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Chig Okonkwo

Former Maryland standout tight end Chig Okonkwo seemed like the perfect fit for the Tennessee Titans.

So much so, that Tennessee drafted Okonkwo with its second fourth-round pick in last month’s NFL Draft.

Starting all 13 games of his senior season for the Terps, Okonkwo registered 52 receptions, 447 receiving yards and a team-best five touchdowns. He finished with the second-most single-season receptions in school history, trailing only former Titans’ great Frank Wycheck (58 in 1990).

Okonkwo’s explosive speed, solid upper-body strength and physicality have drawn comparisons to another former Titan — Jonnu Smith.

Okonkwo, who’s 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, said Smith — a 6-foot-3, 248-pounds tight end — was a player he modeled his game after because of the similarities in their size and physical makeup.

“Yeah, Jonnu was one of the guys I like to watch throughout college, just because he’s a 6-foot-2 guy just like me,” Okonkwo said. “So, he’s one of the guys I like to pattern my game after. 

“His play style too is very, very physical. I feel like it's very good with the ball in his hands. I feel like I'm the same way. I'm very physical. I'm not afraid to stick my head in there. And then he's very strong after the catch. So that's definitely some of the similarities that people see between him and me.”

While both players are better suited for a pass-first offensive scheme, it’s easy to see the similarities they share in terms of athleticism and raw strength. Okonkwo has the luxury of spending his rookie year behind Austin Hooper, affording him the time to develop as a blocker and work on refining his secondary skills.

“Chig, he can kind of get type-cast as this pass-catching, speed tight end,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. “Which I would say that's a strength of his, but there are plenty of games where you can see him kind of put his face into a block and be competitive.”

Okonkwo, who was clocked at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, had a player grade of 5.84 from NFL.com prior to the draft. For comparison, Smith, who had a 4.62 40 time, was given a similar grade of 5.90 during his draft year.

Both players earned high marks from scouts for their explosive speed and athleticism when they were drafted, but scouts also labeled both as having average hands.

The Titans are likely hoping Okonkwo follows a similar trajectory there as Smith, who saw his drop rate fall from 10 percent in 2018 to 4.5 and 4.6 percent, respectively, during his final two years with the Titans.