NFL Draft Matchup: Penn State DL Arnold Ebiketie versus OL Jaelyn Duncan
There may not be a bigger 2022 NFL Draft prospect at the edge position than Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie. Coming to the Nittany Lions this past off-season from the Temple Owls, Ebiketie had flashed a ton working in the American Athletic Conference (ACC) over the last couple of seasons - but still remained a question mark for how well he would translate to the Big Ten. To add further to the uncertainty, a lot would be expected from Ebiketie after the losses of Odafe Oweh and Shaka Toney to the NFL this past cycle.
Add in a preseason injury to Adisa Isaac and the defensive end position had a lot more questions than answers entering the 2021 season. It was a large ask for Ebiketie to pick up that much slack, a highly unlikely one at that. Not only has he provided an answer, he has far exceeded even the highest level of expectations to date.
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WHAT ARNOLD EBIKETIE BRINGS TO THE TABLE.....
From a physical perspective, he is a slightly odd case study. Dating back to the spring, Ebiketie measured extremely light for a true 4-3 defensive end. At 6’2 ⅜” and 240 pounds, he is much more of a standup rusher build than a true hand in the dirt edge. What saves him is freakishly long arms (34 ¼”) for a player his size.
If you look on the Penn State official website, Ebiketie is listed at 256 pounds. It is very possible that a 16 pound weight gain could have occurred since the spring but he does appear a bit light still on film. He may fall into the classic “tweener” bucket, not fitting perfectly into either a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 rush backer with limited experience working in space.
Ebiketie is a calculated and controlled rusher who plays with outstanding effort. He has several moves in the arsenal, demonstrating an outstanding plan of attack as a pass rusher. Ebiketie has flashed an array of moves during his tenure with Temple but he has taken that to a whole other level so far as a Nittany Lion. Add in a motor that never stops - and we have a tireless pass rusher who always seems to be around the football.
Ebiketie is set to face off against an up and down but talented Terrapin offense, led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. There are talented playmakers littered across the offense. However, the top NFL Draft prospect on the unit might be redshirt junior left tackle Jaelyn Duncan.
START TALKING ABOUT JAELYN DUNCAN.....
A heralded four star recruit coming out of St. Charles Academy in Maryland, left tackle Jaelyn Duncan opted to stay at home to suit up for the Terrapins. Duncan would redshirt his initial season, leading to a full time role at left tackle, where he still resides today.
From a physical perspective, Duncan checks off boxes you would want from a blindside protector. Listed at 6’6” and 320 pounds with seemingly sufficient length, he always seems to be in sound position both in the run and pass game. After capturing a Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection in 2020, Duncan has taken his game to a whole other level this season.
From an NFL Draft perspective, Duncan’s name hasn’t been thrown out there too much. With multiple years of eligibility remaining, including the extra COVID year, it is uncertain whether Duncan would choose to test the waters. With this type of physical and athletic skill set, the NFL is sure to have a firm interest. This matchup against Ebiketie can go a long way to justifying the opportunity to enter the 2022 NFL Draft early.
WHAT'S TO GAIN?
For each player, this matchup means something completely different. NFL evaluators have seen all they need to see from Ebiketie from an in-season perspective. The next big test will not come until the All Star circuit, where he will be tested amongst the nation’s best.
While Duncan is obviously talented, the biggest challenge for Ebiketie will simply be not to stall his momentum. He doesn’t even need to dominate this performance. He more than anything, just needs to maintain. If Ebiketie does not show up, he is much more a threat to hurt himself than vice versa.
Duncan, on the other hand, has a monumental opportunity to turn heads in this matchup. If he is able to match the talent level and handle Ebiketie, he has an outstanding opportunity to become a real player in the 2022 NFL Draft class. This could be the beginning of the Jaelyn Duncan story.