by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
February 13th, 2021
1) Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 315
Vera-Tucker, in a way not dissimilar to Penei Sewell, is the top guard in this class. Sewell would be the best prospect in most drafts and Vera-Tucker doesn’t fill that box, but he’s clearly the best guard in this class and will be a top pick because of that. It takes a very special interior lineman to be taken with an extremely high pick but there are a could of players worth of the price in this draft, this USC product being one of them. AVT blends size, speed, and effort in a way that’s nearly indomitable and was good enough to start at tackle for the Trojans this year, though he’s best suited on the inside in the NFL. His arms and base are tremendously strong and solid while his hands stay frustratingly active and his feet drive him through defenders. The player has tremendous quickness that allows him to use his superior intelligence to find perfect positioning, fortifying his section of the line even more. He can bear to improve in parts of his game, reading blitzes and perfecting his pass protection, but he’s a polished product that will go high in this draft.
2) Wyatt Davis, Ohio State; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 315
Ohio State’s best blocker this season was Wyatt Davis, a run mauler that infrequently saw teams challenge him with a solo rusher in pass protection. Watching his film, it’s easy to see why Davis was rarely challenged. While he could be a touch quicker and improve his pickup, there’s so much to love about Davis. He’s an absolute rock with an incredibly stable base, one that translates to run blocking where he steam rolls everyone. Davis is excellent at maintaining separation from his defender and hits as hard as anyone in this draft.
3) Trey Smith, Tennessee; Ht: 6-6 Wt: 330
Trey Smith could have been one of the better guards in the 2020 NFL Draft had he decided to come out, but he instead opted to stay in and get another year with the Volunteers. I’m not sure how it affected him, but he’s still an early Day 2 pick to me. A “finished product” Trey Smith could challenge Vera-Tucker for the top spot on this list, and what I mean by that is there’s a ton of space for Smith to improve. He’s still a very good player at the moment, one with ridiculous power and a very good record on solo blocks, but there’s so much room to grow. Be it in his mobility, his progression in run, pickup in pass protection, footwork, or anywhere else, he can get better. He’s still a great player who can start in the NFL this year, but the upside is really, really good for this player.
4) Deonte Brown, Alabama; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 350
Brown gained a lot of traction to the more casual fans when the photo of him looking like Blastoise emerged, but he’s going to be a lot less of a joke when he’s blocking in the NFL. To start, he’s a ridiculously massive player. He’s huge and you can’t teach size. But to create the problem, you have to add mobility and quickness, and boy does he have it. He’s fast off the snap and hits extremely hard, using that size and power to further his advantage. He drives through the run and can be used to pull, plus he’s nearly impossible to move in pass protection. I would like to see the national champion improve his balance so that he won’t be pulled down or overshoot some blocks, but he’s a very good player as he is and will be picked very high.
5) Ben Cleveland, Georgia; Ht: 6-6 Wt: 335
Georgia’s offensive line had a relatively down year considering how many of their players left the program last year, but Ben Cleveland had a very nice year despite that. Cleveland is a smart athlete with good physical traits, pairing that with great intangibles to be one of the better blockers in this class. Cleveland’s strength makes him a great run blocker alone, but he’s honed his footwork and hands so that he’s just devastating and nasty. He moves well enough and in pass protection he has a nice scan with very good impact absorption. There’s a lot to love with this player.
6) Royce Newman, Ole Miss; Ht: 6-6 Wt: 310
Mississippi’s top blocking prospect played as both a tackle and guard, but his ability level suggests that he’s better off on the inside, though a steady job at right tackle isn’t out of the question. Newman is an aggressive run blocker who uses a very strong base and tight hands to get a decent drive. He’s a very good pass blocker with only a couple of issues. His footwork, especially kick step, is really impressive, he’s more than strong enough to play in the pros, and he’s good at diagnosing his reads, but his positioning is questionable. Sometimes he can be tricked into disadvantageous positions where he’s giving way too much room to either side, but playing at guard would mitigate those issues. Regardless, a very talented player.
7) David Moore, Grambling; Ht: 6-3 Wt: 320
Moore is the first of two non-D-I players on this list and while the level of competition can worry some people, Moore should not make anyone lose sleep. Not only does he have the intelligence to play the position, he’s more than strong and talented enough as well, evidenced by the efforts made by defensive coordinators to avoid the player whenever possible. Moore has a quick first step to help him get the better position, plus he has incredible run progression. He could be a bit more mobile, but that work can come later. In pass protection, Moore is tough to pick apart. His pocket awareness helps him block well directionally and his strength made him nearly unbeatable anyways. He has a lot of pop in his hands, scans well, doesn’t get sucked into blocking out of position, transitions blocks well, and gives great effort. He could end up being a steal for whoever snags him.
8) Tristen Hoge, BYU; Ht: 6-5 Wt: 310
In a team that accomplished so much so quickly with skill position players who were fantastic, it was easy to end up overlooking the BYU offensive linemen, but they deserve recognition. Hoge was one of the players who had a great season blocking for Zach Wilson, keeping his pocket clean and clearing out running lanes for the pushers. Hoge operated well in pass protection, scanning well and refusing to be bull rushed. He wasn’t prolific because he rarely needed to be with Wilson passing the ball. He showed much better chops blocking for the run though, with a quick first step and solid movement. He’s a very strong player and can take a lineman to the second level with him, something that run-heavy offenses will be very interested in.
9) Daurean Parker, Mississippi State; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 355
Parker turned out to be a great fit in a scheme that a lot of linemen can struggle in with Mike Leech, something that will catch the eyes of a lot of scouts. His motor was good enough to pass block 70+ times per game and still give up very few chances to get the quarterback. Parker could get better run blocking, sometimes his footwork and balance betray him, but for the most part he’s more than ready for the pros. His size and frame are exactly what’s desired and his quickness is probably good enough to thrive in its current state. He has a heavy punch and positions himself well enough that he could maybe block for a pro team right away if needed.
10) Stewart Reese, Florida; Ht: 6-5 Wt: 350
Florida’s offensive line was fairly hit or miss this season, but Stewart Reese seemed to always perform well. His strength popped off the screen as he plowed through defenders and though Florida didn’t utilize it much, he was really impressive with a good churn in the run. His movement was good enough where he could be an effective puller and a strong asset with screen passes. He was equally as effective in pass protection, leading with a quick first step and good positioning, pairing them with active hands and strong arms as well as extremely good pickups and nice transition blocks. In addition, Reese is just a good dude, so maybe that can be a deciding factor!
11) Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater; Ht: 6-6 Wt: 320
Meinerz is the other non-D-I player on the list and his Senior Bowl performance is a big reason as to why his stock is going up. There were some questions about the D-III competition he was facing during his career but his clinic against other seniors was more than enough to clear the air. I’m a bit worried about his footwork because it got a bit sloppy when it wasn’t necessary to win blocks, but otherwise I think he’s a good prospect. He doesn’t get drive and holds engagement so going around him isn’t an option. He has good mobility and strength and looks to kill whoever he’s blocking. He should be fun to watch develop.
12) Jack Anderson, Texas Tech; Ht: 6-5 Wt: 315
Anderson has an interesting frame for a guard, being generally taller and thinner than most, but he was pretty effective regardless. The Texas Tech prospect showed an aptitude to be very good in pass protection, displaying very good strength and very heavy hands, often keeping separation with good balance. In addition, he did well to scan the field when not engaged. I struggled to place him higher because I’m concerned about his athleticism. He didn’t give off very good mobility and his adjustments that the best players could make just aren’t there, and to make up for it he wasn’t able to get leverage to stay low. If he can fix that he will be better, but those concerns are pretty large.
13) Aaron Banks, Notre Dame; Ht: 6-5 Wt: 330
Both of Notre Dame’s guards will be taken in this draft, but neither will be going exceptionally high, both probably being mid-third day picks. Banks has the potential to turn out very good, but I didn’t love him this past season. Yes, he’s very strong and hits really hard, especially off the snap, but that’s generally worthless if he can’t get balanced. The same goes for his base. He can be as strong as he wants, but until he stays centered so he can’t be pulled down and isn’t lunging, that can all be compromised. And though he works hard in his blocks and does very well run blocking, there’s a lot to be desired in his movement as he just isn’t fast and can be moved by easily if the defender possesses some speed. There’s upside if the right work is put in, but he’s not worth a top pick as is.
14) Sadarius Hutcherson, South Carolina; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 320
Hutcherson is another player like Banks in that there’s some really good stuff here, especially physically, but the rest needs to catch up quickly. Hutcherson is a very good blocker, but he isn’t a great pass protector. His vision is lackluster and he doesn’t recognize pass rushers as they’re coming, leaving his quarterback to be murdered at times. Otherwise, his footwork is good and he shows really good strength and the nice ability to square up his opponent. In the run there are some issues too. He could bear to be a lot more mobile and he could improve on his blocks upfield, but again, there’s a good mold here with some good parts so I expect to see him taken.
15) Kayode Awosika, Buffalo; Ht: 6-5 Wt: 315
Awosika didn’t get much run this season due to the MAC only playing six regular season games, but the guard was still able to show out in his time on the field. I liked his pass protection prospects as his hands fire quickly and hard and he can get a good push in the run, but there’s a lot of trouble here as well. His footwork is decent at best and his lack of mobility makes that struggle even more apparent. He also struggles to stay balanced and his base could be stronger, but with the right work I could see him finding success at the next level.
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