The New York Jets had a middling pass rush last year, tying for 13th in the NFL in sacks, leading many to believe they would use a middle round pick to add an impact pass rusher. However, the Jets waited until the sixth round before settling on Ikemefuna “IK” Enemkpali. Enemkpali was a surprising pick from the Jets, and most observers deemed it their worst selection of the draft.
Enemkpali played defensive end in college, and he will be making the transition to outside linebacker with the Jets. At 6’1″, 261, Enemkpali is a little bit smaller than Rex Ryan usually likes his outside linebackers to be, but no so much smaller that it’s a major concern. What is more concerning is Enemkpali’s disastrous combine performance, when he ran just a 5.01 40 and killed his draft stock. He didn’t appear to have that significant a lack of athleticism prior to the combine, so the Jets are hoping it was just a bad day. If it turns out that Enemkpali is actually lacking the speed needed to turn the corner, he will really struggle.
Enemkpali was productive in college with 17.5 career sacks at Louisiana Tech, but the upgrade in competition level from Conference USA to the NFL, along with the position change, means he will have to deal with a steep learning curve. Enemkpali is a speed rusher who isn’t particularly fast, so he will need to make huge strides with his technique and positioning to become an effective pass rusher.
The Jets needed to add defensive line depth and another pass rushing outside linebacker, but right now Enemkpali doesn’t provide them with either one. Given that Enemkpali will have to beat out veterans such as Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre and Jermaine Cunningham for the right to back up Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for him to make the roster. Enemkpali’s only shot is to be a terror on special teams, but even that probably won’t be enough.
It is hard to criticize a sixth round pick, because at that point in the draft it’s pretty much a guessing game. However, it doesn’t look like Enemkpali will make any impact on the Jets this season, and he will have to hope he can stick around on the practice squad and develop his skills.