The 2021 NFL Draft season is upon us and the first wave of free agency is now over. Now, scouts, coaches, and general managers will hit the road as all eyes will turn to the draft.
Among the 32 teams building their rosters to compete for the next Lombardi Trophy is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 10 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.
As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.
In this edition, we review Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, one of the most athletic and versatile linebacker prospects to enter the league in recent years. Does his rare skill set make sense for the Jaguars at No. 25 overall?
One of the most exciting defensive prospects in this year's draft, Owusu-Koramoah (6-foot-1, 221 pounds) entered college with a bit less hype. Ranked as a three-star prospect in the 2017 recruiting class by 247 Sports, Owusu-Koramoah committed to Notre Dame after getting offers from Michigan State, Virginia, and Appalachian State.
Owusu-Koramoah played in just two games in his first two seasons on campus, but he rose to the rank of impact starter in his junior season in 2019. In 13 starts as a junior, Owusu-Koramoah collected 80 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass deflections. He led the team in tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss, doing all of it from the linebacker position.
2020 proved to be yet another productive season for Owusu-Koramoah. He was voted a first-team All-American after recording 62 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four pass deflections, and one interception in 12 games. He was voted ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was once again the team's leader in tackles for loss.
What Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Does Well
If you liked Isaiah Simmons last season (he was my No. 4 overall prospect), then you will like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He may not be as big or as fast, but they win in similar ways and can offer similar schematic advantages to their defenses. In fact, there are a lot of reasons to feel more confident with Owusu-Koramoah's transition to the NFL because he excels in a few areas that Simmons struggled in, such as how he attacks blocks at the line of scrimmage.
Owusu-Koramoah played a box defender role for Notre Dame, serving as a slot defender who held both linebacker and safety responsibilities. He was able to be deployed in such a versatile way due to rare athleticism that gives him a chance to make game-changing plays at a whim. Owusu-Koramoah pops off the screen with his electric speed at the second level (he posted an 8.71 RAS, per Kent Lee Platte).
Owusu-Koramoah's first step is the definition of explosive. In fact, there are instances where he legitimately moves too fast. He eats up ground with ease laterally and moving both forward and backward, giving him a ton of range against both the run and the pass. He was a terror for Notre Dame's defense when runs spilled outside and his dynamic speed and agility make him a dangerous blitzer as well. Overall, he is an extremely fluid athlete with the long speed, burst, and change of direction to operate in space at all levels of the field.
While Owusu-Koramoah won't ever be mistaken for a thumping inside linebacker, he takes on blocks with a blend of aggression and explosive movements that makes him tough for receivers or tight ends to block in space. He sheds blocks of skill players with ease but can also stack tight ends on the line of scrimmage due to violent hands. He can be overpowered by offensive linemen relatively easily when they get into his frame, but he does a fantastic job of using his speed, agility, and instincts to evade blocks in congested areas.
As a pass defender, Owusu-Koramoah offers a ton of value in the slot and matched up against tight ends. He has the agility to keep up with smaller receivers but the strength and physicality to offer matchup problems for bigger targets. He shows great patience in coverage, especially in man coverage in the slot. He takes few false steps in coverage and is a natural mover in space.
Owusu-Koramoah is also a walking big play waiting to happen. He forced six turnovers (five forced fumbles, one interception) in the last two years because his explosive athleticism helps him create a lot of opportunities to get to the ball. He is so violent when he closes in on tackles that he is one of the best defenders in the draft at forcing fumbles and incomplete passes -- he just has a natural feel for jarring the ball loose.
How Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Would Fit With the Jaguars
The most snaps the Jaguars currently need to replace in their defense are in the slot, so there are not a lot of reasons to think Owusu-Koramoah isn't a perfect fit for their new attacking defense. He isn't a true slot corner, but he has the athleticism to keep up with both receivers and running backs and he makes enough plays in the box to serve as a team's overhang defender.
The Jaguars' newest defensive staff is going to place an emphasis on multiplicity. This is Owusu-Koramoah's entire calling card as his speed and ability to make plays against both the run and pass would give the Jaguars the ability to move him all over the defense. On third down, he can perform in a coverage or blitzing role, giving the Jaguars an athletic middle of the field defender.
Owusu-Koramoah likely couldn't function as an inside linebacker in Jacksonville's scheme, but he does enough things in space to entrust him as a nickel defender. Selecting him would also help fill the need the Jaguars have at slot cornerback -- he may not be a true corner, but he can perform in a similar role.
The Jaguars have bigger needs than an overhang defender who splits time in the secondary and in the box, but Owusu-Koramoah's speed and physicality make him a natural fit for their changing defensive scheme.
As someone who loved Isaiah Simmons last year, I am similarly high on Owusu-Koramoah. The New York Giants could take him at No. 11 overall and I would understand the move. As a result, it is hard for me to argue against him as an option at No. 25 overall, even if the Jaguars don't have a need at linebacker. Owusu-Koramoah isn't a true linebacker, either, so this argument goes a bit out the window.
For the Jaguars, he would make the most sense as an overhang defender in nickel and dime packages, a role they have yet to fill in free agency. His speed and ability to create turnovers overrules any questions about his position or the Jaguars' need for his skill set.
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