After one of the best tackle classes in recent memory in terms of blue-chip talent, the 2021 tackle class brings unprecedented depth. As it stands, all 10 of the players below are among the top 55 on PFF’s draft board and eight are in the top 40. It’s a rare class where you won’t necessarily have to snag one early to get a quality player.
Best Feet: Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
Most Physical: Penei Sewell, Oregon
Best Pass Sets: Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
Best Gap Scheme: Penei Sewell, Oregon
Best Zone Scheme: Penei Sewell, Oregon
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
Sewell’s dominance makes the above superlatives relatively boring. He’s a different breed of athlete than you almost ever see at the tackle position. And it pops on his tape play after play.
Studied Penei Sewell this morning for @TheDraftNetwork crosschecks and his most impressive asset to me is what he gives you outside the hashes. His blocking radius and influence to the perimeter on play-side runs or this kind of action is phenomenal. pic.twitter.com/ea7uHHY4mc
— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) February 16, 2021
Sewell is rare in every sense of the word. It’s mind-blowing watching him move around the football field with such ease to know that he was listed as the heaviest tackle on this list. At 19 years old last season, Sewell tipped the scales at a hefty 330 pounds and put together the highest-graded season from a Power Five tackle in PFF college history. I think he might be good.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 23, 2019
Slater is about as clean as it gets from a technical and consistency standpoint for an offensive line prospect. It’s why after two years of starting at right tackle, Slater allowed only five pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle in 2019 before opting out this past year. He handled Chase Young and the Ohio State defensive line as well as anyone else in the country that season.
Enjoyed watching former Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater. I think he’s a tackle. The 2019 game vs. Ohio State sold me on that. He handled Chase Young well. There will be some teams that grade him as an IOL though. pic.twitter.com/ZiNIND40uX
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 5, 2020
He’s a super athlete capable of even the most difficult of cut-offs at the second level. The knocks against him are his arm length and play strength. For that reason, former Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa gave him the most fits in his college career. It’s why you’ll see many clamoring for Slater to move to guard. I’m of the opinion that it was so infrequently an issue that he at least deserves a shot at proving himself at the more valuable tackle position first.
Darrisaw has arguably the most shock in his paws after top dog Penei Sewell in the draft class. When he punches guys in pass protection, they feel it.
'Highway 77' Jr.?
Christian Darrisaw with a lot of big time finishes on film. Looks like a lock for the top 20 pic.twitter.com/TACjZbwPSx
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) December 27, 2020
It’s a big reason why he utterly dominated in a conference with some legit edge talent. His 95.6 overall grade this past season is the second-highest we’ve ever seen from a Power Five tackle, behind Penei Sewell’s 2019 campaign. He allowed zero sacks, zero hits and only six hurries all season.
Down 3 scores late in the 4th, Darrisaw latching onto Surratt on the backside of OZ & driving him 20+ yards downfield. Quite a rep. Grip strength, power, & competitive toughness ✅ pic.twitter.com/S6kkcuffVP
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 18, 2021
If there is a knock against Darrisaw, it’s that Virginia Tech's offense did not resemble an NFL attack in terms of their pass-protection concepts. He had only 73 true pass sets all season long.
Little is the forgotten man in the tackle class. After starting as a freshman and sophomore for the Cardinal, he got hurt in his very first game of 2019. He would miss the rest of that year after just 72 snaps and then opted out this past fall. Prior to his injury, Little was considered in the mix for the top tackle in that vaunted 2020 class. Now, we just don’t know.
Really like some of the things I've seen from Walker Little as a run-blocker, especially on double teams. Couple examples here.
– Pins & collapses the 3T's hip on the Deuce
– Nice fit & job stacking the 5T for the TE before releasing to pick off the shooting LB pic.twitter.com/vZzaFFuPin
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) May 8, 2019
If you compare what we saw from him most recently to others in this class at the same age, though, Little stacks up favorably with most. He allowed only one pressure in his final seven college games and has some impressive feet for a 6-foot-7 tackle. He could very well be the steal of the class if he falls late into Day 2.
Radunz may be on the slimmer side for the position, but don’t let that fool you. He’s explosive at 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds. Moving defenders off the line of scrimmage was child’s play for him at North Dakota State.
Trey Lance will receive plenty of the notoriety today (rightfully so), but keep an eye on North Dakota St. OT Dillon Radunz (6’6, 300, Sr.). Already receiving some early round buzz. pic.twitter.com/KV5hCiFmR0
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) October 3, 2020
It’s one thing to dominate FCS competition, but his performance over the week of practices at the Senior Bowl is what really made people perk up and take notice. He showed an anchor that could stop even the most powerful defensive ends in their tracks.
— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) January 27, 2021
He finished as the highest-graded tackle throughout the week of practices and put himself firmly in the first-round conversation.
Jenkins is one beefy tackle who is capable of treating smaller edge defenders like rag dolls when he gets locked in. The things he did to early-round hopeful Joseph Ossai from Texas are the stuff of legend.
this two-play sequence by Oklahoma State RT Teven Jenkins (#73) made me sit up in my chair. This is against Texas edge Joseph Ossai, who might be a 1st rounder pic.twitter.com/CZgbNA8lNH
— Danny Kelly (@DannyBKelly) January 9, 2021
His tape isn’t without concern, though. He was almost never tested in a Big 12 conference that lacked quality edge talent and was also rarely tested in a quick-passing “college-y” offense. He doesn’t quite have ideal length for the position, either, and you can see that show up here against Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins when he’s unable to replace his hands versus a long arm.
Ronnie Perkins' long-arm vs. Teven Jenkins ???????????? pic.twitter.com/7buS5jSPrr
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) February 16, 2021
Jenkins' nastiness combined with his ability to sustain and finish reps is well worth a first-round pick, though — even if he ends up at guard.
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
8. Samuel Cosmi, Texas
Cosmi is quite easily one of the best natural athletes in this class. That not only shows up in his pass sets, but also in his…just watch.
Sam Cosmi's TD is technically a 12-yard running play since it came off a backward pass. His OL buddies can't pick him up like they can the WRs. pic.twitter.com/SivUwP1Wzi
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) October 5, 2019
His mirror ability is exceptional for a man his size, and he is one of the most battle-tested tackles in the class, playing 495 true pass sets over three seasons as a starter. When he gets locked in, he displays terrific coordination and upper body strength, as well. It’s not uncommon for him to take someone for a ride to the ground.
Violent snatch & finish from Cosmi ???? pic.twitter.com/KFC6uTPzQb
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 9, 2021
It’s the ugly reps that are tough to shake, though. He struggles to stay low in his pass sets and can get out-leveraged too easily. Former LSU edge defender K’Lavon Chaisson gave him all he could handle back in 2019.
Man, these two pass-rush snaps from LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson against Texas' Sam Cosmi are awesome — my favorite plays of his on tape.pic.twitter.com/g8dJpdyDaO
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 16, 2020
There’s still far more bad than good, and if it weren’t such a deep tackle class, he’d likely be a first-rounder.
Leatherwood combined with Deonte Brown on the left side of the Alabama defense to create the single best double-team duo in college football this past season. He took a massive step forward as a run blocker from his junior year in 2019 and earned an 85.4 run-blocking grade last fall.
While he’s fairly smooth and has the length to stay at tackle, he has a maddening habit of giving soft outside leg to edge rushers. Speedier guys got to the top of the pocket on him consistently, and he failed to ride them past the quarterback. It showed against Azeez Ojulari in the regular season and was amplified even more in the one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl.
Two top College players????
Quincy Roche vs Alex Leatherwood
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 27, 2021
He’s another guy who could end up at guard in the NFL.
10. Jackson Carman, Clemson
Carman was a bit of a surprise to declare after his true junior season. He battled injuries throughout 2020, and his tape wasn’t quite as clean as some others in the class. It's surprising because, from a raw talent perspective, Carman is right up there with anyone after Sewell in this class. He can do things that most 328-pounders only dream of.
There's some impressive movement skills from Carman on tape, especially considering he's 330+. This one is my favorite so far. pic.twitter.com/gd7y2uNfsn
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) January 29, 2021
His ability to play low at his size is exactly what you want to see from a top tackle prospect. He just hasn’t gotten the consistency part down after allowing four sacks, four hits and three hurries on 477 pass-blocking snaps this past year. Carman may not quite be plug-and-play in Year 1, but he’s got the tools to get there.
Sophomore OT Jackson Carman will be getting first-round buzz this summer pic.twitter.com/7aUxl8JwS9
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) March 3, 2020