Jayson Oweh Could Help Solve Minnesota's Pass-Rush Woes

Photo Credit: Matthew O'Haren (USA TODAY Sports)

What if I told you that in this draft the Minnesota Vikings could add a defensive end who measures at 6’5″, 257 pounds with a 40-yard dash that tops out a 4.36 and a vertical jump of 39.5″. Sounds almost too good to be true right? Now, what if I told you that they could trade down in the first round and still acquire this athletic end who just killed his pro day?

If they look to add Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh they would be getting exactly that.

The Vikings’ pass rush last season was flat-out disappointing. After Danielle Hunter injured himself in training camp, they looked to outside help, trading their second-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for star edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. During his six weeks in Minnesota, he had five sacks, finishing as the team’s sack leader before he was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a third-round pick during the bye week.

Without Danielle Hunter drawing double teams on one side, everyone else on the defensive line was ineffective. The Vikings finished with the 28th ranked defensive line, the lowest ranking in Mike Zimmer’s tenure — a reminder of how reliant they were on Hunter and Everson Griffen in the past. In his final press conference of the season, Zimmer told reporters that he would be looking to bolster the pass rush this offseason.

You might be wondering why Oweh hasn’t been in conversations with Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau to be the first defensive end taken off the board in this year’s draft.

One glaring problem might be holding Oweh back from being taken in early on Day 1: He didn’t record a single sack in his final season at Penn State despite playing in seven games.

After recording five sacks in the 2019 season while playing in a rotational role behind Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney, you would think that the redshirt junior would be primed for a breakout as a full-time starter.

While his lack of sacks is concerning, he had a pretty decent year. He recorded career highs in tackles (38) and tackles for loss (6.5) while also finishing with one of the best win rates in the Big Ten (18%). These stats might not pop out as much to someone who just reads the box scores, but coaches certainly noticed as they voted him into the first-team All-Big Ten despite not having a sack.

Oweh gives effort on every single play. There have been instances where he tracks down the ball carrier at the second level to make a stop. Some of his technical shortcomings can be developed at the next level, but you cannot teach effort or pure desire to win.

He is also an excellent run defender, using his incredible length to peel off of blocks and get to the point of attack to wrap up ball carriers. He isn’t just a pass rusher; Oweh is a pure defensive end who looks to do whatever he is asked to do. His improvement as a run defender this season was evident as he recorded 6.5 tackles for loss.

This draft will be one like we have never seen before, with the cancelation of the combine making it harder to gauge an athlete’s raw skills. While people might argue pro days are a decent fill-in, they often slant drills in a player’s favor.

Teams might blanch at Oweh not having a sack this season and fail to take into account his playing style and other numbers, allowing him to fall in the first round. But he would be a perfect player for Patterson to mold into a star defensive end. With the consensus being that both Paye and Rousseau are better edge rushers, we might see Oweh fall to the end of the first round, where the Vikings could move back to recoup some draft capital and pick him up.

Oweh would most likely be a rotational pass rusher while he learns the fundamentals of the position and expands his repertoire, much like Hunter was his rookie year. While Paye might be the safe pick in this year’s class, the sky could be the limit for Oweh.

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