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The last Longhorn offensive player drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft was quarterback Vince Young in 2006.
That famine of selections could be nearing its end in the 2021 NFL Draft with offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, but he is not the only Longhorn to play into first round discussions.
Joseph Ossai’s standout season, including his heroic effort against Oklahoma State, have draft prognosticators talking about him shaking Roger Goodell’s hand as one of the first 32 prospects selected.
Some outlets recently updated their NFL Draft boards, so now is a great time to see where these two early-draft prospects are in the minds of prominent scouts, and what NFL teams might think of them should both decide to forego their senior seasons.
OT Samuel Cosmi – R-Jr. – 6-7 – 309
The Athletic: No. 39 overall
ESPN Kiper: No. 10 overall, No. 2 OT
ESPN McShay: No. 13 overall
Though the Longhorns have put several players on the offensive side of the ball in the NFL Draft, including Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson last year, the 14-year drought in the first round is appalling for a program with the stature, resources, and talent pool of Texas. It does provide an explanation regarding why many highly-rated prospects are hesitant to believe Texas will provide the necessary development to launch their football careers.
Samuel Cosmi did not fit the mold of a “highly-rated” high school prospect. One of Tom Herman’s early offers as head coach of Texas was to Cosmi, who had given Herman a verbal pledge while at Houston. Cosmi was a three-star prospect expected to need at least a year or two of development before taking the field.
Instead, he was a scout team all-star during his redshirt year in 2017 and bumped Derek Kerstetter, his classmate and the returning right tackle, inside to guard during the 2018 season-opener versus Maryland. Cosmi started at right tackle the rest of the season, while grad transfer Calvin Anderson manned left tackle. Once Anderson exhausted his eligibility, Cosmi took over protecting Sam Ehlinger’s blind side.
Since then, he has faced several quality edge rushers in K’Lavon Chaisson, LJ Collier, Ben Banogu, James Lynch, Ronnie Perkins, Trace Ford, and Nik Bonitto (and Joseph Ossai, of course) during his career, with his fair share of wins and losses.
Although his unit struggled in 2019 and 2020, Cosmi individually shined. A team captain, Cosmi has been magnificent through 2020 and it is shuddering to think of what would happen to the Longhorn offense were No. 52 not a part of it.
Cosmi should succeed during interviews and has strong film. There should not be questions about his testing, but it is unlikely Cosmi measures in at 6-foot-7 in Indianapolis. Expect him to “shrink” to 6-foot-5 but still be north of 300 pounds. Following that process, he is primed to join Young on the list of Longhorns taken in the first round.
EDGE Joseph Ossai – Jr. – 6-4 – 253
The Athletic: No. 24 overall
ESPN Kiper: No. 2 OLB
ESPN McShay: No. 32 overall, No. 1 OLB
During his freshman season, Ossai saw a limited action because Todd Orlando was consistent in his utilization of the 3-2-6 that replaced the B-backer with a defensive back. When he did get on the field, as he did against Georgia, he flashed his potential as an athletic, pass-rushing nightmare for opposing tackles.
Then in 2019, rather than spotlight his strengths on the line of scrimmage, Orlando deployed Ossai’s versatility off the ball. Playing weakside middle linebacker was not something Ossai could do consistently at a high level, but it was something he could do consistently.
Ossai’s six-TFL, three-sack performance playing on the line of scrimmage at the 2019 Alamo Bowl was a preview of his role in 2020 under Chris Ash. He is not just playing well in 2020, he is arguably winning games with his effort (See: Oklahoma State).
The versatility that caught Orlando’s eye will be useful at the next level, but his best role is one that has him close to the line of scrimmage using his combination of quickness, strength, and wingspan to beat blocks. Ossai, like Cosmi, wears a captain’s C on his jersey, and has been a respected player in the program for over two seasons. Even former players sing his praises.
Ossai should be at or near the top of any OLB rankings, and his play this year has placed him in a position to be the first Longhorn defensive player drafted in the first round since Malcom Brown in 2015 should he decide to exit early.