Orakpo was selected in the first round (13th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. On his 23rd birthday, one day after the start of Redskins training camp, Orakpo signed a five-year/$20M contract with Washington, including $12M in guaranteed money.
Orakpo immediately joined the Redskins starting lineup as an outside linebacker. He recorded his first career sack in Week 2, and had a combined seven sacks in the Redskins first 12 games of the season. In Week 14 against the Raiders, Orakpo tied a Redskins record with four sacks, one shy of the NFL rookie record. Orakpo was selected to the Pro Bowl, making him the only NFC rookie to earn a Pro Bowl roster spot. He finished his rookie season with 50 total tackles and 11.0 sacks, matching Andre Carter for the team lead.