As the passing game becomes more important in the modern NFL, so too does stopping the pass. Explosive edge rushers are becoming increasingly coveted for their ability to generate disruption quickly. Perhaps no 2021 NFL Draft edge rusher better fits this mold than Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh. With Oweh now declared for the draft, what does he bring as a prospect, and what can we expect his stock to be?
Jayson Oweh NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 252 pounds
Position: Edge Rusher
School: Penn State
Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
More than almost anything, the Penn State athletic department is known for its ability to develop elite athletes. Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin are two such elite talents to represent the program in recent years. Oweh will be expected to carry on that line, as he’s also a supremely talented player with the physical tools to separate himself.
Oweh was a member of the 2018 recruiting class. In that class, he was the 10th-ranked player at his position and the second-ranked player in the state of New Jersey. Oweh had offers in the bank from Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Georgia. However, he instead opted to stay close to home and signed with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Stepping foot on campus
It was still a two-hour, 43-minute drive to University Park, but it was as close as Oweh could get to a program that could help him reach the NFL.
Oweh’s elite athleticism was apparent even in high school. Then 6-foot-5, 236-pound defensive end had a 4.63 40-yard dash on record and also already had a vertical jump in the mid-30s. As Oweh’s athletic profile developed at Penn State, he only grew more explosive, and his true NFL potential started to show.
Jayson Oweh’s career as a Penn State edge rusher
Joining a position group stocked with next-level prospects like Shareef Miller, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Shaka Toney, Oweh wasn’t a core contributor right away for the Nittany Lions’ defense.
Despite this, he still managed to show some flashes as a reserve player in his first season. His promise shined through most brightly against the Kent State Golden Flashes in September, when Oweh managed to earn both of his sacks for the season.
Oweh didn’t log enough snaps to forfeit his redshirt candidacy in 2018, so Penn State redshirted him, making him a redshirt freshman when he returned in 2019.
Miller left for the draft in April, which opened up some opportunity for Oweh on the defensive side of the ball. Toney and Gross-Matos still manned the starting positions, but Oweh flourished in a rotational role. He appeared in all 13 games, accumulating 21 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pass deflection.
Jayson Oweh’s 2020 season with the Nittany Lions
In 2020, Gross-Matos left for the NFL, leaving Toney and Oweh as the starters at edge rusher. Hopes were high for the athletic duo, and especially Oweh, who seemed primed to breakout. He more than doubled his sack totals from 2018 to 2019, and with another year of refinement, excitement began to brew.
On the surface, the results were less inspiring for Oweh. He went the entire 2020 season without getting a sack.
However, these stats were somewhat misleading. Oweh still provided consistent disruption, and he logged career highs in both tackles and tackles for loss, with 38 and 6.5, respectively. By December, Oweh had an 18% win rate as a pass rusher, one of the highest figures in the Big Ten conference.
Coaches recognized Oweh’s under-the-radar disruptive ability, awarding him with first-team All-Conference honors. Oweh also anticipated that NFL scouts would see the same thing on tape. He officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on December 26.
Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh has exciting athletic foundation in NFL Draft
There’s a lot more that goes into scouting besides athletic quantification. But that’s a good place to start, especially with Oweh. His physical tools might be second to none at his position. At 6-foot-5, 252 pounds, Oweh reportedly has a 4.33 40-yard dash, a 36.5-inch vertical, and a 127-inch broad jump. We’ll need to wait for official confirmation on those numbers at the NFL Combine.
However, watching the tape, it’s easy to see how freakish the Penn State edge rusher is.
Oweh absolutely explodes off the line. That’s even more impressive, considering that he still has room to play lower and improve his leverage.
Oweh’s burst is a problem for linemen. More often than not, he can get a step on blockers right away. Once he has that leverage, he has the torso flexibility and bend to dip inside and crash the pocket. Teams frequently defaulted to quick passes just to combat Oweh’s speed as a pass rusher.
How Oweh’s length compliments his explosiveness
Oweh’s explosiveness is one of his most crucial traits, but his length also supplements his burst well. Oweh is still figuring out how to use his length effectively, but that length allows him to keep himself clean against linemen.
His hands also bring the same speed he molds his game around, although they can be more powerful. Stronger blockers can negate Oweh when they get their mitts on him, but he has a skill set which allows him to elude and shed contact. On top of his explosiveness and flexibility around the edge, Oweh is also incredibly twitchy and abrupt with his lateral movements.
As one might expect from a redshirt sophomore, Oweh is still raw. Although he showed some development in 2020, that’s still the case.
Oweh can be more consistent with his hands, as he sometimes fails to stack pass rush moves after his first attempt. He also needs to add more weight and power to his frame. But Oweh is an incredibly amped-up physical specimen who carries immense potential energy with him on every play.
He needs to learn how to finish successful pass rush reps in sacks, and he can still become a more consistent run defender. But he’s completely and totally saturated with potential, and in the draft, that’s a good investment to make.
Jayson Oweh’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
NFL teams might favor more tangible production from edge rushers in the early rounds this year, but Jayson Oweh provided an impact in spite of his lacking sack totals. He still has room to improve his consistency, but his talent is undeniable. His floor is likely Day 2 or early Day 3, but if he tests like people expect him to at the NFL Combine, he could easily crack the first round.
Those athletic numbers aren’t just a mirage, either. With the right coaching staff, Jayson Oweh can take off at the NFL level. He has both the long-range and short-range movement freedom you want, and he’s also long and rangy. He might be better off on a team where he isn’t a full-time starter right away. Rather, as a pass-rush specialist initially, there’s no reason to keep him off the field.
Any specific team fits schematically?
Teams that need more immediate or future pass-rushing help could especially benefit from Oweh’s athleticism. With the Buccaneers potentially losing Shaquil Barrett, Oweh could thrive under Jason Pierre-Paul’s tutelage in Tampa Bay. Additionally, teams like the Bills, Titans, and Jets could also be interested in Oweh at the end of Round 1.
Teams might be split on where Oweh is as a draft prospect. But there’s no arguing the kind of potential he brings to the fold. Each draft selection is ultimately an investment, made with the presumption that players will grow from their foundation. And Oweh brings one of the best foundations in the 2021 edge class. That alone is worth quite a bit.