Not the SOSAR
In an odd coincidence, the 1995 Rams season had games scheduled on nearly the same dates as games in the 2023 season. In both years, the Rams played on September 10th and 17th, October 1st, 22nd, and 29th, and on November 5th. Later in the season, the 95 and 2023 schedules will have common game dates on November 19th, December 3rd, 10th and 17th.
On October 22nd, 2023, the Rams suffered a demoralizing loss to the Steelers, the first of 3 straight defeats. With hopes for qualifying for the playoffs fading, many Rams fans beginning to look towards the 2024 draft. On October 22nd, 1995, the 5-1 Rams were crushed 44-10 by the Niners, a game that epitomized years of futility by the franchise. That loss also gave birth to the derisive SOSAR moniker.
The 95 team finished 7-9, resulting in the Rams owning 2 first round picks in the top 13 selections. The extra 1st rounder came from the Sean Gilbert trade.
The brand new Baltimore Ravens, created by the relocation of the Browns (sans Bill Belichick, who was fired as coach), held the 4th overall pick in the 1996 draft. The first 2 picks of the draft went as expected (Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Hardy). At slot 3, the Arizona Cardinals had been projected to take Jonathan Ogden, a left tackle from UCLA, but surprised draft observers by instead picking pass rusher Simeon Rice from Illinois. Ogden was so surprised, he got up when the Cardinals were on the clock, expecting his name to be called, but then had to sit back down when he realized he hadn't been picked.
Art Modell, the Ravens' owner, wanted to take Lawrence Phillips, but Ozzie Newsome preferred Ogden. Prior to the draft, Modell even suggested that the Ravens were considering trading up from the 4th pick in order to get Phillips.
Newsome's decision to take Ogden was a watershed moment in building a Super Bowl championship team. Phillips falling out of the top 5 led to a pivotal draft mistake by the Rams. Not only did Phillips become a draft bust for the Rams, but the Rams also traded away Jerome Bettis, For the Steelers, the trade was a steal nearly on the level of the Marshall Faulk trade. The Rams released Phillips in the middle of the 1997 season.
The Rams traded down from their other 1st round pick, then took Eddie Kennison. Marvin Harrison was the very next selection, going to the Colts. A generation later, Marvin Harrison's son is expected to be one of the top selections in the 2024 draft. Later in the 1st round, the Ravens drafted Ray Lewis.
Powered by Ogden and Lewis, the Ravens won the Super Bowl the following season. Wait, no, that didn't happen, the Ravens actually went 4-12. But, the duo sparked a quick rebuild and the Ravens won the SB in the 1997 season. No, that's not right either, the Ravens were only 6-9-1. We all remember Art Modell holding the Lombardi trophy (to the chagrin of all Browns fans) and the great Ravens defense that powered their Super Bowl run, so when did that happen? It wasn't in 1998, when the Ravens went 6-10. It wasn't the 1999 season, when the Rams and Kurt Warner beat the Ravens in the opening game and the GSOT was born. The Ravens were 8-8 that year. The breakthrough for the Ravens, and the first year Ogden and Lewis had a winning record in the NFL, was the 2000 Super Bowl season. It was their 5th season as pros.
Ogden was a high school All American. He attended an exclusive private school in Washington, D.C. Both of his parents had advanced degrees and Ogden himself was a good student at UCLA, studying economics. He was a good athlete and a great shot putter on UCLA's track team. At 6'8'' tall and 318 pounds, with 34 1/8'' arms, he had massive size. If NFL scouts had any doubts about him, it typically was because they thought he was "soft", lacking in toughness and without a nasty demeanor. Ogden had a painfully shy personality and was known for being quiet and goofy. He wasn't a stereotypical glass eater.
Ogden made the Pro Bowl every year except for his rookie season and is in the Hall of Fame. He's one of the best left tackles in NFL history.
The Baltimore Ravens "won" the 1996 NFL draft, while the Rams blew it. Nevertheless, the Rams would go on to win the Super Bowl one year before the Ravens did. The draft is important, but it is only one part of building a roster and achieving success in the NFL.
Just as the Ravens found their HOF franchise left tackle in the 1996 draft, could the odd parallels between the 95 Rams season and the 2023 season extend to the 2024 draft? Will the Rams draft their own version of Jonathan Ogden?
Name: Olumuyiwa Fashanu. Turns 21 years old in December of 2023. Listed by PSU as true senior (redshirt junior in eligibility)
School: Penn State. 3.45 GPA in supply chain and information systems. One of 16 finalists for the Campbell Trophy (aka "the academic Heisman"). Team captain in 2023.
Size: Listed at 6'6'' tall, 317 pounds. NFLDB lists his 40 time at 5.10 seconds. One source lists his arm length at 34 7/8'', but I don't know where this number comes from.
A 3 and 4 star recruit from Waldorf, M.D., played football at Gonzaga in Washington, D.C. He attended a private school and was college teammates with Caleb Williams. Pretty amazing that 2 guys who played on the same HS team might end up being the top 2 picks in the 2024 draft.
He didn't play football until he got to HS and only started playing football for conditioning to prepare for basketball season. Coaches described him as being very raw, a project player, due to his lack of football experience and need to add weight and strength. This was very different from Caleb Williams, who immediately was a starter as a freshman in HS. Fashanu played both G and OT, moving to left tackle his senior year in HS.
Fashanu didn't play in any games for PSU in 2020, then only made one start in 2021. He started 8 games at left tackle in 2022, but suffered an undisclosed injury in the middle of the season, missing the rest of their games. He possibly could have played in their bowl game, but I wonder if their coach was protecting Fashanu's NFL future. Per PFF, didn't allow a sack in 2022. One of the early season games in 2022 that put Fashanu on the map was against Auburn and Derick Hall (the 37th overall pick in the 2023 draft.)
Listed at 300 pounds in 2020. He intentionally added weight after his 2022 injury.
Many draft experts ranked Fashanu as the best OT prospect in the 2023 draft, so he likely would have been a 1st round pick, and potentially a top 10 overall selection if he had entered the draft, but instead he surprisingly decided to remain in school. In the spring, Fashanu said that he intended to graduate in the summer, then begin work on a master's degree, but I wasn't able to find any information about whether he's gotten his degree yet. He said that he'd like to work for a major pharmaceutical company someday.
He's a finalist for the prestigious Campell Trophy, along with other notable draft prospects Cooper Beebe (3.84 GPA, social studies), Ladd McConkey (3.85 GPA, finance), Bo Nix (3.62 GPA, communications), and Zak Zinter (3.53 GPA, sport management.) In 2022, he reportedly had the highest GPA of any of the scholarship football players on PSU's roster.
In interviews, he is intelligent, displays leadership traits and character, gives thoughtful answers, often with responses that emphasize team, family and fans ahead of himself.
NFLDB: Ideal size for an elite OT. Top 5 overall prospect. Natural athleticism, fluid, excellent foot speed. Loses leverage, inconsistent. Allows defenders into his chest. Loses balance, high pad level.
Ian Cummings (PFN) lavished praise on him both in September of 2022 and September of 2023: Looks the part, excellent length, well proportioned, strong frame, tall. Tremendous athlete, easy short area mover, lateral explosiveness, great burst into contact. Explodes to 2nd level, quick out of stance. Power, reloads punches, leg drive, displaces defenders, torque, grip strength. Absurd recovery strength to anchor. Keeps hands tight, doesn't expose torso. Independent hands, excellent timing, violent hands. Disciplined, patent in pass set. Stellar footwork. Excellent vision, processing and awareness. Finishes opponents to the turf. Very developed and advanced for age. Road grader in run game. Few flaws, no glaring weaknesses. Sometimes overcorrects. Can be tugged off balance. Drifts too far upright. Lurches past center of gravity. Doesn't have elite flexibility, defenders can get under frame. Too reliant on 2 hand extensions, sometimes hands too high. Overshoots run block angles vs LBs. Early 1st round pick in 2023. Phenomenal tape. Cornerstone left tackle, potential OT1 in 2023 draft. Stifling play strength. Elite power capacity to easily displace defenders. Can bait rushers into going vertical, then match. Doesn't have elite range, change of direction in space as a move blocker. Sometimes lacks grip strength. OT1 in 2024 draft, top 5 overall prospect. Would have been OT1 in 2023 draft.
PFF (July of 2023): Uncommon patience and composure. Occasional lapses with pad level or base. All Pro left tackle potential. Day 1 impact starter at LT. OT1 in draft. Allowed low 3% pressure rate in 2022.
PFN draft simulator: 2nd overall prospect, behind Caleb Williams (in the sim I ran, the computer allowed him to fall to the Rams at 6 and another OT, JC Latham from Alabama, came off the board ahead of him.)
PFF Big Board: 4th overall prospect (behind Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr and Drake Maye), top OT
Bills Fambase (Fanspeak): 5th overall prospect (behind Harrison, Maye, Williams and Joe Alt)
Steve Shoup (Fanspeak): 9th overall prospect, 2nd OT
NFLMDD simulator: 5th overall prospect, top OT
A dancing bear. Great blend of size, length, balance and strength. Weight properly distributed with mass in his lower half. Rarely falls down, even when he loses balance.
Stout. Dense frame. Long arms. Sufficient physicality, not a timid player. Intimidating size and length. Repeatedly smothers opponents, stuffing their pass rush attempts, even when his technique isn't on point. Exciting developmental upside potential due to his physical and athletic traits and basic tools. Very young draft prospect with limited playing experience. Only 1 season of HS ball as a LT, no football playing experience before HS, and only had 9 total games as a starter in college (half of an NFL season) prior to the 2023 season. Just scratching the surface of his potential.
Perhaps Fashanu's single most impressive trait is he has outstanding recovery ability. His feet rarely get stuck and come to a complete stop. Even when pulled or knocked off balance or not cleanly engaged, he manages to slide his feet laterally to stay with the defender and salvage blocks in situations where most other OTs would be beaten and take losses. Hesitation move, then outside rush by DE, LT lunges, which isn't good, but is still able to recover. LT lunges forward, spin move looks like it is going to destroy him, but somehow LT pulls a magic trick, recovers enough to partially save block.
Smooth burst out of stance, under control, able to jump set defenders or quickly engage on play action passes.
His 2nd elite trait is he has outstanding feet for a player his size. Many big OTs are stiff and slow. Fashanu has uncommon foot coordination relative to his size. Feet stay wide and low to the ground in his kick slide. One play, great mirror, stayed with defender through 3 different moves in different directions. Able to move his feet sideways through engagement to stay engaged and match pass rush.
Plays with solid, wide base on run blocks. Latches on, then walks his feet forward to generate power and movement after engagement. Persistent leg drive. Nice job keeping feet moving to wash defenders down the LOS on zone blocks.
Good ability to absorb bull rushes, stay on feet, settle and smother them.
Able to drive forward out of his stance on QB sneaks and goalline runs to create a surge and push at the LOS. Good size and bulk for short yardage situations.
Disciplined, has sense to let go to avoid holding penalties.
Shows ability to quickly scan with eyes to process stunts and zone drops. Good football IQ to adjust his blocking assignment post-snap. Multiple plays, there is zero delay identifying and switching his block vs basic twist.
Started at LT, but also practiced at RT, so should have enough versatility to play on either side of the line as an OT.
Stellar work ethic, character, intelligence, leadership traits and intangibles. Not only might he become a great NFL player, maybe he'll be a high level corporate executive (or NFL team GM) after his playing days are over. From a personality standpoint, checks all the boxes you're looking for in terms a player who will be coachable and a good teammate.
Almost all of Fashanu's weaknesses that I see are technique issues. They are potentially correctable simply with good coaching and additional playing experience. Fashanu needs additional development, but because he's a very intelligent person and a hard worker, this development might be very quick. Even if he struggles as a rookie, by year 2 he might be light years better than he was Day 1.
In pass pro, content to try to grab the outside of the rusher's shoulder pads to try to control them. Doesn't punch or have a strong sense of how to disrupt pass rush moves with early strikes and hand fighting. Doesn't keep a hand inside defender's frame, to chest, both hands get wide. I don't like this. One, it has the potential to cause holding penalties. He's grabbing and sometimes lifting the outside of the opponent's shoulder pads. Two, it makes him vulnerable to getting knocked off balance by elite NFL pass rushers. Three, it exposes his chest, allowing a defender to bull rush him backwards. One play, the DE with a basic one arm stab drives him all the way back to the QB for a sack.
His predictable pattern of reaching out to grab or catch the defender allows pass rushers who have a plan and know how to link together moves to attack him and gain the advantage. For example, the DE uses a very basic stab and rip under combination. The stab prevents the LT from getting a clean grab, then ripping through gains access to the LT's outside edge, forcing the LT to recover. Very elementary chop and swipe moves can defeat his hands.
His passive approach to hand placements also opens the door for secondary pass rush pressures. He'll either miss the initial grab, or his grip strength is weak, then the defender uses a 2nd move to throw him sideways and break out of his grasp. One play, LT absorbs a bull rush, then does an excellent job recovering laterally to stuff the 2nd move, an outside rush, but the 3rd move is to throw LT sideways and LT loses balance and falls down, resulting in QB pressure and maybe should have also been a holding penalty on LT. Another play, LT's right hand bounces off the top of the DE's shoulder pad. Then, his left hand grabs the outside of the other shoulder pad. To try to regain control, both of LT's hands are outside the frame of the defender, he is essentially hugging the DE. Too many awkward and sloppy reps like this where he doesn't have a firm hold on the defender.
Inability to control and finish blocks plague him in both pass pro and on run plays. His hands get complacent after initial engagement. He doesn't have active hands to improve his positioning or lock up his opponent. When making seal blocks on runs, almost every single time the defender disengages, whether early or late. On zone runs, he repeatedly allowed the DE to counter into the designed lane, forcing the RB to bounce the run outside. Poor ability to generate torque on kick out blocks to move the DE out of the gap and seal them. This block has been a staple of the Rams offense and Havenstein is outstanding at this block. Fashanu is almost completely incapable of pulling it off. A block that Hav makes look easy and that we take for granted, when Fahsanu tries it, he loses the majority of the reps. One play, the DE stays alive and arm tackles the RB. Another play, LT gets overpowered by DE on seal block, shed for a TFL. Does not have a good feel for when and how to slide his feet laterally to defend the blocking angle on kickout blocks. Over and over he allowed the DE to counter back inside and get to the RB, when all the LT had to do was move a little to his right and shield off. Super frustrating to watch.
Not reliable as the play side lead blocker at the point of attack. Not enough athletic burst to get to necessary landmark, too often allows defender to disengage and get to the RB. Stacked and shed by DE who was an UDFA in 2023. At his worst, Fashanu is basically a slightly better version of Alaric Jackson.
Very average at the 2nd level. Too slow on some 2nd level climbs to cut off the LB. Other times he loses balance, stumbles and never comes close to getting the LB. Misses too many 2nd level LB blocks. Overran blocking angle at 2nd level.
A terrible combo blocker. Unable to generate any movement on the DT. Not enough flexibility to bend low to get to the hip of the DT, then control his body to stand back up and get to the LB at the 2nd level.
Really struggles to sustain pass blocks for extended periods. If you have a QB who likes to hold the ball and scan the field, waiting for something to come open, LT probably won't be able to maintain his block, because he doesn't lock up the defender. A determined pass rusher can try a 2nd, 3rd and 4th move and eventually figure out how to break free and pressure the QB.
Susceptible to push pull moves on both pass and run blocks. This is another product of weak initial hand placements and lack of grip strength. LT pitches forward off balance, forced to recover laterally, and LT saves it, but I question whether he can do this consistently at the NFL level vs college. Elite NFL defenders are very explosive. You can't rely on repeatedly trying to recover to cover up poor technique.
Average to below average hand speed. This is not a good trait and another thing it does is limit where you can play him if he struggles at LT. I see Fashanu as an "OT only" prospect. He can't play inside at G or C, because I don't think he could handle how fast things happen inside. Average hand fighting ability. He'll miss grabs, slaps, then the DE will push LT's hand up or knock it away.
Back is not flat in pass pro, he has a habit of ducking his head forward into initial contact. The defender is sometimes able to get into his chestplate and lift him up. Leaning too far forward vs outside moves exposes him to inside counters.
Similar flaw on run blocks robs him of power into the initial hit. His head ducks forward and his rear end is too high. Instead of loading power and exploding into the DT on down blocks, the energy is dissipated. The way he generates movement at the college level is he latches onto the defender, then uses his size and leg drive to uproot them. LT is heads up vs a 3-4 DE, ducks head into block, the DE throws him sideways, knocking LT off balance, DE cleanly disengages.
Can get creased by quick defenders at the LOS, beaten by slanting, attacking front that crosses his face on run blocks.
When pulling or running, he has average body control. Struggles in tight quarters to get around trash at his feet or adjust his angle to mirror moving defenders. Slows down when he tries to make course correction adjustments as a pull blocker. Has limited short area burst as a runner. Even if he gets to the defender as a puller, he doesn't deliver much of a blow into the collision. A lumbering mover in space.
Even though he has excellent ability to slide his feet laterally in one direction, he has issues making quick change of direction moves to mirror defenders who fake in one direction, then attack at a different angle. When the defender fakes outside, then goes inside, LT never seems to be able to slide his right foot sideways to cut them off. Instead, LT either will drop his inside foot backwards, giving up his inside shoulder, then try to recover, or LT will lunge forward, a desperation move. This happened on a run play, resulting in a holding penalty on LT. This weakness shows up on E-T twists as well. Once LT engages the DE crashing down towards the inside, when the DT loops around to the outside, LT only has limited range to switch over and try to pick up the DT. For whatever reason, LT isn't quick or explosive shifting his body weight and changing directions. Maybe his feet are too far apart on his 2nd step, preventing him from pushing off with his left foot to move to his right. Or, maybe he lacks a certain type of athleticism. One play, the pocket is moving, he's not engaged, but trying to stay with DE change of direction, LT loses his balance, stumbles and faceplants, then is slow to get off the ground and back on his feet. Repeatedly beaten by spin moves.
Edge rushers in wide 9 type alignments gave him problems. He passively catches, so from a wider alignment they can build up speed and explode into his chest. He doesn't have a great 1st step in his kick, then tries to compensate by taking too big of a 2nd step. Oversets, opening door for inside counters. Very fast pass rushers can stress the range and speed of his kick slide by racing towards the corner. LT typically will open his hips, stressed by their speed, opening him up to a variety of counters. I felt he got exposed a bit by Ohio State.
Gives up deflected passes at the LOS, because he doesn't aggressively engage with his hands to keep the DE from getting an arm up into the passing lane.
Doesn't always play to the whistle. Instead of finishing the defender, a couple of times he eased up and turned his head to look in the direction of the runner.
While sometimes he has good awareness vs twists, other times he gets caught by surprise. Knocked on his rear end vs a 3 man loop.
PSU doesn't have an NFL type system. The QB is almost never under center. There are a bunch of quick throws and RPOs that reduce the opportunities to get sacks. LT looked winded at times, like he was tired. Their system limited the number of plays he had to use a traditional NFL pass set.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
Middle of 1st round. Jonathan Ogden (Ravens 1st round 1996 draft, UCLA)
Ogden and Fashanu are both from the DC area. They both attended prestigious private schools. They both are from academically oriented families and were good students in college. Both have prototypical left tackle size, length and athleticism. They are virtually the same weight coming out of college. Neither of them would be considered aggressive maulers in their play style. Ogden was a top 5 pick and if he's selected where many draft experts have him ranked, Fashanu likely will be a top 5 selection as well. If you go back and watch some Ogden highlights, some of the body positions Ogden gets in while blocking are almost exactly the same as Fashanu's, eerily mirror images of each other. Both on the field and off the field, there are quite a few similarities between the 2 players.
The way most draft profiles about Fashanu read, they make it sound like he is a slam dunk franchise NFL left tackle with almost no flaws. He might as well be the next Orlando Pace. A Day 1 star you just plug and play and don't worry about for the next decade. I don't agree with this characterization. I think that Fashanu has a high ceiling. Ogden is a HOFer and is considered to be one of the best players to ever play in the NFL. On the other hand, I don't feel that Fashanu is a finished product. He has a number of technical flaws that could cause him to struggle at the beginning of his pro career. This shouldn't be overly surprising, because we're talking about a prospect who will only be 21 years old at the time of the draft and at this point has started essentially one season's worth of games in college. Fashanu has a high ceiling, but he also has more risk than a typical top 10 left tackle prospect, giving him a lower floor.
If you think I'm being way too critical of Fashanu, I'd challenge you to watch college tape on the next great Ravens LT, Ronnie Stanley, who was the 6th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Stanley played at Notre Dame. Watch Stanley's 2015 tape side by side with Fashanu's and ask yourself whether the 2 players are on the same level. IMO, Stanley was clearly the superior prospect.
Same with Charles Cross, the 9th overall pick in 2022 by the Seahawks. Cross has a 58.3 PFF grade this season (he's missed multiple games to injury) and had a 63.7 PFF grade as a rookie. In my view, Cross's tape at Mississippi State is better than Fashanu's PSU tape.
So, I feel that Fashanu is overrated by the experts in the sense that in a strong OT draft class, Fashanu wouldn't be a top 5 guy, he'd be more likely to go somewhere in picks 10 to 20. Remember, however, that when I give out a "draft grade", it doesn't have any direct relationship with where I project the player to get picked in the actual draft. In other words, if none of the other OTs are "top 5" prospects either, Fashanu might be the best OT in this particular draft, which would propel him to the top, maybe even make him the number one overall pick. If none of the QBs in a draft have a 1st round grade, the odds are still very good that at least one of them will be (and deserve to be) a 1st round pick, because an NFL team will be willing to draft the best QB on the board. Kenny Pickett might be a good example.
Orlando Pace was an incredibly strong and very physical LT at Ohio State. Pace was very athletic and explosive as a puller, he would obliterate defenders in space. Pace is an excellent model to demonstrate what I mean about textbook body positioning to generate power on base run blocks. Watch some of his OSU film and look how Pace comes out of his stance with a low center of gravity, then drives up and through the defender on initial contact, just tossing them out of the hole, sending them flying in the air. Can't do it better than that. He made Big Ten opponents look like they were high school players.
If the Rams draft Fashanu, he's not Orlando Pace, he has a different type of game. It wouldn't be fair to Fashanu to expect him to be another Pace. Fashanu needs to improve his run blocking and even if he progresses in that department, he'll likely never be a true road grader like Pace.
If the Ravens had drafted Lawrence Phillips in 1996, it is possible that the Rams might have ended up with Jonathan Ogden, in which case they wouldn't have drafted Pace in the following draft. The Rams traded up in 97 to get Pace, making this alternate universe scenario interesting, because I wonder what the Rams might have done with their picks if they hadn't needed a LT. Tony Gonzalez was the 13th overall pick in the 97 draft.
It is much too early to make any firm declarations about whether Olu Fashanu should be the Rams' 1st round pick in the 2024 draft. He's in the conversation, but I also don't have him graded so high that he'd be a slam dunk, run the card up to the podium type decision if he's on the board.