The 2021 EDGE class is difficult to compare to recent classes. It’s deeper than the 2020 class, but last year possessed a transcendent talent in Chase Young. 2021 currently has no such player, and many are torn on who the top prospect is in the class. While this seems like a negative, it does mean that anyone has a chance to be the first EDGE selected. One player who could surprise and be the first EDGE defender selected in the 2021 NFL Draft is Penn State’s Jayson Oweh.

Related | 2021 NFL Draft: Top 10 edge rusher rankings

Oweh was forced to play with the second unit last season due to the strength of Penn State’s defensive line. However, Yetur Gross-Matos has left for the NFL (selected 38th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft), and now Oweh will take the starting role across from fellow Penn State star Shaka Toney as one of the nations elite pass rush duos. So what can we expect from Oweh? What makes him great, what must he work on, and why is he a dark horse to be the first edge rusher drafted?

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Where Jason Oweh excels

Athletic ability and size

Oweh is a game-changing athlete. In an interview with Chris Hummer of 247sports, Oweh claims to run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, 4.11-second shuttle, 36.5′ vert, and a 10″-7′ broad jump. Those numbers would be elite testing for a wide receiver. They’re unimaginable for a 6’5″ 257-pound edge rusher. I would recommend taking these numbers with a grain of salt, as they’re incredibly unlikely. However, if Oweh can even come close to putting on a show like this in Indianapolis, expect him to be a very high selection.

First step/explosiveness

One thing was obvious early in Oweh’s tape; his elite first step off the line of scrimmage. I wouldn’t say he does an elite job timing the snap, but his ability to eat space between him and opposing lineman is very impressive. So despite not getting off the line early, he’s still getting into the backfield quickly. You can see this against tackles, but it’s very evident against interior linemen.

Flexibility

Oweh is never going to turn a corner like Von Miller or Brian Burns, but for someone of his size, he’s shown impressive flexibility in his ankles, hips, and shoulders. When pass-rushing, his go-to move is a shoulder dip. He closes the distance between offensive tackles and himself quick enough that all he needs to do is dip around them before they can get a good punch. It’s simple but effective and makes use of all his impressive physical tools.

Run defense upside

Oweh is by no means an elite run defender. He lacks experience defending the run, as he worked in the second rotation. A season as a full-time starter will shine a light on whether or not he can be considered a good or better run defender. However, he has shown the consistent ability to disengage from blocks and use his length to make a tackle.

Where Oweh can improve

Pass rush plan

Most of Oweh’s weaknesses are technical issues, starting with his pass-rushing. He has the physical tools to be one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers, but outside of his shoulder dip he rarely showed any pass rush moves. He would attempt the occasional spin move, but he wouldn’t gain ground and just end up spinning in place. He must show a wider array of weapons at his disposal if he’s to fully utilize his dominant physical traits.

Edge setting/functional play strength

Oweh does a good job turning his natural athletic ability into power, however, if he fails to build up momentum he can struggle to create movement. His base isn’t very powerful, and he can be driven off the ball when an OL gets their hands on him first. This is something that can be fixed, and with proper coaching on his leverage, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

2021 NFL Draft overview

Penn State’s Oweh is an elite physical specimen, who will get his first shot at a starting spot this season. As a rotation player last season, he provided a massive impact for the Nittany Lions. Now that Gross-Matos has left for the NFL, expect Oweh to enter the spotlight as one of the nation’s premier pass rushers.

Despite elite size and athletic ability, Oweh is not without flaws. A lack of experience makes him raw. He wins using his athletic ability but has work to do with his technique. Both his pass rush plan and run defense have room to grow, but I believe a heavy influx in playtime will help smooth out some of the rougher edges. In an EDGE class that has no obvious Alpha, don’t be surprised if Oweh puts together an impressive season and is the first edge rusher selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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