With a five-year Maryland career in the rearview, Jesse Aniebonam will join a crop of former Terps hoping to hear their names called over the three-day NFL Draft. After a breakout junior season in 2016, a broken ankle in the 2017 season opener prevented Aniebonam from truly building on it. Now he will have to fight his way on a roster to prove that was due to the increased attention offenses gave him.
With the draft getting started Thursday night, let’s look at the pass rusher’s pro potential. He’s second-to-last of the seven pro hopefuls we’re profiling.
40-yard dash: 4.69
225-pound bench reps: 21
Vertical jump: 32 1/2 inches
Broad jump: 10’3
(Pro day measurements courtesy of NFL Draft Scout)
What an NFL team is getting
Aniebonam’s primary role at Maryland was pass rushing. He spent his first two seasons learning behind a now-productive professional pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue. After Ngakoue went on to the pros, Aniebonam burst onto the scene with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He was primed for another strong season, but broke his ankle in the first quarter of the 2017 opener and missed the rest of the year.
He rehabbed and returned for a final season and tried to pick up where he left off. Against Temple in 2018, Aniebonam not only showed his speed at getting into the backfield by blocking a punt, he took it 45 yards to the house for his only collegiate touchdown.
JESSE ANIEBONAM. THE BLOCK. THE SCOOOP. THE SCORE.— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) September 15, 2018
Offense is completely unnecessary. pic.twitter.com/QwaDleZPH5
Aniebonam led all Maryland defensive linemen with 39 total tackles, adding two sacks on a team that finished with 18 on the year. After he put the Big Ten on notice with his junior season, more attention was paid to him. He countered that by adding pressure and allowing other Terps get to the quarterback. Against Indiana, that meant collapsing the pocket while Keiron Howard got the sack.
Jesse Aniebonam gets the initial pressure and Keiron Howard finishes the play for a big third down stop. Maryland takes over at its own 12-yard line. pic.twitter.com/74N2ilTrsA— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) November 10, 2018
The Silver Spring, Maryland, native finished his career with 124 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over an even 50 games. At the next level, he’ll likely benefit early on from not being the focus of opposing offensive lines, allowing him to flash his ability to wreak havoc and put pressure on quarterbacks. He’s shown time and again that he can cause pressure and get to the ball.
Before and after the ankle fracture, Aniebonam has also shown durability. Missing almost the entirety of 2017 broke a streak of 39 straight games played, and he made 11 starts as a redshirt senior.
Aniebonam could be in the running for a Day 3 selection, but is more likely to find his way in some team’s training camp via an undrafted free agent contract. He played as a BUCK end/linebacker his last couple seasons at Maryland, and has the size to fill a similar role in the NFL. At pro day, he worked in a position group with linebackers Tre Watson and Melvin Keihn, and Aniebonam has had workouts with at least the Texans, Ravens, Patriots, Bengals and Colts.
He’s been around pros his whole life, whether it was his cousin Osi Umenyiora or playing behind Ngakoue. After his junior season, Aniebonam appeared en route to making a name for himself, so it’s easy to imagine him making a serious run at an opening-day roster spot.