Those within the NFL Draft community rave about a prospect’s athletic ability and how their “traits” translate to the NFL level. But at what point should traits outweigh production?
That is the question scouts and general managers ask themselves every year, and this year the question is an obvious one when discussing Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh.
When it comes to measurables, Oweh is everything you want in a modern edge rusher. He gets respected and accounted for by every opposing coach, can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up, possesses a great first-step, explosive athleticism and has the prototypical frame for any evaluator, standing at six-foot-five, 252 pounds, according to the Penn State football website. Not to mention, he was an all-conference selection in 2020.
The Howell, New Jersey native burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2019 recording five sacks on a defense loaded with elite talent. Penn State lost major contributors Yetur Gross-Matos and Cam Brown to the NFL Draft. All-American Micah Parsons decided to opt-out and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, leaving a once stacked Penn State defense in need of a huge season from Oweh.
Sadly, Oweh’s statsheet was a representation of the Nittany Lions season: underwhelming. The redshirt sophomore failed to record a sack in seven games played, as the Nittany Lions, who some thought could win the Big Ten, finished a lowly 4-5.
Despite failing to make an impact in the passing game, Oweh’s top-end athleticism did shine on tape. The 22-year-old accrued an impressive 6.5 tackles for loss in 2020, showing his clear prowess in run defense and an ability to chase down any ball carrier. However, teams aren’t salivating over Oweh’s run-game abilities.
Many think he can be a transformative pass-rusher at the next level and he routinely shows up as a top-40 selection in mock drafts because of his natural talent. But at what point in a depth-filled NFL Draft are you willing to gamble on a player with seven collegiate sacks, no matter how gifted. That is the predicament 32 teams and hundreds of front office personnel are facing when deciding where to put Oweh on their boards this offseason.