Back in September when the college season was just kicking off, many considered Ohio State’s Joey Bosa as the presumptive number one overall pick come April. Fast forward eight months later, and Bosa is out of the running to cash in on his preseason distinction. For Bosa, and the rest of the top non-quarterback prospects, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles trading to the top of the draft introduces even more mystery to where they could eventually end up.
While there are dozens of factors Joey Bosa couldn’t control during his junior season and subsequent draft preparation, the one thing that remains constant is his on-field performance. As a two-time consensus All-American, Bosa’s preseason reputation was earned with good reason. In 2014, Bosa was credited with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. In 2015, his production looked decidedly less impressive, totalling only five sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
Like most top prospects heading into the constant probing and critiquing during draft season, questions around Bosa’s upside are beginning to drown out the praise from years prior. Can he be the next Von Miller or Khalil Mack, or should expectations be placed a lot lower on the former Ohio State Buckeye?
Joey Bosa | DL | Ohio State
Tale of the tape:
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 269 lbs.
- Arm: 33 ⅜”
- Hands: 10 ¼”
- 40-yard: 4.86 sec.
- 3-cone: 6.89 sec.
- 20-yard: 4.21 sec.
- 60-yard: N/A
- Vert: 32”
- Broad: 120”
- Bench: 24 reps
Kicking off Bosa’s appeal is his ideal and balanced frame. He’s the not-too-hot porridge when it comes to defensive lineman. Apart from being 6’5”, nothing particularly stands out about Bosa, physically. His combine numbers confirmed his athletic ability and he didn’t introduce any anomalies that didn’t show up on tape. Although this might sound like a knock on the lock top 10 pick, it isn’t. Bosa was once considered a slam dunk top three pick until only recently and there were never any question about his physical ability. Even though Bosa tested out as expected, there were perhaps some evaluators who were hoping for a surprise (after all, everyone loves a surprise).
When looking at what Bosa does have, it’s fairly safe to assume he’ll have success in the NFL. It’s very apparent Bosa knows what he’s doing from his usual spot on the left side of the defense. He is adept at using his hands to cut down offensive lineman’s arms, dipping his shoulders to bend the edge, and locking out his elbows to anchor against the run. It’s almost boring to evaluate Bosa on a play to play basis because he’s so technically sound, especially against the run.
While Bosa’s game may not light anyone’s hair on fire, opposing offensive coordinators made it a point to not challenge the sleeping giant. The left side of Ohio State’s offensive line became a no-run zone for many college teams facing Bosa - and for good reason. Bosa’s ability against the run is anything but boring from the perspective of the running back. Using his tree trunk arms, Bosa gave up little to no ground against collegiate right tackles, and even less qualified tight ends, and was typically able to shed blockers at will.
When the game-planning shifted away from Bosa’s side, his high motor and play awareness made him an excellent back-side run defender. He often tracked down indecisive running backs who didn’t make a move quickly enough up the field. Patience remained a big part of Bosa’s game while at OSU. He never bit too hard one way or another against zone reads, and was always at home against reverses and mis-direction.
As a pass rusher, Bosa is equally textbook, but has more room for improvement. Foundationally, Bosa hits all the marks a savvy pass rusher must achieve. He’s good at anticipating the snap and displayed an effective shoulder dip to bend the edge. His aforementioned hand use also comes in play as a pass rusher, where he often would take away an offensive lineman’s arms so blockers couldn’t gain any control against him.
To expand on his aforementioned room for improvement as a rusher, Bosa’s deficiencies are part athletic and part technical. While he shows the ability and awareness to bend the edge and not let pass rushers control his movements, Bosa’s lack of ideal explosiveness stunts his upside from the edge. Typically when Bosa succeeds as a rusher off the edge, he does so when correctly timing the snap and getting the offensive lineman on his heels. When he doesn’t properly time the snap, though, he’s giving the offense a free 5 yards.
Against Michigan State, Bosa jumped offsides three times while not recording one sack. The other aspects of Bosa’s pass rush ability could be improved with further refinement. In 2015, Bosa appeared too eager to beat tackles off their outside should and would often run himself out of the play. Bosa could stand to utilize inside counters more often, which would make him less predictable as a pass rusher.
There shouldn’t be any controversy about whether or not Joey Bosa can find success in the NFL. He’s big, quick, and a good enough technician to be a day one contributor on an NFL team. The biggest question about his game is his ability as an edge rusher in the NFL. Most teams will have to concede that even if Bosa ends up being a great player, he won’t be by winning in the same manner as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.
While Bosa may not be the type to make a permanent home on the NFL’s sack leaders list, he is a player who will become an essential starter in the right defense. He shares a lot of his player DNA with the Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett, and fits the mold of a base 4-3 defensive end with the ability to flex into defensive tackle against passing situations. With the Baltimore Ravens rumored to transition into a hybrid 4-3 defense, Joey Bosa would offer a good fit to play alongside Terrell Suggs, and even possibly extend the 6-time Pro Bowler’s career by a few seasons.