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Grading the Bengals’ selection of Joseph Ossai

The Bengals get great value, but was Joseph Ossai what the Bengals needed?

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

In the third round of this year’s NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Texas Longhorns defensive end Joseph Ossai.

Ossai was the first defensive player off the board in the third round, and he very well could end up being one of the steals of this draft, as several experts projected him to go somewhere in Round 2.

Everyone knows that the Bengals defense struggled last season, which is one reason that Zac Taylor and his staff focused so heavily on rebuilding it this offseason. Primarily, that happened through free agency, including the additions of defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi.

Well, you can now pencil in Ossai as a factor on the defensive end depth chart as well, though he could also play some outside linebacker.

Let’s dive into the pick.

Ossai is a very raw talent with some ridiculous athleticism and versatility. The 6-4, 256-pound edge rusher has played both a true inside linebacker role and as an edge rusher at Texas, which obviously speaks to his versatility. He also showed off that athleticism at his Pro Day with a wild 41.5” vertical, and a 10’11” broad jump to boot.

All you have to do is turn on the tape to see some of that incredible athleticism put to the test on the field.

Last season in Austin, Ossai finished with 55 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. All solid numbers across the board in a shorter season than usual, especially since he opted out of the bowl game.

Ossai is still fairly new to his edge-rushing position, and it will show at times. He uses his long arms to his advantage, as well as his lateral quickness to get off blocks quickly. With a nice burst of speed off the edge as well, he proved at Texas that he already has the makings to be a productive run-stopper, but it’s his pass-rushing ability that comes and goes.

Now I get it. Why select an edge-rusher that has some pass-rushing struggles? This pick is all about potential.

This season, you can fully expect to see Ossai getting some run in the rotation behind Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. With the right coaching, Ossai could turn into a really nice prospect for Lou Anarumo’s defense.

When it comes to grading this pick, you have to take a couple of things into account. Ossai has his weaknesses, and youth at his position is one of them. It may be the other intangibles that set him apart though, including a relentless work ethic.

Pair that work ethic with a high motor, long frame, and his willingness to be coached, this pick could be one that pays off rather well. Not to mention that on some draft big boards, Ossai was coming in as a top-50 prospect.

A nice find for the staff here with the 69th overall pick to wrap up Day 2.

Grade: B+

Be sure to send us your grades in the comments section!