2021 NFL Draft Snapshot: Joseph Ossai

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Joe Cook assesses Joseph Ossai’s NFL Draft resume, with help from Scipio Tex.

40-yard dash: 4.62 | Bench: 19 reps | Vertical: 41.5” | Broad Jump: 10’ 11” | 3-cone: N/A | 20-yard shuttle: N/A | The Athletic draft grade: Round 2

Pro day measurements: 6-foot-3, 256 pounds

(Measurables accumulated by The Athletic)


Poor planning by Tom Herman’s coaching staff put Joseph Ossai at inside linebacker his sophomore season. He still produced and was a contributor there, tallying 90 total tackles including 13.5 for loss and 5.0 sacks. He also hauled in two interceptions and forced a fumble. But it seemed evident to everyone but Herman and Todd Orlando that the four-star defensive end prospect’s home was on the defensive end.

For a player still as raw as Ossai, bouncing between the edge and inside linebacker stunted his development. He still produced thanks to his high motor and raw athleticism, but his skill set begged to be utilized on the edge of the line of scrimmage.

Thankfully for Ossai, Herman hired Chris Ash to be his defensive coordinator ahead of the 2020 season and decided to utilize the Conroe Oak Ridge product at the Jack outside linebacker position. There, he was a terror to offensive tackles and a weekly focal point of opponents’ game plans.

His standout performance versus Oklahoma State consisted of 12 total tackles including six for loss and three sacks, culminating in the game winning sack of Spencer Sanders in overtime. His season on the edge propelled him into early-draft conversations.

He garnered consensus All-American honors, the 61st Longhorn to reach that status. He also was named a finalist for the LOTT Impact Trophy, honoring college football’s best in character and performance.

Ossai battled through the bumps and bruises typical of trench players and played every snap at 100 miles per hour. He was the precursor to Steve Sarkisian’s ‘All Gas, No Brakes’ mentality that has permeated through the program.

His athleticism on the edge is unquestioned, but some concerns remain about his fundamental ability. Ossai’s success often stemmed from his motor, not so much because he utilized a wide repertoire of moves.

No matter where Ossai is picked, he represents a true American success story. After his family arrived in the United States from Nigeria in 2009, he picked up football and found a home on the defensive line. Soon, he’ll find a home in the NFL.

Scipio Tex’s parting shot: I think the fundamental appeal of Ossai to an NFL team is that he’s a 10/10 character/effort guy with great natural athletic ability, size, and positional versatility. His limited skills as a pass rusher might be seen as an easily addressable deficit — a lack of teaching — rather than some athletic constraint that prevents their employ. That perceived deficit makes a 1st round talent available in the latter rounds and a true value play for NFL teams that believe they can teach and scheme the game.

What’s working for Ossai

  • Versatile athleticism meant he could play on- and off-ball linebacker at the P5 level
  • Near 81-inch wingspan
  • Per game production improved despite position changes between 2019 and 2020
  • Great character, team captain
  • Relentless effort player
  • Few elite edge rushers in this draft class
  • Excellent 10-yard split (1.58) at 256 pounds
  • Averaged almost 2 TFL per game in 2020

What’s working against Ossai

  • Only one true full season at his NFL position, and a nine-game season at that
  • Lacks advanced pass-rush move set compared to other prospects
  • Effort sometimes found himself too far away from the play to make an impact
  • Limited standout tape versus high-end offensive tackles