Despite some preconceptions from playing in Mississippi State’s Air Raid offense, OT Charles Cross has established himself as one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. An impressively athletic and intelligent prospect, he’s been able to lock down some of the top pass rushers in the nation this season. One look at the Mississippi State OT’s scouting report reveals why Cross is receiving significant attention ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Charles Cross NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Mississippi State
- Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height: 6’4 3/4″
- Weight: 307 pounds
- Wingspan: 81″
- Arm: 34 1/2″
- Hand: 10 3/4″
Charles Cross Scouting Report
A two-year starter at the college level, Cross has established himself as one of the top offensive prospects in the class. On the most recent Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board, the Mississippi State OT was the third-ranked player at his position. Meanwhile, he landed as the sixth overall prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.
At almost 6’5″, Cross has the requisite size to be a starting tackle at the NFL level. Meanwhile, he’s bulked up from 270 pounds in 2019 to 307 pounds at the NFL Combine. While he looks more slender than some of his positional contemporaries, he’s demonstrated that he can go into battle at the point of attack.
Being lean doesn’t stop Cross from being a violent and physical tackle. He exudes competitive toughness. Finishing a play doesn’t always mean putting your man in the dirt, but it appears that the Mississippi State OT did not get that memo.
Cross looks to punish his opponent every play, whether in pass protection or as a mauler in the ground game. Despite his lean frame, he’s powerful and displays a decent anchor in pass protection.
Athletic, technical, intelligent
Cross possesses an elite athletic profile at the offensive line position. He’s explosive out of his snap, and he possesses both the quick footwork and lateral agility to get effortlessly into his pass sets. His athleticism is superbly demonstrated against agile pass rushers as he is able to mirror and redirect with zero athletic limitations. When wrong-footed, he’s able to recover.
As you’d expect from someone with a high number of pass protection snaps, he showcases technical ability in addition to his athletic performance. He puts his over 34″ arms to devastating use with excellently timed and powerful punches. He’s also consistent with his hand placement, which is something he’s really improved upon this season. Despite his relative inexperience as a run blocker, he showcases great hand placement in this regard too.
With his combination of athletic prowess and technical excellence, you rarely see Cross succumb to the balance issues that you see with a lot of college tackles. He isn’t prone to lunging at opponents. He doesn’t routinely get his weight over his toes. As a result, he’s not susceptible to being easily taken to the ground with push-pull moves like some of his contemporaries.
Finally, Cross demonstrates some impressive football intelligence. He’s adept at picking up twists and stunts. The improvement in some areas of his game this year showcased a player who is quick to learn and develop. While he has 22 starts at left tackle, he looked smooth making the transition to right tackle during pro day workouts, suggesting that he could man both bookends at the next level if required.
Areas for improvement
While Cross has developed into one of the top offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft class, his scouting report isn’t without areas for improvement. Meanwhile, there are some elements of his college football experience that may cause pause for some NFL teams.
Although Cross has showcased a decent anchor at the college level, there may be some concerns here. Sometimes he has to take a couple of hops to get set, putting himself perilously close to his quarterback. This hasn’t resulted in sacks at the college level, and in the SEC, he’s faced some of the best there is. However, against power rushers at the NFL level, it may cause some concern.
Despite his experience as a pass protector, he can still overset and give up his inside against rushers who are able to stutter their pass-rush plan. While he has the athleticism to recover, it is something that he’ll look to eradicate from his game.
While Cross has demonstrated the ability to be physical when called upon in the ground game, there may be some concerns about his limited exposure to run-game reps. That could limit his scheme fit and therefore interest at the NFL level. However, it isn’t an issue that should see his stock plummet significantly.
Cross’ Player Profile
Heading into his senior season at Laurel High School, Cross was a three-star offensive tackle prospect by most major recruiting sites. Despite competing in a class that contained five-star prospects like Evan Neal and Kenyon Green, Cross earned SEC offers from Arkansas, Auburn, and Ole Miss. But he found a home with an early commitment to FSU.
He followed up his commitment with an outstanding senior campaign. Cross anchored the offensive line for a Laurel offense that scored 40+ points in six games. The physical left tackle’s performances earned him first-team All-Region and All-State honors.
Cross also represented Mississippi in the prestigious Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game. Moreover, the rarity of his talent was exemplified as he became the first Laurel football player to be selected to the US Army All-American Bowl.
He went from being a three-star to a five-star recruit almost overnight
Cross elevated his ranking to the fifth offensive tackle in the class, second-best player in Mississippi, and a top-30 player nationally. Thanks to his quickness and physicality, he drew comparisons to Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries.
Unsurprisingly, the increase in ranking and attention caused Cross to reconsider his college commitment. Holding offers from nearly 20 programs, he visited USC, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State before choosing Starkville to continue his football journey.
“I wanted to find a place where I felt most at home,” Cross said at the time, while also citing offensive line coach Marcus Johnson as a factor in the decision.
Cross’ career at Mississippi State
Despite the rapid elevation of his ranking through the 2018 high school season, Cross had an obstacle to hurdle before he could shine in Starkville. At 6’5″ and 270 pounds, he was lean even by high school standards. The Bulldogs’ star would need to bulk up to meet the increased physical demands of the college football season.
Although he would eventually redshirt the 2019 season, Cross saw snaps against Southern Miss, Kansas State, and Texas A&M. Those appearances gave him his first taste of live-action bouts, whetting his appetite for an increased role in 2020. Having spent a year developing mentally and physically, Cross entered his redshirt freshman season weighing an additional 20 pounds.
The Mississippi State OT made his starting debut in the season opener against reigning champions LSU. For many reasons, the eyes of the college football world were on the contest. One of which was Mike Leach implementing his Air Raid scheme on the Bulldogs’ offense.
In his first start, Cross was tasked with protecting K.J. Costello’s blindside. The result? An SEC and Mississippi State passing record — Costello threw for 623 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cross impressed with his fast and physical play at the left tackle position.
Cross’ NFL Draft ascension
Although there wasn’t another success quite like the opening day obliteration of LSU, he was a vital component of the bright moments of the season. Cross protected Costello and Will Rogers as the two quarterbacks combined to set another record. They broke the SEC and program record for the number of pass attempts during a visit to Kentucky. The Mississippi State OT impressed sufficiently during his 10 starts in 2020 to earn Freshman All-SEC honors as voted by the conference’s coaches.
Cross’ began the season as a potential early-round pick. However, throughout the 2021 college football season, he established himself as not just one of the top offensive tackles but one of the best players in the class. The athletic tackle continued to log significant snaps in pass protection in Mike Leach’s offense, with 10 games over 50 passing reps.
Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Cross allowed just 16 quarterback pressures. Impressively, he shut down an Alabama defense that includes multiple high-profile 2022 and 2023 NFL Draft prospects. His performances earned him first-team All-SEC accolades from the conference’s coaches and the media.
Declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft, Cross earned an invite and impressed at the NFL Combine. The athletic tackle posted a 4.95-second 40-yard dash and a 9’4″ broad jump. During the Mississippi State Pro Day, Cross worked out at both left and right tackle, demonstrating some valuable transitional versatility. With his stock at an all-time high, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cross selected within the top 10 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Charles Cross
Positives: Athletically talented left tackle prospect with a high upside. Fluid, easily moves about the field, and nicely adjusts to get a pad on defenders. Patient in pass protection, stays with assignments, and works hard. Easily slides off the edge and displays terrific range and the ability to pick up speed rushers. Explosive, fires his hands into opponents, and keeps defenders in front of him. Jolts defenders with terrific hand punch, knocks them from their angles of attack, and anchors at the point. Quickly gets into run blocks.
Negatives: Does not block with consistent knee bend and gets upright. Rarely comes out of a three-point stance. Occasionally overextends into blocks. Indecisive and shows poor blocking vision in motion.
Analysis: Cross is a fluid, athletic offensive tackle who showed improvement in his game and comes with a large upside. He’s a terrific pass protector who is still rough around the edges. Cross must consistently block with proper fundamentals and learn to come out of a three-point stance. While he has the ability to become a tremendous starting left tackle, Cross also possesses a large amount of downside to his game and is the riskiest of the top offensive tackles in this year’s draft.