· 2019 record: 7-9
LB · Year 2
Whether tracking down quarterbacks, smashing running backs behind the line of scrimmage or making a play in coverage, Okereke was a force as a rookie. He played so well, with some Darius Leonard-like traits, that Indy needs to find a way to get him on the field more next to Leonard in clear passing situations. Consider that a good problem. The Colts use Anthony Walker as their middle linebacker, but Okereke has already shown the game-changing ability to stay on the field every down.
Originally a 2019 3rd round pick of the Colts out of Stanford, the 6’1”, 235 pound linebacker recorded 65 tackles (48 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a ‘pick 2’ (and no, I’m not talking a Panera soup-and-salad combo).
As a rookie, Okereke shined as both a spot-starter (8 starts) and as a sub-package linebacker in nickel packages this past season in all 16 games, where he showcased his speed, athleticism, and overall range in coverage.
The Colts have to find a way to make the long armed (34 1/2”) and explosive playmaking linebacker close to an every down defender in 2020, and he could be a strong candidate to start at the ‘Sam’ alongside Anthony Walker and Darius Leonard by default—while being a mainstay once again in obvious passing situations.
Given his smaller stature, but tantalizing skill-set—especially in coverage, Okereke’s best natural position is probably at the Colts ‘Mike’ linebacker spot long-term—which is currently Walker’s starting position. However, in the immediate future, the Colts simply have to find a way to better get him on the field to make plays—even if it means potentially playing out of position.
He has shown the rare ability to match up with tight ends and wideouts one-on-one over the middle of the field—which makes him a very dynamic linebacker for the Colts defense.
Okereke was Pro Football Focus’ best graded rookie linebacker this past season, and he was recently named to NFL.com’s “All-Under-25 Team.”
The future appears to be very bright for the 23 year old linebacker, who should become a full-time starter for the first time in his professional career—with potential big things imminent on the horizon for the ‘future Hall of Famer’ (that is, if you ask Pat McAfee).