It doesn’t take long when evaluating the 2021 class of offensive tackles to start getting into the primary game NFL teams play every year when evaluating college tackles: Is He a Tackle, or Is He a Guard? This year, we start with the second offensive tackle in Touchdown Wire’s rankings, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. Now, those who watched Slater dominate Ohio State’s Chase Young in 2019 might say that anybody who can do what Slater did to the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has earned the right to ply his trade outside before being moved inside because his arms are an inch or two too short, or he is an inch or two too short.
Slater is not the only example this year; he’s just the most prominent one. Other prospects are being slammed inside by evaluators because they’ve played inside and outside in college, and it’s just an easier thing to say that a developmental tackle who had more reps inside belongs there. That seems to be the case for USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, who played right guard in 2018, left guard in 2019, and showed a lot of potential at left tackle in 2020.
In the end, it depends on what an NFL team wants, and what kind of offense they’re running. If you’re in charge of a heavy pulling offense, especially one in which deep drops are the order of the day, you might prefer more athletic guards. The Ravens would be the perfect example there. If your offense is one in which you want to impose your will with the run game, you may prefer stronger tackles who can hold up under that particular constraint. The Titans would be one such example. And if your offense is based on the second-relation passing game and a mobile quarterback, tackles who are lighter on their feet are of paramount importance. That’s what the Chiefs have preferred in the Patrick Mahomes era, and after releasing both left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz this offseason, it’s a paradigm they have to re-invent.
The point is that not all offensive linemen are ideal for all offenses. So when evaluators with NFL teams try to put offensive linemen in one box and insist that “this is the way it is, regardless,” the risk is that you’re missing out on scheme-specific talent with players that might work perfectly for your organization. And that’s what it’s all about.
So, in our offensive line rankings, we have players we feel would work better outside, and players that we feel would work better inside (This is why, if you’re looking for Oklahoma State’s Tevin Jenkins on this list, you’ll have to wait a bit for our list of interior offensive linemen). But we’re doing so based on athletic attributes and limitations as opposed to whether a guy has this height or this arm length. Because in the NFL, at any position, it’s always a mistake to say that one size fits — or doesn’t fit — all.
Note: The percentiles in parentheses listed next to pro day data are compared to all historical athletic testing (combine and pro day) at the respective position of the player. Kudos to Pro Football Focus, and their Pro Day Schedule and Results Tracker, for this. As there was no scouting combine in 2021, and pro day schedules vary, we may not have all testing information for all prospects at publication time. For offensive tackles whose positional specificity is in question, we will include percentiles for both positions per PFF’s data.
Also: PFF’s True Pass Sets, explained in further detail here, represent snaps in which an offensive tackle pass-protects specifically without play-action, rollouts, and screens, with more than a three-man rush, and with between two and four seconds to throw the ball. This gives a more accurate picture of true pass protection.
More top draft prospect position lists from Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield:
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
(Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'5" (30th) Weight: 331 (90th) Arm Length: 33 1/4" (22nd) 40-Yard Dash: 5.09 (75th) Bench Press: 30 reps (89th) Vertical Jump: 28 inches (39th) Broad Jump: 109 inches (77th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.80 (49th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.68 (42nd) Bio: Sewell visited Oregon, Alabama, Nevada, USC and Utah before deciding on Oregon, and the former Desert Hills High (St. George, Utah) star became a force right away. As a 19-year-old freshman, he allowed just one sack and eight total pressures on 215 pass-blocking snaps. He followed that up with a 2019 campaign in which he allowed no sacks and just seven total pressures on 491 pass-blocking snaps. And if you think he's just a finesse guy because he's such a great athlete for the position... well, don't go there. https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1359325654584590336 https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1377583555526717440 As a run-blocker, Sewell helped to create 5.1 yards per carry in zone schemes (79% of his snaps) and 5.4 yards per carry in gap schemes (21%). Backs who ran to his gap in 2018 and 2019 ran for 5.5 yards per carry and 2.5 yards before contact in his collegiate career. Sewell opted out for the 2020 season, but it's safe to say he'd proven all he needed to prove. Uncles Isaac Sopoaga and Richard Brown also played in the NFL, and Sewell is next -- in a major way. Stat to Know: In 212 true pass sets in 2018 and 2019, Sewell allowed one sack, two quarterback hits, and six quarterback hurries. Strengths: As teased in the intro, Sewell does indeed play offensive tackle with a defensive tackle's mentality. There are tackles in this class with considerable athletic traits, but they struggle to win because they're not aggressive enough with their hands. Sewell is way past that problem -- he's wasting defenders at a black-belt level. I once had the good fortune to watch offensive tackle tape with Walter Jones, and Jones reiterated several times in our time together how important it is to be aggressive with your hands in pass pro. I think Mr. Jones would enjoy Mr. Sewell's tape. Elite athleticism for his position allows Sewell to do things seamlessly that even other top tackles struggle with. Can run a defender out of the arc and seal him to the edge. Plays with constant leverage, which really shows up in the run game. Easy puller and outside mover who has no issue getting to the second level and doing further damage. Weaknesses: There's not a lot of dings here; most of the negatives that show up on tape reflect refinement work you'd see at the NFL level anyway. There are times when Sewell's hand placement and pad level are a bit out of whack, and as great as his hand use is, he could be more consistent with it. He lunges at times, wasting an otherwise solid base. And Oregon's quick-game passing offense may leave some wondering about his consistent ability to work a deeper arc. I do not share those concerns. Conclusion: One of the hardest things for me to do in this pre-draft process was deciding who my OT1 was in this class. If I had gone with Northwestern's Rashawn Slater, it would have been fine, and I think there are things Slater does better than Sewell. But Sewell ultimately rose to the top because I think he's more technically evolved, and he's able to do more things because of it. You don't often describe offensive tackles as "creative," but I'd use that word in Sewell's case, because his athletic profile simply allows his team to implement concepts one wouldn't dare to attempt with a more limited player -- and most tackles are more limited than Sewell is already. NFL Comparison: I've seen comps to Johnathan Ogden, and I'm always reluctant to compare draft prospects to Hall of Fame talents unless the talent forces me to (such as when I had the unmitigated gall to compare Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh to Joe Greene). Sewell isn't quite the malevolent finisher Ogden was, but he has a combination of athleticism and aggression that brings fellow Hall-of-Famer Orlando Pace to mind. That said, with the aforementioned reluctance to compare any draft prospect to an NFL Hall-of-Famer, I'll say that Sewell's movement skills and desire to physically embarrass defenders remind me a great deal of Trent Williams. Draft him, put him on the left outside of your offensive line, and check off one less thing to worry about for the next five years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcaDs-cuMco
1a. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
(Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'4" OT 13th/OG 51st) Weight: 304 (OT 18th/OG 51st) Arm Length: 33 inches (OT 13th/OG 37th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.88 seconds (OT 97th/G 98th) Bench Press: 33 reps (OT 96th/OG 90th) Vertical Jump: N/A Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: 7.48 seconds (OT 83rd/OG 87th) 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Slater was a consensus three-star guard recruit out of Texas' Clements High School, and he got just five scholarship offers: Northwestern, Illinois, Kansas, Rice and Wyoming, Slater's father Reginald played eight seasons in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, and Minnesota Timberwolves, and Slater brings an element of that kind of athleticism and footwork to his game. Like Sewell, Slater opted out of the 2020 season after likely proving everything he needed to prove as a draft prospect. In Slater's case, one game really stood out -- Northwestern's 52-3 loss to Ohio State on October 18, 2019. The game was unremarkable for the Wildcats, but Slater allowed no sacks, no quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries on 30 pass-blocking snaps. His primary opponent? Current NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, who Slater made to look like a high-schooler more often than not. You just don’t see a lot of offensive linemen physically dominate Chase Young like this at any position, at any level. I did a thorough report on Slater's performance in this game, and the more I watched, the more I became convinced that Slater has an All-Pro future at the tackle position. Specifically, the left tackle position.
There are those who will try to convince you that Slater has to kick inside, and to put it succinctly, that's a load of hooey. Just watch the tape. Stat to Know: Slater allowed five sacks and 35 total pressures in true pass sets as a right tackle in 2017 and 2018. He cleaned that up to a monstrous degree when moving to the left side in 2019, with no sacks, no quarterback hits, and three quarterback hurries on 142 sets. Strengths: The Chase Young tape shows it best, but Slater's wins show up all over the place. Has the latch and mirror ability to work defenders from side to side; Slater doesn't allow a lot of leakage. Stays aggressive with his hands through the rep and has the strength to abate the rush with simple swats. Keeps his front foot on a track as the rep starts; Slater doesn't tend to lunge or work too hard to work through his kick-slide. Has no issue "catching" edge-rushers when he's moving straight back. Solid recovery abilities allow him to maintain contact even when he loses control of his defender. The guard talk may have diminished his perception as a move blocker, which is unfortunate, because he can work to the second level at any gap. Has an absolute mauler's mentality both in the run game and in run-action; Slater wants to kick your ass, and he doesn't care who knows it. Has the ability to rag-doll smaller defenders or defenders who come at him with insufficient leverage. Has no issue getting to the second level and nuking his targets. Weaknesses: Hypothetically, Slater's arm length issues might allow defenders to get in his space, but he's aggressive enough with his hands to mitigate these issues. And he's not a premier mover in the Sewell mold, but he's still in a very high percentile. Conclusion: Without Penei Sewell's generational talent at part of the 2021 equation, Slater would blow everyone else in this class away as the OT1, and I have no issue with the people who have him there anyway. It took another Sewell watch session to break the tie for me late in the process. Any NFL executive who reduces Slater's potential in his offense based on height or arm strength should undergo a thorough examination of his evaluative skills. Slater is a tackle, he's a left tackle, and he has every tool in the toolbox to be a great one in the NFL sooner than later. NFL Comparison: The two players that came immediately to mind when watching Slater and thinking about his measurables were New England's Isaiah Wynn and Tampa Bay's Tristan Wirfs. Both players have succeeded in the NFL at tackle despite not being tall enough to ride the ride, so to speak. But a deeper dive brought the better and clearer comp to me -- Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead came out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013 at 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds with 34-inch arms, and none of that mattered, because he had the movement abilitiy, nastiness, and technique to become a foundation player at his optimal left tackle position. Slater has those same attributes, and that same potential. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF2GURVlN5A
3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'5" Weight: 314 (unofficial) 40-Yard Dash: N/A Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: N/A Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A 60-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: To say that Darrisaw was under the radar coming out of Riverdale Baptist School in Maryland would be an understatement. The three-star recruit got offers from Morgan State, North Carolina Central and Central Connecticut before Virginia Tech kicked in. After a prep season at Fork Union Military Academy in 2017, he jumped right in with the Hokies with 785 snaps at left tackle in 2018. To hit the ground running against ACC edge-rushers is no mean feat, and Darrisaw had his share of struggles early on -- he allowed seven total sacks in his first two seasons, but with a massive improvement in 2020, he was able to take it out on the guys who used to push him around. North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt, projected as a second-day pick in 2021, could attest to that. https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/1315354410151804930 In 2020, on 293 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed no sacks, no hits, and just six hurries. Also in 2020, runners who went to Darrisaw's gap gained 7.7 yards per carry, and 3.2 yards before contact. Stat to Know: In 291 career true pass sets, Darrisaw allowed three sacks, four quarterback hits, and 17 quarterback hurries. Strengths: Smooth pass-protector with a correct kick-slide that allows him to keep his feet in the right place; Darrisaw doesn't often get overextended. Works well through the duration of the arc. Presents issues to edge defenders with a "bottom-to-top" skill set -- he footwork balances his pass set, which enhances his upper-body strength. When he "catches" edge-rushers, Darrisaw doesn't get bowled over; he understands his set and how it positively affects his leverage. Locks his arms on defenders and doesn't let go until he needs to. As a run-blocker, Darrisaw uses outstanding leverage from the line of scrimmage, and he's one of the best in this class when it comes to hitting the second level and hitting his target. And as the Surratt highlight shows, Darrisaw can lock on and drive a defender right out of the picture. Weaknesses: Darrisaw has a couple of issues as a lateral protector -- he doesn't always keep his head on a swivel, and he will let quicker edge-rushers off to the side. This will leave him open to stunts and games at the next level. He can also leave his openings too early at times, leading to inside counters. Tends to lock onto one defender with a tunnel-vision mentality. Could be more of a consistent finisher with his hands in pass pro to avoid defenders getting to his body. Conclusion: The current NFL is filled with two kinds of offensive tackles -- nuanced edge-protectors who have agility and need to build up their functional strength, and pure maulers whose footwork could use... well, a lot of work. Darrisaw is an excellent man in the middle, so to speak. He's not "generational" as Penei Sewell might be, and he's not quite the combination of dominator and technician that Rashawn Slater is, but if your NFL team needs a plug-and-play left tackle who will cost you a mid-first-round pick, Darrisaw looks like the kind of player who would give you just that kind of value for a number of consecutive seasons. NFL Comparison: Jake Matthews. The Falcons took Matthews with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Obviously, they believed Matthews to be a transcendent talent with that kind of draft capital statement. Matthews hasn't been all that, but he's carved himself out a very nice NFL career because he's far above-average at just about everything, and the dings are few and far between. Like Matthews, Darrisaw checks nearly all the boxes, though not in aggressively spectacular ways. Any NFL line coach would take unspectacular consistency over amazing variance, and that's what Darrisaw is primed to provide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO3aIXIa6dg
4. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
(Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'5" (37th) Weight: 304 (18th) Arm Length: N/A 40-Yard Dash: 5.11 seconds (72nd) Bench Press: 24 reps (58th) Vertical Jump: 32 inches (87th) Broad Jump: 113 inches (92nd) 3-Cone Drill: 7.27 seconds (97th) 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Despite his status as a two-time Minnesota Class 4A state champion at Becker High, Radunz was not considered to be a high-falutin' recruit -- the two-star prospect received precious little interest from FBS programs, and chose North Dakota State based on the coaching staff. It worked out for the best, as the Bison's high-powered offense with quarterback Trey Lance was the perfect spotlight for Radunz's abilities. Stat to Know: In 205 career true pass sets, Radunz gave up one sack (in 2018), one quarterback hit (also in 2018), and 10 total quarterback hurries. Radunz also didn't allow a single sack in 349 pass-blocking snaps in 2019, and he didn't allow a pressure of any kind in 2020 against a Central Arkansas team that blitzed on 14 of quarterback Trey Lance's 34 dropbacks. Strengths: Radunz has light feet and good body control through the arc; he doesn't generally overextend, and he uses his hands well both when he needs to extend them fully, and when he has to recover with shorter movements. Has the natural movement ability to avoid getting his feet out of kilter when working his kick-slide. Has a functional bucket-step technique when he's asked to "catch" the defender straight on. Scrappy competitor who will work all the way to the back of the pocket. If you get past him to the quarterback, it won't be because he isn't trying to stop you. Lateral quickness also shows up when he needs to pull or move more than one gap inside. Good run-blocker who fires out with leverage and can operate with accuracy at the second level. Won Practice Player of the Week at the Senior Bowl when it was time to deal with stronger competition than he faced at North Dakota State. Weaknesses: Looks like a tight end on the field. Radunz's strength issues show up whenever his technique is off-point. He isn't powerful enough to recover consistently if a defender gets inside his arms, and if he doesn't strike first with his hands, that can be a problem. Can get worked to either side against stronger defenders. May have trouble with more advanced games and stunts at the next level. Will work a half-step late off the snap at times, which could lead to further trouble at the next level. Strength of competition is an issue; though both the positives and negatives of Radunz's game are pretty easily transferable when evaluating him as an NFL prospect. Conclusion: Whatever momentum Radunz may have lost with his one-game season in 2020, he was able to get it back with a very strong Senior Bowl performance in which he proved his mettle against better players than he faced in college. Radunz will have a similar climb ahead of him when he hits the NFL, he may not be a day-one mauler, and there's some work in the weightroom to be done, but if you're in charge of a pass-heavy team and you need a tackle who can run the arc and has the potential to be a plus athlete in all respects, Radunz might be worth the developmental effort. NFL Comparison: Joe Staley. During his virtual pro day media session, Radunz revealed that he's working with the former 49ers standout and six-time Pro Bowler in his pre-draft process. Like Staley when he came out of Central Michigan in 2007, Radunz has all the athleticism you want at the position, with some concerns regarding his core strength. Staley was able to overcome those issues in a decisive fashion, and Radunz can, too. It'll be a process, but the potential is there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEfnwYK94hY
5. Samuel Cosmi, Texas
(Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'6" (62nd) Weight: 314 (58th) Arm Length: 33 inches (13th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.84 seconds (98th) Bench Press: 36 reps (98th) Vertical Jump: 30 inches (69th) Broad Jump: 117 inches (98th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.35 seconds (94th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.39 seconds (98th) Bio: Cosmi received just two offers out of Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas -- Houston and Memphis. He originally committed to Houston, but switched to the Longhorns when they finally showed interest. He put himself on the map with a redshirt freshman season,053 in 2018 in which he had 1,053 snaps at right tackle, and he then switched to the left side for 2019 and 2020. Stat to Know: In 495 true pass sets (a comparatively high number in this class) over three seasons, Cosmi allowed just three sacks and 23 total pressures. Strengths: Natural movement skills allow Cosmi to rumble through his kick-slide in a smooth, refined fashion that doesn't allow for lost placement when he's doing everything right. Resembles a tight end more than a tackle in his lower body, but maintains power when he keeps his base low and engaged. Ideally will work his hands to the numbers and keep a solid push through the rep. Has the awareness and "swivel" to read and handle stunts and games. Has the range and athleticism to excel in space, both with pulls and second-level blocks. Weaknesses: Slips off blocks too easily; Cosmi will use movement and technique to engage a defender and then inexplicably lose contain just as quickly. When his awareness is off, he'll have inexcusable whiffs in which a defender just flies right by him. Cosmi has to have his leverage in an ideal point via his base or he'll get physically overwhelmed at times. Not a natural drive-blocker. Conclusion: Of all the tackles in the 2021 class, I think Cosmi will benefit most from a solid NFL coaching staff. That's not to malign the guys who handled that for him in college; it's just that some players come to the NFL with a lot of natural gifts and a desperate need for refining work. Put that with some squats in the weightroom to give him a bit more margin for error, and Cosmi has the look of a first-round talent. Until then, he's a developmental prospect who might impress at times in the NFL, and could resemble a turnstile at other times. NFL Comparison: Kolton Miller. When Miller came out of UCLA in the 2018 draft, the Raiders took him with the 15th overall pick, and it had the look of a major reach. Miller allowed 19 sacks and 86 total pressures in his first two seasons, as his athletic traits were overwhelmed by his rudimentary fundamentals. But in 2020, the light went on (two sacks and 23 pressures allowed), and Miller might have been the league's most-improved player outside of Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Cosmi might experience a similar developmental ride in which he gets owned for a while, and then figures it all out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BG4A5agNHw
6. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'4″ (OT 17th/OG 57th) Weight: 308 (OT 34th/OG 40th) Arm Length: 32 1/8 inches (OT 3rd/OG 11th) 40-Yard Dash: 5.10 (OT 73rd/OG 77th) Bench Press: 36 reps (OT 98th/OG 96th) Vertical Jump: 32 inches (OT 87th/OG 90th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.65 seconds (OT 66th/OG 65th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.61 (OT 76th/OG 74th) Bio: A defensive end and offensive tackle at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High, Vera-Tucker received a bevy of offers from major programs as a four-star recruit, choosing the Trojans over Colorado, Arizona, Michigan and Texas A&M. He started his collegiate career with 139 snaps at right guard in 2018, switching to left guard in 2019 (926 snaps there), and finally, to left tackle in 2020 with 476 snaps. Stat to Know: Remove the two sacks, two hits, and two hurries he allowed in his final college game against Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux (who may be a top-five prospect in 2022), and Vera-Tucker allowed just two sacks and no other pressures in 305 pass-blocking snaps in 2020 -- his first season as an NCAA offensive tackle. Strengths: Even in his "nightmare game" against Thibodeaux, Vera-Tucker wasn't always overwhelmed; he managed to pump out some competitive reps against Thibodeaux, which speaks to his temperament. Overall, Vera-Tucker presents as a functional tackle prospect with outstanding and aggressive hand placement and recovery abilities. Mirrors well through the arc, and he punches to and through the pocket to eliminate the defender. Has the athleticism to pull and find his targets at linebacker depth. Has the base and upper-body strength to counter bull-rushers. Guard mentality shows up in the run game, where Vera-Tucker looks to bury defenders at the line of scrimmage and at the second level. Weaknesses: Awareness issues come up from time to time; Vera-Tucker can become so focused on the defender in front of him that he misses threats around him. Needs to be more cognizant of repeat pressure on unscheduled movement plays from his quarterback. Not the most natural mover, though this won't be a major issue if he's not asked to be what he isn't. Conclusion: Vera-Tucker probably won't be an ideal tackle for every NFL team, but if you have a quick passing game with the intent to run power, he would be an asset on your offensive line, and given the progress he showed at the position in 2020, he should be seen more as a tackle than as a guard prospect. NFL Comparison: Isaiah Wynn. Like the Georgia alum, Vera-Tucker played multiple positions in college, and his physical shortcomings had most people sliding him to NFL guard in their heads. But Wynn was able to move past that, and given the right environment (personally, I think he has Pittsburgh Steelers Left Tackle written all over him). Vera-Tucker could, as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRJt6c8fFsU&t=251s
7. Brady Christensen, BYU
(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'6" (95th) Weight: 302 (13th) Arm Length: 32 1/4 (fourth) 40-Yard Dash: 4.89 seconds (96th) Bench Press: 30 reps (89th) Vertical Jump: 34 inches (95th) Broad Jump: 124 inches (100th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.33 (95th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.46 (94th) Bio: A multi-sport star at Bountiful High School in Utah, Christensen originally committed to Air Force before switching to BYU and serving a two-year Latter-day Saints mission in Hamilton, New Zealand. When he finally joined the Cougars in 2018, he got busy at the left tackle position right away, with 822 snaps in his freshman season. Over three full seasons, he totaled 2,522 snaps and cut his penalties from 10 in 2018 to five in 2020. He didn't face a ton of top-level edge-rushers, but the tape (for the most part) backs up his impressive protection numbers. Stat to Know: In 409 pass-blocking snaps last season, Christensen allowed one sack, no quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries. Not bad when protecting a second-reaction wizard in quarterback Zach Wilson. In 413 career true pass sets, Christensen allowed three sacks (one each season in 2018, 2019, and 2020), two quarterback hits, and 13 quarterback hurries. Strengths: At his best, Christensen overcomes his most obvious liability (short arms that show up on tape) with constant stabs at defenders as he works through a good kick-slide. It's an adaptive strategy that works, for the most part. Latches on well through the arc to add an important dimension to his pass pro. Has the athleticism and footwork to deal with second-level targets. Aware player who can handle multiple responsibilities through the snap. Can mirror well when his hands aren't a problem. Works with pop and leverage when run-blocking; he's more technique-correct than a strength monster. Weaknesses: While I'm not of the opinion that shorter arms doom every tackle prospect, this shows up on Christensen's tape, and it's a problem. When he lunges to block, he's unable at times to engage with the defender, leaving himself open to all kinds of pressure. He has to get to the defender with his hands first. A bit logey at times in the run game; you'd like to see Christensen match his effort with more strength. Conclusion: Christensen might have the least impressive athletic profile of any player on this particular list, but he's managed to get it done with technique and effort. Though a move to guard might be in order at the next level, if a position move does happen (which isn't automatic), I'd like to see how a move to center would work for him. There, his awareness and intelligence could be featured in line calls, and his at-times average athleticism could be mitigated. NFL Comparison: Mitch Morse. The current Bills and former Chiefs center played tackle for Missouri, and Kansas City, who took him in the second round of the 2015 draft, moved him two positions inside. Morse could have played tackle at the next level, but the switch was best for him, and Christensen might have the same bright future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOA8iT4DYyI
8. Walker Little, Stanford
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Height: 6'7″ (86th) Weight: 313 (54th) Arm Length: 33 3/4 (34th) 40-Yard Dash: 5.29 seconds (32nd) Bench Press: 24 reps (58th) Vertical Jump: 30 inches (62nd) Broad Jump: 111 inches (83rd) 3-Cone Drill: 7.43 seconds (89th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.58 (82nd) Bio: Little's grandfather Gene and great uncle Jack played in the NFL in the 1950s, and had Little been healthy throughout his collegiate career, we'd likely be talking about him as a first-round pick in the same breath as Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater. He was the top recruit in the country per 247 Sports out of Houston's Episcopal High School, and he committed to Stanford after receiving offers from more than 30 major programs. He had 350 snaps for the Cardinal in 2017, upping that to 790 in 2018, but a knee injury limited him to just 72 snaps in 2019, and he opted out of the 2020 season. So, when watching Little's tape and projecting him to the NFL, is takes some forensic work. Stat to Know: You have to go back a ways to find the numbers, but over 680 NCAA pass-blocking snaps, Little allowed just 22 total pressures -- four sacks, four quarterback hits, and 14 quarterback hurries. All four of those sacks, three hits, and 11 pressures came on true pass sets. Strengths: Among the tackles in this class, Little has the ability to mirror an edge-rusher in pass protection as well as anybody -- when he's in his kick-slide and you're in his kitchen, good luck escaping. Has the base and leverage to take bull-rushes. Will mirror well against speed-rushers, and even defensive backs on blitzes. Has the "arm talent" to get his paws in a defender's body and move him where he wants him to go, and can recover nicely if he's late. Weaknesses: When Little's heading forward in run-blocking at the first or second level, however, he's far less consistent. Little needs to learn to latch onto defenders more often, especially in open space. As smooth as he is in reverse, that's how much he can get into trouble when aggressively moving forward. Struggles at times to seal blockers to the edge. Obviously, any developmental issues will be magnified by his recent lack of playing time. Conclusion: Little will be the toughest evaluation in this class because of his extended missed playing time, but he might get a relative pass on that due to his strong pro day, and the fact that so many college players opted out of the 2020 season. The more pressing concern is the radical disparity between his advanced, NFL-level pass sets, and the issues he presents when firing forward. If he had played 500 snaps last season, perhaps he could have worked through that, but we are where we are. NFL Comparison: Jared Veldheer. The Raiders took Veldheer out of Hillsdale in the third round of the 2010 draft, and Veldheer presented a similar schism between his pass-blocking, and his liabilities in power situations. Veldheer has managed to eke out a solid career in which he's taken nearly 5,000 snaps. I would love for Walker to overcome his previous injury issues and do the same thing, because his pass-blocking potential is the equal of any tackle in this class. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dafse-m-SgE&t=104s
9. Jackson Carman, Clemson
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Height: 6'5″ (30th) Weight: 317 (68th) Arm Length: 32 1/2 (7th) 40-Yard Dash: N/A Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: N/A Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: The Fairfield Senior High School (Ohio) alum participated in the in the Army All-American game, and finished in the top five of USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior. He chose Clemson over Alabama, Ohio State, and USC, coming into college in the same class as Trevor Lawrence. Carman put up 209 snaps for the national champion Tigers in 2018, ramping that up to 819 snaps in 2019, and 796 in 2020. He's never played a snap anywhere along the offensive line except for left tackle in his collegiate career. Stat to Know: Carman had a late-season slate of sacks allowed in 2020 -- one each against Notre Dame, Pitt, and Notre Dame again in a four-game stretch -- but he allowed no pressures of any kind against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State on 49 pass-blocking reps. Two of those sacks, two hits, and one hurry came in true pass sets. Strengths: Carman's kick-slide isn't anything you'd put up at a clinic, but he gets the job done with decent footwork and aggressive hand movement and independent hand use. Played at an unofficial weight of 330 pounds and carried that weight proportionally; his official weight of 317 augurs well for his future from an agility and flexibility perspective. Impressive upper-body strength; can move a defender with a simple swat move. Natural mauler with a finisher's mentality and the ability to absolutely embarrass defenders both at the line of scrimmage and in space with pure leverage pancakes all day. Weaknesses: Carman may be susceptible to stunts and games at the next level; he has a tendency to stand in place and can be late when he's evaluating pass-rushers on the move. Lunges at times in his pass sets, leaving him vulnerable to movement to either side. Arm length will have a lot of teams thinking that he's a guard at the next level, though it wasn't a major issue before. Faster NFL edge-rushers could give him fits. Conclusion: Carman could profile very well as a guard in the NFL, but I'd like his NFL team to at least give him a shot outside, especially if his NFL team runs a lot of quick game and his movement issues could be mitigated. His adaptive strategies and impressive hand usage project well for the next level, and he has plus potential somewhere on the line, depending on the team and the scheme. NFL Comparison: Marcus Cannon. Cannon, selected in the fifth round by the Patriots in the 2011 draft, created a functional career for himself as a right tackle (and occasional left tackle) with a size and play profile that indicated a necessary move to guard. Carman projects very much the same way. He may have a brighter future inside, but in the right system, he could pay off on the edge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9ygANH5ZK4
10. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
(Mickey Welsh-Imagn Content Services, LLC)
Height: 6'5″ (40th) Weight: 312 (51st) Arm Length: 34 3/8 (64th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.96 seconds (90th) Bench Press: 20 reps (22nd) Vertical Jump: 35 inches (96th) Broad Jump: 118 inches (99th) 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Leatherwood has gone from prominent program to prominent program, committing to Alabama over LSU, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, and Tennessee after playing for former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida. The former five-star recruit started his collegiate career with 131 snaps at left tackle in 2017, before moving to the right side for the Crimson Tide, with 922 snaps at right guard and 12 snaps at right tackle in 2018. He then moved back to left tackle in 2019 after Jonah Williams went pro, staying there for the 2020 season. Stat to Know: Leatherwood was prone to allowing sacks early in the 2020 season, with one each against Ole Miss, Georgia, and Auburn -- but from Week 14 against LSU through the national championship game against Ohio State, he gave up no sacks, no quarterback hits, and just two quarterback hurries on 195 pass-blocking reps. Strengths: When Leatherwood gets in his pass set comfortably and gets his hands out to attack, he projects well as an edge protector. Then, he's able to work through the arc and mirror the defender from side to side. Plus blocker on RPO concepts; he'll use his power in these and any run-action concepts to just bury defensive tackles at times. Has the potential for great footwork in pass protection, though it's wildly inconsistent and not seen enough. As a run-blocker, Leatherwood does a good job of getting his hands into a defender's numbers and using his upper body to win with leverage. Has the upper-body strength to work defenders back when his technique is sound. Weaknesses: Leatherwood is still getting the hang of his footwork; at times, he'll over-reach with his steps and leave himself vulnerable to inside counters. Must be more aggressive with his hands to offset the tendency to let defenders into his kitchen. Doesn't show great recovery speed and technique when he's beaten off the snap. And you'd like to see more of a finishing mentality at times. Conclusion: If you're running a gap-heavy scheme with multiple run and RPO concepts at the NFL level (Hellooooo, Ravens!), Leatherwood might be your guy. If you're looking for an elite edge protector from Day 1... there might be work to do. Of all the possible tackle/guard switches this season, Leatherwood was the player who barely stayed at tackle in my mind, because there's enough to go on. NFL Comparison: Jack Conklin. Like Conklin when he came out of Michigan State in in the 2016 draft and was selected eighth overall (!!!) by the Titans, Leatherwood has the ability to transcend the inevitable move to guard if he's in a gap-heavy power scheme in which he can use his aggressive forward movement skills to dominate. He has the potential to do that. But there are a lot of technique issues to deal with here. Conklin had similar issues in his iffy footwork and questionable consistency at the second level. Conklin became a plus NFL blocker on the right side; perhaps Leatherwood can do the same. Or... perhaps he's Germain Ifedi, and his eventual move to guard is inevitable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KzT0ICkCFM
11. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Height: 6'6″ (73rd) Weight: 306 (27th) Arm Length: 32 3/8 inches (6th) 40-Yard Dash: N/A Bench Press: 33 reps (95th) Vertical Jump: 27 inches (22nd) Broad Jump: 105 inches (54th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.53 (78th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.58 (82nd) Bio: People were aware of Eichenberg's potential very early on -- he was offered a scholarship from Ohio State before his freshman year at Ignatius High School in Cleveland. In the end, he opted for Notre Dame instead, playing 45 snaps at left tackle in 2017 and bumping that up to 939 in 2018. The 2020 winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the conference, Eichenberg was also an Outland Trophy finalist. In addition, Eichenberg won second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-ACC honors. Stat to Know: Eichenberg had 496 pass-blocking reps in 2019, and 455 in 2020. He didn't allow a single sack in either season, and just 27 total pressures in that time. 15 of those pressures came in true pass sets. Strengths: Eichenberg isn't a perfect arc-step blocker, but he has a functional back-step motion he uses to then catch defenders before they hit the pocket. In the run game, he's a good leverage blocker who works from the lower body up, and he's capable of pancaking people when everything is lined up right. Presents the agility on the move to pull and close to the back side after he's taken off. Has a nascent ability to get re-engaged after his defender has worked off the first move. Weaknesses: There's a difference between being aggressive with your hands and being consistent with your hands in pass pro, and Eichenberg falls on the unfortunate side of his equation. He'll punch and stab defenders, but he drops his hands too quickly, and as a result, he'll allow leaks to either side. Appears to have issues with independent hand usage. Tends to telegraph his offense's intentions -- when he's preparing to run-block, he'll line up with a more extended upper body, and in pass-pro, he's more "reduced." This could be that he's more confident as a run-blocker, and is trying to get a head start in pass pro, but his NFL offensive line coaches will want to address that. Needs to present his base to the defender more consistently and cleanly -- he's more on a swivel than anything else. Conclusion: When I really don't like a player's tape right off the bat, I'll tend to watch more of that player's tape than the guys I really like. Because if I have a profoundly and immediately negative opinion, I assume I'm looking at a bad game, and there's more to the story. In Eichenberg's case, I saw the same issues pop up over and over, which is why he's at the bottom of my tackle list. I think he has a lot on the ball as a run-blocker, and there's potential in the passing game, but I was surprised to see so many rudimentary issues for a tackle who was so highly-regarded as a high-school player, and had so many reps in a major college program. If your line coaches love Eichenberg at the NFL level and your team takes him, that's great, but I would be surprised if he was able to provide functional protection in his first professional season. He's an interesting project, but a project nonetheless. NFL Comparison: Nate Solder. The Patriots selected the Colorado alum with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and while Eichenberg is a better run-blocker than Solder was coming out of college, the two players share an intriguing athleticism combined with unfortunate technique issues that could lead (and in Solder's case, has led) to some serious protection problems at the next level. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlURF9NLUuM&t=125s