The New Orleans Saints have a long history of finding valuable undrafted free agents, and they are hoping 2014 is no different. Today we focus on one of these prospects, linebacker Chidera Uzo-Diribe from Colorado.
It’s tough to get a complete picture of Uzo-Diribe as a prospect. The 6’2”, 252 pound California native showed flashes of brilliance throughout his four years at Colorado, but was never able to put the total package together for a full breakout season. He played defensive end with the Buffaloes, but will likely move to outside linebacker with the Saints. Over his collegiate career, Uzo-Diribe totaled 118 tackles, 32 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.
Uzo-Diribe was voted a team captain prior to the 2013 season, but had mixed results when it came to his on-field performance. Case in point, he managed only four sacks on the year, but was also second in the nation with five forced fumbles. This inconsistency had some scouts scratching their heads.
At his pro day, Uzo-Diribe ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, displaying relatively good speed for a pass rusher. However, despite his quickness, some analysts have questioned his strength when taking on blockers. Granted, his strength will be less of an issue with New Orleans, as he won’t be positioned right on the line like he was in college.
This change in position is what makes Uzo-Diribe an interesting prospect, as he seems to be a much better fit to play outside linebacker rather than defensive end. While the move to OLB might have him starting camp a couple steps behind, his leadership and overall athleticism are definite plusses.
The Saints defense struggled to force turnovers last season, and Uzo-Diribe’s knack for finding the ball is probably one of the main reasons he was signed. If he can show his ability as a playmaker in camp, he could crack the roster.
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