The 2021 NFL Draft deep dive makes its way onto the offensive line. The cornerstones of all lines are at the tackle position. Offensive Linemen are the unsung heroes for many players in fantasy football. If your Quarterback can’t stay upright, or your running back is instantly bombarded by the defence, you’re not scoring points.
In this year’s 2021 NFL Draft class, we have a wealth of talent at the top end. A number of these guys are being touted as first round draftees. NFL teams are always looking to improve their protection, and this could be one of the best years in recent history.
Let’s get into this deep dive. You all know where we are starting. There are six in total, and still some top talent outside of the First Round to keep your eyes on.
Penei Sewell, Oregon
Penei Sewell is not only the top tackle in this draft class, but the top player not named Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It is scary just how good he is. Despite sitting out the 2020 season following the PAC-12 opt out, Sewell has not moved an inch from the number 2 rank on our big board.
Sewell has everything you want from a tackle – athleticism, strength, explosiveness. And that’s just for starters. In the running game, Sewell regularly gets under oncoming defenders and pushes them back. He makes gaps for his back and has incredible balance. In the passing game, he is quick to position and forces rushers away from his quarterback.
He has been solid in almost every aspect of his game at the college level, and it is very tough to spot areas of improvement.
The one thing I have seen on tape is his hand placement against an onrushing defender. At times, it can be too wide and he gets caught in the chest. This was against the top calibre defenders, and examples can be counted on one hand. With a talent as good as Sewell, you end up nit picking.
As previously mentioned, Sewell has the ideal size, speed and power for a top tier left tackle. There’s no such thing as a sure thing, but he could be a sure fire pro bowler wherever he lands.
Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
I will be the first to admit, I am high on Radunz in the 2021 NFL Draft. I have not hid my feelings towards him in many a pod and mock draft. He is a big guy, but has more room to add bulk when looking at this frame. He will want to do this when he gets to the NFL.
Radunz played at left tackle for North Dakota and has the athleticism, balance and body control to become a starting tackle at the NFL level. His best area is in the run game, and is a vicious run blocker, looking for targets and smashing them out of the way. He shows good body control and you rarely see him on the ground. Radunz also shows real toughness against rushers who get under his pads, still allowing him to come out on top.
Radunz’s stock took a hit with the postponement of North Dakota’s season, along with the criticism of opposition he has faced compared to other top tackle prospects. He has dominated anyone that has been put in front of him. He now has his senior Bowl invite, which gives him the chance to show what he can offer. This time, he will be up against top opposition. It could be key to his rise up the draft board once again.
RaShawn Slater, Northwestern
Slater is a powerhouse in the run game at the tackle position. He uses his strength, agility and aggressiveness to demolish defenders in the run game. His first step is explosive and he has shown great feet in pass protection.
Slater is a very aggressive player, sometimes too aggressive. This may get him caught out at the NFL level. He also lacks the length you expect to see from a tackle, but his game more than makes up for this. His size and stiff hips can mean he is out leveraged at times, but this can be worked on by NFL coaches. We have seen smaller lineman succeed at the tackle position in the past, too.
It will be interesting to see how NFL teams use him wherever he lands. He has played at both right & left tackle for Northwestern. I see him having success at tackle but he can easily move into guard and be just as (if not more) dominant then we have seen at college level.
Samuel Cosmi, Texas
Samuel Cosmi is the rawest talent from the list of guys being discussed here, but don’t let that take away from just how good he already is.
Cosmi’s best area is in pass protection, where his athleticism shows out. He is quick on the snap and tracks rushers well. He gets it done in the run game by using his speed to put momentum into his blocks against the bigger defenders.
One criticism of Cosmi is his size. He does not look 300 lb. He will need to put on additional size in the NFL to compete against edge rushers with an effective bull rush technique. At times in the college game, these rushers exposed Cosmi’s flaws.
Cosmi is a first round talent with undoubted potential and upside. He should be viewed as a project player and allowed time to develop. If he realises his potential, Samuel Cosmi will be a dominant lineman for years to come.
Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Mayfield has shown all of the traits needed by a tackle at the NFL level. He has the size, strength and mobility to perform well in both the run and pass game. He also looks like he can get even bigger, despite already tipping the scales at 320lbs.
In the run game, Mayfield uses his size and strength, moving players and creating gaps for his running back. In the pass game, his low stance and power allows him to easily handle power rushers.
Where Mayfield has struggled at times is against quicker edge rushers. He seems lost, or engages too quickly and is often put off balance. Development of his footwork at the next level will improve this and help handle those rushers.
Jalen Mayfield is another guy with first round potential. He could well be taken early on Day Two of the 2021 NFL Draft. . A potential draft steal, he could be afforded time with the right program to sit and develop his skills further.
Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw has been highly touted since entering the college game, but in the 2020 season has taken his game to the next level. He currently continues to fly up draft boards.
One key strength of his game is his reach. This, along with his mobility and strength, allows him to be a force in pass protection. His football IQ enables him to get into the right positions.
An area to improve on is his hands when run blocking. He can be overpowered and pushed into his running back. These examples are few and far between, but it will need to be addressed at the next level.
Darrisaw is already a top tier pass protector with more potential to unlock. He should be an instant starter in the NFL.
Other names to look out for:
I was not lying when I said this draft class was incredibly deep. Sewell is head and shoulders ahead of the rest, of course. However, this could be one of the top offensive line groups we have seen in a long time. The list below is a small snapshot of guys who should see their names called on Day Two of the 2021 NFL Draft. Some of these could even go on Day One with the right fit.
Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
Jackson Carman, Clemson
Walker Little, Stanford
Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
Brady Christensen, BYU
Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
The @5yardcollege team has one more offensive positional breakdowns – interior linemen. Then, we get onto defence and my favourite side of the ball.
Saturdays are for rushing, too!