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2021 NFL Draft: 3 potential day two tackles who could have day one traits

The Rams could find a steal where they need one

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams could use an extra interior offensive lineman in 2021 and a future at left tackle for 2022, but they only have a late second round pick to start their draft off this year. Then two more at 88 and 103 before concluding the second day of the draft, though trades by Les Snead could be as good as guaranteed before it’s all said and done.

Finding quality offensive lineman outside of the top-50 picks is always difficult, though this year the depth at tackle and the unusual circumstances of the last 13 months could push some starting options at all five offensive line positions down in LA’s range at 57 and beyond. There are even players who sure seem like they could be first round tackles but this year are being treated more like second, third, and fourth round linemen who lack size or experience or arm length ... or all three.

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t compare favorably to some of the best offensive linemen — and offensive tackles — in the NFL.

Snead and Sean McVay are not shy about looking for tackles. Andrew Whitworth was the top priority in 2017, Rob Havenstein was Snead’s second choice (also at 57) in 2015 and he we was followed shortly thereafter by Jamon Brown and Andrew Donnal, and then Joseph Noteboom was their top pick in 2018. It’s more likely that the Rams will draft two tackles this year than it is that they will draft zero ...

And there could be some tackles available in the middle of day who that have traits like those who rarely escape without being picked on day one.

Here are three of them.

Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

Measurements: 6’6, 312 lbs, 33 7/8” arms

In some years, though maybe more than a couple of decades ago, Leatherwood might sound like an ideal fit for a team in the top-ten. He may have been the top left tackle in all of college football, winning the Outland Trophy and First-Team All-American honors for 13-0 Alabama and the second-highest scoring offense in the nation. He also has ideal size, but also showed versatility by ranking as one of the top guards in the SEC in 2018.

Here is a rundown of his play by The Ringer’s Danny Kelly:

The former Crimson Tide stalwart plays with a cool, calm, and collected demeanor as a blocker, showing few wasted movements in his pass set. He uses his hands independently, punching and locking out one arm while grappling with the other. He utilizes his length well, making it very tough for defenders to get into his body. And he has very good recovery skills; Even when he gets knocked back two or three steps into the pocket he consistently re-anchors and finds his balance. Leatherwood shows great awareness on the edge, picking up stunts effortlessly. In the run game, Leatherwood creates movement at the point of attack, and he’s a freight train on down-blocks, clearing out huge run lanes.

But Leatherwood has struggled to find himself placed in the top-30 of any big boards and only recently has been consistently mocked to teams at the end of the first round. Kelly notes in his big board write-up that Leatherwood may lack “elite foot quickness” and that he may even move back inside to guard.

It could be that with perceived depth at the tackle position, and some teams moving Leatherwood down their boards if they only see him as a right guard in the NFL, that he could slide to the middle of day two. Or it could be that the Las Vegas Raiders will be on the clock at 17 and Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock will see their opportunity to tell the world that they are going “BPA” and then instead select an obvious need about 20-25 spots earlier than anyone expected that player to go.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber rated Leatherwood as his number three offensive lineman of the entire draft:

Brady Christensen, BYU

Measurements: 6’6, 300 lbs, 32 14 arms

A former two-star recruit who enters the draft at age 24 because of a two-year mission prior to his college football career. For that reason and others, Christensen has been compared to Denver’s Garett Bolles, a tackle who went 20th in the 2017 NFL Draft despite being 25 already; Bolles was a second-team All-Pro in 2020 and could be the top left tackle in the league now.

Not only are both prospects on the older side and coming out of the state of Utah, but had similar measurements in height, weight, 40-yard dash times, and 3-cone times.

However, Christensen appears to be a superior athlete to Bolles and most other tackle prospects (his 10-4 broad jump would be three inches longer than any 300 lb player at the combine in at least 20 years) and for that reason he’s also drawn some comparisons to Tristan Wirfs. At least as an athlete. Wirfs posted a 10-1 broad jump and a 4.85 40-yard dash, went to the Bucs in the first round, and was one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL almost immediately.

Christensen ran a 4.89, did 30 reps on the bench, and a 34” vertical leap. He also had a 7.33 in the 3-cone and a 4.46 in the short shuttle, both of which would again be among the top marks for any offensive linemen in this century. Consider Wirfs’ teammate Ali Marpet, who weighed 307 lbs, ran a 4.98, did 30 reps on the bench, a 7.33 in the 3-cone and a 4.47 in the short shuttle.

They’re nearly identical, though Marpet’s future could be a sign for Christensen in that he might be a guard and not a tackle.

That didn’t stop him from leading this entire class in pressure rate allowed and by a relatively huge margin over second-place Rashawn Slater and Penei Sewell, two top-ten picks potentially. Instead, he is being mocked in the middle to late day two area and is the #66 player on Kelly’s big board.

Christensen is being projected as “available” when the Rams are on the clock for the first time at 57, but will that really be the case or is a team going to be excited to add him anywhere to their lineup given his exceptional versatility? He can’t do anything about having shorter arms than most tackle prospects but he can do something about adding weight to his frame and power to his run blocking.

Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State

Measurements: 6’5, 301 lbs, 33” arms

There are similarities between Radunz and Christensen in that they are considered ‘light’ and ‘short-armed’ for left tackle prospects even though they were elite left tackles in college football. Do they transcend size concerns and stick or move inside? If they do move inside, could they become superior guards because of their athleticism and versatility?

We talk often about Trey Lance’s lack of a 2020 season, but Radunz suffered the same fate and his only real highlight from last year was getting to hear that he was invited to the Senior Bowl in front of the team after their only game:

A consensus First-Team All-American as a junior, Radunz posted a 7.27 in the 3-cone at his pro day, one of the top marks from this century and nearly identical to the number posted by Ezra Cleveland in 2020. Cleveland was a late second round pick of the Vikings and he settled in nicely to the guard position by the end of his rookie campaign.

If a team is willing to forgive the fact that he has barely played in the last two years — as they’ll have to do with many prospects right now — and they’re okay with a future where he winds up as an interior linemen, then he could be a steal in the middle of day two. And he will also bring the potential to stick at left tackle and hold that position down for years to come, just like the perceived “ceiling” for his teammate Lance that so many analysts seem sure he’ll reach one day.

If Lance can, then why not Radunz?

Poll

Between these 3?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Alex Leatherwood
    (103 votes)
  • 24%
    Dillon Radunz
    (73 votes)
  • 41%
    Brady Christensen
    (126 votes)
302 votes total Vote Now