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Checking in on rookie offensive linemen through two weeks

The LA Rams didn’t pick any of these players, but many fans were hopeful they would

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Los Angeles Rams have only drafted one offensive lineman over the last two years, and that was seventh round pick Tremayne Anchrum, the 250th pick of the 2020 draft. This flies in the face of what Rams fans have been expecting going into each of the last two drafts because many have expressed concerns over everything from Andrew Whitworth’s age to uncertainty at the center position and questions over the quality of the backups.

Therefore, we have spent a lot of words on Turf Show Times — both myself as a writer and countless members of the commenting and fanpost community — on the offensive line prospects to enter the league over the last two years. Unfortunately, the only Rams among them are Anchrum, undrafted free agents Max Pircher and Jared Hocker (all three on the practice squad), and Jackson, a reserve on the 53-man roster.

Los Angeles hasn’t drafted any player in the first round since Jared Goff in 2016, and sometimes Les Snead skips or nearly skips the second round too, but the Rams have been among the NFL leaders in day two and day three picks recently and the league has seen an unusually high number of rookie offensive linemen starting to open the 2021 season.

Not just first rounders, but also players taken on days two and three: 17 rookie offensive linemen have gotten at least some action on offense already and 13 of those players were drafted after round one.

Let’s check in briefly on them.

First Round

Lions, 7th overall - LT Penei Sewell, Oregon

The general word to describe Sewell’s first offseason and season in the NFL is “patience” but he’s also held his own through two games. Sewell is filling in for Taylor Decker at left tackle and is still expected to move to right tackle when Decker returns.

Chargers, 13th overall - LT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

If you wanted to be really clever and hipster-like, you could argue for Slater as the Offensive Rookie of the Year if he keeps playing like he has so far.

Jets, 14th overall - G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

Nobody in New York should be upset about this pick, but pass protection has been an issue for the Jets in the early going.

Raiders, 17th overall - RT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

One of the biggest rookie standouts in the entire NFL in training camp, Leatherwood could be a mauler at right tackle for the next decade. But he had issues with penalties — major ones — at Alabama and that has continued in the league: Leatherwood has two holding penalties and two false starts already.

Second Round

Dolphins, 42nd overall - OL Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame

Miami started Eichenberg in Week 1, then had Austin Jackson at left tackle in Week 2, and are considering starting Eichenberg again in Week 3. There are issues that head coach Brian Flores appears to be trying to work through.

Washington, 51st overall - RT Sam Cosmi, Texas

Cosmi had two penalties in Week 2, one for unnecessary roughness and one for holding. There are positives and negatives.

Packers, 62nd overall - C Josh Myers, Ohio State

Aaron Rodgers is situated behind two rookies this season and so far he loves his new center.

Chiefs, 63rd overall - C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

Remarks are mostly all good, though Humphrey did have a costly bad snap against the Ravens.

Third Round

Falcons, 68th overall - OL Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

He had a “nightmare” Week 1 start with an improved performance in Week 2, but Mayfield could be headed to the bench without better play in the near future.

Panthers, 70th overall - RT Brady Christensen, BYU

Hasn’t really played but got in a few snaps in place of Pat Eflein at left guard.

Steelers, 87th overall - C Kendrick Green, Illinois

The Steelers are one of a few teams that are using multiple rookies on the offensive line. Mike Tomlin is pleased with Green so far.

Bills, 93rd overall - T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

He’s playing a sprinkle of offensive snaps each week and has 11 so far. He’s a big man with a long-term goal to be a great tackle and Buffalo likes where he’s at in his development.

Ravens, 94th overall - G Ben Cleveland, Georgia

Despite being a third rounder, expectations have been high for Cleveland and he made his debut on Sunday night, getting in 32 snaps at left guard.

“He did really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He stepped up in a game. You never know until a guy gets into a game and plays his first game. He was very solid out there. He had a couple of powerful, really physical blocks. His technique is still … I’d say he’s young, technique-wise when you watch him, but that’s only going to get better, too.”

Fourth Round

Falcons, 114th overall - C Drew Dalman, Stanford

Dalman played in nine snaps in Week 1 and is a possibility to replace Mayfield at guard.

Steelers, 128th overall - G Dan Moore, Texas A&M

Moore has kind of emerged from “nowhere” as he wasn’t one of the more talked about guard prospects that I remember leading into the 2021 NFL Draft. But he won a starting right guard job in Pittsburgh and he’s been called a “diamond in the rough.”

Packers, 142nd overall - G Royce Newman, Mississippi

Kind of a similar story and Newman immediately looks like a player who should have gone on day two, if not early in round two. He’s starting next to Myers, but he did have a holding penalty in Week 2.

Fifth Round

Bears, 151st overall - LT Larry Borom, Missouri

Chicago used an early second round pick on tackle Teven Jenkins but injury has kept Jenkins from competing to start or play. But the Bears have been really high on Borom and he played 15 snaps against the Rams in Week 1. He hurt his ankle in that game and was placed on IR, costing him at least the next three games, but Borom may not have been ready to start at left tackle anyway.

Sixth Round

Chiefs, 226th overall - G Trey Smith, Tennessee

Maybe the steal of steals. Kansas City rebuilt the entire offensive line, drafted Humphrey early, traded for Orlando Brown, signed Kyle Long and Austin Blythe, and returned Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang from opt outs. Yet the star of the offensive line right now is Trey Smith, a player that was passed over 225 times in this year’s draft.

Several times by the Rams.

Other OL notes:

  • Bengals, 46th overall - G Jackson Carman, Clemson. He has played some on special teams but is not a part of the offense. Actually the rookie Bengals OL who has impressed the most so far is sixth round pick Trey Hill out of Georgia, but thus far Zac Taylor is not starting Carman, Hill, or fourth rounder D’Ante Smith along the offensive line.
  • The highest-drafted OL to not play yet is T Christian Darrisaw, the 23rd overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings. Darrisaw is dealing with a “core injury” that has cost him much of the offseason and so far two games in the regular season.
  • Jaguars, 45th overall - T Walker Little, Stanford. A player for Kevin Carberry at Stanford (now the Rams OL coach), Little has impressed all offseason but isn’t starting yet. He was just placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
  • Bears, 39th overall - LT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State. Back surgery has hopefully put Jenkins on track to return to the field sooner rather than later.
  • 49ers, 48th overall - OL Aaron Banks, Notre Dame. One of the first players on this list where I’m going to have to write that the word “bust” has already been used to describe him.
  • Broncos, 98th overall - C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater. We talked A LOT about Meinerz in the offseason. He’s not starting for Denver but nobody was expecting that to happen and he’s been active on game days.