Make no mistake about it, the Dallas Cowboys went into the 2021 NFL Draft with a plan. After years and years of offensive stockpiling, the team put together one of the most defensive heavy drafts this organization has ever orchestrated. This marks the first time in team history that the Cowboys used their first six picks of the draft on defensive players.
Not only were the Cowboys focused on addressing the defensive side of the ball, but they attacked the draft with specific ideas about what they wanted. Bigger, faster, and stronger was the theme as each new pick sent a clear message that the player personnel department was going to do everything they could to provide new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with the tools he needs to fix the defense.
When they have a very specific shopping list, it's hard to find everything they need, but the Cowboys managed to pull it off by employing two very useful tactics - patience and risk taking.
The front office was not going to give away additional draft capital in order to move up to take a player they absolutely had to have. And many times throughout the draft, it appeared as if some great prospects were snatched up right before they were up. The Cowboys didn't panic. Instead they kept every one of their picks (and actually gained one by trading back) and calmly went about their business. And that business consisted of taking some calculated risks to collect some high-upside players.
These risks started early by selecting two extreme talents in LB Micah Parsons and CB Kelvin Joseph who both come with some maturity issues. Should these players get their character concerns worked out, they have the potential to be defensive stars.
But the goodness doesn't stop there. When the Cowboys selected UCLA's defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa in the third round, it again had that same feel as the previous two selections. He's a good player, but was he really the most talented guy available? While it's hard to know right now, there are some arguments to be made that suggest the Cowboys might've landed them a possible steal.
Osa was a victim of circumstance. A circumstance that saw him absorbing blocks in a very ineffective Bruins defense. He was moved all over in a 3-4 scheme, and at times he looked like a 282 lb defensive lineman playing the nose, because that's exactly what he was doing. One couldn't help wonder how he would've performed with a change of scenary, and that idea came to fruition when Odighizuwa wreaked havoc at the Senior Bowl. From practices to the actual game, Osa put on a show establishing himself as one of the most disruptive players on the field.
If that was a glimpse of what he can do outside of the confines of UCLA, this could be a huge get for Dallas.
What I love about him:
The length. Got to love that length. It's not just that he has long arms and an impressive wingspan, but it's how he uses it that makes the difference. He has a lot of power in his hands and does a nice job using that length to keep blockers away. He also uses his length to disrupt passing lanes. Osu moves very well laterally and does a good job positioning his body to win leverage. He pays attention, always looking for the ball. Despite how he was used, he actually had pretty impressive college production that included 27.5 tackles for a loss. He's extremely reliable, doesn't miss games, and just doesn't come off the field.
What I don't love about him:
His fundamentals aren't quite there yet and he doesn't have much of an pass rushing repertoire. While he gets through the gaps, his re-direct is slow. His length plays a part in him playing upright at times, leaving him vulnerable to losing the leverage battle and being moved around. He's also a little slow in recognizing blocks which will wash him out of plays if he's not careful.
This draft makes the third-straight year the Cowboys have invested in a pass-rushing 3-tech defensive tackle on Day 2 as Odighizuwa joins Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore along the interior defensive line. It might seem like a misuse use of resources considering how crowded the position group is, but this speaks to what the team sees in Osa. With his length and power, not only could he have the upper hand for playing time, but he could end up giving the Cowboys one of the best value picks of the draft.