2021 NFL Draft- Rush OLB
Azeez Ojulari, R-SO, Georgia
Ojulari had a breakout season and became one of the prolific pass-rushers in college football. With the evolution of today's passing games, teams will covet what he can bring to the table. I don't think he slides into Round 1, but he definitely won't last long on Day 2. He fits best in a 3-4 as a pass rushing LB.
William Bradley-King, SR, Baylor
Bradley-King became a prolific pass-rusher and all-conference player at Arkansas State and transferred to Baylor for his final season. Baylor did not have a good season in the COVID year, so you may not be as familiar with his work. He finished his career with over 100 tackles and 19 sacks while showing some ability to cover. Make no mistake about it though, his calling card is his pass rushing. At 248 lbs, he's a little too big to be an off-ball OLB and very much on the smaller side of defensive ends in today's NFL-- making him an almost perfect tweener. He's a mid-round player with the floor of a rotational pass-rusher.
Joe Tryon, JR, Washington
Tryon is one of the guys fighting Ojulari for the top spot at this position. In his favor, Tryon has more experience, versatility, and better size. He can play the stand-up pass-rusher and easily stick his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end. A disadvantage for Tryon is the fact that he sat out 2020, so you don't quite know what you'll be getting. He has a chance to come off the board late in Round 1 and be the first Hybrid OLB/DE selected.
Patrick Johnson, SR, Tulane
Two-time all conference player in 2 years as a starter. His size makes him a great fit as an edge defender. Right now, I would put him primarily as a Rush OLB and occasionally let him put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end. He also has the frame to be able to put on some weight if a team needs him to. That kind of versatility along with his collegiate production tends to get drafted. Johnson probably had more hype before the season but is still a late Day 2 or early Day 3 prospect (think 3rd-5th rounds).
Joseph Ossai, JR, Texas
Ossai has many athletic traits that NFL teams desire. His best trait is his pass-rushing and he has the flexibility to do that from both a two-point stance and with his hand in the ground. 2019 was his best year with 90 tackles and 5 sacks. He also came up with 5 sacks in the shortened 2020 season. He's an All-American with a very high ceiling, but the question will be if he actually reaches that potential.
Shaka Toney, SR, Penn State
A common theme at this position is pass-rushing, especially in today's league. Toney may not be a houshold name, but he can get to the quarterback. He finished his career with the 8th most sacks in Nittany Lion history. His speed and athleticism will not wow you, but he gets the job done. I've seen him projected as high as round 2, but he's a 3rd-5th guy in my mind because he projects best as a rotational piece.
Jordan Smith, R-JR, UAB
6'7" athletic pass rushers have a place in the league. The combination of length and speed is difficult to pass up, and Smith is a good football player to go with it. UAB has had one of the best Group of Five defenses over the past couple seasons, and this guy was a huge part of that. In 2 seasons for the Blazers. he had nearly 100 tackles, 27 TFL, and 14.5 sacks.
Chris Rumph II, SR, Duke
Rumph is listed as a defensive end on the Duke roster but is way too small for the position in the pros. He has the length of dominant pass-rushers and compiled 17.5 sacks at Duke. He should be a good 3-4 rush OLB eventually but will have to begin his career on a rotational basis until he improves against the run and adds more power to his base. Full potential is high but whoever picks him will need some patience in getting him to that point. Likely a mid-round pick.
Quincy Roche, SR, Miami
Roche transferred from Temple after a breakout 2019 season-- in which he recorded 13 sacks-- and quickly became an essential part of the Hurricanes' defense. In one season in Miami, he finished 3rd in the ACC in TFL and tied for the conference lead in forced fumbles while starting all 10 games. He and Jaelan Phillips formed a tandem that wreaked havoc for opposing offenses. Roche is a very balanced defender who will probably start out as a situational pass rusher; given his 30 career sacks in college. He's a little undersized for a traditional 4-3 DE but fits perfectly as a 3-4 OLB on the line of scrimmage.
Jamar Watson, SR, Kentucky
Similar measurables as Rumph with a stronger base. Tackling machine who is 5th in school history in sacks. Plays with a good motor and can even drop into coverage. Length, power, and disengaging blocks are his main issues and will factor into where he is picked. Also needs to develop more pass-rush moves since he relies mainly on his speed.
Hamilcar Rashed, SR, Oregon State
Good pass rusher who may lack length. Looks skinnier than he actually is. 6th in school history in TFL and sacks. Rashed as been an impressive player and may not have even reached his full potential yet. He's also not as athletic off the edge as you'd expect from his position. Great fit for 3-4 rush backer who can set the edge. Flexibility may be an issue and cause him to drop to late rounds or even free agency. Otherwise, he's a round 2 or 3 pick.