Day two of the 2021 NFL Draft ended with a sigh of relief for the Cincinnati Bengals brain trust. The organization selected University of Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai, who was a consensus first-team All-American in 2020.
“We certainly did not expect him to be there where he was, but again, that happens,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “Everyone’s board is different, so it’s not shocking that something like that would happen. But when it comes to your pick, we’re watching every pick tick off the clock there and you’re hoping he’s going to be there anyway. So we’re fired up about him.”
Cincinnati landed two trench players—Jackson Carman and Ossai—on day two.
Here is my Three Down Look on the Bengals' newest defensive playmaker.
First Down: Positional Impact
The 2020 season showcased the Bengals' glaring need for more help rushing the passer. Cincinnati had a team pressure rate of 22.8%, ranking 31st in the NFL. That was before Carl Lawson signed with the New York Jets in free agency. Trey Hendrickson replaced him, but it's folly to assume he would not only be an upgrade over Lawson but also elevate the rest of the attack.
Taylor pegged the former Longhorn as an immediate rotational piece on the edge. He will slot in behind Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. If his production at Texas eventually carries over, this is a home run selection.
Across nine games last season, Ossai tied for third in the FBS with 16 tackles for loss (TFL) while leading Texas with 5.5 sacks to go along with 55 total stops, two pass breakups, and three forced fumbles. The high-motor player eclipsed all of his TFL and sack totals from 2019, despite playing four fewer games.
This pick is eerily similar to the Lawson selection in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Ossai has Lawson's relentless effort and, unfortunately, a little bit of his stiffness as well. Yet, both makeup for it with power and play speed. Even if Ossai doesn't develop an NFL-caliber bend to get around the edge, he should win with power.
Second Down: Wow! Highlight
Ossai had a day last season against Oklahoma State, putting up a stat line no one has matched since Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The mauler tallied 12 tackles, six for loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble in the Longhorn's 41-34 victory.
This play shows off Ossai's read and react ability on option plays. The edge rusher follows his keys perfectly, adjusts his stance, and explodes into a tackle for loss. One of many instances throughout this game where Ossai is right around the ballcarrier.
Third Down: Stat To Know
Ossai comes into the NFL as an athletic freak. Kent Lee Platte pegged his Relative Athletic Score at 9.49. That ranks as the seventh-best mark for any defensive end in this class.
The metric didn't like Ossai's size as much as it loved his testing numbers. A 41-inch vertical paired with a 2.56 second 20-yard split set Ossai up as a special athlete. This provides hope that he can show off more bend at the NFL level and become a consistent piece of Cincinnati's defense.
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