2021 NFL Draft Profile: Levi Onwuzurike

Levi Onwuzurike NFL Draft

Levi Onwuzurike NFL Draft Overview

Position: Defensive Tackle
Height: 6’-3
Weight: 290 pounds
School: Washington

2021 NFL Draft: Levi Onwuzurike Player Profile

Levi Onwuzurike opted out of the 2020 college season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He enters the 2021 NFL Draft as a redshirt senior after three productive seasons for the Washington Huskies. Slightly undersized for an average defensive tackle at the pro level, Onwuzurikes’ college stats don’t jump out. However, on tape, he offers a lot of disruption and is very quick off the snap, especially in pass rush sets. 

Onwuzurike was a highly recruited defensive lineman out of Allen High School, Texas. A three-star recruit of the 2016 class, he committed to Washington over offers from Baylor, Arizona State, and Michigan. After redshirting his freshman season, he played in nine games on the defensive line in his first playing season, compiling two sacks. 

As a redshirt sophomore and junior, Onwuzurike recorded five sacks in two seasons combined. However, he stays busy in the run game. He had 45 total tackles during his final playing season in college. By sitting out in 2020, Onwuzurike is difficult for pro scouts to evaluate, which could hurt his draft stock. However, the defensive tackle reportedly dominated the competition during practice at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Validating the hype around one of the draft’s most enticing defensive prospects. There are a lot of positive traits from his college career that will translate well to the NFL. 

Strengths

  • A lightning bolt at the snap – gets a great jump;
  • Good length and uses his leverage to drive blockers back when his hands are in the right place;
  • Agile for a defensive tackle – shows good lateral movement against the run and in the passing game on screens;
  • High motor – difficult for one blocker to stop for long;
  • Plays much bigger than his size.

Weaknesses

  • Is slightly undersized for an NFL defensive tackle;
  • When he loses a play, it’s often because of his hand placement – gets stuck on blocks;
  • Needs to establish consistency – A lot of “flash” plays; 
  • A lot of disruption but not a lot of production; 
  • Might need to put on weight to become more versatile and thrive in a 3-4 scheme.

NFL Comparison: Sheldon Richardson

The quick get-off and flash plays are similar to what Sheldon Richardson has offered several teams in his career. Richardsons’ playing weight is right around 300 pounds or under. His quickness to disrupt offenses in the run game and explosive pass rush ability in three-technique has led to a lot of success in the NFL. Richardson has developed consistent pass rush moves at the pro level that has earned him 31 career sacks. Onwuzurike would benefit from developing a swim move similar to Richardson to compete in the NFL. 

Teams With Need at Position: Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings

Projection: 2nd Round

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Bottom Line on Levi Onwuzurike

Onwuzurike flashed a lot of potential at the University of Washington. Pre-draft scouting suggests he is best suited as a three-technique at the pro level. From there, he can use his quickness off the snap and teams can scheme Onwuzurike one-on-one matchups against guards. He will work best with a bigger body lined up next to him on the inside, but his explosiveness and disruptive ability make Onwuzurike an exciting prospect for defensive-minded coaches. 

It’s a risk-taking a slightly undersized defensive tackle, it’s easy to get washed away in the run game by large-bodied offensive lines. However, coaches will love Onwuzurikes’ lateral quickness and energy. He has the athleticism to get lateral and the motor to hustle after to the football. Some of his highlights at Washington are Onwuzurike preventing big plays in the screen game and run plays on the perimeter. 

There isn’t a consensus number one defensive tackle in this year’s draft class. Some scouts suggest Onwuzurike could even sneak into the back end of the first round. If a team in need of help on the interior of the defensive line falls in love with Onwuzurikes’ potential, it’s not an improbable scenario. However, the production isn’t that of a first-round pick, and sitting out the 2020 season means scouts haven’t seen Onwuzurike take the next leap in his development he could well be capable of. He offers great value as a day two pick and with good coaching to develop his technique, Onwuzurike can be productive his rookie year in the NFL.  

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