The Tennessee Titans selected Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo with the 143rd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft on Saturday.
Okonkwo is the first Terps tight end to be drafted since Dan Gronkowski, who was selected by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft.
The 6-3, 238-pound Okonkwo, Gronkowski and two-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion Vernon Davis are the only Maryland tight ends to be drafted since 2006. Davis played three years for the Terps before becoming the sixth overall pick and played 15 seasons in the league.
As college football grappled with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Okonkwo missed the season because of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He returned this past season, becoming one of junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s go-to targets after receivers Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones went down with season-ending injuries.
In March, Okonkwo made a name for himself at the NFL scouting combine, running the fastest 40-yard dash among his position group. Okonkwo’s time of 4.52 seconds ranked in the 94th percentile among tight ends since 2011.
During the 2021 season, Okonkwo caught 52 passes for 447 yards and a team-best five touchdowns while showcasing his versatility as a pass catcher and blocker.
“I can play every role,” he said during Maryland’s Pro Day. “I can play out wide, the slot, the backfield. I can cause mismatches, and I can block.”
Big Ten Network analyst Matt Millen, a former Penn State defensive lineman and general manager for the Detroit Lions, said Okonkwo has potential but a team must be willing to take time for his talent to develop.
“If somebody drafts him, they’re going to have to be a little patient with him, but I think he has something to work with,” Millen said last month.
Okonkwo is the second Maryland player to be selected in the 2022 draft. Terps junior safety Nick Cross was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round at No. 96 overall.