Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye was regarded as one of the most “polarizing” prospects in the 2019 NFL draft and, in the end, the underdog corner had to wait a bit longer to find a home.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete was drafted No. 146 overall in the fifth round Saturday by the Detroit Lions. He’ll join a DB room with the likes of Darius Slay, Jalen Tabor and Justin Coleman.
Oruwariye’s pre-draft projection was all over the map, although just about everyone assumed he’d be taken before the fifth round. Pro Football Focus consistently stated he was a first-round talent, with analyst Steve Palazzolo going so far as to compare him to an early-career Aqib Talib, who’s since been to five Pro Bowls. Others, meanwhile, questioned his technique and physicality and, like Walter Football, offered him a fourth-round grade.
But Detroit was clearly sold, while nine of 10 mock drafts believed Oruwariye would be taken by Day 2. (Every one of those mock drafts believed he’d get selected before No. 146.) If Lions fans aren’t sold yet, Oruwariye has no problem proving them wrong. He’s used to it.
Before college, he wasn’t even considered a top-100 recruit in the state of Florida. Then he became a two-time all-conference selection and a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. Before the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, analysts wondered how he’d compete against elite receivers. Then PFF acknowledged he had the best one-on-ones there. And, before the NFL Combine, scouts questioned his speed. Then, he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash.
Oruwariye has been underestimated his entire career, and he’s proven doubters wrong at every step.
The Florida native — who finished last season with 51 tackles, three interceptions and 12 breakups — is hoping the NFL is no different, no matter what he’s asked to do. He’s clearly best on the outside and in zone coverage. But he also flashed his agility at the Combine, turning in a 3-cone drill time of 6.82 seconds, which was the sixth-best among cornerbacks.
Oruwariye isn’t without his faults — he got torched several times last season, notably against Michigan State — but he’s still a potential sleeper pick who could thrill the Lions.
Even before the NFL draft, Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench told the CDT that Detroit would be a great landing spot for Oruwariye.
“When you look at what Matt Patricia does, Detroit is an interesting one,” Muench said. “Patricia would make the most of what he does well.”
Oruwariye is currently one of just two Penn State cornerbacks in the NFL. The other is the Los Angeles Chargers’ Trevor Williams, who went undrafted in 2016 and then went on to start that same season.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s got a very bright future,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said last season. “He’s just got real good mojo. Got a lot of confidence. Got a lot of belief in himself.”