I classify myself as a rarity when it comes to how I watch a football game. I don’t follow the ball like most people. I analyze the battle in the trenches between the offensive and defensive line for the entire 60 minutes of play. There are a ton of talented maulers in the 2021 NFL Draft Class. Here are my top offensive line prospects coming out of college this year.
I was a former Division I offensive lineman, so I have so much respect for what these athletes do for their team without receiving much credit. Offensive linemen are some of the best athletes on a football field.
The best linemen have superior footwork, flexibility, and toughness while weighing in at over 300 pounds. I’m drawn to all athletes that encompass these qualities in their style of play on the offensive line.
2021 NFL Draft Class – Penei Sewell – Oregon
- Height: 6’6”
Weight: 325 lbs
Penei Sewell is the next great offensive tackle in the NFL. Sewell is a prototypical NFL left tackle because of his size, quickness, and agility. He will be able to handle the stud edge rushers that NFL defenses love to utilize because of his outstanding footwork.
Sewell is a knee bender, and he doesn’t play lazy. This makes it very tough for him to get caught off guard by opposing pass rushers. His strong upper half combined with his knee bend neutralizes any bull rushes that come his way. He always looks for work when he is free in the passing game which shows his care for the other four guys next to him.
Sewell’s knee bend makes it easy for him to lift and drive defenders on run plays. His speed in the second level is my favorite part about Sewell’s contribution in the run game. He has shown the ability to put linebackers on their back in a devasting fashion. Sewell was a unanimous first-team All-American, the Outland Trophy winner, and the AP Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.
2021 NFL Draft Class – Alex Leatherwood – Alabama
- Height: 6’6”
Weight: 310 lbs
If you want to see a nasty offensive lineman, make sure you watch Alabama in the College Football Playoff. If you focus on the trenches, your eyes will immediately be drawn towards Alex Leatherwood. Leatherwood is the meanest offensive lineman in the entire country.
I love Leatherwood’s first step when the Crimson Tide run and throw the football. No matter what technique Leatherwood is doing, he makes it intentional and aggressive. This allows him to get off the ball quickly and shock defenders in the run game. It also permits him to vertically set efficiently and scan the defensive attack in order to keep Mac Jones upright.
His punch is one of the hardest you’ll see in all of college football. It has the ability to halt SEC defenders in place when they attempt to rush the passer. Leatherwood isn’t the most technically sound offensive linemen, and this causes him to get beat. He wants to punish the man across the line, but this occasionally gets him in trouble by not staying technically sound.
However, you can teach technique. You can’t teach nasty and to succeed in the NFL you have to express a mean streak week in and week out. Leatherwood won’t have this issue.
2021 NFL Draft Class – Rashawn Slater – Northwestern
- Height: 6’4”
Weight: 308 lbs
Rashawn Slater was a three-year starter at Northwestern at offensive tackle. He’ll most likely bump inside at the next level. Slater, a preseason All American, opted out of the 2020 college season due to COVID. However, since he was a three-year starter, analysts still have plenty of tape to judge Slater.
Slater was an All-Conference selection in the Big Ten in 2019. He was the leader of the Wildcats’ offensive line very quickly after he took his first start as a freshman in 2017. Slater is an aggressive offensive lineman. He played best when Northwestern was pounding the rock. Slater loves to attack opposing defensive linemen and this is evident on film.
Slater isn’t the best in pass protection because he loves being the aggressor. This should change in the NFL when he gets moved inside to guard or center where contact occurs much quicker.
Slaters’ upside is tremendous because he’s a phenomenal athlete. I expect him to test great at the combine. The Senior Bowl will be a big proving ground for Slater because he missed the 2020 season, but no matter what happens he is still one of my favorite interior offensive line draft prospects.
2021 NFL Draft Class – Wyatt Davis – Ohio State
- Height: 6’4”
Weight: 310 lbs
I think Wyatt Davis has tremendous potential in the NFL. He could jump above Rashawn Slater on the draft board because he has 2020 film. Davis bullies opposing interior defensive linemen and linebackers when he is given the chance to play aggressively. His agility gives him the capability to pull and make blocks at the second level.
Davis’ athleticism doesn’t take away from the fact that he is a mauler. He provided a surge for the Buckeyes all season long and helped lead his team to a Big Ten title this season. He would thrive in a zone scheme because of his athleticism, but Davis would perform just as well if he went to a team that loves running power and trap plays.
Davis has great bending ability. This makes him stout in pass pro because he keeps his eyes up at all times. The Red Shirt Junior will make an impact on any team that he suits up for next fall. He is a do-all prospect that can adapt to any style of play.
2021 NFL Draft Class – Christian Darrisaw – Virginia Tech
- Height: 6’5”
Weight: 314 lbs
Christian Darrisaw had a phenomenal career with the Hokies. He still has one more year of collegiate eligibility, but declared for the 2021 NFL Draft a couple of days ago. Darrisaw is one of the longest offensive linemen in the draft. His arms create space that would fit perfectly in a west coast system if a team was willing to dedicate time to working on his footwork.
Darrisaw is able to absorb power in the passing game with a strong punch. The 6’5” prospect also adds loads of quick sets into his routine to stun defenders before the play truly begins. His athleticism makes him great in getting to the second level or pulling laterally when it comes to counter schemes.
Despite this, Darrisaw needs to improve his footwork when he creates space with opposing defenders. The junior has a quick first step, but then tends to lag which is typically why he gets beat. This also affects his ability to recover. Darrisaw needs a little work, but he has all the tools to be a tremendous addition to any offensive line in the NFL.
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