2021 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: EDGE/LB Joseph Ossai, Texas

Texas defender Joseph Ossai delivered versatility in different defensive systems. How does that experience potentially translate to the NFL?
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EDGE/LB JOSEPH OSSAI

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 253 lbs.
Class: Junior
School: Texas


Started 24 of 36 games for the Texas Longhorns. Two years at linebacker and one year predominantly on the EDGE. A four-star recruit out of Conroe, Texas, where he attended Oak Ridge High School and caught the eye of many college football programs. He was the 186th ranked recruit in the 2018 cycle, according to 247 Sports.

Ossai had a 90 tackle, 13.5 tackle for a loss, and five-sack season in 13 2019 games at linebacker. In 2020, at EDGE, he totaled 55 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks while forcing three fumbles. Ossai’s shown positional versatility, leadership, and impact playmaking ability; it’s one reason why he was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award in 2020.

He was also First Team All Big-12 in 2020 and was an honorable mention for Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year. Ossai decided to leave Texas and enter the 2021 NFL Draft after posting two consecutive seasons of impressive Power Five production at two different positions.

Notables

He dealt with left shoulder injuries in 2019 and 2020. His family emigrated to America from Nigeria, and he hadn’t seen a football game until he was ten years of age.

Traits

He played in two separate systems as a Longhorn; was first predominantly a standup linebacker in a 3-2-6 defense under Todd Orlando, but transitioned to a more full-time EDGE role in 2020.

Pete Kwiatkowski implemented a four-down front defense, and Ossai lined up in a two-point stance and with his hand in the dirt. He only played full-time EDGE for one season with Texas.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, why is Ossai in first-round conversations when I finished his 2019 film, but I saw the intrigue with his abilities on the EDGE (still has a lot of room for growth).

Although, I still don’t feel he’s a sure thing, despite his incredible motor. Ossai plays with intense competitive toughness and hustles on every single down.

Ossai is long-limbed, high cut in the waist, and is a bit undersized for a 4-3 defensive end. His athletic ability and movement skills suggest that he could fill the role as a 3-4 outside linebacker who is fluid enough to operate in underneath zones. He has tweener qualities to him but does possess a quick get-off and excellent closing burst when square to his target.

His overall athletic profile is solid, not spectacular; he missed too many tackles for my liking when at linebacker and seemed to struggle with quickly changing direction against moving targets who were agile--he was a bit stiff in this area. He was a great backside pursuit defender and brings a lot of hit power to the tackle point.

Seemed a bit hesitant at linebacker, and he was typically a bit late to diagnose and attack downhill. Processing appears to need some development. He could have done a better job shedding blocks in space. Angles to the ball carrier on lateral runs were good, and his long strides covered a lot of ground to the ball carrier.

Didn’t seem overly aware in zone coverage when he was playing linebacker. Route combinations would pass through his zone, and there wasn’t a natural feel for the concepts. Athletically, he’s fluid enough to move around underneath. 

Still, the lack of high-end change of direction skills in tight angles, especially with his momentum going, would suggest he’d struggle on deeper patterns.

Used the long arm move a lot as a pass rusher and combined it with chops, double swipes, and swim moves, along with a rip on the outside up the arc. 

He has a solid quick first three steps and does an excellent job dipping his inside shoulder (grabbing dirt) and bending at the top of the arc through contact. 

He has good flexibility in his ankles and can tilt around an EDGE. He has explosive traits but isn’t the twitchiest EDGE rusher in the class.

I would like to see him get a bit stronger at the point of attack against tackles. He held his own against college tight ends and some tackles, but the NFL may not be so kind to him in terms of play strength early on. He’s still learning the EDGE position at a high level, and there’s a lot of room for growth.

Overall, Ossai is a bit raw as an EDGE player, and he seemed to struggle to diagnose the offense as a linebacker on the second level. There’s still a lot of appeal because he’s flashed great playmaking ability, pass-rushing upside, and he’s a long athlete that’s moldable.

Someone like Patrick Graham would value Ossai’s versatility, and that fit makes sense, just not in the first round for the Giants. Ossai’s on-field character and how hard he plays on every snap would be appreciated by Joe Judge as well. 


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