NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons pick Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie in second round
Penn State's Arnold Ebiketie just missed being a first-round NFL Draft choice.
But he's still one of the most unlikely big-money football players around.
"I think he’s one of the best pass rushers in this draft," NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. said on Friday's ESPN SportsCenter.
The Cameroon native didn't even know the game until his father's embassy job moved the family to the United States when he was 13. He mostly was an after-thought coming out of high school with just three FBS scholarship offers: Army, Navy and Temple.
He didn't even star at Temple until his COVID-shortened junior season in 2020.
But now, after a huge transfer season at Penn State, the high-motor pass rusher is a second-round NFL Draft pick. The Atlanta Falcons chose Ebiketie with the sixth pick of Friday's second round.
He was the seventh defensive end chosen in the draft. Five were picked in Thursday's opening round.
Ebiketie's pick accelerates what should be coach James Franklin's most successful draft since arriving at Penn State − possibly Penn State's best overall since 10 Lions were picked in 1996. He joins Nittany Lion receiver Jahan Dotson, who was picked 16th in the opening round by the Washington Commanders.
Ebiketie has quickly grown into an elite pass rusher. He developed into a more productive version of Penn State defender Odafe Oweh, who was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens last year.
Ebiketie used that breakthrough junior season at Temple (8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles in just six games) to land a transfer option at Penn State. He flourished there beyond expectations.
His pressure from the defensive end spot ran hot each week, from the opener at Wisconsin through the end of the season, culminating in 18 TFLs, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He earned First Team All-Big Ten honors.
He should be an immediate impact NFL defender, much like Oweh, because of his impressive speed getting into the backfield and power from his 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame. He is a standout leaper and kick blocker and is relentless in tackle pursuit, much like former Nittany Lion and Kansas City Chief star Tamba Hali.
NFL Draft experts predict Ebiketie as "a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush from the outside track with bend and speed and cover the flat with speed and intelligence. He can win as an edge setter and use his elite ability to track down runners," according to NFL Draft Bible.
ESPN's Kiper had this to say about the latest in a long run of standout Penn State linemen: "He was great at Penn State this year. I think when you look at an outside backer getting off the edge who provides some versatility, Arnold Ebiketie to me is a guy who, if he gets into the second round, I think he’s a heck of a pick."
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.