie. His improvement both in practice and in the preseason has not gone unnoticed and head coach Bill O’Brien likes what he sees.
“He is a guy who has consistently improved,” O’Brien said. “Greenbriar [training camp] was really good for him. Like any rookie he needs to be more consistent. He had been in the training room. Sometimes, it takes a while to adjust, especially as a rookie. I think if he keeps improving he will be a good player.”
Ejiofor’s work has also caught the attention of a Pro Bowl teammate, linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
“I like what I’ve seen so far. He’s going to be good,” Clowney said. “He has a lot to improve on. He needs to stay healthy, but from what he’s shown, I think he has a bright future.”
Now that Ejiofor has nailed down a spot on the Texan 53-man roster, he realizes the work has just begun. His immediate goals are simple.
“I’m just trying to come out here and get better every day,” he said. “My goal is
to come out here and put my best foot forward. My mindset has been to just to work as hard as I can and let my play speak for itself.”