2021 NFL draft prospects: Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh

·5 min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh

6-foot-5, 257 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.97 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Thrilling athletic specimen with elite potential whose rawness is borne out in a zero-sack 2020 season

Games watched: Ohio State (2019), Indiana (2020), Ohio State (2020), Michigan (2020), Iowa (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 140 nationally), Odafe “Jayson” Oweh received heavy interest out of high school despite only picking up football in 2016 after previously focusing on basketball as his primary sport. He chose the Nittany Lions and appeared in four games as a freshman in 2018, preserving a year of eligibility after making four tackles and two sacks (both in his first college game). Oweh earned an expanded role as a redshirt freshman in 2019, notching 21 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass defended in 13 games (one start). As a redshirt sophomore in 2020, he logged 38 tackles (6.5 for losses) and one pass defended in seven starts, earning first-team all-conference (Big Ten coaches). Following the season, Oweh declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Stunning athletic profile — truly a 1 percenter in a league full of exceptional athletes. Turned in one of the all-time great pro-day performances with stunning numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds), short shuttle (4.15 seconds), 3-cone drill (6.84 seconds) — faster and quicker than many highly rated receivers and running backs. Also vertical jumped an incredible 40 inches and broad jumped 134 inches — also eye-popping numbers.

Tapered physique with extraordinary musculature and terrific weight distribution. Great length — 34 1/2-inch arms on tailor-made NFL EDGE frame. Possesses traits that cannot be taught and will thrive to some degree simply with his rare physical tools.

Explosiveness evident on tape. Quick-twitch athlete who bursts off the line and has not lost a step after adding 25 pounds of bulk over three years. Spent a lot of time developing in the weight room. Great basketball feet to slide laterally — bounces on his toes and can pivot on the fly. Athletic enough to drop into coverage.

Displays some bull-rush potential and is able to convert speed to power. Also can bend around the edge with good balance and carve the corner. Has the potential to develop a nice cross-face inside move with his combination of quickness and strength. Rushed from both sides and from two- and three-point stances. Racks up pressures galore that could become sacks in the NFL with development.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Jayson Oweh #28 of the Penn State Nittany Lions lines up against the Indiana Hoosiers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 16, 2019 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh is about as gifted an athlete as you'll see, even in the NFL. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Dramatic improvement vs. the run. Looked out of place at times in 2019 and was a designated pass rusher that season but showed far better recognition and edge-setting ability than expected last season. Shows propensity to flatten down the line and make tackles from behind as the unblocked man away from the play side. Can disengage from blocks quickly simply with his rare athleticism, with improved leverage or take them on with enough strength to hold his ground.

Relentless motor that runs hot all game. Hustler who keeps churning even when his initial move is stopped. Was used some on special-teams coverage and return units. Humble and willing to put in the time to be great.

Unpolished gem — with good coaching and proper development, the sky's the limit. Determined player whose arrow is pointing way up. Was recruited out of high school by several other academically excellent schools, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Rutgers, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Downside: Crude, rudimentary pass-rush technique. Unrefined hand usage, timing and pass-rush arsenal — moves are segmented and unnatural. Can’t counter well when his initial move stalls. Shunted by power blockers who initiate contact and stall his momentum. Still looks like an athlete chasing quarterbacks and could use more time developing a better plan of attack.

Thin résumé — only seven career sacks, with six coming in his first 14 games. Zero-sack 2020 season and only one sack in his final 12 games. One-year starter with fewer than 800 defensive snaps to date. Rushed primarily from the defensive left side and wasn’t asked to kick inside on passing downs. Has the athletic tools to be a rush linebacker but only dropped into coverage a handful of snaps in his career.

Take-on strength still not ideal — can engage his lower body better, maximize his length and continue working on his leverage and hand use. Can’t shed blocks naturally yet. Turned in subpar bench-press total (21 reps), even with his long arms. Some lower-body stiffness in his tape that belie his testing numbers.

Recognition skills are about what you’d expect from someone with five years of football under his belt. Can fall for misdirection and play action. Will lose the ball at times while battling tackles and tight ends.

Can over-rush and take too wide an angle, running himself out of plays. Sways between proactive and reactive and can appear unsure of himself at times — lacks consistent urgency. Occasionally slow off the ball on quick and silent counts.

Turns 23 years old in December — bit of an older prospect who still requires notable development. Still raw and is more likely to bear fruit in Year 2 than in Year 1.

Best-suited destination: If a team is going to gamble on a pass-rush project, it might as well take a chance on someone as active and athletically blessed as Oweh is. He projects as a 4-3 rush end or as a rush linebacker in an odd front, but wherever he lines up there will be an incubation period required. In time, however, Oweh has Pro Bowl upside if it all clicks.

Did you know: Oweh was on track for a civil engineering degree and enjoys drawing as a hobby, and he has said he would likely go to his home country of Nigeria one day to help build bridges and roads there.

Player comp: Oweh is similar to Marcus Davenport and Jason Pierre-Paul, two other athletically blessed but raw prospects coming out, and his projection likely will fall somewhere between their career arcs to this point.

Expected draft range: First- or early second-round pick