In Matt Miller's mock draft, one of the players he selected for the Rams was Adeniji, an offensive lineman from Kansas. Though he played tackle in college, Adeniji is projected by many experts to project as a guard in the NFL. Lance Zierlein grades Adeniji higher than Jonah Jackson, a player I really like and consider to be one of the better interior linemen in this draft. Could Adeniji end up being a Ram and an under the radar draft sleeper?
The Rise and Fall of the Bengals Line
Kansas is far from a college football powerhouse. The last offensive lineman they had drafted was Tanner Hawkinson, a 5th round pick in 2013 by the Bengals. I kind of liked Hawkinson. He was a former TE who was a good athlete. He lacked power and was raw, but there was potential upside due to his athleticism, reflected by his fast 4.51 second shuttle time.
At the time of that pick, the Bengals didn't have a huge pressing need along their offensive line and seemingly could look for developmental flyer type players such as Hawkinson. With strong draft picks in Whitworth (2006 2nd rd), Andrew Smith (2009 1st rd), Clint Boling (2011 4th rd) and Kevin Zeitler (2012 1st rd), the Bengals already had a talented core group. They even had a decent history of picks prior to that time, with players such as Mike Goff, Levi Jones, Stacy Andrews and Eric Steinbach.
In Hawkinson's rookie season, the Bengals had the 2nd best offensive line in the NFL, according to PFF. The team finished 11-5, losing a Wild Card game. They graded as an elite line despite having to overcome injuries to both guards. When Boling got hurt, they even moved Whitworth inside to left guard to attempt to solidify that spot (Whit formerly was their starting LG at the beginning of his career).
Hawkinson never developed into a productive NFL player. He only played 10 offensive snaps in two seasons with the Bengals, before being waived in final cuts after the 2015 preseason. He abruptly retired from the NFL the following year and has pursued another career outside of football.
Some of the players drafted after Hawkinson or not drafted at all that year worked out better. Rick Wagner, who was the last pick in the 5th round, at one point was considered one of the elite NFL right tackles. Ryan Jensen, a late 6th round pick, emerged as one of the most sought after free agent centers one year. I previously mentioned Patrick Omameh, an UDFA, who has been a journeyman vet and is still in the NFL.
A long series of offensive line draft picks by the Bengals have failed to produce starting talent. Reid Fragel, another former TE, a 7th round pick the same year as Hawkinson, didn't catch on. Russ Bodine (2014 4th rd) was a marginal starter and is trying to win a roster spot with Detroit this year. Cedric Ogbuehi (2015 1st rd) was a backup with Jacksonville last year. Jake Fisher (2015 2nd) is out of the NFL after trying to move to TE. Christian Westerman (2016 5th) was a player I liked, but he decided to retire from football. JJ Dielman (2017 5th) was waived as a rookie, spent about a week with the Rams and also is now retired. Billy Price (2018 1st) has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play and has yet to win a starting role. Jonah Williams (2019 1st) might be great someday, but due to injury has yet to play for the Bengals. Michael Jordan (2019 4th) played poorly as a rookie.
Predictably, as the former wave of good picks got older and moved on (Boling retired before the 2019 season and both Whit and Zeitler are no longer with the Bengals), and the next wave of picks failed to adequately replace them, the performance of the offensive line suffered. The Bengals dropped all the way to 30th in PFF's rankings in 2019, after being 27th and 28th the prior two seasons. After having a run of consistently top 10 lines in 2012 through 2014, the tables have turned and now they have consistently been near the bottom of the league.
Background and Measurements (from Senior Bowl)
True Senior. Started every game in his college career. Says that he has never missed a single game in his entire football career due to injury. Team captain in 2019. Played mostly left tackle at KU, some RT as freshman. Degree in Management and Leadership.
Intended to play football at Air Force Academy, but was disqualified due to a cashew food allergy. Only weighed 265 pounds when he played as a freshman in college. Brother played line at AFA.
Torn labrum in training camp as sophomore. Tore labrum in other shoulder in 5th game that year. Played rest of season with both injuries, then had two surgeries after season was over. Turf toe in high school. According to PFF, surrendered 3 sacks as senior and 15 total in his career. Reports say he had a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl, though he did struggle at times against quickness.
6'4 3/8'' tall, 302 pounds, 33 7/8'' arms, 9 7/8'' hands, 83 3/8'' wingspan
Notably, Adeniji's wingspan is a hair longer than Cushenberry's. As I've questioned with respect to other prospects, I'm not sure Cushenberry deserves the hype he is getting over a player like Adeniji. Per PFF, Cushenberry gave up the most QB pressures of any center in the nation last season. I wouldn't necessarily be worried about that if he was a great run blocker, but I don't see Cushenberry as being great in that department either. So, if he's neither a great pass blocker, nor a great run blocker, what exactly is it that he does well? He is big, but as you can see, Adeniji has similar length.
The draft board consensus is in the 4th to 7th round area. ESPN 18th tackle, 183 overall (coincidentally, this is 2 spots ahead of Tommy Kraemer) which would be a 6th round pick. CBSSports 118th overall (close behind Bredeson, Jackson and Simpson), 4th rd. Drafttek 11th tackle and 7th guard, 74th overall, early 4th rd. Kyle Crabbs 138th overall, late 4th rd. Sports Illustrated 17th tackle, which would be late round. Walterfootball 7th guard, 3rd to 5th rd. Matt Miller mocked him to the Rams in the 7th round, 235th overall selection.
I found his interviews to be boring. I enjoyed watching the Kansas vs. Texas game, it was a dramatic game with a crazy 4th quarter.
Potential as a pass blocker. Quality first step out of stance. Short, choppy steps. Maintains balance as he slides one way, then back in other direction. Mixes up pass sets. Decent ability to mirror. Playing LT in college consistent with his potential as pass blocker in terms of basic technique and fundamentals. Size and length aids in anchor.
Redirects pass rushers with long arms sometimes if he can't stay in front of them with his feet.
On some run plays, even if his block isn't the prettiest, he still sometimes gets in the way with his size and effectively serve as blockade.
Understands how to unlock hips into block.
Experienced and durable if his shoulder injuries check out.
If he can learn guard, could have position flexibility.
Seems to have leadership and football character traits.
Good size and length for an NFL guard.
Poor body control, flexibility and agility. Too slow to secure blocks on wide zone runs. Fails to get to reach blocks. Labored movement running laterally, not a quick twitch athlete. Slow on screen blocks and as puller.
Consistently loses badly to quickness at LOS. If, for example, defender is lined up on his inside shoulder, but jumps to outside after the snap, he struggles to adjust and too often completely misses.
Hands are too slow. Can't stay at LT in NFL. Quality edge speed sometimes makes him look like "revolving door" as defender goes around him. Weak hand placements and punch exposes his chest. Defenders pull him forward or defeat his hands and can get by. Gives up too many secondary rushes after being in solid position initially. Unable to consistently lock up pass rusher and control them.
Average recovery ability in pass pro. Has to keep feet moving, because once they stop he can't restart them and recover.
Average awareness. Okay against some twists. Other even basic twists, he doesn't recognize and block the DT in time. When he was too slow to block the MLB, instead of turning around and blocking the safety, he just stands there and doesn't block anyone. Against complicated 3 defender loop with a DB blitz, he changes mind midstream and ends up blocking neither defender.
Lacks functional power and play strength. Hands not heavy in pass pro punch. Doesn't consistently generate movement as run blocker. No "nasty" in game, not enough aggression. Gets shed by LBs too easily. Doesn't sustain run blocks consistently.
Not a good combo blocker. Inconsistent climbing to 2nd level run blocks. Poor body control contributes to poor angles or being late to spot.
I'm not convinced he can successfully transition to guard, because things happen quickly inside. You don't have as much time and space to react compared to playing tackle. Adeniji has traits that could make him struggle big time inside, because he's neither quick nor aggressive. Right tackle could be his best shot, but he played mostly LT in college.
Not scheme versatile. I don't think he can play at all in a zone scheme due to poor athleticism.
Late round grade. I don't see Adeniji as being more than a backup level player in the NFL. The reason I think he has a shot to possibly hang on as a reserve is he has decent pass blocking ability. He can move his feet in pass pro, he had some length and size. If you can pass block at an acceptable level, it at least gives an NFL team something to work with.
The reason I can't see him ever being a good starter is there are too many other holes in his game. He is a relatively poor run blocker. He's not a good athlete. Even with more experience and coaching, I don't see him getting much better in that area. I went back and watched Jamon Brown to compare (Jamon played tackle in college) and Jamon in my opinion was a decidedly better pro prospect. I only had about a 5th round grade on Jamon. He isn't a great athlete either. His hands are slow, he's not overly quick. Jamon had more power and functional strength and his game translated better for a move inside to guard. Jamon himself is only a decent backup to marginal starter type player in the NFL, so if Adeniji projects to not even reach that level, I wouldn't use even a middle round pick on him. The reason I had Bobby Evans graded where I did was I thought he had more potential than Jamon Brown. Why draft Adeniji if he's at least 2 rungs in the ladder lower than Evans?