Draftniks are always looking for NFL players to compare college prospects to, and every now and then a player has a perfect pro comparison. But Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is on a different level here; he is so identical to his older brother, Los Angeles Charger Joey Bosa, that they could pass for football clones of each other. The younger Bosa’s strengths and weaknesses are the same as the older’s, and Joey’s success makes Nick a near can’t-miss prospect. He is either the best or second-best prospect in this class, depending on how you view Alabama DT Quinnen Williams, and will likely be drafted first or second overall.
Physically, Bosa is the prototype for a defensive end. He stands 6’4″ 266lbs, giving an inch and three pounds to his older brother. Nick’s arms are 3/8″ shorter than Joey’s, but neither has elite length. The pair’s combine performances were nearly identical, which makes sense.
While Bosa’s burst is not on the level of Von Miller or Myles Garrett, it isn’t bad. One thing that makes Bosa such a great prospect is that he’s never relied on his athleticism to win. It’s always been his superior strength and technique. If he is able to beat a tackle to his rush arc, it is very difficult to stop him, because Bosa’s combination of hip flexibility, hand usage, and football IQ means he is able to diagnose the offensive lineman’s weakness and exploit it in real time.
In 29 college games, Nick Bosa finished with 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. His sack numbers would have been much higher if he hadn’t missed all but three games in 2018 due to a groin injury. He is completely healthy now and should not be affected by the injury during his rookie year.
Just like his brother, Nick tends to struggle when matched up against tackles with long arms and refined technique. Bosa’s short arms make it difficult for him to disengage once a blocker gets into his chest. That coupled with his lack of great explosiveness and speed around the edge means Bosa won’t be able to be effective all the time.
However, Bosa is well aware of his weaknesses as a player, and knows exactly how to make up for them by playing to his strengths. He has a wide variety of pass rush moves and counters, and his strong and fast hands make implementing those moves look easy. He generates plenty of power from speed and displays masterful usage of leverage. Bosa is one of the smartest players in the class, and is constantly working to refine his craft.
Bosa does an excellent job of forcing lineman off-balance, throwing his body into one side of theirs in order to reduce the distance he must travel to get to the quarterback. Bosa knows exactly what his athletic limitations are and is able to minimize them.
Here, the tight end whiffs on a chip, but Bosa is slowed up a bit. He is still able to get the edge on Micheal Deiter, who is expected to be a Day 2 pick next week. Deiter is unable to get his hands on Bosa and gives up the sack.
In this clip Bosa is rushing from the interior, lined up between the right guard and the right tackle, who he immediately splits. He dips his right shoulder just as the guard is trying to punch into his chest, and Bosa slips by without being slowed.
This play is a great example of just how good Bosa is. He doesn’t get the sack but he forces the QB to throw the ball away on first down. The LT doesn’t even have a bad pass set here, Bosa is just able to turn him him to where Bosa is effectively putting all his momentum and power into one side of the LT, which allows him to take a shorter arc to the QB.
Again, just like his brother, he has experience rushing from the inside, lining up against guards and centers, who usually have shorter arms and are slower than tackles. He has also rushed from a two-point stance, although playing him at 3-4 OLB full-time wouldn’t be smart.
Bosa is also a force against the run, as his size and strength gives him a great anchor, even against double teams, and he consistently gets into the backfield and forces the runner to cut back in the opposite direction. His motor is always running, and he has an edge to his game, playing hard until the whistle blows.
For a while, the discussion was Bosa vs. Williams at #1 overall, but it appears that Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray will be the pick. This would leave Bosa on the board for the San Francisco 49ers, who have took a defensive lineman in the first round in 2015, 2016, and 2017, yet none play on the edge, which has lead to a logjam at DT. San Francisco traded for Dee Ford this offseason, which gives them a very nice rusher on one side, but they are still missing a compliment.
Nick Bosa is the dream pick for the Niners, and that dream could very well be a reality now. If the 49ers decide not to to take Bosa, there will be plenty of teams trying to trade up for him, or the New York Jets could just take him at 3 and be thrilled with their good fortune.
Wherever Bosa plays in the NFL, he will be a very consistent rusher who plays the run well. Because of his athletic shortcomings, he doesn’t have the ceiling of someone like Kentucky’s Josh Allen, but his floor is incredibly high, and he is virtually guaranteed not to bust. A team will know exactly what they’re getting with him; a reliable pass rusher who will be a cornerstone of their defense for the next decade.