Scouting the 2021 NFL Draft: Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas

Joseph Ossai scouting report

A veteran of 24 starts for the Texas Longhorns defense, Joseph Ossai presents as an exciting edge defender for NFL teams looking to enhance their pass rush in the 2021 NFL draft.

Ossai appeared in a total of 36 games for Texas during his collegiate career and finished with a 2020 campaign that included First Team All-American (CBS, ESPN, USA Today) and First Team All-Big 12 accolades, as well as being named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award.


Ossai played in 9 games in 2020 and totaled 55 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. It was his first full season as an edge defender after previously lining up as an inside linebacker for Texas in 2019. He still managed 5.5 sacks that year and finished his three-year run as a Longhorn with 165 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks.

Ossai’s contributions at Texas shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was a four-star recruit out of Conroe, Texas who received 25 FBS offers, including Ohio State. Ossai has a basketball background and competed in track and soccer as a child. He moved to the United States from Nigeria at 10 years old.

Physically, Ossai is a lean 6-3, 245 pounds. He has long legs and a narrow waist, which usually is a concern for players who need to establish some power at the point of attack. Ossai is exceptionally strong and I have no concerns over his smallish trunk. He has great length that he uses to his advantage on almost every rep.

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Athletically, Ossai is overflowing with juice. He’s cat-quick off the snap and can turn the corner in a hurry. He has a long yet quick stride that allows him to cover ground and remain in the mix of a play even when it’s run away from him. He’s coordinated, too, and can use his hands and feet in unison.

As a pass rusher, Ossai presents with some of the most appealing traits of any edge rusher in the 2021 NFL draft. He’s exceptional with his hands, often looking like a schooled martial artist with how he keeps himself clean from opposing offensive linemen. His hands are strong, too, and can be used as weapons to club bigger and seemingly stronger linemen en route to the quarterback. Ossai’s push and pull is effective, and he’s capable of stringing multiple pass-rush moves together because of how synced his body is.


Ossai isn’t powerful enough to make a living as a bull rusher, but his ability to win with a quick first step helps him set up inside counter moves that are effective in collapsing the pocket. While his bend around the edge isn’t always silky smooth, he is flexible enough to turn the corner and finish the way you’d expect from a first-round prospect.

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Ossai is a heat-seeking missile against the run. He launches himself into ball-carriers with mean intentions. He’s generally sound with his assignments, although misdirection plays get the best of him sometimes. Still, he’s such an aggressive and high-motor player that he’s able to recover and make an impact. I have little concern about Ossai’s ability to set the edge in the NFL because of how strong his upper-body play is. He can stack, shed, pursue and finish.

Overall, Ossai is among the most desirable defensive prospects in the 2021 NFL draft because of his blend of baseline strength and top-end athletic ability. That, combined with his plus-length, suggests he’s a safe bet to be a top-notch pass-rusher in the NFL, especially once he gets more settled in as an edge defender. Ossai is best-suited to be a standup outside linebacker where his range can be better utilized. There may be some concern about his size and how he’ll hold up against the bigger and more physical NFL offensive linemen, but I’m not overly worried. He’s too athletic and plays with so much effort that I’m confident he’ll be just fine.

GRADE: 8.2 (first round)

Bryan Perez

Bryan is the founder of Pro Football Draft. His work has been featured on The Draft Network, NBC Sports and USA Today. Former CFL scout.

Follow him on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL