Did Penn State's Jayson Oweh Make the Right Decision to Enter the NFL Draft?

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. discusses the defensive end's prospects on the First Draft podcast.
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NFL Draft Bible rated former Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh as a first-round pick, making the case that Oweh "has the athletic profile to develop into a supreme edge rusher."

And yet questions remain whether Oweh, a third-year player who started one season at Penn State, made the right decision by declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. expressed those concerns on a recent episode of the First Draft podcast.

"Some [of the players who declared for the draft] may give you a little a bit of a head-scratcher with some of the decisions they made," Kiper said before bringing up Oweh. Kiper repeated the point (multiple times) that Oweh finished the 2020 season without a sack, not ideal for a future NFL edge rusher.

As a result, Kiper said he was "really surprised" when Oweh declared for the draft.

"I had Oweh ranked coming into the year as a guy who could be one of the top 10, top 5 best combo guys, edge rushers, coming out," Kiper said on the podcast. "And as you watched him just not get it done as a sack guy and not be the guy that was really being dynamic on the field with those wow plays, you figured, 'Boy, he’s going to go back, it’s almost automatic.' But it didn’t happen that way."

Oweh enters the draft preseason as an NFL scouting charm, the kind of player who will mesmerize teams with his positional athleticism. His opportunities will be limited, however, since the NFL plans for a significantly different scouting combine that will rely on Pro Days rather than centralized testing in Indianapolis.

Technically, Oweh had three seasons of eligibility remaining and might have benefited from another year at Penn State to cultivate more film and stats. He finished his college career with seven sacks (five in 2019) and none in the shortened 2020 season.

Still, Oweh often was among the most impactful defensive players on the field. He ranked eighth nationally among defensive ends in tackles per game (5.4) and made 6.5 tackles for loss. His pass rush often flushed or flustered quarterbacks despite not landing any sacks.

That was a sticking point on the First Draft podcast.

"I’d just be curious how high can he climb in the draft?" host Field Yates said. "What was the last time an edge rusher had zero sacks and either a) catapulted up draft boards or b) wound up being a really dynamic player in the NFL? It feels borderline unprecedented to me."

Kiper noted Oweh's physical traits (he's 6-5, 250), speed and 2019 production. He also acknowledged that edge rushers deliver pressure without sacks, something Oweh did often last season. Still, Kiper thought another year in college might have worked for Oweh.

"I would have thought, go back for another year," Kiper said. "[Defensive end Shaka] Toney moves on and you'll be the guy, be the sack artist. Come into the draft with people thinking that you could really be a guy coming off that edge and be disruptive rather than coming into the draft with talent but not yet being a finished product."

Listen to the complete podcast here.

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