Keep in mind that it has only been minicamps, OTAs, and a couple of weeks of practice so far in the careers of the class of 2021. The rookies who were drafted and signed into the NFL a few months ago have yet to play in a preseason game, but even standing out in a training camp can seem impossible for many first-year players who weren’t drafted on day one.
Or even on day two, where the LA Rams originally had three draft picks, but ultimately selected two players: a wide receiver and a linebacker, two things that the Rams seem to have an abundance of this year.
While Tutu Atwell has been absent for most of camp (which does not concern me and I remain a fan of the pick) and Ernest Jones could potentially earn his way into a starting inside linebacker role as a rookie, a number of offensive linemen who Les Snead passed up on have legitimately starred at their respective training camps so far. I don’t bring these names up to rub salt in the wounds — I bring these names up because this has been one of the hottest subjects among the Rams community over the last two years, to say the least:
Where are all the drafted offensive linemen?
Here are a few that were drafted by other teams that have been standing out in NFL training camps this year.
Josh Myers, C, Packers
The 62nd overall pick out of Ohio State, Myers seems to be on a path to do the improbable: make Packers fans and Aaron Rodgers sleep well after the loss of Corey Linsley to the LA Chargers in free agency. Not only has Myers gone from late second round pick to Green Bay’s starting center in a matter of months, he has impressed Rodgers tremendously.
“I gotta say Josh Myers, the center,” Rodgers replied. “For a guy to come in, as a draft pick, as a rookie, and be that comfortable – it’s pretty impressive.”
Myers, who was selected 62nd overall by the Packers in the second round of April’s draft, has been getting all of the first-team reps at center during the first few days of training camp.
“He’s very comfortable with the system, comfortable in his own skin,” Rodgers continued. “And he’s a big fella. He’s probably the biggest center I’ve had in front of me.”
“I like the way he’s stepped in and controlled the huddle and the calls the first four days.”
The Rams are currently listing Brian Allen as the starting center, with Austin Corbett reverting back to his place at right guard. The Packers once again have so many riches on the offensive line that they are blushing: Elgton Jenkins, the 44th overall pick in the 2019 draft, has reportedly handled left tackle duties like a champ in place of the recovering David Bakhtiari.
Drew Dalman, iOL, Falcons
Not only could the Rams have drafted Dalman several times over, they employ his college offensive line coach, Kevin Carberry. The team opted to go in other directions, which is fine, but so far Atlanta must be pleased that Dalman was available to them in the fourth round this year.
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Falcons
I’ll just stick in Atlanta before moving onto the next guy. Mayfield was a third round pick out of Michigan and he was reportedly “way ahead of schedule” at the start of camp. Snead came out of the Falcons organization but clearly does not share their love of drafting offensive linemen: Atlanta has picked Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Matt Hennessy, Mayfield, and Dalman in the top four rounds over the last three years.
“Will it work?” is a question that has yet to get an answer. But head coach Arthur Smith knew the importance of a talented offensive line during his time as coordinator for the Titans.
Quinn Meinerz, iOL, Broncos
While I wouldn’t say there are a ton of reports on Meinerz, relative to these other players, there’s been surprise that he’s listed as the backup at both center and right guard already. That type of position versatility and value as the main backup (after a lot of time off because his college season was cancelled) is encouraging for Meinerz.
Sam Cosmi, OT, Washington
I’m not going to include players who LA could not have drafted, but I will include Cosmi even though he went six picks ahead of Atwell back in April. That’s close enough that I feel comfortable saying that if they really loved him, the Rams could have drafted Cosmi if they had wanted to. It seems like Rob Havenstein could be entrenched at right tackle for at least several more years to come, another point against drafting Cosmi, but does he have a future on the left side?
Washington has listed Cosmi as their starter at right tackle on the first depth chart. Impressive for any rookie but especially one who didn’t go in the top-50 picks.
Creed Humphrey, C, Chiefs
Trey Smith, RG, Chiefs
The story of Kansas City’s entire year has been rebuilding the offensive line. Though they signed former Rams center Austin Blythe, the Chiefs’ first unofficial depth chart lists Humphrey (pick 63) and Smith (pick 226) as starters immediately. Not only that, but right tackle Lucas Niang is an unofficial rookie, having been selected in the third round in 2020 and then opting out of the season.
So 60% of Kansas City’s o-line could essentially be rookies and Humphrey was of course a player that hundreds, if not billions of Rams fans were hoping to see picked by Snead. Right now, he’s ahead of Blythe. But even more shocking is that Trey Smith, a seventh round pick out of Tennessee, might be the most impressive young offensive lineman on the entire team in training camp.
With everything that’s happened over the last year and a half that disrupted the draft process, it could be that the ‘order of talent’ in the 2021 class truly was jumbled and discombobulated. It’s rare to see seventh round rookies get praised to this degree.
”He’s really strong (Trey Smith), he’s physical, he’s smart, he studies his playbook really hard,” said Thuney. “Everyone is communicating up there on the O-Line, but he’s doing a great job, and yeah, it’s just great to be part of this group.”
Thuney also reflected on Humphrey’s communication under center with Mahomes developing from OTAs to training camp.
”OTA’s were great to get a lot of reps in and a lot of time in with the offense as a whole,” said Thuney. “Day one out here went well, and I think we’re just going to keep building. They’re doing a great job, Creed (Humphrey) is also is in his playbook a lot, and Patrick (Mahomes) knows so much, so it’s just been great.”
Kendrick Green, G/C, Steelers
If you had to pick a guard to start right now, between three-time Pro Bowl veteran Trai Turner, or rookie late-third round pick Kendrick Green, I don’t think that there’s any question that more than half the league would choose Green. And I don’t mean because he’s younger or cheaper. I mean because all reports I’ve seen say that Green is killing it in practice and Turner is struggling.
Right now, Green looks on his way to being a starter and while Turner could also start, he’s much closer to the bench or the bubble than the rookie out of Illinois who went 87th overall.
Here’s Mike Tomlin on Green:
“I thought he was above the line. His conditioning allows for great effort, and I think that’s a component of his game and that’s one of the things that’s allowing him to play above the line.”
Tomlin also praised Green’s conditioning and thinks that will help acclimate him to the NFL quicker than most players.
Ben Cleveland, G, Ravens
The 94th overall pick out of Georgia, Cleveland’s strong 2021 offseason has propelled him to be the favorite to start at left guard for a very good AFC team. However, he was hurt in practice on Wednesday and did not return by Thursday, so this is not necessarily his favorite week in the NFL.
Larry Borom, OT, Bears
The number one worry out of Chicago right now is not whether Justin Fields can start against the Rams in Week 1, but more the absence of second round tackle Teven Jenkins in practice due to lingering back issues. As a consolation prize, however, fifth round tackle Larry Borom has reportedly been ‘turning heads’ at training camp.
Walker Little, OT, Jaguars
Another Kevin Carberry pupil, Walker is another guy who just went ahead of LA’s range. But because he was a huge tackle coming out of Stanford, it was hard not to discuss Little a lot prior to the draft. He ended up going 45th overall to Jacksonville and while that team already has two starting tackles — including the very good Cam Robinson — Little’s camp has reportedly been so impressive that he’s making it difficult to keep him off of the field.
D’Ante Smith, OT, Bengals
The fourth round selection out of East Carolina only played in one game in 2020 but he’s already played his way into being one of the main backups at guard for Joe Burrow’s offense and given that this is the Bengals, he could be starting soon. There’s a lot of optimism about what they’ve seen so far from Smith.
Head coach Zac Taylor is impressed with Smith’s professionalism all year long:
“One of the things he laid out to you back then was his weight progression and what his goals were for his weight,” Taylor said. “I still have my notes, he has hit every single weight progression he gave us for the season, the Senior Bowl, the combine time, reporting for NFL, reporting for training camp, bam, he hit all five of them. And so that just tells you he’s got that pro mentality, where he’s got a plan in place and he’s going to execute it.”
Spencer Brown, OT, Bills
The 93rd overall pick out of Northern Iowa, the massive 6’8 Brown had to fill in for tackle Dion Dawkins and Sean McDermott had a great word for Brown’s play: “great”
“That’s what happens when unfortunately guys are out, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step in and show us what they can do and I think Spencer is off to a great start,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said before practice on Wednesday.
Dawkins started training camp on the Covid list and still has not come off it so the third-round pick out of Northern Iowa has gotten a head start in making the coaching staff and fellow teammates notice him.
“It’s awesome especially coming into camp not expecting that situation with Dion going down but Mitch Morse said it best, sink or swim and I don’t plan on drowning,” Brown said after practice on Wednesday.
Kayode Awosika, OL, Eagles
Another hidden offensive line gem for Philadelphia? The undrafted free agent out of the University of Buffalo, Awosika is working his way into a spot on the 53 and he could be playing sooner than later.
Kayode Not Ugly: Undrafted guard Kayode Awosika has been the annual young OL dark horse through two weeks of camp.— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) August 9, 2021
If the #Eagles keep 9-10 offensive linemen, he's a guy who could take a spot. Intrigued to see what he does in the preseason. Ran with second-team OL at RG tonight
Which of these stand outs stands out the most to you?