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2021 NFL Draft Love/Hate: Blockers

From a Ravens perspective

Army v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

With the first wave of free agency officially complete, the focus has shifted to the next phase of the NFL offseason, the 2021 NFL draft that will begin on April 29th.

Between coronavirus opt-outs and the lack of a traditional scouting combine, evaluating the prospects available in this unique draft cycle has been a challenge. NFL front offices always arrange their individual draft boards differently and this class will likely include even less consensus that usual.

Due to various schematic preferences, specific skillset needs and the potential for players to be overrated or underrated by media analysts, there could be dramatic variance on draft day.

We continue our four part series by exploring blockers on the offensive line, both on the interior as well as on the outside at tackle, that would be superb and less than ideal fits for the Baltimore Ravens.

Interior O-Line:

Love -

Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big 12 Championship Game

The Ravens are in need of an upgrade at center and could use a natural player at the position that doesn’t include moving Bradley Bozeman over from left guard where he has flourished the past two seasons. The former Sooner could be that player and would bring stability and consistency to a position that lacked both in 2020.

He was a three-year starter at center for one of the most potent offensives in the country. He was a member of the dominant Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line in 2018 that helped eventual No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray win the Heisman Trophy. In 2019, he was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy and helped current Eagles starting quarterback Jalen Hurts become a Heisman finalist as well.

Humphrey attended the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl and had a strong showing in the week of practice as well as the game itself. He was dominant in individual drills and showed off his ability to anchor, reset in pass protection and also open up holes in the run game as a people mover.

He would be an excellent fit for the Ravens both from a scheme and physicality standpoint. He plays a physical style of football with a nasty attitude as a blocker. Humphrey wouldn’t be a sexy selection but is well worth a first-round pick in my eyes and after showing elite athletic traits at his Pro Day. Creed might not be available where Baltimore is currently slated to pick in the second round.

- Joshua Reed

Trey Smith, Tennessee

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 South Carolina at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This four-year starter racked up All-SEC, leadership and community service awards for the Volunteers. With prototype size, power and pedigree, his current third round projection undersells Smith’s potential.

Trey has heavy hands, great length, a wide trunk and sturdy anchor. A mauling down blocker, he plays with toughness and aggressiveness. He will also bring plus awareness, pull blocking ability and competitive fire to the professional level. His elite explosiveness measurables at Tennessee’s Pro Day were a pleasant surprise. With better technique, Smith could develop into a dominant NFL blocker.

Although he lacks the lateral quickness to manage the tackle position full-time, Smith could be an emergency backup after earning 11 starts on the blindside in college. An additional 23 starts at guard against many NFL caliber lineman should allow Trey to hit the ground running at the next level.

The Ravens already boast several intriguing young lineman on their depth chart, but if the hulking Smith is still available in the third round, his above average physical traits and positional versatility could prove too valuable to ignore.

- Vasilis Lericos

Hate -

Landon Dickerson, Alabama

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Alabama at Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I absolutely love him as a prospect and wholeheartedly believe that he’s a first-round talent with the potential to become a perennial Pro Bowl and All-Pro center. However, Dickerson suffered a season-ending injury in four of his five college seasons.

He tore his ACL in 2016, missed nine games in 2017, and had to redshirt because of an ankle injury in 2018. Just when it seemed that he had put his injury woes behind him after playing 25 games without missing time, he tore his ACL again in the SEC title game.

Dickerson transferred from Florida State to Alabama last year and anchored the interior of the Crimson Tide’s national championship-winning offensive line, He earned the Rimington Trophy—an award given to the top center in the nation—and he was arguably the best blocker of Alabama’s highly touted bunch.

The 6-foot-6 and 325 pounder is powerful at the point of attack and uses his strength exceptionally well. He doesn’t give up any leverage to shorter defensive linemen and seeks to help out his fellow linemen in pass protection. As a run blocker, he sticks to his assignments and helps open massive lanes to the second level.

His checkered injury history raises several red flags that make me uneasy about using the 27th overall pick on him. As high as his upside is, the best ability that supersedes talent more often than not is availability and he just isn’t durable enough to warrant being taken with such a premium pick.

- Joshua Reed

Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Davis was considered a first round talent before his play regressed in 2020. His regression was partially attributable to a nagging knee issue but his profile raises a few additional concerns.

He is a zone blocking specialist and excellent run blocker with a slightly undersized frame (6’3”, 315). Davis could have problems holding his ground against long, bull rushing defensive lineman. Wyatt also lacks the necessary awareness to pick up stunts and delayed blitzes consistently. His subpar foot quickness shows up when he struggles to recover in pass protection and reach second level defenders while run blocking. Some analysts have also questioned his body control.

For a guard-only prospect, a borderline first round draft range would be a steep price to pay considering that the Ravens already roster Ben Powers (7 starts), Patrick Mekari (13 starts), Tyre Phillips (8 starts) Trystan Colon-Castillo (2 starts) and Ben Bredeson vying for a single starting position on the interior.

- Vasilis Lericos

Offensive Tackle:

Love –

Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

Michigan v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Ravens could still use an upgrade on the interior of their offensive line at center but tackle could be an even more pressing need if Orlando Brown Jr. gets traded. The former Wolverine played on the right side in college and could fill the void that will eventually be left by the two-time Pro Bowler.

He’s more athletic and agile in space than Brown Jr. was coming out of college. Mayfield was only a two-year starter at Michigan and one of those was an abbreviated 2020 season. However, in his first season as a starter in 2019, he held his own against some of the best edge rushers in college football that year including 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Chase Young, holding him without a sack and off the stat sheet entirely.

The Ravens likely have the inside track on scouting former Wolverines due to the Harbaugh to Harbaugh connection and Mayfield would be the best bet to keep the pipeline going this year.

Even if Brown Jr. doesn’t get dealt, Mayfield would be an ideal successor with a lot of upside and the positional versatility to compete for the left guard spot as a rookie if Bozeman is moved to center. He’s a little raw considering his limited starting experience but the Ravens have a strong history of developing young offensive linemen, whether they were picked high or undrafted.

- Joshua Reed

Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Kansas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Jenkins, a consensus late first round prospect, may represent the best case scenario for the Ravens at pick 27. He is the personification of a nasty offensive lineman.

Measuring-in at 6’6” 317 pounds with broad shoulders and outstanding strength, as evidenced by his 96th percentile 36 bench press repetitions at his Pro Day, Jenkins has a stout anchor in pass protection and is a powerful drive blocker in the run game. He is a tenacious bully who sets the tone with his rugged physicality and routinely finishes his blocks by burying defenders into the dirt. Teven’s violent on-field disposition would be a welcome addition to the Ravens offensive line group that has been pushed around in three consecutive postseasons.

In addition, Jenkins is a savvy technician at the tackle position. He is quick off the snap, timing his kick slide for maximum advantage, uses speed rushers’ momentum against them and is adept at climbing to seal linebackers at the second level.

He gained experience at Oklahoma State with six starts at left tackle, two at right guard and 20 starts at right tackle. If Orlando Brown Jr. remains in Baltimore next season, Jenkins could compete at the left guard position and provide injury insurance at tackle. If Orlando is traded, Jenkins would be a plug and play right tackle that fits the scheme perfectly.

- Vasilis Lericos

Hate -

Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 11 CFP National Championship - Alabama v Ohio State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The former member of the Crimson Tide was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was a three-year starter in college. Leatherwood played in seven games as a freshman, started every game at guard as a sophomore, and took over for Jonah Williams at left tackle for his last two seasons.

He is a great athlete and possesses similar positional versatility to Mayfield to play both tackle and guard but his upside isn’t as high. Alabama offensive linemen, particularly at tackle, have a history of peaking in college and not living up to the hype at the next level. I believe that will be the case with Leatherwood.

He was the 2020 recipient of the Outland Trophy, an award given to the top offensive lineman in the country. However, the Crimson Tide’s entire starting unit won the Joe Moore Award, given to the top overall unit in the nation and some believe that Dickerson was Alabama’s best blocker last season.

He had a rough week in individual drills at the Senior Bowl and struggled to handle quicker rushers around the edge.

I believe that Leatherwood will make a solid pro at the next level but not be a Pro Bowler caliber player. He is considered a fringe first-rounder but I don’t think he’s worthy of the 27th overall pick. I doubt he’ll make it to 58 in the second round because tackles with his experience and pedigree are often taken higher than they typically should be selected.

- Joshua Reed

Jackson Carman, Clemson

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Clemson at South Carolina Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Currently viewed as a consensus top-60 prospect, Carman’s flaws raise some questions.

His hand usage and footwork technique are relatively raw. He has heavy feet, plays high and lunges at defenders too often. Furthermore, his ability to handle speed rushers as Trevor Lawrence’s left tackle was inconsistent from game to game. And his sub-33” arm length is less than desirable for a tackle.

Combined with his underwhelming agility and balance issues, Carman will likely kick inside to guard at the professional level. Unfortunately, he has zero experience as a interior blocker and his dedication to his craft has been questioned.

Jackson does possess the strength, mobility and body composition to develop into a capable guard. He is also a younger prospect at 21 years old who declared after his true junior season. However, spending a second round pick on a prospect that requires significant refinement and development is a risky proposition.

- Vasilis Lericos