The hiring of defensive coordinator Dean Pees in Atlanta brought along a shift in schematics for the Falcons defense. It appears that the Falcons defense is headed toward using more 3-4 alignmenst thanks to that formation being a staple of Pees’ coaching career at every stop. As it stands, the Falcons current depth chart is in dire need of not only pass rushers but players who fit as outside linebackers in a 3-4 more generally.
The 2021 NFL Draft is a source for the Falcons to fill that particular void. Today, we will focus on a lengthy defender out of the Big 12.
Joseph Ossai Scouting Report
Weight: 250 pounds
Career stats: 165 total tackles, 30.0 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, two interceptions
While he wasn’t the more recognizable name of the 2018 recruiting class for the Texas Longhorns, outside linebacker Joseph Ossai may walk away from that impressive recruiting haul that ranked third in the country as the best player in their entire class. Now that he is in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ossai is grouped amongst some of the best edge rushers in the entire draft class. For starters, there may not be a edge rusher in the entire class that has a better motor than Ossai. Often he is seen chasing plays downfield from the backside and staying with broken plays until the whistle is blown. His effort and motor is infectious.
Ossai’s burst at the snap is fluid and quick. Given his size and frame, Ossai needs very few steps to get to the quarterback when he shows that burst with a full head of steam. That fluidity in his hips helps tremendously when he has to change direction as a pass rusher or run defender.
Ossai possesses an NFL frame and is equipped with long limbs, which again comes in handy when he has to chase plays and eat up ground. The long arms are also an asset, as he is a sound tackler and shows textbook wrap-up ability. When Ossai has to diagnose zone read options in the backfield, he wastes no time and explodes when has to attack the ball carrier. He does not have a ton of standout games, but when Ossai is able to dominate the opposition, he has efforts where his fingerprints are everywhere. Just view his outings against Oklahoma State in 2019 and 2020 and his 2019 bowl game against Utah if you need proof.
Because Ossai had to bounce around between defensive end and outside linebacker during his time in Texas, he never truly had a grasp on either position. While I believe Ossai is ultimately an outside linebacker at the NFL level, he has yet to manage the nuances of the position. When it comes to the linebacker spot, he simply needs reps and time to grow into that role.
Certain aspects of his run defense needs polish as well. Ossai has to learn how to utilize his quickness in space a little better. At times, he can also be a tad bit aggressive in defending the run and vacating his area and/or assignment. That can potentially leave cutback lanes as well as run lanes on the front side of the play because of his tendency to misdiagnose.
In large part, Ossai has the traits of a speedy edge rusher, but he could stand to develop a few pass rushing moves. What is also noteworthy is his production during his time at Texas. Ossai played in a total of 36 games as a member of the Longhorns and only produced 11.5 sacks, meaning he needs experience, polish, and work to grow to his true potential.
There does not appear to be any elite-level, franchise changing pass rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft. There is, however, a pool of edge rushers for the Atlanta Falcons to choose from that can help them improve what has been their Achilles heel on defense in recent seasons. Many recent seasons, in fact.
Ossai is overall a solid prospect. The hiring of Pees opened the door for Ossai to be an early selection for the Falcons because of his natural fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, even if he’ll need time to become an impact player there. In case you were wondering, Ossai has a top-40 grade from me and if he slips out of the bottom half of the first round, Ossai could be there waiting for the Falcons at the top half of the second round. If he falls into the laps of an Atlanta team starved for more athleticism and pass rushing potential up front, that would be an ideal outcome.