I really wanted to like Joey Bosa's film more than I actually did. I think that's mostly because the guy has such great technique for a college defensive lineman, and y'all know I'm a sucker for a defensive lineman with good technique.
Bosa does a great job of coming off the ball and getting his hands inside on blockers against the run so that he can control them. He also almost always uses an escape move to get off blocks. His footwork and hand coordination on pass-rush moves are consistent and textbook almost all of the time. I'm telling you, it's almost like the dude is a machine!
And that's kinda where the problem comes in ...
Bosa, for me, is a little too robotic and stiff in the hips like a machine (get it?), especially when he is out in space. He's fine as long as he can do everything like he practiced it, probably a gazillion times, but when it's not as clear cut, he isn't as successful. Don't get me wrong, he was a fantastic college football player. His combination of good technique, size and power gave him some distinct advantages over a lot of the guys who tried to block him at that level. Unfortunately for Bosa, once he gets on the next level that will rarely be the case.
In the NFL, even the worst guys you see on the field are usually better than average in most cases, and by better than average I mean in size, ability and technique. That means Bosa will have to be even better on the next level to be anywhere near as effective as he was in college. I'm not altogether sure that he isn't already close to maxed on both his technique and athletic ability based on his play last season.
I have no idea how Bosa will test at the combine, but if you put a gun to my head I'd predict he will do well. I say that because you can tell this is a guy who has drilled technique in everything he has done for football for a long, long time. Whatever 40 time he runs or however high he jumps you can just about guaran-damn-tee that it will be the best Bosa could have possibly done. The problem is that numbers by themselves don't really tell me whether you are "football athletic." The film may fool you on some things, but in general a guy's athleticism, or lack thereof, shines through.
I wouldn't say Bosa is a bad athlete, but some things left me scratching my head. For instance, this guy just about always lined up as close to the ball as possible without getting called for lining up in the neutral zone. He almost always jumped the snap (which also led to some offsides penalties), and yet even with his really good pass-rush technique he still wasn't able to turn the corner tightly at less than nine yards from the line of scrimmage most of the time. I'm talking about one-on-one situations with offensive tackles, no help from anybody, and yet Bosa is doing all these great things at the beginning of the rush only to eventually get ridden by the quarterback.
Let me make this plain for anybody who may not understand why that is a bad thing. Quarterbacks, even on their deepest dropbacks, generally step up into the pocket at around seven or eight yards depth. From there they can continue to climb the pocket or just stay right there and try to deliver the pass. For edge rushers trying to turn the corner, that means they need to get around the offensive tackle as tightly as possible, around that seven to eight yards of depth to make sure that the quarterback can't step up away from their rush. Bosa would flash at the beginning of so many rushes only to have the quarterback step up to avoid him.
Think about that again.
Bosa lines up as close as you can get to being offsides, jumps the snap, uses his hands well and still had trouble turning the corner consistently at a reasonable depth.
Then there were the times when he just, like, fell down during plays. My old defensive line coach Rod Marinelli hated to turn on the film and see us on the ground. Usually it was a sign of a guy with either bad balance, bad technique or some combination of both. With Bosa it usually wasn't technique, so what's left? Let me tell you, a pass rusher with poor balance is going to have a hell of a time trying to win against offensive lineman in the NFL.
I will say one of the more impressive things about Bosa is that he is plenty physical, though. He has good size at a listed 6'5, 278 pounds, and he knows how to take on blocks with good leverage. He is also, as I mentioned before, a boss with his hands, which allows him to push much bigger people around a lot easier than a guy who just uses brute strength.
Bosa also wasn't shy about using his power on his pass-rush moves whether he was lined up inside or out on the edge. That's always a plus in my book because against better competition even the fastest guys may have a hard time turning a corner. You always like to have some power rushes to even things out and he definitely has that. Without more speed it's going to be harder for Bosa to get offensive tackles to bail out, which will also likely make his power rushes less effective.
It all goes together.
I also have to say that nothing about Bosa really flashed off the screen at me except his technique. That doesn't mean he won't be a good player on the next level, but it probably does mean he probably won't be all that special either.
I also have to say that his effort was a li'l shaky on several occasions. I try not to hold things other people say about these prospects against them, but if you say a guy is "relentless" it's sorta hard not to look for that on film. I didn't see it the same way. I've talked before about my standards for hustle; I think it's something that should just be a given. It's hard to impress me with effort without going above and beyond anyway, and I definitely didn't see that from Bosa. I wouldn't say his effort was terrible. I called out Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald for shaky effort back when I did his draft profile. Bosa's wasn't that bad, and everything worked out for Donald as a pro.
The difference is that Donald, in addition to being a technician like Bosa, was also a freak athlete for a guy his size. I just don't see how Bosa will be all that productive if whichever team that drafts him tries to have him rushing outside, not from what I've seen.
Bosa actually reminds me of former Jets first-round pick Quinton Coples, two big, strong guys with good technique. Bosa's is definitely better, but neither really player is all that special of an athlete on film. If you think my comparison of Bosa to Coples is a diss, you couldn't be more wrong. I've always been a big Coples fan and kinda still am.
At the same time, the reality is Coples was a mid-first-round pick who didn't work out with the Jets and is currently looking for his third team. I feel like Coples is the cautionary tale here because I still firmly believe he can be a good player, either as a 4-3 left defensive end or a 3-4 five technique. It's not really his fault that the guy who drafted him thought otherwise. Coples never should have been an edge rusher in any version of a 3-4. Rex Ryan saw things differently, so here we are. I don't think there is any question that Coples did his best work as a Jet with his hand in the dirt where he could use his size to his advantage and didn't have to try to run around guys in space.
As a left defensive end in a 4-3, you can accept his limitations as an edge rusher because he will kick ass against the run on early downs. Then, you can kick him inside on third-and-long as a pass rusher. If you line him up as 3-4 five technique, he is strong enough to hold up well against the run and his alignment will allow him to use his power more than his speed as a pass rusher, which should be right up his alley. He probably won't be a dominant pass rusher from a five-technique position, but again I'm not sure he was ever going to be that anyway under any circumstances.
Quick, who was I talking about in the last graf, Bosa or Coples?
Hell, I'm not even sure anymore.
I don't think Bosa will be a "bad" player, and, barring injury, I would expect him to play for a long time in the NFL based on his size and technique. I don't see him being any kind of all-star, but he will still probably be a good, productive player.
The problem for him is most teams aren't trying to pick a "pretty good player" in the top of the first round. They want future All-Pros and maybe even future Hall of Famers, and many teams are willing to risk taking a bust if a guy shows he has that kind of potential. While I like Bosa's film from a technique standpoint and acknowledging that his power is also impressive, I would be shocked if any team called his name during the first half of the first round. I don't believe anyone is going to watch the same film I saw and come away thinking he has a ton of untapped potential.
With Bosa I expect him to come in and play at least *OK* from day one, but I don't see him ever being much better than what he is as a rookie. I credit him for just about maxing out his potential by working so hard on his technique, but in the NFL what that really means is while his floor may be higher than a lot of prospects, his ceiling is probably going to be lower than many of the top level guys as well.
For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa play against Hawaii, Indiana, Penn State, Rutgers and Michigan State. Those represented the second, fifth, seventh, eighth and eleventh games on Ohio State's schedule last season, respectively.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown, where they have the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects cut up and ready to go. Also, their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app, which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker" which is pretty damn neat.
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NFL Scouting Combine: The players with the most at stake