St. Louis Rams 2010 Draft Report: Fendi Onobun

The second basketball player in the Rams 2010 draft is a pure project as a recieving Tight End.

Not a lot of scouting information is available on Mr. Onobun for the simple fact that he didn't play a lot of football. After 4 years at Arizona's relatively big-time D1 basketball program, he "walked on" at his hometown University of Houston and recorded just 2 catches.

As a project, what he brings in the way of athleticism is very impressive. Make no mistake about it -- anyone 6'6" and 250 who can run a 40-yard dash in 4.49 is a unmitigated freak.

Some of you may wonder just what the fascination is with basketball players and how that sport translates to football, especially Tight Ends. Coaches and scouts have warmed up to basketball players like Fendi for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, basketball players know how to catch a ball in such a way that the defender can't tip it away. They develop the habit of using their body to shield defenders off the ball, something easy to see in passes to Forwards on the low post and easy to see in the play for former hoopsters Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

Have you seen the NFL channel's ad where Tony Gonzalez is talking about how Chief's Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer were in the audience of one of his Cal basketball games? Now you know what they were looking for.  Back when Tony Gonzalez was drafted, it was considered very unconventional to look at a basketball player's skills as they fit for a Tight End, but obviously they were ahead of their time and now Fendi Onobun is the beneficiary of that thinking.

A half court in basketball is nearly equal in area to 10 yards yards of a football field, and although getting open is much more challenging in football, basketball players often times understand how to work a defender in crowded, confined spaces. Still, running routes, blocking, the play book and its terminology...all of these things pose a significant challenge, even for a guy with his impressive raw athletic ability.

Will Onobun be tough enough to play NFL football?  Will he be durable enough to take the beating? That's a good (and so far unanswered) question.  We know that he had a stress fracture in his lower leg, and had rod implanted to shore it up so he could continue to play sports. Injury and surgery is the norm in pro football, so while having a pre-existing injury isn't ideal, at least we know he's got the guts to do whatever he has to do to play. And he apparently has healed up well enough that it wasn't a deal breaker for the draft. 

The coaching staff obviously signed off on this one - Billy Devaney doesn't just draft this athlete unless the coaches were convinced he has enough raw ability and enough of a coachable disposition that they can teach the kid how to play the position. Having walked on at Houston, he's at least shown the ability to set and achieve goals for himself. He'll need to bring that with him if he wants to have a chance of getting on the football field one day. 

If Fendi Onobun can find a way to utilize his  sub-4.5 speed, he could grow into one of Sam Bradford's weapons for years to come.

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