2021 NFL draft: Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw is a smooth operator at LT

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

21. Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw

6-foot-5, 322 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.05 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Smooth-moving, experienced left tackle with mass and light feet who could stand to finish better

Games watched: Boston College (2019), Duke (2020), Clemson (2020), Virginia (2020)

The skinny: A 2-star Rivals recruit, Darrisaw was roundly overlooked during the recruiting process, mostly receiving FCS offers, but the Hokies invited him to a camp and offered him. Darrisaw enrolled early in January 2018 after spending a semester at Fork Union Military Academy, where he rose to a 4-star Rivals recruit.

Darrisaw started all 12 games he played at left tackle as a true freshman in 2018, missing one contest with a right foot injury. He then started 13 more games at left tackle in 2019 and was back there for 10 more in 2020, missing one contest (Pitt) with a left knee injury before returning to the lineup. Last season, Darrisaw was named second-team AP All-America and first-team all-ACC. He declared early for the 2021 NFL draft following the season.

Upside: Well-built — passes the eye test immediately. Checks off boxes for his weight distribution and his strong length — 34 1/4-inch arms and 82 1/8-inch wingspan. Tough to go around him and nearly impossible to go through him. Only three sacks allowed in more than 1,100 career pass-blocking snaps.

Gifted athlete who is quick out of his stance. Natural in his pass-block movements. Fluid and controlled. Possesses the reaction skills to make late adjustments to free rushers and save his quarterback’s bacon. Bends well and is mindful to keep his pad level low. Shoots quickly and effectively on cut blocks.

Flashes some eye-opening power at times. Strong upper body with a punch that can knock people back. Stays in control when he delivers haymakers. Cut down some edge rushers with one hand. Strong hands and great at steering rushers off-course.

Unlocks his hips in the run game — will burrow down and pave some huge holes. Works through to the second level and runs interference. Turns back to the field to scan for incoming defenders. Good push on straight-ahead power runs.

Very good experience — three-year starter (35 career starts) with only two missed games because of injury. Developed discipline — only penalty over final 21 college games. Faced a battery of talented pass rushers, from Florida State’s Brian Burns in his first start as a freshman through Jaelan Phillips, Carlos Basham Jr. and others in his final season. Lots of good tape vs. good competition.

High-ceiling prospect. Has all the talent and athletic tools to be great for years. Smart, tough and steady.

Christian Darrisaw runs a drill Virginia Tech pro day, attended by NFL scouts. (AP Photo/Matt Gentry)
Christian Darrisaw runs a drill Virginia Tech pro day, attended by NFL scouts. (AP Photo/Matt Gentry)

Downside: Didn’t always dominate lesser opponents. A bit of a passive element to his game — reactive more than proactive when it calls for that. Some scouts have suggested that he’s simply so natural and smooth in his movements, but others have suggested they see a lack of fire in his performances at times.

Could stand to be more aggressive and assertive. Doesn’t always finish the way you’d hope — will give a few defenders a second life. Could stand to look for more work after his initial block — can be too much of a play watcher. Looked like he got away with a few uncalled holds (see Clemson game).

Looked a little sluggish and heavy at times last season. Lacks elite quickness — could struggle with some speed rushers. Hands (9 1/4 inches) very much on the small side. Will give up his chest for too easy a target despite his length. Core and lower-body strength appear average at times.

Hands use could use a refresher course — keeps them low and often is late to draw first blood. Allowed a few defenders to squeeze through his inside gap — oversets slightly and isn’t as effective pinching down inside to help.

Has a soft-spoken, quiet demeanor off the field — might never be a rah-rah leader. Might lack a killer instinct on the field, even though he quite clearly does his job extremely well most games. Didn’t work out fully at his pro day, by choice, which gives us an incomplete athletic picture.

Best-suited destination: Darrisaw looked comfortable operating in a heavy zone-blocking scheme, so we could easily see that as a smooth transition for him. We also think he has the chops to work in a heavier man or gap scheme, even if there might be an adjustment.

But Darrisaw profiles as a starting left tackle in the league, perhaps as soon as Week 1. His experience should allow for a safe projection for that.

Did you know: Most big colleges took a wait-and-see approach with Darrisaw as a high school recruit. His grades needed work, and academic qualification wasn’t assured, but it was strange that a talented player who was 6-5 and 295 pounds wasn’t getting more attention.

Former Virginia Tech WR coach Holmon Wiggins was the first Power-5 assistant to recruit him hard.

“I started to kind of question myself at times,” Wiggins told The Roanoke Times in 2018. “Is no one seeing what I’m seeing? How? It was one of those things where I got to trust my eval and trusting the process. It ended up working out for us.”

Player comp: Bryan Bulaga

Expected draft range: Top-20 pick

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