Joseph Ossai, DE/OLB, Texas
Joseph Ossai stands apart from others on this list for a variety of reasons. The Texas Longhorn defender had a productive career in burnt orange but started his career as an off-ball linebacker before moving to full-time defensive end in 2020. Ossai has a diverse skill set that should intrigue NFL teams across a variety of defensive schemes, and Ossai shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It is an overplayed cliche to label a player a “high motor” type, but Ossai truly embodies that. There were a few times I was reminded of former Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali just based on the effort alone. Ossai had a great matchup against Oklahoma State and their highly touted tackle Teven Jenkins. Jenkins got the best of Ossai on the first two downs of a series, including a highlight play where Jenkins blocked Ossai all the way to the boundary. However, Ossai kept coming back for more and gets pressure on the QB on 3rd-and-9 in that same series, forcing an incompletion. The game was a back-and-forth battle and showcased why both prospects will hear their names called early in the 2021 NFL draft.
Ossai has violent hands and enough bend to get around the corner. His overall athletic profile may ultimately settle around average but helps mitigate those concerns. Joseph Ossai has good balance through contact and is quick to diagnose, disengage, and make a play in the run game. The experience playing off-ball means Ossai looks comfortable dropping into a shallow zone and playing in space if needed. The concerns about Ossai can be summarized by his potential athletic limitations, specifically his lack of burst and questions about flexibility. Ossai is still developing as a defensive end full time, and the team that drafts him should ease him into the rotation.
I listed Joseph Ossai as a defensive end/outside linebacker based on his experience playing off-ball. Ossai is a natural fit in a 3-4 defense, but a 4-3 like the Chiefs run may be more complicated. Fortunately, Steve Spagnuolo could utilize Ossai similarly to how he used Mathias Kiwanuka as an early-down off-ball linebacker who puts his hand in the dirt on passing downs. It would be an interesting fit and could help improve Kansas City in two areas.
Ossai is projected to be a first-round pick and there is the potential he falls to 31, but the Chiefs may need to jump up a handful of spots if they want to secure Ossai. He reminds me of Ravens pass rusher Matthew Judon, although Judon may be more explosive overall. Both are high-energy players with versatility on the edge.