The Bengals upgraded their defense when they selected Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai with the 69th overall pick in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Ossai is a playmaker who played linebacker in college. In the past two seasons, Ossai has 145 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
With his background at LB, Ossai is strong against the run with the ability to rush the passer. Ossai is a versatile player who had two interceptions as a sophomore in 2019 and three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2020.
Ossai was the 42nd ranked player on the NFL Mock Database Big Board and 60th on the Pro Football Focus Big Board. The Bengals got exceptional value for Ossai. Ossai’s biggest strength is his motor according to PFF. Playing LB in college, it is clear that Ossai has the athleticism to play at two levels on defense.
The Bengals finished last in the NFL with 17 sacks in 2020. The ability, athleticism and versatility that Ossai has should place him as a situation pass rusher in his rookie season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed in the Superbowl the importance of having a deep rotation of pass rushers.
Ossai was a first-team All-American LB for Texas in 2020. During the Longhorns Pro Day, Ossai had the second-fastest 40-yard dash among edge rushers with a 4.4. Odafe Oweh from Penn State who was the 31st overall pick in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens ran a 4.39 40 at the Nittany Lions Pro Day.
Moving from LB to edge rusher, Ossai will have to develop his moves to get to the passer. There was some criticism that the Bengals second-round choice, offensive tackle Jackson Carman from Stanford was a reach. Ossai should turn out to be a steal. Cincinnati has addressed its three biggest needs in the first three rounds.