#5 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Joseph Ossai (Texas)
6’ 4”, 255 pounds; JR
After spending the first ten years of his life in Nigeria, Joseph Ossai played basketball and football in high school, while turning himself into a top 200 overall recruit and joining nearby Texas. Then following very limited playing time as a freshman, Ossai emerged as a key piece for that Longhorn defense in 2019, with a combined 90 tackles, 13.5 of them for loss, five sacks and two interceptions.
Last season, he transitioned from WILL to more of a hybrid outside backer role, and that move certainly paid off, with almost identical numbers, but three forced fumbles instead of the picks.
Ossai used a very unique stance early on last season, as he made the transition to an on ball-defender, with his feet also parallel to each other. Thankfully got away from that press-corner like parallel two-point stance and now either has the outside forward and his shoulders pointing or gets into a more typical alignment.
He is still adjusting his approach as a run-defender to some degree, not always engaging with his weight over his toes and locking out, but rather trying to knock away the hands and getting around blockers. Over the course of this past season, we saw him extend that inside arm and controlling the point of attack more. But he’s still more of a slashing attack player in that area, where he can crash through inside shoulder of tight-ends trying to seal him on the backside of zone runs.
On the frontside, he has some absurd reps, where he hits the rip and places that inside arm on the back of the tackle, to help himself bring those hips around, to where he is looking right at the running back, just as he takes the handoff. Moreover, then he may shoot up the B-gap the next snap, as the blocker oversets to the outside, to counter that.
He shows some of the best hustle for 60 minutes that you will from any player and he certainly had the speed to hunt people down. You constantly see him catch running backs from behind or just show up around the action. One play that comes to mind is when he forced fumble by the RB a good 20 yards downfield in the Oklahoma game.
Everything Ossai does as a pass-rusher is set up by his speed off the edge. Barely anybody jumped off the screen with it quite like him, as he routinely stresses offensive tackles and frees himself from the hands with club-swim and chop moves. However, Ossai has become a much more successful power rusher, as tackles started to get too soft in their sets, to counter his speed.
He can hit with that inside hand under the pads of the blocker and then rip underneath, as he gets them to raise up a little more, and while it may not be your traditional long-arm, he can stab through the inside part of the tackle’s chest when they reach a certain depth and he has an angle to the QB.
Ossai has certainly grown in his approach as a pass-rusher overall, often times starting off with the long-arm and as the tackle tries to engage, he chops the hands down to turn the corner. Ossai is very effective as the secondary man on T-E twists, where he has developed excellent timing and at times even loop all the way to the opposite A-gap. His closing burst makes him highly dangerous on those and he deliver some huge shots on the quarterback.
Nevertheless, Ossai attacks too far upfield at times when he should stack up the blocker at the point of attack. He still has to learn how to take on pulling linemen and deconstructing blocks in general as an on-ball defender. And he gets caught peaking inside and isn’t always super reliable with contain responsibilities.
In the pass game, Ossai doesn’t offer a lot of versatility in his rush approaches and maneuvers, starting everything with the speed rush and then working in a couple of hand moves. He is not the most natural fit on the edge of a defense and he in part made that transition because he got lost in space when playing coverage at times, so I don’t envision him going back to an off-ball role either.
When you put on the Oklahoma State tape last season, Ossai got pancaked at least three or four times by their hulking right tackle Teven Jenkins, but you also see him just keep coming and made a lot of plays off the other side or when he was left unblocked, ultimately coming up with the game-sealing sack in overtime, to beat the then-undefeated Cowboys.
He also came up with the securing fumble recovery in OT of the Texas Tech game, to finish that crazy comeback. So if you draft this guy, you get somebody, who will give it his all for 60+ minutes, just put freakish numbers at his pro day and shows a lot of potential to grow in terms of technique, while having experience playing on and off the ball.