2023 NFL Draft Profile: UNLV LB Austin Ajiake
The rangy Rebels linebacker hopes to be the prospect that breaks UNLV’s long NFL Draft drought.
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Can he hit the draft jackpot?
It’s been 13 years since the UNLV Rebels have had a selection in the NFL Draft, but the program has a shot to end that fallow period in linebacker Austin Ajiake.
A native of Fremont, California, Ajiake got his start as a true freshman by appearing in ten games during the 2018 season but didn’t truly break out until 2021. That year, he notched 74 total tackles despite missing the last four games with injury, though that was just a taste of what he would accomplish in 2022. He landed on the first-team all-Mountain West defense last fall after leading the conference with 133 total tackles, adding 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, and two interceptions for good measure.
His college career in the books, Ajiake now turns to the NFL. Will he be the one to open a new chapter in UNLV’s history of development?
Measurables (taken from Dane Brugler)
Height – 6′ and 1 1/2″
Weight – 223 pounds
40-yard time – 4.55 seconds
10-yard split time – 1.60 seconds
Arm length – 31 5/8″
Hand size – 9 1/8″
Wingspan – 76 5/8″
Vertical jump – 38 1/2″
Broad jump – 10′ and 3″ (or 123″)
Shuttle time – 4.27 seconds
3-cone drill time – 7.15 seconds
Bench press – 13 reps
That’s how you play the screen Austin Ajiake! @Aji_510 😤 pic.twitter.com/FYYzlmmF1c
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) August 27, 2022
UNLV linebacker Austin Ajiake got the late call up to the @ShrineBowl after a strong showing at the @Hula_Bowl and has been making plays in practice 💥
That’s a 6’1”, 247-pound RB he’s running over in pass protection 👀 pic.twitter.com/ixyh1i7VUS
— Oliver Hodgkinson (@ojhodgkinson) January 31, 2023
One thing that jumps out about Ajiake is the quickness with which he can range from sideline to sideline, a sentiment to which Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline agrees when he mentions that Ajiake “moves well laterally in pursuit”.
That has served him particularly well in coverage duties. In 2021, Pro Football Focus notes that Ajiake allowed a completion rate of 66.7% on 318 coverage snaps. Last year, that figure dropped to 62.5% on 361 such plays, the best mark in the Mountain West.
A potential concern which both Pauline and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler mention is that Ajiake may not have the size that some teams are looking for in the draft. The former notes that Ajiake may have trouble keeping up with NFL tight ends while the latter mentions “he can be reached and engaged by blockers if he doesn’t get a quick start”, so an increase in physical strength to match his play recognition will be in order wherever he ends up.
It seems like Ajiake should be able to find a place in a NFL landscape where passing is king, but his lack of overall size makes me think that his likely destination is undrafted free agency.