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 examine one of the most polarizing players in the entire draft class in Penn State edge defender Jayson Oweh. Oweh is raw with almost no production but has the best traits and athleticism in the draft. Is he worth the roll of the dice?
This year's "traits over production" gamble, Jayson Oweh is still relatively new to football. Oweh first began playing football as a high school junior in after his main focus was basketball, but his two years of football quickly caught the attention of the nation's top programs.
Oweh was ranked a four-star prospect as a member of the 2018 recruiting class and received interest from Ohio State (under Urban Meyer), Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Harvard. Oweh eventually landed with Penn State, but he had respect for Meyer during his recruitment process.
“Ohio State is a great program,” Oweh told Rivals.com in May 2017. “Urban Meyer is a great coach, a legend really."
Oweh played just a handful of games as a true freshman in 2018, though he did record two tackles for loss and two sacks. He saw more playing time as a sophomore, recording five sacks, five tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 13 games.
Oweh's college career didn't exactly end with a bang, however. He started seven games in 2020 but finished the season with zero sacks, though he did record a career-high 6.5 tackles for loss. He ended his career with seven sacks in 24 collegiate games.
Oweh's pro day was nothing sort of historic, making him a big winner of the pre-draft process. At 6-foot-4, 253 pounds, Oweh recorded a relative athletic score of 9.91 according to Kent Lee Platte, one of the most impressive recorded collections of measurements of any edge prospect in draft history.
What Jayson Oweh Does Well
When a player's entire selling point is his athleticism and testing numbers, you are going to hope to see those same traits pop up on the field. This is certainly the case for Jayson Oweh, even if not to an extent that represents his 4.37 40-yard dash at his pro day. He looks like the most athletic player on the field on every snap, which is going to be his calling card at the next level.
Oweh's athleticism shows up most impressively when he is able to time the snap and fire out of his stance. He is most comfortable exploding out of a three-point stance and his first step is certainly a thing to marvel at; he can threaten offensive tackles with a speed rush and force them to get deep depth in their sets immediately off the snap. He is the definition of explosive, and his rare ability to shoot upfield and cover several yards in an instant against both the run and the pass shows up often.
Oweh's explosiveness helps him win in two different ways as a pass-rusher. He is raw and underdeveloped in terms of counters and developing a pass-rush plan, but his ability to fire off the ball with lighting quick movements makes an impact when he bull rushes and when he tries to win the edge with a speed rush.
As a pass-rusher, Oweh gets good push and leg drive with his bull rushes and can move offensive tackles of significantly larger stature by getting under their pads. His first step and ability to bend and run around the arc with fluid movements puts stress on tackles as well; he has zero running issues dipping around tackles' outside shoulder to win a rep.
Oweh is incomplete as a run defender but offers some plus traits in that regard as well. He fires into blocks and shows heavy hands to set the edge and disrupt tight ends; if he can get a better feel for blocking schemes and contain, he has the strength to hold up and set a tough edge in any defense.
Oweh's athleticism also makes him a lethal back-side defender. He has a lot of range as a tackler and closes on ball carriers in a hurry, so his ability to eat up yards quickly gives him a big advantage in chasing down plays, especially when coupled with his undeniably strong motor.
How Jayson Oweh Would Fit With the Jaguars
There is no denying the Jaguars need more help on the edges of their defense. Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson are two athletic and talented pass-rushers, but the Jaguars are only one injury away from their entire pass-rush unit being thrown into disarray.
With that said, Oweh's fit with the Jaguars is a tough one. In theory, Oweh has the athleticism and fluidity in space to stand up and make plays as an outside linebacker. Despite this, he appeared more comfortable against both the run and the pass when he was able to put his hand in the dirt. This could be something the Jaguars' staff could develop, but it may be fair to wonder how natural of a pass-rusher he is when standing up at the line of scrimmage.
Oweh's fit with the Jaguars is murky for different reasons, however. Essentially, taking Oweh would give the Jaguars an A+ in terms of potential along the edge, but they would be close to a failing grade in terms of proven production.
The Jaguars already have one raw edge defender who is still attempting to figure the position out in Chassion, so taking a player like Oweh would raise numerous questions. Can their defense afford to add another pass-rusher who likely isn't close to making an impact? Would it be beneficial in the short term to have two raw and underdeveloped pass-rushers with high ceilings? Would he and Chaisson both get the snaps each needs to take the next steps in the developments?
There is a lot to like about Oweh and what he brings to the table, but there are some serious questions about his fit with the Jaguars' current edge rushing group that should cause some pause.
I wouldn't personally give Oweh a first-round grade, but I understand why a team could be talked into him in the late first. He has rare athleticism, power behind his hands, plays with an incredible motor, and is just scratching the surface.
With that said, there is little to zero evidence that shows he would be a solid pick for the Jaguars at No. 25. Even in the best-case scenario where he develops and hits his ceiling, this doesn't happen for several seasons and the Jaguars may not have the need for a third premier edge rusher by then.
The Jaguars took an undersized speed-rusher in the 20s last year; doing it again in 2021 would create some issues at the position that Oweh's tape doesn't currently justify. The pick would be more defensible at No. 33, but there would still be questions about developing him and Chaisson at the same time.
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