Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam looks at a Florida defender

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam looks at a Florida defender

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam announced Monday that he will make himself eligible for the NFL Draft and forgo his final season at Missouri.

Make that two Missouri players forgoing their final year of eligibility to head to the NFL Draft.

Missouri redshirt junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam declared for April’s 2020 draft Monday on Twitter. The decision comes a day after fellow redshirt junior defensive lineman Jordan Elliott announced the same Sunday.

The draft announcements come in the two days after Missouri fired coach Barry Odom.

Okwuegbunam is a 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound tight end from Springfield, Illinois, who some thought might declare for the 2019 NFL draft last spring until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Florida in the 2018 season.

Okwuegbunam was not as productive this year, despite playing in 11 games. This season, he caught 26 passes for 306 yards with six touchdowns. Over nine games in 2018, Okwuegbunam finished with 43 receptions for 466 yards and six touchdowns.

Yahoo Sports draft analyst Eric Edholm told the Missourian that Okwuegbunam has the size, moves well and will be a red zone threat at the next level. Okwuegbunam can overpower defensive backs and has athleticism that will help him in the NFL.

But there are plenty of holes in Okwuegbunam’s game, too. Edholm says Okwuegbunam could be better at getting possession of “50-50” balls (passes that are up for grabs between the receiver and the defender), and his hands are “a little less than reliable,” Edholm said.

Edholm saw improved effort at times from the tight end as a blocker, but he doesn’t see that becoming a strength for Okwuegbunam.

Edholm projects Okwuegbunam as a third- or fourth-round pick and does not consider him to be a top 50 player right now. Okwuegbunam, Edholm said, will need good workouts if he wants to hear his name called earlier.

“I don’t know that he has improved since 2017,” Edholm said.

In 2018, Okwuegbunam’s performance earned him a spot as a John Mackey Award finalist, given to the nation’s top tight end. This year, he was one of eight semifinalists.

His redshirt freshman season, in former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s system, was his most productive in terms of scoring. He caught 11 touchdowns in 2017, earning him a spot on the All-SEC second team.

Okwuegbunam’s draft prospects might be helped by a relatively weak and shallow tight end class, according to Edholm. The lack of depth at the position could move Okwuegbunam up draft boards come April.

  • Nick Kelly is a Missouri football reporter for the Columbia Missourian. A native of Minneapolis, Minn., he is studying magazine writing and business. Previously, he covered sports for The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic.

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