2021 NFL Draft Position Review: Offensive Tackles

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2021 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2021 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated March 14, 2021. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Offensive Tackles

Offensive Tackle Class
Early-round talent: A-
Mid-round: A-
Late-round: B-
Overall grade: A-

2021 prospects vs 2020
Penei Sewell
Andrew Thomas
Jedrick Wills
Mekhi Becton
Tristan Wirfs
Alijah Vera-Tucker
Rashawn Slater
Austin Jackson
Christian Darrisaw
Jalen Mayfield
Sam Cosmi
Alex Leatherwood
Isaiah Wilson
Liam Eichenberg
Ezra Cleveland
Josh Jones

After a few down years, the quality of the offensive tackles rebounded somewhat in the 2019 NFL Draft. The next year had a superb class, and the 2021 NFL Draft looks to have another excellent group of prospects. Last year’s group had five tackles taken as top-20 picks. The 2021 NFL Draft does not have as much top-shelf talent, but it also has more depth than last year, as there is an abundance of quality prospects for the late first round and well into Day 2.

If you were to merge two classes together, Sewell would be the top prospect, and team sources say they have him graded higher than the four tackles who went in the top 13 last year. Alijah Vera-Tucker and Austin Jackson are similar prospects to Tristan Wirfs, and I think they are better prospects than Austin Jackson. Christian Darrisaw, Jalen Mayfield, Sam Cosmi and Alex Leatherwood are better prospects than Isaiah Wilson was coming out of Georgia. Liam Eichenberg is a better prospect than 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland and 2020 third-round pick Josh Jones.

Safest Pick: Penei Sewell, Oregon
Previous Picks:
2020: Andrew Thomas
2019: Cody Ford
2018: Mike McGlinchey
2017: Garett Bolles
2016: Larmey Tunsil
2015: Ereck Flowers
2014: Jake Matthews
2013: Luke Joeckel

My track record here is solid. McGlinchey is a reliable pro. Bolles has had a mixed start to his career, but he turned it around in his fourth season and earned a large second contract. Tunsil has had good seasons to start his career and is one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Flowers got off a nice start in 2015, but had highly criticized 2016 and 2017 seasons at left tackle before becoming a solid guard in the NFL. Matthews has turned into a good left tackle for Atlanta, and I was wise to pick him over Greg Robinson, who went second-overall and became a huge bust for the Rams. I was wrong about Joeckel, whoe was a giant bust for the Jaguars. More time needs to pass before we can pass judgement on Cody Ford or Andrew Thomas.

This was a no-brainer pick because Sewell is hands down the best tackle prospect and a very safe pick to turn into a good pro. Sewell has excellent size alongside quickness, athleticism, and strength. His technique could stand to be refined, but that should happen with NFL coaching. Even with sitting out 2020 and losing a year of development, Sewell is one of the safer players in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Biggest Bust Potential: James Hudson, Cincinnati
Previous Picks:
2020: Ezra Cleveland
2019: David Edwards
2018: Connor Williams
2017: Roderick Johnson
2016: Shon Coleman
2015: La’el Collins
2014: Cyrus Kouandjio
2013: D.J. Fluker

My track record here is pretty good. No judgement can be rendered on Edwards at this early point in his career. Connor Williams has struggled, but obviously, he still has time to turn it around. Johnson went in the fifth round, so he can’t be called much of a bust. Fluker didn’t work out for the Chargers and was cut before his rookie contract expired. Kouandjio was a disappointment for the Bills and didn’t work out. Coleman was another busted pick by the Browns. Collins has proven to be a solid starter.

This was a difficult decision because no prospect strikes me as having real bust potential. I went with Hudson (6-4, 305) because he is the rawest of the bunch due to having only played year at Cincinnati – really less than one full season of playing time over his college football career. There are a lot of points of development for Hudson given his lack of experience. He also has short arms, and his size might fit better at guard. Hudson had personal issues at Michigan that led to his transfer to Cincinnati as well, so of the early-round prospects, Hudson could have the hardest time transitioning to the NFL.

Offensive Tackles Rankings by Attributes

Pass Protection:
NFL prototype: Laremy Tunsil, Texans
  1. Penei Sewell
  2. Alex Leatherwood
  3. Christian Darrisaw
  4. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  5. Rashawn Slater
  6. Sam Cosmi
  7. Liam Eichenberg
  8. Jalen Mayfield

Recap: Franchise left tackles have to be rock solid in pass protection. Most teams feature a right-handed quarterback, so the left tackle has to be trusted to shut down pass-rushers coming from the blind side.

Sewell is the best pure pass protector in the 2021 NFL Draft. He is a good athlete with real quickness on the edge. Sewell pops out of his stance, gets his hands into the chest of defenders, and uses his quick feet to play the typewriter and cut off the edge from speed rushers. He has enough strength and quality hands to sustain blocks while being able to neutralize second efforts. His agility, footwork and quickness make him a smooth mover in space. With his good size and strong base, Sewell can hold his ground and stop bull rushes. There are parts of technique that he needs to improve, like keeping his weight from getting over his toes, but projecting this group to the NFL, Sewell will likely end up being the best pass protector of the bunch.

There are a lot of natural strengths to Leatherwood (6-6, 322) that make him an effective pass blocker. For starters, his size and length are ideal, making defenders really struggle to get around him. On top of his mass, Leatherwood has special quickness and athleticism. He has the quick feet to play the typewriter and is able to get depth in his drop to cut off the corner. Leatherwood can also kick slide with fast rushers and shut down speed off the edge. His bulk allows him to anchor and stop bull rushes while only giving up a little ground. Sources from a variety of teams have praised Leatherwood as a good pass protector.

Darrisaw (6-5, 314) has a lot of qualities that NFL teams look for in starting left tackles in terms of pass protection. He has good size, length and athleticism to block on the edge. Darrisaw is quick out his stance to get in position to pick up edge rushers, and his size makes it tough for defenders to get around him. With quality hand placement and length, edge rushers struggle to avoid contact with Darrisaw, and that sets him up to win a lot of his assignments quickly. Darrisaw is quick and a good athlete on the edge. With his agility and movement skills, Darrisaw has the ability to neutralize speed rushers.

For the NFL, there is a lot to like about Vera-Tucker (6-4, 315) in pass protection. He is an easy mover with athleticism, quickness and agility. He can easily glide with speed rushers, showing the ability to play the typewriter with his feet. Vera-Tucker is a natural knee bender who maintains good leverage while avoiding bending at the waist. When taking on bull rushes, Vera-Tucker is able to anchor and absorb the rush to keep them from pushing him into the quarterback.

In pass blocking, Slater (6-3, 305) demonstrates good hand placement and is able to sustain his blocks thanks to possessing functional strength to tie up defenders. He has the quick feet and agility to stay square on speed rushers and neutralize them running around the edge. With his athleticism, Slater is a natural knee bender who does not have to reach after edge rushers because his feet and posture get him in proper position. Slater can have problems with length and strength on the edge, with long defenders being able to keep Slater at a distance, which allows them to use space to run free. Hence, some team evaluators feel Slater should be a guard or center in the NFL.

There is a lot about Cosmi that should translate to him being a dependable edge protector in the NFL. He looks natural bending at the knee and is light on his feet. With his quickness and athleticism, Cosmi can play the typewriter with his feet to cut off the edge from speed rushers. Cosmi can have issues with power rushes to the inside, so continuing to get stronger to anchor will be a point of improvement for him with his NFL coaching staff.

For pass protection, Eichenberg has solid feet and quickness to get depth in his kick slide and cut off edge rushers. He also displays a nice ability to bend at the knee, and that, in combination with his feet, keeps him from having to reach after edge rushers very often. Sometimes he oversets, but generally, he utilizes good technique. Eichenberg has a solid base to anchor against bull rushes and keep himself from getting pushed into the quarterback. Due to his lack of elite speed, athleticism and feet, however, Eichenberg could have problems with good NFL pass rushers. Eichenberg could be solid tackle at the next level, but not one who pitches shutouts against quality pro edge defenders.

Mayfield has enough quickness and athleticism on the edge to neutralize speed rushers. While he is not an elite athlete or especially fast, he is quick out of his stance and gets in position to wall off defenders. Mayfield gives up a little ground against bull rushes before being able to anchor thanks to enough lower body strength to keep himself from getting pushed into the quarterback. At times, Mayfield lunges after defenders and he can get his weight too far over his toes. That leads to him missing some blocks in space especially. There are also times when he gives up up ground in bull rushes. He gets too wide with his hands. and that allows defenders to get into his chest to rock him back. Hence, Mayfield is a right tackle prospect for the NFL.

Run Blocking:
NFL prototype: Trent Brown, Patriots
  1. Rashawn Slater
  2. Penei Sewell
  3. Jalen Mayfield
  4. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  5. Liam Eichenberg
  6. Christian Darrisaw
  7. Sam Cosmi
  8. Alex Leatherwood

Recap: Slater makes an impact as a run blocker when firing to the second level. He is dynamic for getting to linebackers off the snap along with peeling off defensive linemen and then hitting a linebacker to help open a hole. With his speed, athleticism, and ability to play in space, Slater is a great fit for a zone-blocking scheme. While he has some functional strength, Slater is limited in the ground game and is not a true bull who can overpower defenders at the line of scrimmage. He fights, but he is not a people mover to drive defenders backward off the ball.

As a run blocker, Sewell is not overpowering where he bulls defenders off the ball, but he scraps with attitude and is effective. Sewell uses his size and strength to manipulate and turn defenders to tie them up and keep them from getting on tackles. He is dangerous firing to the second level, where he will get nasty with linebackers or defensive backs, overwhelming them with violence. It would help Sewell to continue to add more functional strength for battling NFL defensive linemen, but he could function in a power-man- or a zone-blocking scheme.

In the ground game, Mayfield is a solid contributor at the point of attack. He is not an overpowering road grader, but he can be depended on to execute his assignment. Mayfield has the strength to control, turn and manipulate defenders at the point of attack. Mayfield is able to hit blocks on the second level and able to kick out to the perimeter. Thanks to his fighting temperament, Mayfield blocks through the whistle and sustains his blocks. He should be a solid run blocker in the NFL.

Vera-Tucker is not a bull at the point of attack, but he is still an effective in run blocking. He is more of a wall-off-and-position blocker who beats defenders to a spot to cover them up and keep them from making a tackle. He does a nice job of scrapping and keeping his hands fighting to sustain his blocks. It would help him to add strength if his frame isn’t maxed out. For a pro rushing offense, Vera-Tucker might fit best in a zone-blocking scheme.

As a run blocker, Eichenberg will contribute, but he is not a difference maker. He lacks the elite strength to be a true bull in the ground game who can blast defensive lineman off the ball or push them around the field. Eichenberg is more of a scrapper who ties up defenders, manipulates them, and turns them away from getting in on tackles. While Eichenberg is not a power run blocker, he does a nice job of firing downfield or the perimeter and is effective at hitting blocks in space on second-level defenders. Eichenberg would fit better in the NFL with a team that runs more zone-run plays over power man.

Darrisaw is a solid run blocker. He uses his big body to tie up defenders and lean on them. Darrisaw is more of the type to turn defenders and tie them up from getting to the ball-carrier rather than knocking them off the ball. In the ground game, Darrisaw shows a lack of urgency and is not a passionate blocker, as he seems to ease off at times. Darrisaw could be better off in the pros in a zone-blocking system rather a power-man rushing attack.

Cosmi is not consistent in the ground game and lacks explosion on contact. He showed improved strength in 2020 to wrestle defenders once engaged, but he needs to get more powerful off the ball to become more effective on a down-by-down basis.

As a run blocker, Leatherwood needs to get stronger and become more physical. He struggles when the time calls for him to get nasty and knock defenders off the ball. He is not a bull in the ground game who will push defensive linemen off the ball and knock defenders back. His hand placement needs work from his NFL position coach. In short-yardage and goal-line situations, Leatherwood is not a dependable blocker to run behind to create a push. He is also quick to the second level to hit blocks in space and get in position on the second level. He is more of a run blocker who walls off defenders and ties them up rather than overwhelming them.

NFL prototype: Ronnie Stanley, Ravens
  1. Christian Darrisaw
  2. Penei Sewell
  3. Alex Leatherwood
  4. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  5. Rashawn Slater
  6. Sam Cosmi
  7. Liam Eichenberg
  8. Jalen Mayfield

Recap: Darrisaw could have the best feet in the 2021 NFL Draft. He is very light, can play the typewriter and consistently puts himself in good position.

Sewell has quick feet and can pick them up and put them down in his backpedal or when firing out of his stance. Leatherwood is a good athlete with quick feet and the ability to kick slide with speed rushers. He is very good at defending the edge from fast pass rushers. Vera-Tucker shows nice footwork and balance, and he gets depth in his kick slide.

Alongside his excellent technique, Slater has really good feet that he keeps moving well. He is NFL ready in that aspect. Cosmi also has pro-ready footwork to hit the ground running. His feet get him in position to make blocks and keep him from getting out of place.

Eichenerbg has solid feet, but for the NFL, his lack of foot quickness could be problematic when going against good speed rushers. Mayfield struggles with consistency, sometimes using his feet well and struggling at other times. That inconsistency is part of why some believe he should stay at right tackle.

Zone-Blocking Scheme:
NFL prototype: Tyron Smith, Cowboys
  1. Penei Sewell
  2. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  3. Rashawn Slater
  4. Christian Darrisaw
  5. Alex Leatherwood
  6. Sam Cosmi
  7. Jalen Mayfield
  8. Liam Eichenberg

Recap: All of these tackle prospects could execute in a zone-blocking system. They all have enough athletic ability and the speed to play it. Sewell, Vera-Tucker, Darrisaw, Leatherwood and Cosmi are the best fits because they are quick and mobile. Each one has shown the ability to block on the move. Mayfield and Eichenberg could execute zone schemes, but they might be better in power-man schemes.

Man Scheme:
NFL prototype: Trent Williams, 49ers
  1. Penei Sewell
  2. Rashawn Slater
  3. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  4. Jalen Mayfield
  5. Sam Cosmi
  6. Christian Darrisaw
  7. Liam Eichenberg
  8. Alex Leatherwood

Recap: The top four, Sewell, Mayfield, Slater and Vera-Tucker, are good fits for a man-blocking scheme. They sustain their blocks well in the ground game overall and are plus run blockers on the edge.

Cosmi could play in a man scheme as well, but he needs to get more explosive off the ball to get engaged to be effective. Darrisaw does not block with urgency and eases off on some plays, so he might not be a great fit for a man scheme. Eichenberg was effective as a man blocker at Notre Dame, but for the NFL, he does not look overpowering. Leatherwood could be too much of a finesse blocker for a power-man scheme, but he started to show more physicality during his senior year, so perhaps he is a late bloomer.

Guard/Right Tackle Potential:
NFL prototype: Lane Johnson, Eagles
  1. Rashawn Slater
  2. Alijah Vera-Tucker
  3. Alex Leatherwood
  4. Jalen Mayfield
  5. Penei Sewell
  6. Liam Eichenberg
  7. Christian Darrisaw
  8. Sam Cosmi

Recap: Some teams like to move college tackles inside to guard or to right tackle. Other roster considerations also cause some tackles to start their careers on the right side or move in to guard. Having the versatility to be swapped around and play a variety of positions adds a lot of value to an offensive lineman.

Slater has the skill set to play tackle, guard or center. Some think moving to the inside would be the best plan for him to be the most effective in the NFL. Vera-Tucker and Leatherwood started out their collegiate careers as guards before moving to tackle. They could play guard or tackle in the NFL.

Mayfield could play guard or right tackle, and moving inside to guard might not be a bad idea to start out his pro career. Sewell could play guard or right tackle, but he’s such a good left tackle that it doesn’t make sense to play him at any other spot unless he has a left-handed quarterback, in which case he could be the blind-side protector at right tackle.

Eichenberg could maybe move to guard or right tackle, but will need some more strength development if he moves inside. Darrisaw and Cosmi may not have the strength or physicality to move inside to guard or play right tackle. Those two look like left tackles only.

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