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2021 NFL Draft: Stanford OT Walker Little now has a key Rams connection

Who is he and what does he do?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 Washington State at Stanford Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The LA Rams officially announced the hiring of Sean McVay on Jan. 12, 2017. One day later, a high school tackle recruit named Walker Little paid his official visit to Stanford, the college he chose to commit his four years of service to. These two unrelated events could soon result in an event that relates them.

Because the Rams hired McVay and because Little chose Stanford, the two sides might come together in the 2021 NFL Draft this year.

Little, whose last name will draw a billion sentences that read something like “He’s anything but...”, was a 6’7, 305 lbs, 5-star tackle recruit out of Episcopal High School in Houston, Texas in 2017. He chose Stanford over any number of schools you’d like to imagine, including Alabama, who made him an official offer.

But as a friend who tutors high schoolers with 1600 SATs and 4.9 GPAs recently told me, “Stanford is by far the hardest college to get into now.”

As Little wrote himself in a bio for NCSA Sports as a 16-year-old:

My grandfather (Gene Little) played for Rice University and was drafted by the New York Giants, his brother (Jack Little) was a two time All American at Texas A&M and played for the Baltimore Colts, my dad played baseball in college at Texas Tech so I have been around sports my entire life.

Academics is very important to me and I was elected President of the National Junior Honor Society for my Junior High class and have made the Honor Roll every semester of my High School career. I started at left tackle on the varsity HS football team my freshman year as a 14 year old. I played varsity basketball and I compete in track & field.

Little chose Stanford and had an immediate impact, starting at left tackle as a true freshman for head coach David Shaw. Running back Bryce Love gained 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground that season.

From ProFootballNetwork:

Little made an immediate impact for the Cardinal. Playing in nine games in his debut season, he became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Stanford since 2000. After leaving Episcopal with a reputation for having a mean streak in the run game, Little flashed his capabilities early and often.

In just his second career start, he was a lynchpin for an offensive line that rushed for 405 yards against UCLA. One game later, Little helped spring Bryce Love for a program single-game rushing record. The accolades rained down. Little was named an ESPN Freshman All-American and the Pac-12 Freshman Co-Offensive Player of the Year.

Little was named first-team all Pac-12 as a sophomore, then a Week 1 knee injury cut out his chances at playing in 2019. Little opted to return to school rather than declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, but then he opted out of the season once the Pac-12 announced a return during the pandemic.

There are a number of reasons to push for Little as a surefire first round pick:

  • He’s massive
  • He was a five-star recruit who basically lived up to the hype, if not for one injury
  • He appears to be dedicated and smart
  • He seems to love football, which should be a given, but often is not

Here’s some more, from The Draft Network:

Walker Little aligned at left tackle for the Cardinal offense. He is a big, strong prospect with excellent length and prototypical NFL size. He has excellent range, which makes him ideally suited to play on the edge. He plays with good athleticism overall, as evidenced by his fluid pass set and his ability to laterally redirect inside. He also demonstrates excellent latch strength in his hands. He will compete as a run blocker but doesn’t generate much vertical movement. He plays with vision and instincts to easily identify twists and stunts.

However, why might he fall to the Rams in the second round?

  • Walker Little has only played in one game since 2018, and he was badly injured in it
  • There is no combine this year
  • Teams are going to have to have faith in Little and nobody, including him, can predict how he’ll respond to missing three years, basically
  • There are some projecting Little to go as low as the fourth round

That’s because there are cons besides his lack of playing time. From

Cons: Little’s biggest warning sign is his lack of bend along the edge and the issues that he causes against more athletic pass rushers. This issue shows especially against pass rushers who use an inside move, which Little does very little to stop, essentially giving pass rushers a free lane to the quarterback, allowing six sacks in the four games of film I watched. Along with these issues Little doesn’t engage in blocks with enough power and strength to deter blockers or take defensive backs out of plays. Little’s flaws show in both the pass and run game, meaning teams should be wary of using a high selection on him.

It has been noted that despite some good things during his sophomore season, he also had struggles. At least those struggles are something that the Rams offensive line coach is exceptionally aware of.

After all, he’s already been Little’s offensive line coach for the last three years.

Over the weekend, it was announced that LA is hiring Kevin Carberry to replace Aaron Kromer as offensive line coach after a surprising decision to part ways last week. Carberry, who worked with Sean McVay in Washington in 2016, was hired by Shaw to coach the offensive line in 2018. That means that Carberry had one full year of coaching Little as the left tackle, then was by his side when he suffered the knee injury in 2019.

I can’t imagine anybody in the NFL knows as much about Walker Little as Carberry does. Will that result in the Rams reuniting the two?

It is hard to argue against the dots being connected, though we can’t even say yet if Little will come near LA’s first pick at 57. Given the depth at offensive line this year, it may not behoove the team to trade up for Little, or any tackle, should they be within striking distance. Little may even be available to the Rams with one of their two third round picks.

He could be a great tackle prospect for any team. But with Kevin Carberry running the show for the offensive linemen in LA, the Rams might be Little’s most natural fittle.