They sit and wait for their names to be called. It does not have the bells and whistles of the first round of the NFL draft. It is not watched by millions in prime time. But it is no less important to their futures or the work they have put in to get here. Sometime this weekend, UCLA’s two draftees, Demetric Felton and Osa Odighizuwa, will hear their names called from the stage. It will be confirmation they have been selected by an NFL team.
Editor’s Note: Hours after publication, Osa Odighizuwa was taken in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys
UCLA’s Two Draftees Wait For The Call
They are the only two Bruins in the draft. Every other draft eligible player is returning to Westwood for the 2021 season. But both players are also locks to be picked. The only questions now are in which round, and by whom.
The Feedback On Odighizuwa
This year’s draft does not have a lot of depth at the defensive lineman position. That makes Odighizuwa an even more valuable commodity.
In a truncated 2020 season, he had 30 total tackles, with six for a loss, and 4 sacks over seven games. Over his four-year career at UCLA, Odighizuwa totaled 120 tackles, with 27 for a loss and 11.5 sacks.
We reached out to several NFL scouts and heard back from a couple who would comment only off the record. The feedback we got back on Odighizuwa was that he is explosive off the ball with a great first step. It also came back as a positive that he has been a three-year starter, as they said he will be quicker to adapt to any defense his new team has. At 6-2, 280 pounds, there was concern about his bulk as it pertains to strength. One scout said he would want to see Odighizuwa add more muscle so as not get held up by single blockers anymore.
For Felton, the journey has had many directions. With Joshua Kelley as the go-to running back for two years, Felton was used as a slot receiver, a wideout, a punt returner, a kick returner, and just about anything else he could do to stay on the field. His hybrid world was never more evident than in 2019. He had 86 carries for 331 and a touchdown. But he also had 55 catches for 54 yards and four touchdowns.
With Kelley gone to the NFL in 2020, it became Felton’s ball to carry. He doubled his total rushing yards while playing half as many games in the COVID shortened season. His yards per carry went by nearly 40%.
The Feedback On Felton
At only 5-10, and 200 pounds, the scouts at the Senior Bowl wanted to see Felton back in the slot and out wide. By all accounts he had a great week of workouts in front of the scouts. And on game day, all he did was what he had done at UCLA for the last three years. He played where he was needed and produced. Late in the first quarter, he was on the receiving end of a quick slant pass from SMU quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He juked one defender and carried another into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
The same scouts who discussed Odighizuwa with us, also gave us some feedback on Felton. “He has great stop-start quickness and patiently waits for his blocks to develop,” said one of them. We also were told that he has great vision and instincts, and that he catches the ball out of the backfield better than his predecessor, Kelley. Undoubtedly that comes from playing both positions.
If there was a knock on him, it was the lack of a given position. The scouts said he was on the short side to play a traditional receiver position and does not have the break away speed to go one on one against NFL defensive backs. The suggestion came that he would have a place as a hybrid at the next level, playing slot receiver, and catching the ball out of the backfield. The feedback came that they thought he could have a good NFL career catching the ball in space against defenses.
Words From Experience
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly knows what it is like in the NFL rooms on draft weekend. He spent four seasons in the NFL as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. We asked him what advice he gave his two former players as they sit and wait for their phone to ring this weekend. “The only advice I gave both those guys is be yourself,” Kelly said. “What they typify, their work ethic, their drive, their love for the game of football is what the NFL wants. So, they don’t have to pretend to be somebody they are not.”
He added he has seen many players that have the NFL as a goal take their foot off the gas once they get picked. Kelly said he told Felton and Odighizuwa to keep the same work ethic they have now, and he was confident they would, “Thrive in the NFL.”
He also told them not to get caught up in when they get picked or by whom. That is not in their control. “What is in your control is whenever you get that call, the next day you are ready to go be the best players you can for that organization.”
With the feedback we heard, both players would likely be third or fourth round picks. That means an excited Friday night, or a long sleepless night waiting for Saturday morning.