From a pure traits perspective, BYU OT Blake Freeland is one of the most exciting offensive tackle prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. But after the 2022 campaign, where does he rank in a deep OT class? There’s still more for Freeland to work on after an extensive starting career with the Cougars, but his upside is undeniable.
Blake Freeland NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: BYU
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’8″, 302 pounds
- Length: 33 7/8″
- Hand: 10″
After Week 5 of the 2022 college football season, Shrine Bowl Director Eric Galko sat down with PFN to go over some of the prospects who impressed him in the early stretch of the season. The very first name he brought up was Freeland’s, among universal praise for the BYU offensive line.
Freeland spent four years in Provo, and all along the way, he garnered a lot of love from evaluators and onlookers alike. As soon as he stepped foot on campus, Freeland was a stalwart for the Cougars, and there’s hope that he can build on that success in the NFL.
A mammoth specimen with a champion’s background as a shot put and javelin thrower, Freeland earned starting reps as a true freshman in 2019 and maintained a role in 2020. He started all 13 games in 2021, and did the same in 2022, earning first-team All-Independent recognition.
In total, Freeland logged 41 total starts with the Cougars. A four-year starter with experience, athleticism, and power, Freeland checks all the surface-level boxes that evaluators look for. But diving into the tape, what do the details say about the BYU OT and how he translates as a prospect? Let’s find out.
Blake Freeland Scouting Report
The 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle group has an excess of athletic potential, and there’s a visible group vying for Day 2 capital. Here, we’ll see where Freeland belongs on that hierarchy.
If you like physical OT traits, Freeland has them. At 6’8″, 302 pounds, he’s a tall, lean blocker with borderline elite length and an overwhelming wingspan. He’s also a high-level athlete for his size.
The BYU OT has smooth lateral mobility and recovery athleticism and quickly repositions himself against stunts to maintain leverage. He’s a light-footed athlete for his size who quickly traverses space in condensed areas.
Freeland is very explosive off the line and quickly generates momentum heading into contact. He has great mobility in space with great range moving upfield and as a pulling blocker. He also has the one-step lateral explosiveness necessary to get past the 3-tech as a backside blocker on outside zone runs.
Freeland’s NFL Combine showing reaffirmed his elite athleticism. Among offensive linemen, Freeland set the Combine record with a 37″ vertical. Other numbers, such as a 10′ broad jump, a 4.98 40-yard dash, a 1.68 10-yard split, and a 7.46 three-cone, all landed above the 90th percentile.
Freeland leverages his high-end explosiveness and length into awesome power at the contact point. With that combination, he can steamroll defenders upfield with his displacement capacity. But he’s also shown to sustain leg drive after fully extending to plow defenders downfield.
Going further, Freeland’s hands have high-end knock-back power and can blast defenders off-balance when fully extended. He’s also able to turn his hips and fully extend to shove rushers outside the apex with force. Freeland uses rotational power to torque defenders at contact and locks them within his torso.
A former state champion in both the shot put and javelin, it comes as no surprise that Freeland has exceptional raw strength. The functionality of that strength on the field could use some improvement, but Freeland’s high-end length allows him to outreach most rushers and latch onto the pads with biting hands.
Moreover, Freeland has the core strength to maintain extensions and stymie power rushes when in phase, and keeps rushers inside his shadow after torquing with his hips. For his size, Freeland’s athleticism is eye-catching, and he has a baseline level of fluidity. He doesn’t have elite flexibility but at least unhinges and rotates outside against stunts.
In a similar vein, Freeland quickly opens up his hips to maximize lateral range and match rushers. The BYU OT is able to turn his hips and pivot around rushers to carry and direct them past the pocket.
Freeland’s hand usage is consistently uplifted by his sheer physicality. The BYU OT consistently dishes out contact and fully extends toward opponents, and he unleashes aggression at contact with a finisher’s mentality against poorly-leveraged defenders. Freeland also shows flashes from an operational standpoint and uses his hands effectively to a degree.
At contact, Freeland tightens his hands and levies powerful two-hand extensions inside the torso. He can also quickly and violently re-extend when defenders break anchor to disrupt moves and obstruct their path. Freeland proactively uses his high-end length to cage off defenders and keep his torso clean, quickly reloading and re-exerting to maintain separation.
Footwork can also be an issue for larger tackles, but Freeland manages his lower body quite well. He has a good corrective feel with footwork and rotates back into phase quickly when rushers commit outside.
Moreover, Freeland has good foot speed and has shown to vary his kick-slide based on the depth he needs. He’s often patient and controlled on his kick and can tempo up his footwork to match rushers to the apex.
Expanding on Freeland’s footwork, the Cougars blocker resets his base after shading laterally on play fakes and re-enters phase to buoy rushers. Freeland can widen his base to envelop rushers while keeping his hands tight and fully extended, and he flashes synergy with his hands and feet.
Another strength of Freeland’s is his over-arching awareness and alertness. He’s consistently quick off the ball and understands leverage and angles. He can position himself to pin rushers against the interior of the line. Additionally, he adapts based on play flow and walls off backside pursuit defenders if his QB scrambles.
Freeland is patient and composed when facing stunt threats, positions himself between prospective rushers, and stays alert and adaptable. On top of that, the BYU OT recognizes delayed defenders outside and swivels around to wall them off after chipping inside.
In the run game, Freeland pins defenders and stacks blocks upfield in sequence. Leverage is perhaps the weakest area on Freeland’s scouting report. But for his size, he has decent knee bend and has shown to attain the proper center of gravity as a pass protector.
Freeland’s leverage is stronger as a run blocker, however, where he’s proven at times that he can play beyond his center of gravity and fully channel power from his lower body to maximize displacement.
Freeland’s Areas for Improvement
Freeland is a tantalizing physical talent, but as is often the case with taller tackles, leverage can be a major issue. With his height and top-heavy build, Freeland struggles to consistently activate his lower body. Additionally, his tall pads and open torso, along with his leaner frame and lighter base, can make him easy to displace in pass protection.
Freeland visibly struggles to lower his pads and acquire leverage at times and plays too tall at contact more often than desired. His relatively upright nature makes him easy to work off balance by powerful defenders.
Moreover, while Freeland has solid lateral flexibility as a mover, he lacks great bend in his hips and appears to be intrinsically limited in his ability to lower himself and acquire leverage.
Freeland’s tendency to play too tall in space inhibits his ability to sustain moving blocks. It also sometimes prevents him from sustaining leverage through pass protection reps, and he can’t always maintain the proper range to latch and lock down rushers.
To that end, Freeland can get coaxed into lurching past his center of gravity when playing too tall. His tall, upright play style also gives defenders more room to work around his torso. He’s narrow and sometimes wobbly with his movement — all things that NFL defenders may be able to exploit.
While Freeland is a high-level athlete, he doesn’t quite have elite corrective athleticism and occasionally has to gather himself after being offset by counters. Similarly, he doesn’t have great change of direction in space, and his upright style also hurts in this regard.
While Freeland’s raw strength is undeniable, it doesn’t always fully translate on the field, and his play strength is visibly non-elite. Freeland doesn’t always display the functional core strength to nullify opposing power after latching and can get worked off-balance.
Freeland’s grip strength also leaves more to be desired. The BYU blocker doesn’t always look controlled in contact situations, and defenders who apply torque can wrench him free. His grip with both his inside and outside hands could be stronger. He struggles to latch at times and can let defenders slip by him.
Particularly on reach blocks — where Freeland has to get around defenders on the move, flip his hips, and use his core to hold the line — he can struggle to contain opponents in pursuit. He’s light, lean, and too upright by nature. Those factors can work against Freeland when he has to seal the backside.
While he’s shown exciting flashes with his hand usage, Freeland’s still a work in progress there. The BYU OT is heavily reliant on two-hand extensions and could use independent hands more often.
There are times when Freeland can be a bit too passive and reactive at contact. He sometimes keeps his hands wide as rushers approach, leaving his torso exposed to power. Moreover, Freeland too often allows defenders to dictate reps and needs to find a better balance between patience and proactivity.
Continuing with the operational theme, Freeland’s outside hand doesn’t always strike cleanly and can slip past opponents, reducing control. He’ll also sometimes wrap around opponents who stunt inside, and he doesn’t always effectively latch to keep them contained. At times, Freeland’s torso appears a bit stiff, and he can’t always absorb blows while maintaining a grip.
Freeland has room to refine his game in other areas as well. He occasionally has extraneous footwork working back and can get worked out of phase by stunting defenders. There are other times where Freeland gets more controlled working to the apex, as he sometimes careens through as rushers counter inside.
At times, Freeland could strive for better synergy. The timing between his feet and hands isn’t always synchronous and can leave him imbalanced. Finally, Freeland sometimes overshoots blocking angles in space and doesn’t quite have the change of direction to consistently recover.
Current Draft Projection for BYU OT Blake Freeland
On my board, Freeland grades out as a borderline top-100 prospect, worth consideration in the mid-to-late Day 2 range. Freeland’s high-end athletic testing at his size could magnify his appeal in the eyes of NFL teams, however. As a result, he could be a surprise top 50 pick. That high on the board, Freeland would present a risk, but he’d also present exciting potential.
Freeland is one of the most impressive athletes in a very athletic 2023 NFL Draft OT class, and at 6’8″ with near-34″ arms, he has a very appealing power profile as well. He has the power to jar defenders and displace off the line, plus he’s unnaturally nimble and light on his feet for his size
Freeland has all of the building blocks to be a top-tier tackle, but there are concerns to note — both physically and operationally. Even after a 41-start career at BYU, Freeland’s hand usage could be more consistent, and his recovery footwork can be a bit uncontrolled. Additionally, being 6’8″, he’s a tall player who plays tall. He struggles to acquire and maintain leverage through reps, and that’s a flaw that may stick with him.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Going further, Freeland lacks elite strength and flexibility. He can’t always lock out, sustain blocks, or prevent displacement on the move. And without great bend in his hips, he can’t always lower himself and change directions to properly match rushers. Freeland has decent knee bend, but counteracting his leverage disadvantage is easier said than done.
Freeland’s height and non-elite flexibility make him more prone to mishaps in pass protection, which is why he may be better suited as a right tackle in the NFL. That way, he can be in the quarterback’s line of sight, making it easier for the QB to recover on poor reps.
Nevertheless, with some development, Freeland can be a solid starter at RT, or an above-average LT starter. He’s a road grader on the ground with the mobility, range, and power to be scheme-diverse, and has flashed promise in pass protection.
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