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Miami Dolphins columnist Omar Kelly continues our 10-part series looking at the top prospects in the upcoming NFL draft (April 29-May 1) with the offensive linemen. This year’s class of offensive linemen features a handful of tackles, guards and centers that are ready to become Day 1 starters. The question is whether or not offensive line-needy teams can wait out a run on the position, or do they need to select the player they like early?
Oregon OT Penei Sewell
Sewell is one of the most athletic offensive linemen we’ve seen enter the NFL since Quenton Nelson and Zach Martin were first-round picks. He plays like he’s 40-pounders lighter than he is, which indicates that he’d be dominant with a zone-blocking team. Even though he sat out this past season, Sewell should be taken among the top-10 picks.
Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
Slater has the physical traits, instincts, football intelligence and footwork to become a high-level NFL starter in his first few seasons. His handwork is sensational, and his footwork allows him to recover well. The only concern about his game is whether or not he’d struggle with powerful defensive ends. The answer to that question might dictate whether he gets kicked inside to guard.
Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
Darrisaw was a three-year starter at left tackle who is proficient in the run game. He manhandles defenders at the point of attack, but needs to polish his technique in pass protection. The physical traits he possesses show that he’ll be a good starting left tackle, but he might need a season or two to blossom so patience will be required.
USC OG Alijah Vera-Tucker
Vera-Tucker’s feet never stop moving, and he’s rarely found off-balance. Those instincts indicate that the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder can excel as a guard. He played both guard and tackle at USC, so position flexibility won’t be a problem. There is a concern about his functional strength, and ability to anchor down against powerful nose tackles.
Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
This athletic, savvy and aggressive center is one of the best phone-booth warriors to enter the league since the Pouncey twins, who were each taken in the first round. He plays with a nastiness that reminds evaluators of Richie Incognito, which means he could be taken in the first round. The only blemish on Humphrey’s draft resume is the fact he has relatively short arms (31.75 inches), which is frowned upon for offensive linemen, especially centers.
Best of the Rest
Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, Notre Dame’s Laim Eichenberg, Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins will all be among this draft’s top-50 selections if they check out medically. That why offensive tackle is one of the deepest positions in this draft. As for the guards, the pickings are slim after Ohio State’s Wyantt Davis, Tennessee’s Trey Smith and Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks. But plenty of guards could be converted to center, where there are a handful of Day 1 starters available.
Class Grade: B
Even though Sewell and Slater will likely be studs, this class doesn’t feature half a dozen generational tackles like the 2020 draft class. About a dozen offensive linemen in this draft should have productive, and respectable NFL careers, where they serve as a starter early on and potentially start for six-eight seasons. The rest comes down to developmental time. If teams are patient with some of theses 300-pounders they might surprise us, and serve as anchors for a respectable offensive line.
Teams in Need
The Bengals would benefit from improving quarterback Joe Burrow’s protection. The Colts, Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers need to find starting tackles. Washington, the Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks and Lions should add one starting-caliber offensive lineman to their team. The Steelers, Dolphins, Rams and 49ers need to upgrade their team’s center spot.
Despite all that was invested into rebuilding Miami’s offensive line last offseason, the Dolphins remain one quality starter away from having a respectable unit. While Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley can all improve from their rookie season, this team needs to feature better play on the interior. That’s why Ted Karras wasn’t re-signed and Matt Skura, who started 51 games for the Ravens, was added as his replacement at center. Miami needs to find a guard or center who can pull, and potentially get to the second level to open up downfield runs. That is the easiest way to improve the team’s below average 3.9 yards per carry from last season.