NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2018. This is the first in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason. Click through the tabs below to see all of them.
Around this time last year, we dubbed the upcoming college football season "The Year of the Quarterback." There were several high-profile passers at big-time programs, and that had personnel evaluators around the NFL very excited. This year, I believe a different position is set to dominate.
The buzz has already started building about the special group of defensive linemen around the country at the collegiate level. The name at the top of the list is a familiar one -- Ohio State's Nick Bosa. Yes, he is the not-so-little brother of Chargers defensive end and former Buckeye Joey Bosa. I recently studied three of Nick's game tapes from last season, and here is my First Look scouting report.
Nick Bosa, junior defensive end, Ohio State
Height, weight: 6-foot-4, 263 pounds (school measurements).
2017 statistics: 34 tackles (16 for loss, including 8.5 sacks), 1 forced fumble, 2 passes defensed.
Game tape watched: Michigan State (Nov. 11, 2017), Wisconsin (Dec. 2, 2017), USC (Dec. 29, 2017; live and on tape).
What I liked: There's plenty to like about Bosa's game. Let's start with his ability to rush the passer. He has a quick get-off on the snap of the ball and can beat opponents in a variety of ways. He has the same nifty swipe move that his brother uses to torture NFL offensive tackles. He also has a nasty inside counter move to go along with impressive power to bull blockers right into the quarterback's lap. He plays with tremendous effort and has made impact plays in every big game.
Against the run, he has plenty of strength to stack and hold the point of attack. He rarely exposes his chest to blockers, and that keeps him from getting stuck on blocks. He has the quickness to close from the backside and he never stops pursuing the ball-carrier. He has the size to hold up at defensive end at the next level, but he's athletic enough to stand up and play outside linebacker if needed.
Where he needs to improve: Bosa is a complete player with no glaring weaknesses. The one area where I would like to see some improvement is in misdirection or bootleg recognition. He will get fooled on occasion and give up contain. This is tough to get too upset about when you don't know what his assignment is from afar. He will also get washed out by angle blocks on occasion, but that was a rare occurrence in the three games I studied. Ohio State uses a lot of defensive linemen in its rotation, and that allows Bosa to remain fresh throughout the game. Due to some personnel losses, I imagine he will receive more snaps in the upcoming campaign. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the increased workload.
Biggest takeaway: Every opposing team tries to throw multiple blockers at Bosa throughout the game, and he still finds his way to the quarterback. It doesn't matter if he's being doubled by a tight end or chipped by a running back -- he just refuses to be blocked. He's one of the best pure pass rushers I've evaluated. I've seen guys with more size or explosiveness, but his innate feel and polished technique put him in the elite class.
He reminds me of: This one is easy -- my comp for him is Joey Bosa. He looks just like his brother and even wears the same jersey number (97) for the same program. His body control, balance and hand moves are identical to Joey's. Nick might not quite have the same size (Joey was 6-5, 269 coming out of OSU and is currently listed at 280), but he's just as dominant at the collegiate level. If I were to go outside the family, I would compare him to Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence. They have a similar frame and pass-rush prowess.
I can't wait to see him play: Penn State (Sept. 29) and Michigan (Nov. 24). The Big Ten East Division is loaded with top-tier teams this fall, and I can't wait to see how Bosa does in these particular matchups. The stage will be huge for both of these contests, and that is typically when Bosa takes his game to a new level. Now, there isn't really a marquee one-on-one matchup on the board for Bosa ... unless Ohio State faces a very talented Wisconsin offensive line in the Big Ten title game.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.