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2021 NFL draft: Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike flashes fascinating upside

Eric Edholm
·5 min read
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Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

44. Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike

6-foot-3, 290 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.90 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Slightly undersized 2020 opt out who reminded observers of his talent at the Senior Bowl

Games watched: USC (2019), Arizona (2019), BYU (2019), Oregon (2019)

The skinny: He was a 3-star Rivals recruit out of Texas powerhouse Allen High School just outside Dallas. He redshirted in 2016 and entered the mix in 2017, playing in 12 of 13 games (four starts) and making 16 tackles (3.5 for losses) and two sacks. In 2019, Onwuzurike collected 45 tackles (six for losses), two sacks and one blocked kick in 13 games (12 starts), earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Onwuzurike opted out of the 2020 regular season and declared early for the 2021 draft. He attended the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Plays with a physical mindset. Very good strength — can root down against powerful blockers and hold his ground. Has the upper-body strength to pop with his initial punch and bench press his opponent. Can overwhelm single blockers.

Really good wingspan (80 1/8 inches) for his height. Big hands (10 1/4 inches) that can lay the wood. Well developed upper half. Well-muscled physique with little to no extra weight.

Impressive athlete for a man who played a lot of nose tackle. Nice, light feet — stays limber while maintaining his base. Flashes some exciting burst and balance to get into the backfield and work down the line. Will make some plays in pursuit. Shoots off the line and can stress lumbering interior blockers.

Watch this rep against BYU in 2019 where Onwuzurike (No. 95) dispatches the left guard, then spins inside to split the gap between the center and left guard to pressure and speed up QB Zach Wilson's throw:

Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike has some nice pass-rush potential, as he displays on this spin move.
Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike has some nice pass-rush potential, as he displays on this spin move.

Played out of position at nose tackle about a third of his snaps in 2018 and 2019 and held up well. Looks like a more natural penetrating 3-technique.

Turned in strong outings against some well-respected lines, including USC, Stanford and Boise State in 2019. Came on strong at the ends of his final two college seasons. Quality tackler who typically brings down the ballcarrier if he’s within reach. Blasted through for a blocked punt against Arizona and looks like he could do it at the NFL level.

Good Senior Bowl showing — no rust evident after missing 2020 season. Looked quick and disruptive in one-on-one drills and seemed to be the lone D-lineman to consistently give Wisconsin-Whitewater C-OG Quinn Meinerz issues during practice.

Downside: Inconsistent performances throughout his career — looks dominant one game, ordinary the next. Flash player whose performance can wane one series to the next. Still learning how to rush the passer. 

Production solid but hardly eye-popping — seven sacks and zero forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and batted passes in more than 1,000 defensive snaps in college. Not as disruptive as you’d like from a potential 3-tech.

Can be undisciplined at times. Rushes wide of his lane. Ends up on the ground a handful of times per game. Might freelance and guess too much.

Slightly undersized. Somewhat unusual build with thin ankles and short arms (32 1/2 inches). Might be close to maxed out at 290-pound range. Not likely to be more than a third-down rusher as a nose tackle and could lack ideal length to be a 3-4 defensive end. High pad level for his average height.

Positional versatility appears to be limited. Missed a year of on-field development with opt-out season. Turned 23 in March — bit of an older prospect.

Best-suited destination: Onwuzurike can develop into a disruptive interior penetrator in a slanting, attacking front. He might need some time to hone his craft and figure out where best he fits, but he has above-average to very-good starter potential.

Did you know: As a junior in high school, Onwuzurike was a teammate of Kyler Murray in 2014, as the Allen Eagles won the Texas state title and finished No. 4 in the country in the final USA Today poll. After Murray graduated, Onwuzurike was named the Dallas area’s Defensive Player of the Year by the Dallas Morning News in 2015.

Player comp: Javon Hargrave

Expected draft range: Round 2

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