The Dallas Cowboys had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last season. This unit gave up an average of 158.8 yards on the ground to opposing offenses per game in 2020.
To address their defensive issues, the Cowboys fired their defensive coordinator of a single year in Mike Nolan and replaced him with former Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. Dallas also added veterans Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban to the interior of their defensive line via free agency.
But it was the 2021 NFL Draft where the biggest impact was made to revamp the Cowboys’ defense. With what ended up being 11 total draft picks, Dallas opted to use eight of those selections on the defensive side of the ball. That included their first six choices in the draft starting with the selection of Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick.
The first choice to address the needs along the Cowboys’ defensive line didn’t take place until the third round. That’s when Dallas made UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa their selection with the 75th overall pick.
Here’s what Pro Football Focus revealed about Odighizuwa in their recent article titled 2021 NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams.
“No interior defensive lineman was more dominant at the Senior Bowl than Odighizuwa. He was the highest-graded player at the position both during the week of practice and in the game itself, winning with power and quickness. Odighizuwa also has four seasons of solid-run defense grades on his resume from his time at UCLA.”
The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Odighizuwa recorded 30 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks in seven games for the Bruins as a senior in 2020. The year before, he played in 12 games and posted 46 combined tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
According to NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein, Odighizuwa fits best in the NFL as a base end or at the three-technique in four-man fronts. That sort of versatility falls in line with the Cowboys planning to play a base package that looks more like a 3-4 formation. But they will have four-down men in Nickle coverage according to Quinn.
Odighizuwa seems to fit a very similar mold of other recent high-draft choices at defensive tackle in Trysten Hill, the Cowboys second-round selection in 2019, and Neville Gallimore, the team’s third-round pick in 2020.
But both HIll and Gallimore have lost their sponsors in former defensive coordinators Rod Marinelli and Mike Nolan respectively. Whereas Odighizuwa has been handpicked for Quinn’s defensive scheme.
Osa Odighizuwa led a solid run defense at UCLA and should help to do the same as a versatile defensive piece for a Dallas Cowboys team in desperate need of consistent disruptors along the line. In fact, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah believes Odighizuwa could ultimately end up being the Cowboys’ best pick out of this draft class.