The 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner and it will be here before we know it. Once this draft is complete, we will move on to bigger and better things with the 2021 NFL Draft. With that, I fast forward to the next crop of 2021 NFL Draft hopefuls with the top offensive tackle prospects. While this group features a few blue-chip players at the top, there is much uncertainty surrounding the rest for various reasons.
Below, I will dive into the top group of offensive tackle prospects available for the 2021 NFL Draft. A few of these players would have been top-10 picks in this year’s draft but were either ineligible to declare or opted to remain in school for another year.
This class of linemen isn’t as deep and talented as the running backs and wide receivers classes I’ve discussed already, but there are some big names here as well. The “big uglies” should be an intriguing class to watch as the next draft season rolls around.
1. Penei Sewell – Oregon
As a sophomore in 2019, Sewell was not only one of the best linemen in the nation, but one of the best players overall. He became highly regarded for his play as Justin Herbert’s blindside protector, so much so that he was even voted highly on some experts’ Heisman ballots.
Joe Burrow was the clear choice for the top spot on my Heisman ballot. The No. 2 vote was #Oregon’s Penei Sewell. Here’s why I think the Ducks’ 6-6, 335-pound left tackle was so deserving: https://t.co/2bUo5E2mNO
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 15, 2019
Sewell is a monster of a man at left tackle, standing 6’6″, 335 pounds, with tons of experience already even as he starts his junior season in 2020. As the winner of the 2019 Outland Trophy, Sowell returns as the unquestioned top lineman in college football. He has tremendous strength and tenacity, which he uses to his advantage in order to maul defenders in the run game.
Sewell is a plus pass blocker and has excellent movement skills for his size, but he will likely grade out as one of the top run-blocking offensive tackles available for the 2021 NFL Draft.
For any team that is looking to jumpstart their running game and lock down the left tackle position for the next ten years, Sewell is undoubtedly the man for the job. Barring any injuries, he figures to become a top-10 pick and one of the first players off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2. Alex Leatherwood – Alabama
Alex Leatherwood’s decision to return to school for his senior season at Alabama was one of the genuinely shocking choices prior to the 2020 NFL Draft. Although former Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills was Tua Tagovailoa’s primary blindside protector, Leatherwood returns to man the blindside for Mac Jones in 2020.
Most assumed Leatherwood would declare and become a top-15 pick in 2020, so that’s likely where he will settle in for the 2021 NFL Draft as well.
Leatherwood is a great athlete at the position and will likely test exceptionally well at the NFL Combine following next season. However, he is not a great technician at this point, and another year in Tuscaloosa figures to benefit his overall game greatly.
Leatherwood can mirror the opposing team’s best edge rusher with outstanding quickness and length. If the former five-star recruit can put together another dominant season for the Crimson Tide, that would set Leatherwood up as a top-10 selection.
3. Liam Eichenberg – Notre Dame
A staple for the Irish offensive line the past two seasons, Liam Eichenberg decided in November to return to South Bend for his senior year. This big left tackle had the look of a potential second or third-rounder but could sneak into the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft with some slight improvements in 2020.
The Fighting Irish have produced some talented tackle products in recent years with Baltimore All-Pro Ronnie Stanley and San Francisco starter Mike McGlinchey. Both former Notre Dame stars were top-10 picks, and Eichenberg’s return to school is an indication he is hoping to follow suit.
Eichenberg took over the starting blindside job in 2018 following the departure of McGlinchey to the 2018 NFL Draft. Since then, he has been a reliable and steady presence for the Notre Dame offense.
While the big man may lack the ideal athleticism of a player like Stanley, Eichenberg has enough quickness and length to stick on the left side in the NFL. Coaches and evaluators in the NFL will love his tenacity with how he finishes blocks, just as he did against Miami (Ohio) below.
Keep an eye on LT Liam Eichenberg for the entire length of the video…
That guy said, "FINISH HIM!"
Blood = Pumping
Me = Hot and Bothered pic.twitter.com/sKOfBcFWh8
— The #1 St. Louis Battlehawks Fan (@ZoneTracks) June 20, 2018
Eichenberg could stand to add some bulk, but his long arms are a real plus for his draft stock and will almost assure he hears his name called in the first or second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
4. Walker Little – Stanford
Walker Little entered the 2019 season as one of the top offensive tackles in the country on an always-impressive Stanford line. However, through injuries and inconsistency, his future outlook and potential have been severely muddled.
Most assumed Little to be considering a jump to the NFL, despite the shortened season, but he ultimately opted to return to the Cardinal for his senior year. One of the more physically imposing and impressive athletes at the position, Little has the size that you can’t teach and is very well-coached at the college level.
Despite Little’s reliable technique, his overaggressive nature leads him to slip off blocks too quickly and get into bad situations early against quicker defensive linemen. He’s quick to set up into his block initially, but not fast enough to recover if he gets beat and may require a move inside at the next level.
If he can prove he’s entirely over his knee injury, he’s going to make an outstanding prospect at either right tackle or guard in the NFL. Little should settle into the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft when the evaluation process winds down.
5. Thayer Munford – Ohio State
The Ohio State offense was elite once again in 2019 behind star newcomer Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins. One reason for that was a consistently solid offensive line and players like Thayer Munford. However, like Walker Little, Munford’s 2019 season was marred with injuries and inconsistent play from the left tackle position.
An ankle injury suffered in October hindered Munford during the stretch run, and he was never 100% after that. The two-year starter never missed a game, but opted to return anyway for his senior year to improve on his “disappointing season.”
Munford’s presence in 2020 will be a welcomed sight for Fields and the offense as they break in a new starting running back and replace two departed receivers. He has been a steady presence for the Buckeyes for the past two seasons and one of the better all-around linemen in the Big 10 conference.
With interior linemen Wyatt Davis and Joshua Meyers also spurning the NFL for another season in Columbus, this line could be elite again in 2020. Munford is the anchor of this talented line, and a healthy season could put him in the first-round mix next April.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.