It’s not exactly breaking news the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense is among the worst in the NFL. Last season, the unit ranked near the bottom of most defensive categories and their inefficient pass rush played a big role. If they want to turn things around, they’ll have to pour resources into their front four. Should they use the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Texas defensive end Joseph Ossai?
What did Joseph Ossai do in Texas?
Ossai didn’t play much in his freshman season at Texas. Nevertheless, he rose a few eyebrows with his performance in the 2018 Sugar Bowl against Georgia, logging eight total tackles. He took a significant step forward as a sophomore and registered 90 total tackles (13.5 for a loss) five sacks, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. An outside linebacker in his first two years with the Longhorns, he switched to defensive end in 2020. As a junior, he appeared in nine games and had 55 total tackles (15.5 for a loss), 5.5 sacks, two passes defensed and three forced fumbles.
There are some concerns surrounding Ossai heading into the draft. The main two are his penchant for overpursuing ball barriers and his light frame. If he’s going to play defensive end in the pros, he may need to bulk up as his 253-pound frame will make it difficult for him to take on NFL offensive linemen. On the other hand, he has a high motor and an explosive first step. He’s a natural talent that can get even better with solid coaching.
Why should the Raiders target Joseph Ossai?
The Raiders had a hard time pressuring opposing quarterbacks in 2020. Although former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther deserves plenty of blame due to his inadequate schemes, the team didn’t have much talent upfront. The defense should fare better under Gus Bradley but if Las Vegas wants him to succeed they will have to give him help and add talent this offseason.
There’s no consensus when it comes to this year’s defensive end class. The Raiders could target Jaelen Phillips or Gregory Rousseau. However, Joseph Ossai should be available when they’re on the clock at number 17. He showed he has the potential to be an effective pass rusher. It would be up to the Las Vegas coaching staff to turn that potential into production. He has the tools to succeed in the NFL, it will be up to Silver and Black to decide if they want to take a flyer on him.
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