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2021 NFL Draft profile: Texas Edge Joseph Ossai

Should the Broncos take another speed rusher from Texas?

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Oklahoma State v Texas
Could Ossai be the heir to Von Miller?
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Thanks to their promising pair of edge rushers and a more aggressive pressure scheme, the Broncos were able to generate a pass rush last season without Von Miller. Bradley Chubb made the Pro Bowl while Malik Reed finished with 31 individual pass pressures as Vic Fangio adjusted to life without his future Hall of Famer.

Going forward, there are a number of questions.

Chubb enters the last season of his rookie contract while questions remain about Miller’s long-term future with the Broncos. Reed is set to become a Restricted Free Agent in 2022, and 2020 seventh rounder Derrek Tuszka is the only other outside linebacker on the roster. There is little doubt the Broncos will look to add another edge defender to the roster in the NFL Draft.

If the Broncos are planning for life after Miller, it’d make sense to draft Joseph Ossai out of Texas.

At a glance:

Teams looking for an edge rusher who is comfortable in space will find Joseph Ossai quite intriguing. In 2019 he was used as a Will linebacker in the Longhorns nickel base defense, rotating down to rush the passer on third downs. In 2020 he moved to Edge full time and played out of both 2-pont and 3-point stances. Across the two campaigns he finished with 77 individual pass pressures per Sports Info Solutions’ charting. He’ll enter the NFL as a speed rusher who has the burst and bend to run the arc.

Why he fits the Broncos

  • Very good athlete with very good agility, quickness, and explosiveness.
  • Very good competitive toughness and plays with his hair on fire. There’s no question about his motor.
  • Turns 21 on April 13th, 2021.
  • Has a reputation for being a worker bee. In the right hands he’s going to polish out some rough edges in his game.
  • Solid play strength when he uses his length to protect his frame.
  • Good burst burst to threaten a tackles set. His get off looks better out of a 2-point stance.
  • Solid run defender with room to improve if he improves at keeping himself clean, he’s still a work in progress at reading run from the edge and I suspect he’ll improve at this with additional time and reps.
  • Very good in pursuit with the AA and motor to run things down. Needs to be accounted for on the backside.
  • Good pass rush with the tools to improve, he has a nasty speed rush and shows the willingness and demeanor to succeed rushing inside on games. Displays good ankle flexion to bend around the arc.
  • Has dabbled with a swim move that shows promise.
  • Solid hands with some oomph behind his punch, becoming more assertive with his plan of attack would help him improve here.
  • Experience in coverage with the fluidity in space to suggest he could become a solid+ dropper into the flats or tasked with outlet receivers leaving the backfield.

Reasons for concern

  • Huge chunk of his pass rush production came off games.
  • The time splitting reps between linebacker and edge suggests the pro game will be fast for him early. Misdirection, zone reads, play fakes and screens may be issues as he acclimates.
  • There’s notable instances of a lag in his get off. Needs to improve reacting to snap.
  • Will shoot too far upfield off the snap.
  • When he allows blockers into his frame he can get taken for a ride, doesn’t have the anchor to withstand and reset.
  • Needs to improve at setting the edge to be more than a third down specialist.
  • Stronger tackles on downblocks may always present issues as they can engulf and overwhelm him.
  • Won’t make a living on bend alone, needs to develop rush moves to win 1v1 with any sort of consistency.

What I’ve seen/heard/read

“Joseph Ossai is a highly athletic edge rusher with a high motor who has to get stronger to become a good player in the NFL. He will stand up and have his hands in the ground as an edge rusher in either 4-3 or 3-4 systems.”

-Expand the Box Score

“Ossai in an incredibly athletic and talented player, though raw, but with proper development on his pass rush technique, anticipation, and plan he could grow into a solid 3-down starter.”

-Sports Info Solutions

NFL Draft Scouting Report: Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai

In terms of what you want to develop, Ossai has everything from an elite frame, length, flashes of power, athleticism, speed and an elite motor. But it’s all so raw that it’s hard to imagine him playing a major role in year one of his NFL career. Ossai will need time, great coaching and a strong work ethic to put together a pass rush plan that brings him consistently positive results in the NFL.

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Joseph Ossai | The Draft Network

It wasn’t until his final season at Texas where he settled in as a true edge rusher. Showing more comfort from the stand-up position, Ossai is an explosive mover and contains lots of enthusiasm throughout multiple parts of his game. A motor that stays flaming hot, he’s able to positively impact plays even if they’re not intended in his direction. As a natural playmaker, he has a knack for being a turnover creator that can get the offense the ball back at crucial moments in games. Having powerful hands, he’s a reactionary rusher that still has room to grow as an initiator with his pass rush moves. Still figuring out how to diagnose and attack run game concepts, he’s continued to improve with the more reps that he’s experienced at a single position. Ossai is raw in pass coverage when asked to drop to certain spots and it’s an area that proves to be one of his biggest deficiencies.

Joseph Ossai Draft and Combine Prospect Profile | NFL.com

Former inside linebacker who has seen his stock rise quickly after a move to a more natural edge position. Ossai’s draft grade will require a good deal of projection as he is still raw and inexperienced at his new position. His passion and go-go motor are the juice that fuels his desire to make plays, and his outstanding practice habits improve his chances for continuing to adjust quickly to his newfound positional home. He’s long but has some hip tightness that limits his ability to hold the point of attack and bend the edge as a rusher. Ossai won’t out-race tackles to the edge, but if a team can coach up his hands and add to his rush plan, he should turn into a solid pro as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Final Thoughts

Ossai is an exciting prospect who is not yet the sum of his parts. If he’s available on Day 2 he’d be an intriguing option for the Broncos as he could slot in as a strong ED4 behind the Broncos big three. With a year for the coaching staff to refine and improve his hand usage, rush plan, and overall play strength, he could explode down the road.