The 2016 project, from Lagos, Nigeria, was thrust into the lineup due to an injury to first-round pick Sheldon Rankins, and showed that he is a fast learner. While the stats from Onyemata were not spectacular, it does not tell the full story of the year he had.
Onyemata, who was supposed to take a few years to develop, was thrust into a rotational role and performed admirably. Instead of being a Stanley Jean-Baptiste type miss, the future of Onyemata could be closer to a Jimmy Graham development if his talent progression continues as it did in 2016.
Onyemata finished the season with 18 combined tackles but flashed talent in multiple areas that did not show up on the stat sheet. On one particular play in Week 14 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he showed his pure strength and raw talent. Tampa was 1st and Goal from the one-yard line, and the Saints went with six down linemen. Onyemata was lined up over the left guard, and wedged between defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Tyeler Davison.
At the snap, Onyemata found a gap between the center and the guard, powered through, and made a play on running back Doug Martin, slowing him down enough to let the defense make a stop. There was no help for Onyemata on the play, and Tampa scored its first touchdown of the game. What should have been a four-yard loss turned into a touchdown because defensive end Darryl Tapp could not finish the play.
The sky is the limit for Onyemata, and he may become a staple along the defensive front quicker than the Saints scouting department realized.