2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Joseph Ossai

Photo: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

PROSPECT SUMMARY

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Ossai is one of five children that grew up in a tight-knit family. Playing strictly soccer growing up, he mentioned that he routinely played the sport after school or in the local neighborhood. His journey to the United States was an unexpected one as his mother entered her name into a Visa lottery in order to travel to the country. A year later, the family found out that they were winners of eight permanent U.S. residency cards. Houston, Texas is where their American journey began (Dec. 2009). Ossai was introduced to the game of football in the seventh grade. Starting out as a receiver, he didn’t receive any playing time, but with the team needing replacements on the defensive line, Ossai jumped at the opportunity. Since that point, he’s stayed at the position.

While suiting up for the Longhorns, Ossai started in 24 of the 36 games that he participated in. Possessing a long frame that still has room to grow, he’s an edge rusher that’s still figuring out how to utilize his present tools. Because of his natural athleticism, he spent time seesawing back and forth between off-ball linebacker and defensive end. As a result, he was unable to find his comfort zone while experimenting with both positions. 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. 

Ideal Role: Ossai can align as a 3-4 outside linebacker that is used as a spot dropper in coverage. He’s also capable of putting his hand in the dirt as a 5-technique in a four-man defensive front.

Scheme Fit: 3-4 Outside Linebacker

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Jordan Reid

Games watched: Utah (Alamo Bowl, 2019), Texas Tech (2020), TCU (2020), Oklahoma (2020), Oklahoma State (2020), Baylor (2020), Iowa State (2020). 

Best Game Studied: Utah (Alamo Bowl, 2019), Oklahoma State (2020), TCU (2020), Oklahoma (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Iowa State (2020), Texas Tech (2020)

First-Step Explosiveness: Ossai comes fast out of the starting blocks as he’s experienced pre-snap stances as both a stand-up outside linebacker and with his hand on the ground. He shows to be much more comfortable when he can stand up and explode compared to coming from the ground and accelerating. Getting up the field quickly is an area that he’s shown to be capable of consistently executing.  

Flexibility: The former Longhorn edge rusher has the bend necessary as a pass rusher to not only gain ground on the upfield shoulder of blockers, but he has the ankle flexion in order to bend, dip, and corner to the passer. Lowering his center of gravity to get underneath the arms of blockers is a technique that he’s able to remain consistent with. 

Hand Counters: Ossai is keen in his pass rush approach. Possessing a variety of different moves, he’s more of a counter mover compared to initiating the first move to dictate what he will do next. He was highly impactful as a reactionary edge rusher that forced offensive tackles to have constant answers to the counter moves that he deployed. Ossai is a quick and efficient operator that can execute speed to power moves.

Length: Having a mature upper body that involves long arms, a compact torso, but slender legs, Ossai has the dimensions necessary to become a contributor early on, but needs to gain mass in his lower extremities. The lack of mass in his lower half shows up as a run defender, as he can struggle to hold down and maintain his ground when blockers attack his body head-on. Keeping his outside shoulder free was inconsistent and he often can become a gap shooter where his eagerness of wanting to make a high impact play can get the best of him. 

Hand Power: Ossai has well-developed hand strength and packs a powerful punch that jolts the heads of offensive tackles back. Needing to use it more successfully as a run defender, his firmness with his hands in order to maintain at the point of attack is still an area that needs to be developed, but the exact opposite is the case as a pass rusher. Although more reactionary, Ossai’s hands as a pass rusher are active, creative, and tough to contain off of initial punches from blockers. His aggressiveness and suddenness as a gap shooter while slanting as a run defender has enabled him to wreak havoc and finish with tackles for loss against the run.

Run Defending: Ossai has the strength necessary to set a hard edge on the perimeter, but his consistency with identifying certain running concepts remains a work in progress. Seeing and feeling pullers, kick-out blocks, and detaching from them is an angle that he is inconsistent with. Because of the seesawing of time spent as a second level mixed with being an edge rusher, he’s seen multiple viewpoints of run concepts, but settling into one spot may help his development moving forward.

Effort/Motor: One of the better parts of Ossai’s game is his motor. He plays the game with a battery pack on, but the percentage levels of it hardly ever decrease through the duration of games. No matter the location of the ball, he feels as if he can have an impact on the play. Frequently able to make plays against the run while chasing from the backside, his pursuit to the ball is never ending. Ossai is a prospect that will hardly ever have concerns about his effort as he’s displayed it at maximum levels despite the deficit on the scoreboard or points in the game.

Football IQ: Ossai’s football smarts show up often as a pass rusher, but there are lots of improvements to be made as a run defender. Offenses placed him in predicaments with zone-read concepts and he was hot and cold with staying disciplined on his assignments of keeping contain of the quarterback. There are lots of other examples of where he’s able to properly read and attack. After playing a mixture of off-ball linebacker and edge rusher prior to his junior season, he was able to settle into his comfort zone playing strictly off of the edge. Once he placed his sole emphasis on a single position, his football intelligence with seeing things from that lens began to grow significantly.

Lateral Mobility: His ability to keep his shoulders square and play flat down the line as a run defender is often exemplified with runs opposite of him, as he contains the explosive juices necessary to move laterally down the line and make plays from a chasing position. Ossai possesses above-average range in which he can make plays outside of the tackle boxes or if well behind them initially. His hustle and willingness to get involved in plays oozes throughout him and are many examples of his endless competitiveness. Best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, his biggest challenges will come in coverage as he can be a bit of a wanderer when utilized as a spot dropper. Right now, Ossai doesn’t have the flexibility and change of direction skills required to play man coverage, and his feel in zone coverage is not sufficient.

Versatility: After spending time as both an off-ball linebacker and edge rusher during his first two seasons, Ossai was able to focus on being only an edge rusher during the 2020 season. With his mind not tasked with as many responsibilities, he was able to show off his vertically-attacking nature. With his better attribute being a pass rusher from a stand-up position, Ossai still has many strides to make in coverage. Even though he wasn’t utilized frequently as a multiple position player in subpackages, his combination of twitch, power, and aggressiveness provides plenty of late down or obvious passing down situational versatility.

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: 81.13 / 100

Kyle Crabbs: 80.00/100

Joe Marino: 80.00/100

Jordan Reid: 83.50/100

Drae Harris: 81.00/100

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Founder of ClimbingThePocket.com. Former QB and Coach at North Carolina Central Univ.

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