Anfernee Orji declares for 2023 NFL Draft, foregoes extra year of eligibility

The senior declared for the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday after earning second team All-SEC honors in 2022.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Anfernee Orji playing against Missouri on Oct. 22, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Bryce Smith, Sports Editor

Senior linebacker Anfernee Orji announced his declaration for the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday afternoon. Orji, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, led Vanderbilt in tackles each of the last three seasons and was named second team All-SEC in 2022 by Phil Steele. Orji had one more year of eligibility remaining, thanks to the COVID-19 waiver granted to players who competed during the 2020-21 school year.

Orji, the son of Nigerian immigrants, picked up the game of football at the age of seven and committed to Vanderbilt to play alongside his brother, Alston.

“Being able to help other people is the reason I fell in love with it [football] and just being able to be physical. You can do stuff you can’t really do outside of football,” Orji told the Hustler in November of 2020.

Building upon an already fantastic career on West End, Orji turned in a special season during his senior year, when he was elected a team captain in August. The Rockwall, Texas native amassed 108 tackles (2nd in the SEC) 7.5 tackles for loss (TFLs), 3 sacks and an interception in 2022. His play catapulted him into NFL Draft consideration as a likely Day 2 pick.

“I’m able to understand the game quickly. I love the game, obviously. I like studying the game,” Orji told The Hustler in November of 2022, “Coach Lea has helped me develop so much. Being able to trust myself, make plays and trust my teammates that we’re all going to be where we are supposed to be [is crucial].”

Perhaps Orji’s most spectacular play as a Commodore came against the Missouri Tigers this October. Tiger quarterback Brady Cook dropped back on a 3rd-and-10 on his 11-yard line when he was engulfed by Orji and sophomore CJ Taylor, leading to a scoop-and-score touchdown for Vanderbilt. The play earned the No.1 spot on Sportscenter’s Top 10 that week. Orji finished the game with 13 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 forced fumbles, a sack and an interception.

Across four years, Orji appeared in 42 games for Vanderbilt, making 33 starts. As a junior in 2021, Orji started all 12 games for the Commodores, leading the team with 93 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. He racked up four tackles in Vanderbilt’s first SEC win of the Clark Lea era over Kentucky and eight tackles in their win the following week over Florida.