NFL mock draft: Ranking the top offensive linemen
Quarterbacks get all the publicity in the NFL Draft, but they cannot deliver if they aren’t protected. That makes offensive linemen just as important in the grand scheme of fielding a successful team.
Let’s break down the five best offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft and look at who might be be protecting the quarterback of your favorite team.
5. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
Jenkins is a 6-foot-7 beast who has played multiple positions during his four years in college. He started primarily at right tackle, and lined up for 20 of his 28 starts in that position, but also saw time at left tackle and right guard.
A dominant run blocker, Jenkins uses his large frame to engulf defensive ends at the point of attack.
Jenkins is also a solid pass blocker, although his higher setup could cause issues against faster edge rushers. He also suffered a lower-back injury in November that ended his season, something NFL executives might be worried about for a player his size.
It would not be shocking to see him moved to guard, but his strength and versatility should prove valuable to many offensive lines around the league.
4. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Vera-Tucker is a 6-foot-4, 315-pound tank, who drives players back on run plays and moves well for his size in the passing game.
He has the best footwork of any lineman in the draft, gets his hands inside very well, and takes good angles when he engages linebackers.
USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker is conducting his Pro Day now, and could be a target for the #Giants in this draft— Michael Luisi (@MichaelLuisi13) March 24, 2021
Right now he’s my favorite IOL in this class, but might be a slight reach at 11
What are your thoughts on Vera-Tucker to NYG, most likely in a trade down scenario? pic.twitter.com/ZqCcl0ip0K
Vera-Tucker played right guard his first year, moved to left guard in 2019, and played left tackle in 2020. He was dominated by Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux in his final game at USC, with two sacks allowed (as many as he gave up the rest of the season), and has many wondering if he can manage playing tackle against faster players.
Regardless of where he lines up, Vera-Tucker’s athletic ability and experience at multiple positions makes him worthy of a first-round pick.
3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw is an All-ACC lineman, with a 6-foot-5 frame, who did not allow a sack on 293 pass blocks in 2020. He has terrific footwork and displayed an outstanding ability to lock up edge rushers, no matter the technique deployed against him. He only allowed his man to put pressure on the quarterback six times in 2020.
Running the ball behind Darrisaw also saw terrific results, with run plays towards his gap averaging nearly eight yards per attempt.
He will need to work on his inside leverage, as he tends to slip outside quickly, but his arm length and footwork should allow teams to work with him. Darrisaw should thrive if he is drafted to a team that employs a zone-blocking style, and his all-around blocking ability gives him high potential.
2. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
One of two players on this list to opt out of the 2020 season, Slater left a lasting impression after his 2019 matchup with Ohio State. The Wildcats were dominated, but Slater faced off with future NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young and won the matchup, without question. Young was a non-factor, with only two hurries on 30 pass plays.
Slater will be a left tackle and almost certainly a top 15 selection. After he moved from right to left tackle in 2019, he did not allow a sack.
His strength and his work with his hands allow him to stay engaged through an entire play, and his footwork makes it difficult to run around him or swim through. He finishes plays well, especially on rushing downs, and he won’t hesitate to sling his man to the ground.
Most years he would be the top tackle on the board, but Slater projects as an All-Pro for years to come.
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
Many scouts consider Sewell a generational talent at offensive tackle. He also opted out of the 2020 season, as he had little to prove to NFL scouts and general managers.
The comparisons to Jonathan Ogden are for a good reason — a combination of aggression, nastiness, and all-around ability that made the former Raven a Hall of Famer.
Sewell is without question the best run-blocking tackle in the NFL Draft, and when he gets his pads low, there are few who can hold up to him at the point of attack. His 6-foot-6, 330-pound frame, combined with a lightning-fast punch, allows him to drive defenders off the ball and into the ground. Despite his size, he is very agile pulling, and when he gets a head of steam, he is a monster in the open field. He is very good at pass blocking, as well, although his footwork and his ability to sustain blocks can use a bit of work.
Do not expect Sewell to be on the board beyond the fifth pick, and don’t be shocked to see a team trade up to get him. Sewell is a monster, and I cannot wait to see him drive players into the ground or the sideline on Sundays this fall.