A tale of transition, turbulence, and transfers, sees Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson arrive at the 2021 NFL Draft as a raw, under-the-radar, prospect. Is he the sleeping giant in this deep and talented offensive line class?
James Hudson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Cincinnati
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’4 3/4″
- Weight: 313 pounds
- Wingspan: 82 1/8″
- Arms: 33″
- Hands: 11″
Tony Pauline’s James Hudson Scouting Report
Positives: Michigan transfer who broke into the starting lineup last season and had a tremendous junior campaign. Bends his knees, sets with a wide base, and stays square. Powerful, explosive at the point, and correctly places his hands into defenders. Fluid and smooth getting out to the second level, annihilates linebackers, and works to finish blocks.
Makes good use of angles, possesses terrific hand punch, and easily rides rushers from their angles of attack. Powerful run blocker who regularly turns defenders off the line.
Negatives: Stiff sliding off the edge, and he must improve his blocking ability in motion. Struggles going up against quick, nimble opponents. Lacks great footwork off the edge.
Analysis: After marginal playing time the prior four years, Hudson moved in with the first team in 2020 and had an outstanding season. He possesses the size, strength, and upside potential, to eventually develop into a starting right tackle in the NFL, but his game needs more polish.
James Hudson Player Profile
If you’re looking for someone to protect your quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson may well be that man. However, it isn’t that long ago when he was the man your quarterback needed protecting from. The 6’4″, 300-pound, Toledo, Ohio native started his high school career as a defensive end.
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Hudson wasn’t just any defensive lineman. He was a dominant, disruptive, force terrorizing the opposition backfield. As a junior, he logged 82 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. The following season, he was named to the AP All-Ohio First Team. The All-Three Rivers Conference Player of the Year recorded another 80 tackles, 34 of which were for loss, and added another eight sacks.
A four-star recruit as a defensive lineman, he naturally attracted a lot of attention. Offers came flooding in from across the nation. An early commit to Kentucky, Hudson later withdrew his commitment. Citing that he wanted to enjoy the recruiting process he described it as “a once in a lifetime experience.” The experience came to an end when the ninth-ranked player in the state of Ohio committed to the Michigan Wolverines in August 2016.
James Hudson’s college football career
The transition from high school defensive end to NFL Draft offensive tackle prospect began in the fall of 2017 for James Hudson. Michigan saw a player of his size as a natural fit at the tackle position. Despite having reservations about the move originally, Hudson was on board.
He would redshirt the 2017 season in order to fully understand the offensive playbook and prepare himself both physically and mentally for his transition across the trenches. Hudson made his Michigan debut as a backup right tackle against Western Michigan. He also saw time at right tackle against Nebraska and Maryland while also adding special teams snaps against Nebraska. Something wasn’t right, however.
Mid-way through the 2018 campaign, Hudson entered the transfer portal
The transfer saga — and the subsequent denial of a hardship waiver — is well documented. Hudson transferred to Cincinnati with proximity to his hometown thought to be a driving factor. Depression arose as the reason for his departure from Michigan while other sides blamed a lack of playing time. It became a particularly messy and nasty affair as both sides pointed fingers.
Ultimately, the Cincinnati offensive tackle would sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. He made his Bearcats debut in the Birmingham Bowl against Boston College, playing three quarters of the game, as the regulations apply to regular season games only.
Despite the disrupted college football season, Hudson emerged as a star in his only season as a left tackle
He received First Team All-American Conference honors as Cincinnati emerged as a potential College Football Playoffs’ contender. The offense increased their rushing yards per carry ranking as well, allowing fewer sacks per game in 2020 versus the previous year.
In their Peach Bowl loss to Georgia, Hudson helped contain potential first-round pick Azeez Ojulari as the Bearcats threatened to shock the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, he was ejected for targeting, and his loss was felt in the second half. After just one year of starting at the college level, James Hudson declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing James Hudson’s NFL Draft Profile
There are a number of factors that make Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson an intriguing 2021 NFL Draft prospect. His size makes him a great fit for the offensive tackle position in the NFL for starters. One measurable that leaped out at the Senior Bowl was his 11-inch hands, the biggest of all offensive linemen at the event.
He has demonstrated that he isn’t afraid to use those hands as a weapon. There are plenty of examples of him striking with violence, both during the 2020 season and during the Senior Bowl practices. It isn’t just his hand strength that is impressive. Hudson appears to possess good functional strength, a must for the position.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Hudson’s game is his athleticism. He is incredibly explosive at the time of the snap, quickly getting into his pass sets on passing plays. This becomes an even bigger asset in the run game. He can explode to the second level with ease, helping spring ball carriers for a big gain. In the run game, he plays with a nastiness, enjoying driving opposition linemen and linebackers to the ground.
For a player than has only played a year at the position, he displays a fundamental awareness of some of the nuances of the game.
What are some potential concerns with James Hudson?
Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson is an exciting 2021 NFL Draft prospect. However, he does come with some concerns. As a one-year starter, he is incredibly raw. Therefore, a team can’t expect him to walk in and be a day one starter. He needs to understand how to control his body and weight distribution so that he isn’t lunging at defenders.
Hudson weighed in at 302 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He added over 10 pounds at his pro day, presumably to meet the rigors of the NFL game. The concern with adding the extra weight is whether he does so to the detriment of his athletic ability. He did not test as well as expected, and his added weight may have played a hand in that.
James Hudson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Based on his 2020 season and Senior Bowl practice tape, the Cincinnati offensive tackle has a legitimate chance of being a starting left tackle in the NFL. As mentioned above, that won’t be immediate. So he will need to land on a team that is prepared to give him the time and coaching to develop his athletic attributes.
There are a number of teams that have offensive tackle needs in the 2021 NFL Draft that James Hudson would be a solid addition to. The Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks, stand out as teams that could make use of his athleticism in the run game. His hometown Cincinnati Bengals also have a clear need at tackle.
On his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline lists James Hudson as his 68th overall 2021 NFL Draft prospect. He is the 11th ranked offensive tackle on the board. For those wondering when he might be available, Pauline gives him a second-round grade.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.