The New Orleans Saints lost valuable and versatile veteran running back Mark Ingram to the Baltimore Ravens in free agency this offseason. The Saints offset that loss by signing 29-yr. old back Latavius Murray, who has had similar rushing production but slightly less workload than Ingram through his career. The primary New Orleans running back is unquestionably Alvin Kamara, one of the NFL's most versatile and dynamic weapons. Murray is expected to assume a secondary role, and will be especially counted on for production between the tackles. Dwayne Washington, coming into his fourth season and second with New Orleans, served as the number three back most of last year. There weren't many opportunities for touches behind Kamara and Ingram, but Washington finished with 27 carries for 154 yards, including a 108 yard outing on 11 attempts in the season finale against Carolina. The Kamara/Murray backfield combination meant that the Saints did not have a draft need at running back, but the team has had a history of finding talent at the skill positions either late in the draft or as undrafted free agents. Today's profile may be the latest find.
Devine Ozigbo, RB (Nebraska)
A football and track star at Sachse High School in Texas, Ozigbo chose Nebraska over numerous scholarship options. He worked his way into the backfield rotation for the Cornhuskers over his first two years, carrying 135 times for 621 yards and six touchdowns. He was Nebraska's leading rusher in 2017, despite getting only three starts, running for 493 yards and 3 scores on 129 carries. Ozigbo had a standout senior campaign in 2018, again leading the Huskers in rushing as he rolled for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns, second in the Big Ten. Despite his senior year production, Ozigbo did not get selected during the 7-round NFL draft, instead signing a contract with the Saints immediately following the event.
Devine Ozigbo is a strong downhill runner with a hard charge toward the line of scrimmage and through the hole, a bit reminiscent of Ingram's running style. He possesses a thick frame suited for his physical running style, and shows sharp cutback ability while maintaining good balance. He can pick up the tough yards between the tackles, and will keep his legs churning through traffic and contact for extra yardage. Ozigbo has the speed to turn the corner, and can be a breakaway threat with an explosive burst in the open field. He shows outstanding vision, both as he gets to the line of scrimmage as well as in open space. Despite catching just 49 passes for 488 yards in four years in a run-heavy Nebraska offense, Ozigbo does have good hands and natural receiving ability.
Although a willing blocker in pass protection, Ozigbo whiffs at times against an oncoming blitzer due to poor angles. Despite his receiving ability, he isn't experienced at this stage of his career in his route running due to the limited Nebraska offense. Ozigbo must learn to set up blocks better, or wait for certain plays to develop, something that should improve with experience. He did not have much production against the upper echelon teams of the Big 10, averaging just a little over 50 yards per game and no touchdowns against Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The New Orleans Saints have had a tremendous amount of success at finding undrafted talent at the running back position, particularly during the Sean Payton era. Pierre Thomas (2007-15) was one of the better backs in franchise history and a team Hall of Famer. Chris Ivory (2010-12) and Khiry Robinson (2013-15) both were important parts of the Saints offense, and Ivory was a productive player even after his departure from New Orleans. Devine Ozigbo is an instinctive back, who has the power, burst, and receiving ability that could make him the next undrafted gem for the New Orleans Saints.