Cedric Ogbuehi experienced a football player’s worst nightmare in January.
Ogbuehi, a nimble 6-foot-5, 306-pound offensive tackle from Texas A&M, had experienced some ups and downs during his senior season in 2014, but he’d made it through the regular season with his health largely intact.
This was important, because thanks to his quick feet and awesome length, he’d long been expected to be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. He only needed to complete the Aggies’ game against West Virginia at the Liberty Bowl in January to essentially be home free.
Then, one play in the third quarter of that game changed things.
“Third quarter of the bowl game, (I got) hit the side of the knee,” Ogbuehi said. “I thought it was a sprained MCL, so I kept playing. It ended up being (an) ACL, so I had surgery.”
The injury prevented Ogbuehi from working out for teams during the predraft process, and he is no longer regarded as a lock to be a first-round pick.
But Ogbuehi is confident he won’t miss any time this year.
“I’ll be back by training camp,” Ogbuehi said. “It’s not a life-or-death injury. (I’ll) come back for next year ready to go again.”
Some people, like NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, think Ogbuehi is still in the mix for some tackle-needy teams at the end of the first round That includes the Chiefs, he said.
“Coming into the season. I think most teams would have probably had him at the No. 1 tackle,” Jeremiah said. “He switched from right over to left this year, did not play as well at Texas A&M, and then he got hurt, but you talk about athletic ability and all that, he’s got it in spades.”
Fellow NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis agreed, and noted that Ogbuehi’s unique combination of size and quick feet once overshadowed two teammates who were drafted in the top 10 of recent drafts.
“I remember covering Texas A&M when Ogbuehi just got to campus, and Mike Sherman was still the coach there, and they had (Luke) Joeckel there and Jake Matthews there, and they were playing together as youngsters right away and all the coaches talked about, without anyone else, was Cedric Ogbuehi and what he was going to come to be,” Davis said.
Davis also noted, correctly, that teams will dig into Ogbuehi’s injury.
“He’s been dinged up a little bit,” Davis said. “I think he had back, shoulder, all sorts of stuff going on with him.”
Ogbuehi understands that he might have an adjustment period ahead of him as he transitions to the NFL, especially physically. There’s the injury to consider, in addition to the fact he could stand to gain strength, like many rookie linemen.
However, he’s confident he’ll get up to speed.
“(I) probably (need to) get my conditioning down,” Ogbuehi said. “I know once I get there I’ll get it down pretty fast.”
But as he works toward that goal, don’t expect Ogbuehi — who is sparse with his words — to do much dwelling on the ACL injury that disrupted his draft plans.
“I don’t look back,” Ogbuehi said. “No point.”
Inside the 2015 NFL Draft: offensive tackles
From now until the draft begins on Thursday, The Star will take a look at each position.
▪ What the Chiefs look for: In today's pass-happy NFL, teams value athleticism over strength, with the former being a crucial part of pass protection. Athleticism also helps tackles get to the second level in the running game and stay on blocks. Tackles with long arms (34-plus inches) have an advantage because they can keep defensive linemen off their bodies on the edge, and the ability to re-anchor and keep your head on a swivel in pass protection is crucial. Many linemen have also carved out long careers in the league by being smart and tough.
▪ Chiefs' needs: Former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher is entering a crucial third season after starting all 16 games at left tackle in 2014. At right tackle, Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson — holdovers from the previous regime — are battling to win the position. But the Chiefs don't have an established backup on either side, and they might be looking to add another high-upside piece with an eye toward the long term.
▪ Sleeper: Andrew Donnal of Iowa is big (6-6, 313) and comes from an offensive-line factory, so you know he's been well-coached. He's got a really good feel for climbing to the second level when zone blocking, and is a tough guy who plays to the whistle. His feet in pass protection aren't bad, either. If he can find a way to get a little stronger and finish blocks with a little more gusto, he could be a nice upside pick in the middle rounds.