Why Owusu-Koramoah might be the perfect pick for WFT at 19 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Football Team's defense was among the NFL's best in 2020. But, if Jack Del Rio's unit wants to turn from really good to great in 2021, the group will need better play from its linebacker position.
Washington holds the No. 19 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, a selection many draft experts believe the team could use on either an offensive lineman or a linebacker. And, if they do ultimately choose to address the latter position with that selection, there's one specific player that could be a great fit.
Enter Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Owusu-Koramoah is a little smaller than most NFL linebackers. His size is one reason why some experts believe the Notre Dame product could be better suited as a safety at the professional level.
However, what Owusu-Koramoah lacks in size is made up by his incredible sideline-to-sideline speed, instincts, physicality and explosiveness.
During a pre-draft conference call last month, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah raved about the linebacker's versatility.
"You've got Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame who's going to be a fascinating player who played like 210, 215 pounds, but just runs all over the place, makes all kinds of plays," Jeremiah said. "You can deploy him in a lot of different ways, almost function as a strong safety, you can use him as a nickel linebacker."
Additionally, Jeremiah explained why Owusu-Koromoah's strengths fit well with many modern defensive schemes, ones that run a lot of nickel and dime packages. With Owusu-Koromoah's versatility, the 21-year-old can line up as a linebacker in a base formation but also play as a safety in sub-packages that require more than the typical four defensive backs on the field.
Simply put: Owusu-Koramoah never needs to come off the field.
"Just his ability to just run and chase and make plays, as much as you're in sub defense nowadays, to me he's somebody that's just going to be a fun toy for whoever picks him for however you want to deploy him," Jeremiah said.
"You can use him as more of a blitzer one week, turn around, ask him to cover tight ends the next week, turn around ask him just be a force player the next. Positionless football is where we're headed. I think you break the huddle and you don't know where guys are going, what they're doing. It makes things challenging on a quarterback, and he's kind of one of those chess pieces."
That type of impact player is exactly what Washington needs to take its defense to an elite level.
Jeremiah is far from the only draft analyst that thinks highly of the former Notre Dame star. NFL.com writer Lance Zierlein also wrote highly about Owusu-Koromoah, comparing him to Chargers All-Pro Derwin James.
"It's hard to see Owusu-Koramoah's explosive traits, versatility and playmaking ability on display and not get excited about what is to come," Zierlein wrote. "Concerns will be raised about his lack of size and occasional lapses in fundamentals, but neither should detract from his rare potential as a game-changing talent."
For those worried about Owusu-Koramoah's size, consider what Twitter user @BurgundyBlog pointed out. During his time in Carolina, Ron Rivera coached two separate hybrid linebacker/safety prospects.
Those players? Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. Davis turned into an All-Pro under Rivera, while Thompson has turned into one of the Panthers' best defenders.
So, if a player like Owusu-Koromoah is available at No. 19, it would make sense why both Rivera and Del Rio -- both former linebackers themselves -- would be excited about potentially adding him to their defense.
If Washington stays put at No. 19, the franchise will be able to address multiple different positions with that selection. But, if Owusu-Koramoah is still on the board when it comes time for them to pick, Rivera and his staff should strongly consider choosing a unanimous All-American linebacker from Notre Dame.