2021 NFL Draft: Oregon State’s Rashed Jr. a first-round rusher?

OSU's Hamilcar Rashed Jr. was an elite pass rusher in 2019 and could become a first-rounder in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with some top-flight pass-rushing prospects, and Oregon State’s Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is one of the best available. With a premium placed on pass rushers in the NFL nowadays, players like Rashed will always be in high demand on draft day. The soon-to-be senior edge rusher was one of the most productive and exciting players in the Pac-12 and all of college football in 2019.

Rashed has gone from a little-known Pac-12 defender to showing plenty of potential and has an athletic skill-set destined to improve each time he takes the field. Behind Rashed and an improved defense, Oregon State will look to unseat the hated rival Oregon Ducks and claim a Pac-12 title in 2020. His lightning quickness and relentless energy have provided a real jolt to the Oregon State football team and could soon land him as an early first-rounder.

Below, I will take a look at Rashed’s sudden inclusion at the top of 2021 draft boards and the journey that has led him from three-star high school recruit to Oregon State as one of the most feared edge rushers in the nation. Rashed’s meteoric rise in the Pac-12 has led to buzz as a potential top-25 draft pick following the 2020 season. He is a player that college football fans and NFL evaluators will be watching this coming fall very closely.

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Oregon State’s Rashed Jr. a Pac-12 rising star

Rashed was named as a top-10 player in the state of Arizona after recording 100 tackles and 13 sacks as a senior in high school. He enrolled at Oregon State to continue his football career before the 2016 season. After redshirting in 2016, he served as depth until being elevated into the starting lineup for 10 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. The then-redshirt sophomore racked up 12.5 tackles for a loss as a first-year starter and looked like an ascending player for the Beavers.

Everything changed for Rashed as a redshirt junior in 2019. Last season, he broke out in a big way and looked nearly unblockable for the Beavers. He paced the nation with 22.5 tackles for a loss and ranked third-overall with 14 sacks. He was named an Associated Press Second Team All-American for this breakout performance. Rashed racked up five games with multiple sacks and was a steady presence in the opposing backfield all season long. Aside from Ohio State’s Chase Young, Rashed was arguably the second-most impactful edge defender in the country last season.

Despite his monstrous junior season, Rashed still seems to be flying under the radar in terms of the casual college football fan and draft pundit. However, he had been named by ESPN as a preseason All-American, and more accolades should follow with another productive redshirt senior campaign. He has started 21 of 36 games during his career and will be an every-down impact player for the Beavers once again during the 2020 season.

Back in Week 12 of the college season, PFN’s own Tony Pauline mentioned Rashed as one of his 2020 NFL Draft risers heading into the final stretch. Pauline said the pass rusher was “gaining momentum in scouting circles out west.” He also noted that if Rashed can continue to “fill out his frame and keep his quickness,” he has potential as a top-100 player. It’s fair to say that the star Beaver will be a player to monitor closely in 2020 with tremendous upside as maybe even a top-25 prospect overall.

Where he fits in at the next level

Rashed joins a star-studded group of talented Pac-12 defensive linemen and linebackers available for the 2021 NFL Draft. Players such as USC’s Jay Tufele, Stanford’s Thomas Booker, and Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike are among Rashed’s most significant competition to be the first front-seven player drafted from the conference. The 3-4 NFL teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Arizona Cardinals are going to love Rashed. One of the things that will help Rashed the most heading into the draft is his experience at both defensive end and as a standup outside linebacker.

Rashed will be a conversion prospect with a ton of snaps at these two positions, which means he should be able to step in from day one in a 3-4 defense and be an impact player. He does a great job keeping his eyes in the backfield and can track plays behind the line of scrimmage. Rashed also shows excellent anticipation on the snap count, combined with a lightning-quick first step, and he is almost always too quick for his offensive tackle counterpart. His explosion off the snap makes it nearly impossible to put hands on him to block. That ability was evidenced in this sack against Arizona State last season.

Additionally, Rashed possesses tremendous closing speed once he identifies the ball carrier and is a sure tackler from the edge rusher position. Once Rashed gets his hands on a ball carrier, the play is officially over.

Draft positioning and future pass-rushing great

The Oregon State product recently spoke about his decision to return to Corvallis for his redshirt senior season. He suffered a thumb injury late in the year against Arizona State, which impacted his performance down the stretch. He believed that would affect his draft position; therefore, Rashed announced he would not be entering the 2020 NFL Draft. He also said that he promised himself the opportunity to be a first-round selection, and believes he can achieve that by staying healthy and being a force once again in 2020.

The Beavers have had 16 front-seven players drafted into the NFL since 2000, including former Baltimore Ravens’ defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and former Minnesota Vikings’ defensive end Scott Crichton. However, Rashed carries by far the highest upside of any Oregon State defensive player included in this group. Following the 2020 season, Rashed will have cemented himself as one of the best pass rushers in Beavers’ history and maybe one of their top defensive players of all-time.

In terms of a player comparison, Rashed’s play is reminiscent of current New York Giant free agent and pass-rushing specialist, Markus Golden. His quick-twitch and closing speed will get him on the field immediately, but like Golden, he could see limited usage in a situational role at the beginning of his career. Golden enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 as a full-time starter for the Giants. He racked up 72 tackles and ten sacks as an every-down player after playing sparingly during his first few seasons in the league due to inconsistency and injury concerns. However, he looks poised to cash in as a free agent following a season in which he was one of the better pass rushers in the NFC East.

Rashed could follow along the same career trajectory as Golden and eventually work into an every-down role. However, he is more explosive than Golden with a quicker first step and will shine early on during distinct pass-rushing situations, at least until he adds a little weight to his frame. Rashed will need to get bigger to hold up on a snap-to-snap basis against some of the bigger offensive tackles in the league. Once he does that, Oregon State’s Hamilcar Rashed Jr. will be a complete player and an early-round 2021 draft pick. His best fit is likely to be a standup edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme, but he should make a sizable contribution to any defense.

Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter.

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