Virginia NFL Draft Prospect: Oday Aboushi

Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE

Unless there is a huge surprise, Mr Aboushi will be the only Virginia player drafted this season. Let's take a look at his UVA career, his NFL prospects and take a shot at predicting where he'll end up.

Every year there are some players who come back to school for their 4th year of eligibility and hurt their draft stock. Oday Aboushi, sadly, is one of those players this year. Coming off the Hoos big 2011 season, Aboushi was talked about as a potential 2nd round pick. He chose to come back to school, to the delight of the Hoo faithful. Unfortunately for him (and the rest of us), the struggles of Virginia’s OL last season hurt Aboushi. His combine performance also hurt him, as he ran a 5.4 second 40-yard dash and put up just 17 reps of 225 pounds. He improved both of those numbers at the UVA pro day, but still grades out poorly as an athlete.

Aboushi was a 4 star prospect, and at 6'6" and 300 pounds, he was ready to play from day 1. He played in 6 games as a true freshman. After that, he started every game of his college career, first at RT and then eventually at LT. In 2011, he was 2nd team All-ACC and was named to several pre-season watch lists heading into his senior year. In 2012, he was named 1st team All-ACC.

Now listed at 6'6" and 308 pounds, Aboushi's size is still his biggest asset. He's big and he's strong and he's physical. When able to latch on to a defender, he will use his size and strength to drive his opponent either downfield or into the ground. This makes him a strong run blocker. He plays through the whistle, sometimes even to his own detriment as he is flagged for some silly penalties. He has also shown a willingness and ability to make secondary blocks downfield as a play develops. While he isn't the fastest of players, he has a quick first step which gives him the ability to be a lead blocker on external plays. His blocking in space is first rate, whether he is standing up defenders, or cutting them down.

As a pass blocker, Aboushi relies on a good initial punch. His quickness off the snap and his physicality make that punch a real weapon. He can get a defender off balance right away and completely remove them from the play. He struggles with quicker defenders and can be beaten off the edge. Because he knows this, he is sometimes too quick to the outside and can be beaten inside with spin moves. He can also get out of balance and be beaten by secondary moves.

In this video from 2011, Aboushi is often going up against FSU DE Brandon Jenkins. Jenkins is a speed rusher who is projected as a late round draft pick this week. Just in the first few plays of the video, you can see Aboushi getting an easy pancake block, as well as getting beat by Jenkins' speed (the holding penalty is not on Aboushi). Later on, there are some plays showing Aboushi as a lead blocker on a sweep, picking up blitzing DBs and even picking up a backside defender on a trap block.

Here is a video from 2012, showing Aboushi facing Georgia Tech. Aboushi is mostly locked up against Euclid Cummings and Izaan Cross. Cummings and Cross are both bigger, power guys and neither is projected as an NFL player. Because Georgia Tech plays a 3-4 defense, Aboushi is also matched up at times against OLB Brandon Watts, a much more athletic player. Watts is also not projected as an NFL player. Aboushi looks good in this video, despite the fact that the Virginia offense is unable to do anything of note. This is good evidence of the problems Aboushi faced this season.

Aside from his physicality, Aboushi is also a very heady player. He has a high IQ, both on and off the field. He was a National Honors Society member in High School and will graduate with a degree in Sociology. He is also mentally tough, having grown up in a large family (1 of 10 children) in Staten Island, NY (he played for Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, but lived in Staten Island). You'd imagine that some of his physical nature stems from growing up in such a large family, and having to fight with his siblings. Aboushi played on the defensive line in High School as well and could well have ended up there in college due to his physical nature and high motor.

Aboushi is a practicing Muslim, and was one of about a dozen Muslim athletes honored at a White House ceremony in 2011. During the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Aboushi (like all Muslims) does not eat or drink during daylight hours. However, when Ramadan fell during Virginia's training camp, Aboushi worked with team trainers and medical personnel to stay safe.

While Aboushi is a big guy, his arms and hands measured on the small side (combine measurements of 33 7/8 inch arms and 10 5/8 inch hands). It is because of this that some teams see Aboushi as a Guard in the NFL. Long arms help OTs extend the space they can block and also keep a defender from getting leverage. Bigger hands help a blocker maintain contact with a defender without having to hold.

Combine this information with Aboushi's lack of elite athleticism and it may make sense for him to move inside. There are, however, teams that see Aboushi as a Tackle. For those teams, his high football IQ and his playing experience are the biggest factors. The fact that former UVA guys like D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe have performed so well is also a plus on Aboushi's resume.

Objectively, Aboushi grades out as a middle round pick, somewhere in the 3-5 range. This year's draft is deeper at OT than OG. As an OT, Aboushi is around the 8th or so best prospect. As an OG, he's probably 3rd or 4th best, despite having no experience playing there (he did play OG at the Senior Bowl and performed well there). So depending on which teams see him on the inside or outside and when they draft, he could really go anywhere from the late 2nd round to the 5th or even 6th round. While I could see Aboushi going in round 3, I think his poor combine performance will drop him into the later rounds.

He's interviewed with a number of teams, including both his hometown teams. With a guy projected to go later in the draft, it is almost useless to try predicting where he'll end up. Still, I'll give it a shot. Considering the Cleveland Browns have needs on the OL and don't seem likely to address them early on, I'll say the Browns take him with one of their two 5th round picks. This would be a good spot for him, because he could play RT for them (Joe Thomas has LT locked up) or he could play LG, both are positions the Browns could stand to upgrade.

Wherever he ends up, Virginia fans will be rooting for him.

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