Most seasons in the NFL, there tends to be a consensus No. 1 overall player, excluding quarterbacks. Sure, draftniks will quibble over a player here and there, but often that top player entering the season remains so barring a staggering drop in production or serious injury. Jadeveon Clowney was the top dog coming into his draft season and even with a huge drop in production and injuries, remained the No. 1 pick in most people’s eyes. Nick Bosa was that guy coming into the 2018 season, and despite a serious core muscle injury that sidelined him for most of the season, he has remained the top overall non-quarterback on nearly every draft board I’ve seen. So why are we talking about him as a possibility at eighth overall?
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Height: 6036 (6 feet, 3 3⁄4 inches) | Weight: 263 pounds
2016 Stats: 17 Solo Tackles, 29 Total, 5.0 Sacks, 2.0 TFL
2017 Stats: 19 Solo Tackles, 34 Total, 8.5 Sacks, 7.5 TFL
2018 Stats: 11 Solo Tackles, 14 Total, 4.0 Sacks, 2.0 TFL
Current Draft Projection: First Overall
Some notes from his team profile here:
2017: All-American (AFCA), Big Ten’s Smith-Brown defensive lineman of the year; All-Big Ten Conference (Coaches & Media), Academic All-Big Ten, OSU Scholar-Athlete 2016: Freshman All-American (ESPN), OSU Scholar-Athlete
Just like now, Bosa was highly regarded coming out of high school. A five-star prospect in his recruiting class, rating as the top defensive end prospect by nearly everyone, Bosa has only ever been considered one of the best. He also comes with NFL bloodlines. His father, John, was a first-round draft pick in 1987, while his older brother Joey was the third overall pick by the Chargers in 2016. He also has an uncle in former first-round linebacker Eric Kumerow.
With good size, general athletic ability, technique, and hand usage, it’s hard to come up with reasons on tape that you wouldn’t rate Bosa as your top player. Like his brother, he has fantastic bend for a player of his size, and his explosiveness is fantastic. He finds his way into the backfield with an array of polished pass rushing moves, varying them depending on the situation and opponent and changing them up to keep blockers on their heels. There are no issues with functional strength, ability to use counters, or deficiencies in one phase of defense or the other. He’s not a top prospect for nothing.
So back to that initial question, why are we talking about Nick Bosa as a possibility at eighth overall if he’s this strong of a prospect? Well, as great as his tape is, it isn’t without wrinkles. The similarities with his brother and father haven’t ended just yet, and like those two we aren’t talking about a speedy pass rusher who you’ll see chasing down running backs on the backside like Jadeveon Clowney or Myles Garrett. And speaking of those two, each of them, along with Mario Williams—who also went first overall—ran in the 4.5, 4.6, and 4.7 range respectively. Bosa is more likely to run in the mid 4.8s, just like his father and brother. His other athletic traits will still keep him in the conversation as an elite athlete, but that’s going to be a concern.
Another concern he shares with both his relatives is a troubling injury history. Nick Bosa enters the 2019 draft injured, Joey Bosa made a Pro Bowl after a massive season in 2017, but injuries have been the real story of his short career so far. John Bosa’s career ended due to repeated injuries and surgeries in only three seasons. It’s even worse if you consider his mother’s side, as Eric Kumerow also struggled with injuries in his short NFL career. Nick Bosa is his own man, but the similarities in physical traits and durability are pretty glaring in this instance. While athletic testing will favor him, teams who utilize production analytics will likely be less than impressed with him as well.
Position Specific Traits
As mentioned before, Bosa has a talent for breaking away from his blockers. Whether it’s his elite, signature explosiveness, bending the edge, using his hands to powerfully force blockers away, or a myriad of other ways, Bosa knows what he’s doing as a pass rusher. I wouldn’t put him on the same level as his brother was, but he’s still a very talented prospect that, when healthy, should be able to significantly improve the front seven of whoever drafts him.
Gap sound and technically proficient, Bosa doesn’t struggle in knowing where he’s supposed to be in the run game nor getting there. His tackle and TFL numbers weren’t gaudy, so there’s a lot of projection based on the traits he exhibited rather than pure production.
I'm betting Nick Bosa runs right about the same time that big brother and daddy did. Like them, he has a lot of positive athletic traits, especially for his size, but speed? Not one of them. pic.twitter.com/X2bWK9MGGc— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) December 25, 2018
Bosa flashes elite explosion, above average agility, and great functional strength to go along with prototypical NFL size. His speed is not as impressive, which may turn some off, but I expect him to rate right about where his brother and father did when they came out which is just north of elite athletically overall.
Look, I’m not going to be the guy sitting here trying to be all contradictory and stating that the entire draft community at large is wrong for projecting Nick Bosa first overall. I will, however, point out that it isn’t as crazy to state that he could fall out of not only that spot but the top five. The only three pass rushers that went with the top pick all rated as 97th (Jadeveon Clowney), 99.9th (Myles Garrett), and 100th percentile (Mario Williams) athletes when they were drafted. The bar isn’t set just at being an elite athlete, but being one of the best ever. With Nick Bosa’s speed not being top notch, I don’t see him reaching those heights. Add in the injury history, and teams may shy away even if the medicals check out at the Combine.
For the Lions, he’d be hard to resist if he lasts until that eighth overall pick, but you’d have to question the logic of taking an oft-injured pass rusher to replace Ezekiel Ansah. The team already knows how difficult it is to generate a pass rusher without a reliable top threat. Adding another that could potentially devastate opposing offenses but could also be completely ineffective due to game day inactivity or having to be on a pitch count is something I’m not willing to spend much energy on.