PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft with its’ position previews. Jon Ledyard previews the offensive tackle position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at offensive tackle, while also providing a detailed list of this year’s top tackles. In addition, Scott Reynolds offers up the team needs and the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – the most likely offensive tackle for the Bucs to select in Rounds 1-3, and in Rounds 4-7.
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What The Bucs Have At Offensive Tackle
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The Bucs will return one of the top offensive tackle pairings in the NFL this season, with veteran Donovan Smith manning the left side and second-year star Tristan Wirfs on the right. Smith is fresh off signing a two-year extension a couple weeks ago, and Wirfs has four years remaining on his rookie deal. Last year’s first-round pick, Wirfs started every game for Tampa Bay and played at a Pro Bowl level.
With longtime backup Josh Wells returning on a short deal, it’s hard to envision the Bucs looking for an offensive tackle early in the draft unless they plan to move that prospect to guard. The Bucs also have first-year player Brad Seaton under contract. The 6-foot-8, 325-pound tackle was Tampa Bay’s lone opt-out due to COVID-19 in 2020.
What The Bucs Need At Offensive Tackle
What the Bucs need at offensive tackle is to draft one with the ability to play guard. Right now their top three tackles are set, and the future of the positions seems to be Smith and Wirfs, at least for the next three years.
But Tampa Bay could still draft a tackle in the first three rounds, with a plan to move him to guard on a full-time basis to replace free agent-to be Alex Cappa next offseason. Ideally the player would have some positional flexibility to potentially back up multiple spots this season, but that could be asking a lot of a rookie.
In terms of talent, it doesn’t get much better than Sewell as a prospect. He’s lightning quick out of his stance, has the range to shut down speed rushers in his pass set and can unload unnatural power in his punch. Still, Sewell can’t match the Top 3 offensive tackles in last year’s class (Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton) in terms of consistency, nor is he as battle-tested as the Top 2 tackles from last year (Wills and Wirfs). Expect Sewell’s adjustment to NFL-caliber pass rushers to be a little bit rockier than most seem to at this time. I’m still betting he continues to grow into a stud tackle in the NFL, especially considering he won’t turn 21 until early October. Sewell could slide a little on draft day, but he’s still a Top 10 pick.
Slater’s tape was better than Sewell’s, but there is some worry a about the Northwestern product’s transition to the NFL at tackle, given his lack of length. Some tackles can overcome insufficient arm length, but Slater’s worst reps came when pass rushers got into his frame with long arms and stabs that kept him from landing his punch. Other than that, Slater has dominant tape thanks to his explosive and smooth footwork and incredible ability to hit blocks in space on the move. In a zone heavy scheme, Slater could be a dominant guard and a good tackle. Slater is likely a Top 10 pick and should fall no further than 13 or 14.
3. Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins – RS Senior – 6-6, 317, 4.99
A bully in every sense of the word, Jenkins’ flew up boards after destroying Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai this past season. A powerful run blocker with a mauling punch in pass protection, Jenkins is one of the best finishers in the draft and plays with an edge NFL teams will love. His arm length checking in at 33.5 inches will help convince teams he can remain at tackle, where he can be a longtime stud for a pro franchise. But like Marshal Yanda, Jenkins may be an even more dominant guard in the NFL, if he gets a chance to play there. Don’t expect Jenkins to get out of the Top 20 picks in the draft.
4. Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw – Junior – 6-5, 322, N/A
Darrisaw is as talented as any tackle in the class, with an elite physical build and top-notch athleticism for the position. He’s an extremely smooth mover who can unlock absurd power at the drop of a hat, occasionally escorting defenders 20+ yards downfield (looking at you, Chazz Surratt). But Darrisaw’s focus and tenacity seems to come and go from game-to-game, something you rarely see from heralded offensive linemen. A plethora of concerning moments on tape against Duke and Liberty raise some questions. Darrisaw will still be a first round pick, but the inconsistencies in his play are troubling considering his elite set of tools.
In many ways, Eichenberg is the opposite of Darrisaw, as his physical tools are lacking to stay at tackle in the NFL, but his play demeanor never wavers. Eichenberg plays every snap with elite effort and physicality, constantly looking to finish in the run and pass game, even if that means an extra shove to the echo of the whistle. He’s a clean player technically, especially in his pass set, but Eichenberg loves the two-handed punch in protection, not unlike Donovan Smith. The strategy has been effective for him, but it’s a risky one, and the rare misses result in some pretty ugly reps.
6. Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood – Senior – 6-5, 312, 4.99
It’s hard to stay optimistic about Leatherwood’s projection to the NFLas a tackle given his issues in pass protection. Yes, Leatherwood has outstanding physical tools, a rarity in this class, with +34-inch arms and a massive wingspan of nearly 85 inches. But the tape just leaves too much to be desired, as Leatherwood consistently struggles with speed rushers around his outside edge and doesn’t end enough exchanges with his punch. When pass rushers can win outside, inside and through you on tape, it might be time for a move to guard. Leatherwood has a chance to go Round 1, but will likely be a Round 2 player. The senior could be a potential Bucs fit at right guard, where he started all of 2018 for the Crimson Tide.
7. Texas OT Sam Cosmi – RS Junior – 6-6, 314, 4.85
It’s easy to like Cosmi’s playing style. He fights like an enraged bull every snap, and his grip strength when he latches onto an opponent is eye-popping. Combine that physicality with elite athleticism, and you get some really high-end reps from Cosmi on tape. But Cosmi’s technique is a roller-coaster, complete with back-pedaling pass sets and footwork that will have to be completely reworked at the NFL level. It would be difficult for Cosmi could start this season in the NFL given his lack of consistency and polish. He’s a ferocious competitor, but if he abandons technique to the degree he did in college, he’s going to get eaten alive. Despite Cosmi’s 33-inch arms, he seems likely to stay at tackle in the NFL, which probably takes him out of consideration for the Bucs in the late first-late second round range of the draft.
8. North Dakota State OT Dillon Radunz – RS Senior – 6-6, 301, 5.12
Radunz was a popular choice to move to guard before the Senior Bowl, but then he ended up having some of the longest arms in this raptor-armed offensive tackle class with 34-inch limbs at his pro day. An awesome athlete, Radunz is a light tackle that never dominated in a run-heavy collegiate offense. He was steady and moved like a top prospect, but a quality Senior Bowl was the closest we’ve seen to the player many believe he can be in the NFL. Radunz comes with his share of concerns, so teams better be drafting him with a developmental plan before inserting him into the starting lineup. He’s a Day 2 pick, but without a 2019 season to go off of, it’s tough to say exactly when he comes off the board.
9. Northern Iowa OT Spencer Brown – RS Senior – 6-8, 311, 5.25
Brown probably could have survived at Northern Iowa on just his length and athleticism, and there were certainly times where he did that. But his tape is also filled with impressive pass sets, quick adjustments to inside counters and a solid punch in pass protection. Brown’s ability to play low and leverage at 6-foot-8 is eye-popping. Yes, he’ll have issues with power at the NFL level and he still needs to improve his punch, but he’s a much cleaner developmental option than many of the more heralded tackles in the class. Don’t be surprised if Brown sneaks into the Top 50 given his tape and high-end traits, but he’s a tackle-only who will still need some time to adjust to NFL-caliber pass rushers. Doubt he goes to the Bucs, but it will be exciting to watch his career progress.
10. Stanford OT Walker Little – RS Junior – 6-7, 313, 5.27
A huge offensive tackle at 6-foot-8, 313 pounds, Little is probably the murkiest projection in the 2021 NFL Draft, at any position. A knee injury ended Little’s 2019 campaign in Week 1, and then he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. We’ve barely seen Little on a football field since his sophomore season in 2018, making it impossible to know what kind of a player he is now. His 2018 tape, especially against quality competition, left a lot to be desired. Little tested like a great athlete, but his movements are labored on tape, and he’s pulled and knocked off balance with ease. Notre Dame rushers beat him inside and outside in 2018, and bull rushers are permitted free access to Little’s pads. Little should absolutely be available on Day 3 of the draft, but most analysts in the know believe he’s a Day 2 lock.
If Christensen were younger and had longer arms, he could crack the first round of the 2021 draft. Unfortunately he’ll turn 25 early in his rookie season, and his arms checked in at just a tad over 32 inches at his pro day, which puts him in the 4th percentile for tackles. I love Christensen’s steady technique and consistency in pass protection, featuring a heavy punch despite his lankier frame. Even with his length concerns, Christensen should play at tackle until he proves he can’t handle it. It’s concerning that Christensen could hardly be referred to as physically dominant despite playing younger, non-Power 5 competition. It’s hard to predict where Christensen comes off the board given his measurables and age, but Round 3 is more likely.
12. Florida OT Stone Forsythe – RS Senior – 6-8, 307, 5.12
Forsythe is a massive human being without much bad weight on his frame, offering the tangible traits that most tackles in this class don’t have. There’s some potential in pass protection too, thanks for Forsythe’s quick feet and long reach to protect the edge. Unfortunately his pass sets are a work in progress and consistency is a major issue. Even Forsythe’s footwork looks different from rep to rep. Combine his technical lapses with major leverage concerns in the run game and significant struggles to change direction, you get the feeling Forsythe is always going to struggle with stringing together strong performances. He played well against Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, but everyone from Oklahoma gave him issues. Forsythe probably sneaks into Day 2 based on his physical tools, but he’s likely not an option for Tampa Bay.
13. Clemson OT Jackson Carman – Junior – 6-5, 317, N/A
Carman has been a heralded prospect for awhile now, but it hasn’t all come together for him just yet. Big, powerful and athletic, Carman underwent back surgery in January 2021 and was unable to workout before the draft. His tape is inconsistent, and the persistent issues he faces against rushers who can get on his edge have led many to believe he’ll be best inside at guard in the NFL. His 32.5-inch arms will be under the 33-inch threshold some teams prefer at tackle.
Best Of The Rest
14. Cincinnati OT James Hudson – RS Junior – 6-5, 313, 5.20
After watching his messy pass sets and rough tape against Azeez Ojulari, everyone know Hudson was going to be a major project in the NFL. But then he tested like a bottom tier athlete at his pro day and his arms checked in under 33 inches long. After a rough Senior Bowl Hudson could be moving to guard in the NFL, where he’ll need some time to develop.
Jaimes has some really smooth moments in pass protection, but he might have bulked up to get to 298 pounds at his pro day. Light tackles with short arms typically have a hard time holding up in the NFL, and time will tell if Jaimes is an exception. He’s a likely Day 3 pick that could move inside to guard.
16. East Carolina OT D’Ante Smith – RS Senior – 6-5, 305, 5.31
Most of Smith’s allure as a prospect was tied to his raw athleticism, so bombing his pro day took a lot of his promise off the table. He has vines for arms and the frame teams will salivate over, but Smith is a long way from playing time due to his lack of strength and technique.
17. Kentucky OT Landon Young – RS Senior – 6-6, 310, 5.0
If teams are looking for a late Day 3 grinder who might be able to back up a few positions on the roster, Young fits the bill. Tough, physical and a team captain, Young has the play demeanor and character the Bucs always look to add in the trenches, as well as the ability to create movement in the run game. Unfortunately Young’s pass protection limitations may hold him back from ever being an ideal starter in the NFL, but he might become a backup guard with tackle flexibility over time.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Offensive Tackle
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg
Every offensive line starter in Tampa Bay played left tackle in college. Bucs general manager Jason Licht prefers to put athletes on the O-line, and that’s exactly what Eichenberg is. The Notre Dame star is a likely Round 2 pick, so he could see some consideration from Tampa Bay at No. 32. Especially if the team wants to add a player to compete at right guard with Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie and eventually be the starter in 2022. Eichenberg could also offer position flexibility at tackle.
His short arms (32 3/8) could cause many teams like the Bucs to evaluate him as a guard rather than a tackle. Eichenberg excels as a double-team blocker, which would be a seamless fit in the Bucs’ duo run scheme. As a rookie, Eichneberg could see time on the field as an extra blocker the way Tampa Bay used reserve lineman Joe Haeg a year ago. Eichenberg’s aggressive playing style, especially in the run game, will fit in nicely in Tampa Bay.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Kentucky OT Landon Young
At 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, Young has a great frame with big hands (10.25), long arms (33.75) and a wide wingspan (81.75). He started 30 games at left tackle in the SEC, including the last 24, so he’s battle-tested entering the NFL. Young was a team captain and has the maturity NFL teams are looking for. Young has the temperament to be a factor in Tampa Bay’s power run game scheme.
Where Young needs some improvement is in pass protection. He’s a waist-bender and can get caught lunging at times. Young needs to work on his core strength at the next level and become more of a knee-bender. Young is a bright player and should be able to learn an NFL offense quickly as he became a starter at Kentucky during his sophomore year. He’s not a perfect prospect, but could be a nice developmental find on Day 3.