With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine coming up this week in Indianapolis, draft season is about to get underway in earnest. In fact, many leading draftniks have already released their first (or sometimes even second) mock drafts of the year. One of those pundits, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, believes the Dallas Cowboys will use the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft on All-American defensive end Joey Bosa of Ohio State.
Of the 6’6”, 275-pounder, Brugler said, “The Cowboys need to address the defensive line this offseason,” Brugler wrote, “and if Bosa is still available at pick No. 4, but I don’t think he’ll still be around at pick No. 5. Bosa would be an ideal fit at left end in Rod Marinelli’s scheme with Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory rushing off the right side.”
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller concurs. “Bosa will be the ideal player to line up opposite Randy Gregory,” Miller opined, “but he’s also big and strong enough to line up as a 3-technique pass-rusher. That type of versatility allows him to be a fit in any scheme or defensive front, and to stay on the field for Dallas on three downs.”
However, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Bosa falling two spots farther, to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6. “At this point,” Kiper said, “a team that has multiple needs will find it hard to pass on Bosa, who is the best player on the board here. He comes in with the ability to immediately upgrade the pass rush, and unlike many rookies who can get after the passer, Bosa is also a dynamic run defender.”
There may be some disparity of opinion regarding where Bosa, whose sacks dropped from 13.5 in 2014 to 5.0 a year ago, will open his NFL career. What there isn’t, as Brugler wrote, is any real doubt that Bosa is the top defensive end prospect in the 2016 draft.
“Bosa is very physically gifted, but even better, he knows how to use those gifts, and works his tail off to maximize his potential,” Brugler said. “He might never be a consistent double-digit sack artist in the NFL, but he is scheme versatile with the power, athleticism and instinctive traits to disrupt the pocket.”
In fact, Brugler said he sees more than a bit of Jared Allen in Bosa’s game. “The popular comparison for Bosa will be J.J. Watt,” he wrote, “but Allen makes more sense because of their strengths on the football field. And not the current, over-the-hill version of Allen, but the double-digit sack artist and five-time Pro Bowler that played in Kansas City and Minnesota.”
Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus doesn’t just view Bosa as the top prospect on the defensive front—he sees him as the best player at any position in the 2016 NFL draft. “Bosa’s production was as good as it gets in the country the last two years,” he said, “and he’s the best player in the draft. He’s versatile enough to move around the defensive line, providing strong run defense and an effective pass rusher, though a 4-3 scheme will make best use of his talents.”
However, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com cautions that the sky might just not be the limit where Bosa is concerned. “Bosa has a few more flaws than some may be willing to admit,” Zierlein said, “and his upside might be good rather than great, but his traits and growth potential as a player make him a safe selection.”
It’s true that Bosa could stand to get stronger, and he jumped offside more than a few times at Ohio State. But there’s no chance Bosa falls outside the top 10, and a very real chance he’ll be selected in the top five.
Of course, the scheme versatility that many see in Bosa’s game could spell trouble for his IDP prospects. Should Bosa land somewhere like Dallas, where the team runs a four-man front and Bosa would probably play significant snaps relatively soon, then he’ll easily be the top rookie among defensive linemen in all fantasy formats (as well as a contender to be the first rookie IDP taken at any position in fantasy drafts this summer).
However, should Kiper prove prescient and Bosa find himself making the switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in Baltimore (or elsewhere), then a change in positional designation would mean a sizable hit to his IDP value.
As is often the case with the draft’s top pass-rushing prospects, we just won’t be able to accurately gauge Bosa’s fantasy value until we learn where he’ll be beginning his NFL career.