Along with Marcus Davenport and Kylie Fitts, another West-of-the-Mississippi pass-rusher confirmed his Senior Bowl attendance this week: Uchenna Nwosu of USC. Coming into 2017, Nwosu had only posted three sacks and nine tackles for a loss in his Trojan career. This season, he’s recorded 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
On top of that, Nwosu has posted 13 pass deflections this year. While Nwosu is a fine pass-rusher, hit ability to get his hands on passes, both in the passing lane as a rusher and when targeted, translates best to the 3-4 outside linebacker position at the NFL level. Already a linebacker for USC, it’s easy to notice his impact in shallow zone coverages.
He may not be one of the more athletic pass-rushers that we’ve seen in recent years, but he’s a high-motor player who is persistent when pinning his ears back. He may be tapped out in terms of his upside, but he can work his way into a rotation, and special teams, early in his career. This is a prospect who should be a roster lock, no matter if he’s drafted on Day 2 or early Day 3 of the draft in April.
While he posts a ton of pressure, there isn’t that much video of him finishing tackles in the backfield. The highlight of his career came against Arizona State this year when he recorded three straight sacks (twice after winning one-on-ones against their right tackle and once on a scramble) in the fourth quarter.
In November, almost a half-year out from the draft, it’s hard to pin down exactly when Nwosu is going to come off the board. If he has an amazing offseason leading up to April, maybe someone thinks he’s a plug-and-play starter. Until then, assume he’s an outside linebacker who will end up on the second line of a 3-4 defense’s depth chart come September.
Note: Nwosu is listed as an outside linebacker by the Senior Bowl, which means that he will get a lot of off the ball linebacker looks in Mobile. We’ll know after that week in January if teams are looking at him more as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 outside linebacker. (Senior Bowl defenses play 4-3, so he’ll be playing “out of position” while also still getting pass-rushing reps sprinkled in with defensive ends.)