Last year, the Rams used a 2nd round pick on Van Jefferson at slot 57. The very next selection was offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, who had a great Combine workout. In a sense, the Rams passed on drafting an OT to take a WR.
At the North Dakota State Pro Day this year, most of the focus was on Trey Lance, the QB expected to be a top 10 pick. Garnering less attention was a strong workout by NDST's left tackle, Dillon Radunz. Observers noted that in terms of size and measurables, Radunz is very similar to Cleveland.
Several experts like Radunz. Daniel Jeremiah has Radunz ranked 44th on his top 50 list. Ezra Cleveland didn't crack DJ's final top 50 rankings last year. Radunz is ranked 34th overall by PFF. Lance Zierlein has almost exactly the same draft grades for Radunz and Cleveland. Sports Illustrated ranks Radunz as the 4th best left tackle in the draft. Cynthia Frelund's analytics based mock draft has Radunz as the 24th overall pick.
It is also very reasonable to think that Radunz will be available at 57. He is ranked 56th by ESPN. CBSSports has him at 58th. A recent mock draft by Chris Trapasso has him as the 63rd pick. Would Radunz be good value for the Rams at 57? After passing on Cleveland last year, will the Rams have another shot at getting an OT who is just as good, if not better?
I don't like Radunz as a draft prospect. He is rough around the edges and raw. Some teams, however, might not care, because he has size, length, athleticism and aggressiveness. As long as a lineman has the basic tools to be good, a team might think that they can teach and develop the player at the NFL level and mold him into a better player.
Radunz presents the classic, age old debate about whether you should draft a player based more on their potential ceiling or based on how they currently performed while in college. Whitworth can't play forever and Noteboom is entering the final year of his rookie contract this season, so whether to draft Radunz at slot 57 could be a crucial decision for the Rams that will impact the future of the team and the quality of Stafford's blindside protection in coming seasons.
6 feet 5 5/8 inches tall, 304 pounds, 33 1/4'' arms, 80 1/4'' wingspan, 9 1/8'' hands (Senior Bowl measurements)
Pro Day: 5.11 sec (40 time), 24 bench reps, 9'4'' broad jump, 32'' vert jump, 4.53 sec (shuttle), 7.27 sec (3 cone)
Redshirt Senior. Name pronounced "Ray Duns". About to turn 23 years old. From a small town in MN northwest of Minneapolis. Dad died when he was 12 years old. Degree in industrial engineering.
2 star recruit as a DE. Also played basketball and did shot put in high school. College coaches initially had plans to make him a 3 tech DT. Weighed 265 pounds as frosh. Redshirted in 2016.
Tore his ACL early in the 2017 season. Made 15 starts in 2018. Had 16 starts in 2019. NDST only played one game in the fall of 2020. Allowed 3 sacks in 2018, then zero sacks in 2019.
Being coached by Joe Staley during the predraft process. Says that Staley has been teaching him some of SF's playbook and calls. He says he's willing to learn how to snap if a team wanted him to be a center.
At the Senior Bowl practices, PFN said Radunz was shaky on the first day, but drastically improved and was one of the best linemen by the final day of practice. He was named "best overall practice player of the week" at the Senior Bowl. PFN said he showed an "awesome base" in pass blocking in practice, but that he lacked body mass. PFN thinks he is a zone blocking scheme lineman. He got work at both LT and LG at the Senior Bowl.
PFN's Senior Bowl assessment seemed fair from the reps that I saw. On the first day, Radunz had some terrible reps as he was lunging and falling down all over the place in pass protection. As the week went on, he moved his feet better and had some good reps lined up inside at guard.
ESPN 56th overall (2nd round)
CBSSports 58th overall (2nd round)
PFF 34th overall (2nd round)
Daniel Jeremiah 44th overall (2nd round)
Tony Pauline (PFN) 77th overall (3rd round)
Sports Illustrated 4th ranked LT (2nd round) (Ranked ahead of Walker Little and Alex Leatherwood)
Lance Zierlein 6.26 draft grade (compare to 6.29 last year for Ezra Cleveland.)
TDN mock draft 54th. CBSSports mock 63rd. PFN mock 36th.
DJ says Radunz has average foot quickness and athleticism, is dependable in pass protection, tends to catch in pass pro rather than punch and control, has excellent awareness, ability to recover, excels on combo blocks, finishes at the point of attack, needs to improve his hand usage and strength. DJ calls him an eventual starting right tackle.
LZ says that Radunz is a better run blocker than pass blocker, lacks foot quickness, is suited to a gap and inside zone scheme offense, is tough at the point of attack, shows decent punch, anchor, pad level and hand placement, struggles to redirect against counter moves, has to open up and chase at the top of the rush in pass protection, has limited recovery, average lateral quickness to handle stunts, lurches forward on run blocks, below average body control, and might be better as a guard. He compared Radunz to Alex Lewis.
Aggressive. Chippy, plays through the whistle, tries to bully opponents. Gets in extra shoves. Opponents probably think he's a jerk. For many OL position coaches, this is exactly the mindset they love. They want a player who is kind of nasty. An NFL lineman isn't supposed to be a nice guy on the field.
Flexible. Consistently gets low to the hip of the DL on combo blocks to shove them powerfully sideways to create space.
Generates movement. Pushes FCS level defenders and opens up gaps in the run game.
While his arms are slightly short to be a LT, he has good height, length and frame for an NFL lineman.
Size and length make him potentially versatile. Could be tried by an NFL team at all 5 OL positions. Mix of physicality and mobility also makes him scheme versatile, able to play in both power and zone offenses.
Played in more of a pro style offense in college and in a run oriented offense, so he should be better trained than many of the spread system OL prospects. Mentally might be ready to play sooner rather than later.
Essentially had a season off in 2020 while still playing in a game. He's not beat up or injured from a full season of football, but he also shouldn't be rusty, because he didn't completely sit out and not play.
Progress in only 3 days at Senior Bowl gives some hope that he could make big jump with NFL coaching. If he could get better in 3 days, what could he do in 3 months? What might he be able to do with 3 years of experience?
Visually, it looks like he should be able to add more muscle and if necessary, more weight. His technique is raw and can substantially improve. So, there is upside potential with Radunz. He's not a maxed out player who can't get much better. You might have to redshirt him to give him an opportunity to work on his body and get more practice reps before he's thrown into the fire.
Potential character or work ethic flag. When LZ compares Radunz to Alex Lewis, this choice was probably intentional for more than just football reasons. LZ says that scouts question Radunz's practice habits and quotes an AFC scout who said that Radunz needs to mature and practice better. In college, Alex Lewis got into a drunk bar fight and was charged with assault. He was a LT in college and the son of a former NFL lineman. A 4th round pick in 2016, Lewis played well at guard for the Ravens, but got injured his 2nd year. In 2020, the Jets signed Lewis to a 3 year $18.6 million contract. In the middle of last season, per ESPN, Lewis got into an argument with Adam Gase during practice. In December, it was announced that the Jets were putting him on a reserve list, because Lewis was seeking medical help for a non-football issue.
Narrow, linear build. I think he has kind of a sloppy body. Looks like a fat tight end. He's not thick in the legs and lower body, doesn't have great muscle definition, some bad weight in the middle. Is he dedicated enough in the weight room and with his diet to make himself stronger and get in optimal football shape?
Not polished in technique and footwork on both run and pass plays. Has more of a brawling approach to football, relying on his size instead of being detailed in how he moves and executes blocks.
He should step sideways while making a 2nd level block on a LB on an outside run, but he lunges forward, which allows the LB to gain outside leverage on the block as he loses the blocking angle. Sloppy and inconsistent hand placements. Grabbed LB with both hands outside shoulder pads. Grabbed LB with one hand outside of shoulder pad. Pulling to outside on wide run, he's too upright and high and can't drive and control the OLB to win the edge, allowing the defender to free his outside arm.
His back angle is not proper. Needs to bend his knees to maintain a better body position, but he makes himself weaker by not having a good stance. Doesn't walk his feet through run blocks. Not enough hip snap.
Sluggish feet. Doesn't slide laterally to maintain optimal blocking angle and sustain run and pass blocks.
Late moving feet laterally to get set up in pass pro set. Second step can be too small. Vulnerable to inside counter moves.
Weakly catches the DE and gets blasted backwards by bull rush. Sometimes lifted off the ground with both feet in the air by bull rush. Struggles to drop anchor and maintain stable base against powerful pass rushers. Can get thrown around like rag doll when he loses his base. Not able to slide to his right in time to set up and gets walked backwards by DE to the QB.
When his arms get pulled down by the defender, he doesn't move his feet quickly enough to maintain his balance and recover well. Engages DE in pass pro, but doesn't reposition his feet to get into better position, creating opportunity for DE to pull his arms down and sling him off balance. Gave up secondary pass rush, didn't finish off pass block or move his feet to stay attached and engaged with the rusher.
DE inside move, LT lunges forward instead of moving his feet laterally. DE gets by him, leaving LT bending over at waist with his feet apart, causing a sack on the QB. To stop another inside move, awkwardly grabs the DE across the chest, then the DE spins back to the outside and gets by him.
Keeps his hands wide, low and to his side too long, late to punch, both in pass pro and on some 2nd level blocks against LB. Got shed easily by LB, because he didn't fire his hands on time. Lacks hand eye coordination. Doesn't use his arm length against LBs. Plays like he has shorter arms, because instead of punching them, extending and controlling, he lets the LB get up close into his chest. LB grabbed and tossed him hard to the ground.
Even against slow DT, didn't have enough lateral range to protect edge. He turned perpendicular to the LOS, let the defender get his inside shoulder upfield and bend the edge. Not quick enough laterally against slot CB blitz, he has to cross over with his feet to get to edge.
Not enough short area speed burst. 3rd&3, wide zone run. He's supposed to climb to the LB, but he's not quick enough to seal the angle, allowing the LB to get by him and push the RB out of bounds one yard short of the marker. Not an athletic mover at 2nd level, limited change of direction to adjust to the LB. At 2nd level, when LB sheds him and steps to the side, LT loses his balance, slips and falls down. Coming off combo block, has plenty of space, but still can't redirect and fails to block the LB.
Rolls off the LOS more than he fires out of his stance after snap. Got shocked by DE on initial collision, because he didn't come off the line with more power and strength in the clash.
The DE and OLB exchange gaps and cross. He struggles to react and move laterally to adjust. OLB lines up outside his shoulder on run play. When OLB tries to crease inside of him, he doesn't slide his feet laterally, has to lunge and catch the OLB.
Below average core strength and contact balance. Ends up on ground too much. DE swam over him and he fell to his hands and knees.
Shows poor awareness on several plays. Doesn't see run blitz by LB. Chases after DT on combo blocks even when he should go directly to the LB or come off of the 1st block earlier to get to the LB. Takes poor angles to LBs at 2nd level. His eyes do not visually pick up the LB early enough on combo blocks. Appeared to mess up his assignment on a zone run. He thought he was supposed to block the LB, but he was supposed to block the DE. Surprised multiple times by twists. LB tips off run blitz by moving early just before the snap, but LT doesn't see this, is late to react and gives up penetration.
Had some issues anchoring at Guard at Senior Bowl, not enough body mass.
Pops up out of stance and plays with high pad level and high center of gravity.
Limited lower body and leg drive into blocks, even when pulling. On critical short 3rd down, gets stalemated at LOS on 1 vs 1 block against DE.
Doesn't move feet to effectively seal on blocks out wide or in space.
Sometimes lines up too far off the LOS to try to make it easier to get into pass set and cover up lack of foot quickness. Not only could it be a penalty, but also is a potential tell that can help the defense anticipate the play.
I didn't see a single play where he took a vertical pass set. No variation to his sets.
Had an ACL injury in college.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Joe Haeg (5th round 2016, Colts, North Dakota State) 5th round.
In 2016, the Colts drafted Ryan Kelly in the 1st round, Le'Raven Clark in the 3rd, Haeg in the 5th and Austin Blythe in the 7th. They waived Blythe after one season and the Rams claimed him. Haeg might not be a great player, but he was okay and probably better than the 3rd rounder Clark. Haeg was a backup last season for the Super Bowl champion Bucs. He almost scored a TD in the SB on a tackle eligible pass from Tom Brady, but the defender knocked the ball out of his hands in the end zone. Part of what makes Haeg a good backup is he can play multiple positions. He played both RT and RG when he was with the Colts. In college, he was a LT.
Haeg is very similar to Radunz in terms of size and most testing events. The only big difference between the 2 is in the bench press. Other than that, Haeg and Radunz are virtually twins.
Head to head, I think Haeg had better technique and was more reliable in college compared to Radunz. But, I could understand if someone thought Radunz had a higher developmental ceiling. Still, if they were in the same draft class, I'd take Haeg over Radunz. Another reason I don't have Radunz graded very high is I don't think that he can play LT in the NFL. I see him as a Guard prospect. If a player doesn't move his feet laterally well, I don't see how he's going to survive outside as a LT. David Edwards was a 5th round pick. Is Radunz a better draft prospect than Edwards?
In that same 2016 draft, there was a LT named Jason Spriggs who I really liked. To my eye, Spriggs was a much better prospect than Radunz. Spriggs never panned out for the Packers. He had a number of injuries and when he did play, he generally struggled. GB used him at RT. I thought he was going to be good and he never became even a mediocre starter.
Last year, I did not like Ezra Cleveland. I thought he was overrated as a 2nd round pick. Prior to the Combine, Ezra was generally ranked as a 4th round prospect. LZ had a 6.21 grade on him and raised it after the Combine. As a rookie, Cleveland played RG for the Vikings.
Whether he had a good or bad rookie season depends on whether you think the glass is half full or half empty. He had a 66.2 PFF grade, which I think is really good for a rookie in the NFL playing a new position at G instead of at LT. Cleveland has better feet in pass pro, moves better at the 2nd level and has better balance than Radunz. On the other hand, Cleveland struggled in pass blocking at RG. He gave up a pressure rate that ranked 37th out of 40 right guards in the league. He gave up 5 sacks on the year, even though he only started 9 games. He was part of the reason the Vikings were one of the worst pass blocking OLs in the NFL last season.
The Vikings drafted Cleveland to be a LT. They might not care whether he's a great RG. It is too soon to know if Cleveland will turn out to be a great pick, average or poor. If Radunz is raw and not as advanced as Cleveland, how much could you expect from him as a rookie? He'd probably be even worse at pass blocking than Cleveland, whether it is at G or at OT. I don't think he's a plug and play rookie.
I think Joe Noteboom was a better prospect at LT than Radunz. Boomer has a better 40 time, more bench reps, a better short shuttle, over 3 inches better wingspan, over an inch better arm length and showed better lateral foot quickness in pass blocking.
Boom isn't physical and aggressive like Radunz, he doesn't project as well inside as a guard. An OT who can pass block but isn't as good a run blocker is more valuable than an OG who can run block, but who is isn't as good at pass blocking.
For the Rams, I don't see how Radunz fits in with the team's needs. The Rams don't need a developmental G who maybe could play RT. We already have a number of players like that currently on the roster.