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Raiders host nation’s sack leader for official draft visit with position change in mind

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Not only did Joe Ostman lead the nation in sacks last season, he was a 2-time state wrestling champion.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the kind of numbers Joe Ostman put up at Central Michigan last season, there is going to be interest in his services. The defensive end led the nation with 13.0 sacks in ten games last season from the defensive end position. After putting up 8.0 sacks his junior year.

Those numbers have many teams naturally looking at him as a potential draft selection. With his somewhat smaller size (6-2, 250 pounds), many teams are looking at him as a pass rushing outside linebacker. But not the Raiders.

Tuesday, the team hosted Ostman as one of their 30 official visits. There he met with Reggie McKenzie, Jon Gruden, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and running backs coach Jemal Singleton. They told him they were looking at him as a fullback and a special teams ace.

“They’re looking at me as a fullback,” Ostman told me Wednesday. “Some teams are looking at me as a 3-4 standup rush end, others as a pass rusher in a 4-3, so there’s kind of a wide range of possibilities, directions I could go, but we’ll see what happens.”

Sound familiar? It should. They just signed Keith Smith this offseason who is a former linebacker turned fullback.

Ostman is a versatile guy. He’s what Gruden might describe as simply a football player.

The thing about Ostman, however, is he’s not just a football player. During his high school days, he was an incredibly talented wrestler.

Starting in the 4th grade, by the time he got to high school, he was dominant. He lost one match as a sophomore and then never lost again. Ostman went on to win 141 straight matches (!!!) with two state wrestling titles.

“I think wrestling helped me a lot,” said Ostman. “From a work ethic standpoint and just mental toughness and leverage. I feel like I’ve really benefited from wrestling on the football field and just in life in general.

“I feel like hand usage, just using my hands comes natural for me and I think that has to do with wrestling. Just pass rushing and getting off the line, getting people off me or getting an advantage with leverage. I think that has a lot to do with my wrestling background.”

Speaking as a former wrestler, I can attest to the skills learned as a wrestler are invaluable in all athletics. The hand usage thing is a big one.

As a defensive end, Ostman used hand fighting and leverage extensively in his pass rush moves and balance for a pretty wicked spin move. Just ask Josh Allen, who Ostman sacked twice in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Not to mention what wrestling does for his ability to wrap up and take a player down. If you get in his grasp, you are not getting out of it. His 20.5 tackles for loss last season is another stat that bears that out.

When you look at his spider web, it’s among the most well-rounded you’ll see, with his skills being near the best at his position across the board.

Pro Football Focus

That has a lot of teams having different ideas of where they see him fitting into their team. It also means depending on the team, they would want him at a different weight.

“The Raiders were talking about how I could be lighter,” Ostman said. “I could be about 245 if that will help me feel better and a little faster, then there’s no problem with me playing a 245 on special teams and at fullback and potentially on defense a little bit.

“A couple other teams, the Eagles and the Cardinals for example, kind of project me in a 4-3 role where they would like to see me up closer to around 260 and I also had a visit with the LA Rams and they kind of see me as a 3-4 outside linebacker, which that’s probably they’d like to see me around 250. So, I’m kind of middle of the road right between that 245 to 260 range. Depending on where I go I’ll adjust my weight accordingly.”

Ostman’s stock is rising after a strong senior season which ended with a strong bowl game, impressive work in the East/West Shrine game, and then some outstanding numbers at his pro day including a 4.8 40, 31 reps on the bench press, a 36.5-inch vertical, 10’2” broad jump, and a 7.02 3-cone — all of which would have been top five among defensive ends at the combine.

He is just the type of player that Jon Gruden loves. To see that, you need look no further than recent free agent additions Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber. Ostman may be the type of player Reggie McKenzie likes as well. He reminds me a lot of players like former 7th round pick Nathan Stupar and former undrafted free agent James Cowser.

Ostman is projected as a late round pick, with most teams are looking at him as a pass rusher. If the Raiders are able to get him as a fullback/special teams maven with one of their 5 picks in the last two rounds they will have to hope he gets past a few 3-4 defensive teams that may have bigger plans for him on defense.