While the interior offensive line class may not be quite as strong as the tackle class for the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s still much stronger than the group we saw a year ago and one of the better classes since we started grading. It’s also one that could also get helped out by a number of tackle converts. Whatever the case, it’s a good year to be in need of offensive linemen.
Best Feet: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Most Physical: Landon Dickerson, Alabama
Best Pass Sets: Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
Best Gap Scheme: Deonte Brown, Alabama
Best Zone Scheme: Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Vera-Tucker is about as steady as it gets along the offensive line. It’s rare to see him overextend or put himself in bad positions when approaching blocks. While his people-moving ability isn’t exceptional in comparison to the rest of the class, it’s what he can do in space and in his pass sets that gives him the top spot.
It’s also a big plus that we’ve seen him produce at both left guard (2019) and left tackle (2020). It was his work this past year at left tackle that really solidified his status in our eyes, as he allowed eight pressures on only 305 pass-blocking snaps all season — the majority of which came at the hands of likely top-10 pick in 2022 Kayvon Thibodeaux. While he’s likely a guard still, that versatility is nice to have.
Another clean performance from #USC OT Alijah Vera-Tucker (LT #75) yesterday vs. Arizona. Hard to believe that it’s only his second career game playing tackle.
In a zone based blocking scheme, he could be an ideal fit at either guard or tackle. pic.twitter.com/RIFqgagCB8
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 15, 2020
It wasn’t quite the leap to dominance we were hoping for, but Davis was still arguably the best pass-protecting guard in the country. His 11 pressures allowed don’t do him justice, as almost all of them came against unblocked blitzes or stunts. When he went one-on-one with 3-techniques, there was no one better. He boasts a do-it-all body type at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds to run any scheme or assignment you could want.
Ohio State RG Wyatt Davis went huntin' pic.twitter.com/FfbhvnCtRg
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) July 22, 2020
It will be worth monitoring Davis’ knee issue that was never fully disclosed but caused him to go down in multiple games this past season. It quite obviously hampered his play, as his grade declined from 82.6 in 2019 to 66.3 this past year.
Dickerson is going to come with some serious medical red flags. He tore his ACL as a freshman at Florida State, had an ankle injury that caused him to miss nine games as a sophomore and then tore his ACL in his right knee once again in the SEC title game this season.
If it weren’t for that serious injury history, Dickerson may very well be the top interior offensive lineman in this class. He plays with unmatched physicality that is almost comical to watch on tape. The pleasure he takes in destroying defenders is a joy to watch.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 29, 2019
He’s also remarkably consistent for a man who loves to go for the big hit. He earned a 91.3 overall grade this past season to lead all centers and tied for the Power Five lead with 14 big-time blocks. You don’t have to watch his tape long to find those pancakes, and he’d even get multiple on a single play.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 30, 2019
Dickerson is the definition of a tone-setter and will be a fan favorite wherever he goes.
Humphrey has been one of the most consistent centers in the country for the past three years. He’s allowed only 28 pressures over that span on nearly 1,300 pass-blocking snaps. He boasts a versatile body type for the interior at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds and isn’t likely limited to only center at the next level.
When Humphrey gets his hand placement down, he’s not letting go. He flashes some of the best hand usage in the draft class, and it’s why he’s excelled in pass protection over his career.
Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey is a brick wall
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 27, 2021
His issues come with consistently playing with leverage. He’s had massive issues with squatty nose tackles and can get walked back into the pocket. Because of that, Humphrey’s best position may even be guard at the next level.
Mayfield’s allure is all about what he could become. His high-end plays are as impressive as any other offensive linemen in the draft class. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound junior possesses some serious explosiveness all throughout his frame. He can not only run with guys with a strong lower half, but he can also toss them out of the hole with his upper body.
Jalen Mayfield doesn’t move defenders with momentum, he moves them with coordinated strength from the ground up
Knocks this 4T 5yds off the ball pic.twitter.com/vOYv7Yxrb9
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 28, 2021
Great example here from Jalen Mayfield (RT #73) working hard with the inside hand to extend, finish, and roll on the DE. He’s had a really good game so far. pic.twitter.com/N5YrcdQa3v
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) October 25, 2020
Not often do you see someone this physically gifted, and it’s why he’ll be coveted highly in the 2021 NFL Draft. We’ve yet to see all that translate to consistent pass protection just yet, though. At right tackle in 2019, he allowed an unsightly 27 pressures on 458 pass-blocking snaps. He really didn’t face anyone of note in his two games this past season to quell that issue, either.
6. Ben Cleveland, Georgia
Cleveland possesses one of the freakiest builds not only among offensive linemen but among the entire draft class. He checked in at the Senior Bowl at 6-foot-6 and a whopping 354 pounds. And when you look at his arms and gut, he’s not fat. He’s built more like a World’s Strongest Man competitor than an offensive lineman.
In fact, his weight room antics are stuff of legend at Georgia. A few years ago, Cleveland repped 225 pounds 50 times in the Georgia weight room testing (49 is the NFL combine record). That would be one thing if it was just in the weight room, but it translates to the field, as well.
Serious pop from UGA OL 74 Ben Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/vjbyn9mXjI
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 18, 2017
Unlike most guys who tip the scales at 350-plus pounds, Cleveland is still agile enough to get the job done in pass protection. He allowed only six pressures this past season on 283 pass-blocking snaps for an 86.2 grade. While his week ended early, Cleveland still showed out well in limited time at the Senior Bowl.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 27, 2021
Meinerz was the single biggest draft board riser for pretty much everyone in his time at Mobile during the Senior Bowl. That’s because, coming from Division III and having not played all fall, Meinerz wasn’t even ranked on a lot of boards. He not only proved he belonged at the Senior Bowl, but he also dominated at times. His 58% win rate in the one-on-ones was the second-best rate of any interior offensive lineman in attendance.
Top-5 clips from @seniorbowl week????
5. DIII Quinn Meinerz vs a power five DL
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 30, 2021
Having played only guard in his time at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Meinerz took his first reps at center in his career that week and more than impressed.
Here’s one more from Wisconsin-Whitewater center Quinn Meinerz. ???? pic.twitter.com/OhQHFHAjLa
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 27, 2021
While you can’t glean much from the competition he faced on his tape, what he did against future NFL players makes him more than deserving of a spot.
I mentioned earlier that Landon Dickerson was tied for the Power Five lead with 14 big-time blocks this past season. I bet if you didn’t know it previously, you wouldn’t have guessed that Green is the guy he’s tied with. Making that fact all the more impressive is that Green played only eight games this past season. His tape is littered with high-level plays — and not only of the pancake variety but also in sheer difficulty of assignment.
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 25, 2021
I’m not sure there’s another interior lineman in this class who can match Green’s explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. He flies out of his stance. While he’s still a work in progress in pass protection, Green has the foot quicks to get it done in time.
9. Deonte Brown, Alabama
Brown is listed as the best gap-scheme guard for a reason. It’s because when the 364-pounder gets his paws on you, he is moving you and not the other way around. His ability to unlock his hips and move at his size is truly incredible to watch.
Alabama RG 65 Deonte Brown pulls with bad intentions. pic.twitter.com/WvrIkr57jA
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 29, 2019
While he can still play on the move and in a diverse scheme, Brown is undeniably better in a phone booth. That shows up all too frequently in pass protection, where his ability to recover is sorely lacking. That's why he’s not higher on this list. He earned an unsightly 32.8 pass-blocking grade on 66 pass-blocking snaps throughout the week of practices and the game itself at the Senior Bowl.
300 lb Marvin Wilson vs 360 lb Deonte Brown pic.twitter.com/3T4wfGl9eD
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 27, 2021
10. Trey Smith, Tennessee
Smith has a very similar strengths/weaknesses profile to the man above him on this list. He possesses people-moving ability from top to bottom and some nastiness to go along with it.
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) April 30, 2020
But he never quite lived up to the potential he flashed as a true freshman, which earned him a 71.3 overall grade across multiple positions after he was a five-star recruit. Some of that was out of his control, as he missed multiple offseasons of development between blood clots in his lungs and now COVID-19.
That has really shown through in pass protection, where he’s still very inconsistent. Smith struggled in that regard at the Senior Bowl and earned a tough 16.2 pass-blocking grade throughout the week of practices and the game.
Carlos Basham Jr vs the 3rd-ranked guard in the class, Trey Smith
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 28, 2021
Over the past two seasons at guard, Smith has earned only a 65.8 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets.