The Cincinnati Bengals kept things predictable and simple in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft — they attacked the lack of a pass-rush with Texas Edge defender Joseph Ossai.
Ossai, a 6’4″, 256-pound defender, is one of the rarest athletes in the entire 2021 class, given not only his film, but a ridiculous 41.5″ vertical and 10’11” broad jump at his pro day.
That showed up in production during college too, as Ossai had 11.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles over three seasons at Texas.
Even better Ossai projects as a player the Bengals can use all over the place in the multiple front. He’s extremely raw still, but NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein sees things that make him appealing as a breakout candidate:
“His passion and go-go motor are the juice that fuels his desire to make plays, and his outstanding practice habits improve his chances for continuing to adjust quickly to his newfound positional home. He’s long but has some hip tightness that limits his ability to hold the point of attack and bend the edge as a rusher. Ossai won’t out-race tackles to the edge, but if a team can coach up his hands and add to his rush plan, he should turn into a solid pro as a 3-4 outside linebacker.”
The comparison? Takkarist McKinley — so the Bengals clearly have a type of player in mind for the defense on the edge.
In the third round, this is pretty much as good as it can get for a team. Ossai has the ability to make a major impact as a rotational presence on the edge during his rookie year. But with the right development, he’s also got a shot at being an every-down player.
For now, Ossai will work behind and with the likes of Sam Hubbard while Trey Hendrickson is the primary pass-rusher. That’s immense value with big long-term potential for a third-round pick, and keep in mind the Bengals have three fourth-round selections on Friday thanks to the second-round trade down with New England.