One of, if not, the most exciting player among the team’s 19 undrafted free agents is former Northwestern defensive end Joe Gaziano. He also happens to be the subject of today’s 2020 UDFA profile.
Gaziano had himself quite the career while playing at Xaverian Brothers High School. The Scituate, Massachusetts, native helped lead his team to a 12-0 State Championship season while being named the 2014 Massachusetts Player of the Year after recording 53 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss, and 16 sacks. He was also named the #1 prospect in the state and was labeled a three-star prospect by Rivals.
After captaining the East team in the Semper Fidelis High School All-American Game, Gaziano decided to commit Northwestern over the home state school Boston College, as well as Syracuse and Rutgers.
Gaziano was a four-year contributor for the Wildcats after redshirting during the 2015 season. In his first year of action, he saw zero starts but contributed in all 13 games as a rotational pass-rusher with 24 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, and 4.5 sacks.
As a sophomore in 2017, Gaziano won a starting job got the nod for all 13 games. He set career-highs with 13 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks with 35 total stops and two forced fumbles. In 2018, Gaziano was just as impactful with 44 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 7.5 sacks.
Gaziano had far-and-away his best season at Northwestern when he cruised to career-best marks in tackles (49) and a whopping 17 tackles-for-loss to go with another nine sacks, five pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. His 30-career sacks set the new all-time mark by a Wildcat defender in school history.
“The Gaz” as he was known by to some of his teammates, Gaziano has one of the best chances to make the Chargers’ final roster as a depth piece behind Joey Bosa at the team’s strong-side defensive end. He offers excellent size at 6’4 and 280 pounds which leads me to believe he could hold up on the outside while being a situational pass-rusher along the interior if given that chance. He is not going to be a player that wins with finesse, but he’s just shifty enough, paired with his excellent hand usage, to beat tackles off the edge.
His teammates spoke highly of his football IQ and how they felt Gaziano could tell what an offense was probably about to do before the snap. He’s not the most-athletic guy at the position, but he’s possesses a motor that churns and churns. When that is paired with a sharp brain between his ears, that’s how he overcomes his shortfalls as an athlete. That’s a decent recipe for steady play at the professional level.
In my first early predictions for the Chargers’ final roster, I have Gaziano as one of two undrafted players who I believe will make the final cut. I think they’re fairly thin at defensive end and anyone as productive as he was in college should certainly get an opportunity to do that in the NFL. You can NEVER have too many players who can get after the quarterback.