I’d imagine that a lot of Oregon Duck fans probably stopped paying attention to the NFL Draft after Marcus Mariota went No. 2 to the Tennessee Titans. Maybe a few of us toughed it out through the 17th pick when Arik Armstead went to the San Francisco 49ers.
Being an NFL junkie, I continued to follow all the picks, particularly to see where all the Ducks in the draft would go. After a quick look at each player and which team they wound up with, it seems that former Duck, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, going to the Cleveland Browns in the 7th round, could be the best fit for his new team out of any Duck in the draft.
While some other critics may rant on how well Mariota fits with the Titans or how Armstead is the perfect fit for the 49ers defense — Ekpre-Olomu is truly the perfect fit for the Browns. Even though he didn’t go until the 7th round — the last of the draft — Ekpre-Olomu has the chance to be a starter.
As Tom Reed detailed in his article for Cleveland.com, “One of college football’s best defensive backs fell to the Browns.” Browns General Manager, Ray Farmer, clearly agreed with this assessment, as when he was questioned about the pick, he said “…we thought (Ekpre-Olomu) could be a starter when he’s 100-percent healthy.”
Farmer went on to say that he fully expects Ekpre-Olomu to recover by saying, “We felt like we were getting the right kind of guy that we knew had talent … ” then added “He suffered an unfortunate injury. We are confident he will get healthy.” Although he has the endorsement of the Browns GM, Ekpre-Olomu’s ACL tear being so late in the season begs one to question if he will be able to play as a rookie.
Michael David Smith addressed this in his article for ProFootballTalk.com, stating that “… it’s possible that he won’t play at all as a rookie … ,” but ” … if things go well, the Browns may add a first-round talent to their defense …” with a “… minor cost of a seventh-round pick.”
Regardless of how long it will take him to return to the game, Ekpre-Olomu will be a participating member for one of the best NFL starting secondaries. His size and tenacity is also comparable to Cleveland’s all-star cornerback, Joe Haden. Having the opportunity to learn from one of the best players in the game will certainly help him adjust to the professional level.
Along with being a good fit for the team and in a city where people believe in him, Ekpre-Olomu will have something most 7th-round picks don’t have — $3 million.
As ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell explained, “When Oregon bought the policy at the start of last season, the insurance company projected that Ekpre-Olomu would be called as the No. 12 pick if he didn’t get injured.” Well he got injured and because of that, he fell all the way to the 7th round for crying out loud. According to Rovell, “Ekpre-Olomu started collecting money when he wasn’t selected as the first pick in the second round …” and he became eligible, “… to collect the full $3 million when he completely fell out of Round 2.”
Even though this policy normally costs the insured person — in this case, Ekpre-Olomu — $40,000 annually, the Oregon Ducks have been paying this on his behalf. This is another one of those weird loopholes in the NCAA’s policies, as it is legal and Oregon isn’t the only school to buy policies for their student athletes.
According to Rovell, “After Texas A&M paid for the insurance policies of its players using funds from the NCAA Student Assistance Fund and it was proven to be permissible, Oregon and others followed suit.”
Might I add, buying a student athlete an insurance policy is legal but somehow buying him or her a sandwich is not. Now, Oregon also had policies for Mariota, Armstead, DeForrest Buckner, and Hroniss Grasu according to Rovell’s article.
In the end, despite a torn ACL is considered to be bad luck, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has the best luck of any Oregon player. He is the 7th-round pick for a team where he best fits the scheme they run, which means there is almost no pressure on him to perform immediately. Moreover, he will get $3 million to soften the blow of falling to the 7th round — surely seems like Ifo has some luck on his side.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck