In the 2021 NFL Draft offensive tackle class, you’ll find quality players well into the second day. The most notable name at the top is Oregon’s Penei Sewell — a true “generational talent” at the position. However, after Sewell, there is a massive battle for who will be OT2. Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg is currently the consensus favorite for that title, while I personally have a fondness for Clemson’s Jackson Carman. Some dark horses to watch are Oklahoma’s Adrian Ealy and Kentucky’s Landon Young. However, there another prospect who will be vying for the right to be the second offensive tackle selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, and his name is Dillon Radunz. Hailing from North Dakota State University (NDSU), Radunz will look to have his most dominant season to date as a redshirt senior, and cement himself as a very strong NFL prospect.
NDSU is best known for producing 2017 All-Pro and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. They’ve also produced four other NFL Draft picks in the last decade. NDSU is one of the top FCS programs in the country and prepares their players for the NFL better than some FBS schools do. Despite their dominance, Radunz still has an uphill battle before he can claim the OT2 title in the 2021 NFL Draft. So what kind of player is Radunz, and what separates him from the rest of the crowd?
North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz
Size/Length: Listed at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Radunz is well set-up for life in the NFL. Arm length, while not a prerequisite for being a good tackle, is an excellent weapon for negating edge rushers. The natural ability to keep a defender away from your body is not something that can be taught, and it’s the most effective way to prevent yourself from being driven into the quarterback. Radunz could actually do a better job of using this weapon more often. He can occasionally let defenders into his chest, but at the FCS level, he’s strong enough to keep it from hurting him in pass protection. Life won’t be so simple in the NFL.
Athletic Ability: As the game of football evolves, so does the NFL. Offenses are starting to move the ball quicker, the throwing more frequently, getting the ball in the hands of play-makers and letting them make plays in space. This puts athletic ability at an all-time importance for an offensive tackle. It’s not enough just to move the person in front of you; you must now also be able to get out in space, locate defenders, and clear space for your skill positions. Radunz is a plus athlete and has demonstrated on multiple occasions his ability to get outside and find defenders. He should be a big winner in Indianapolis when testing at the 2021 NFL Combine.
Experience: Radunz enters the year with 32 career starts, and that number would’ve been well into the 40s, had he not lost his redshirt freshman season 15 plays into the first game. Regardless, he’ll likely end his career with roughly 46-48 starts, assuming he stays healthy. Those reps are invaluable, and will likely be a major selling point for an invite to events like the combine and the Senior Bowl.
Football IQ: Within minutes of watching Radunz, his football IQ was evident; identifying blitzes, communicating double teams, picking up free rushers, and even blocking multiple defenders. This was my favorite part of his tape and something that people don’t comment enough on for every prospect. If a defensive coordinator sees a rookie offensive lineman fail to recognize blitzes, you can bet they’ll look to expose that every week of the season. Radunz is well prepared for the NFL mentally, and that’s the biggest challenge when predicting players from the FCS level.
Motor: Whether it’s running down the field or blocking until the whistle, Radunz is always on the move and looking for work. This is one of the most important things for any offensive lineman at every level. It shows not only what kind of player you are on the field, but it’s also likely a good representation of what kind of guy you’re bringing into your locker room. Someone who blocks until the whistle is also likely the vocal leader who would die for his teammates. That’s the kind of player I always want on my team.
Finishing: Finishing to me, is the ability to take the person you’re blocking, and finish the block with authority. This typically involves the defender ending up on their backside and on the ground. A common misconception that people have is believing that someone’s motor and their ability to finish are the same thing. It’s not. They do go hand-in-hand, though, as you can’t be a great finisher without possessing a great motor. However, like Radunz, just because you possess a great motor, does not mean you are automatically an excellent finisher. Radunz sticks to blocks well and has taken defenders to the ground from time to time, but he doesn’t show it nearly as consistently as I believe he can.
Refinement: To be expected from an FCS prospect, Radunz is far from a polished product. His feet are slow and a bit wild, and I’m concerned that when he faces stronger competition, he’ll be very susceptible to counters like inside rips and spins. He also struggles with hand placement, and as mentioned earlier, he gives up his chest far too consistently. He has the length to take massive strides in this area, but it will take time. NFL coaching will be massive for Radunz, and this is my major concern with him. It leads me to believe he may not be ready to play right off the bat in his first year.
Level of Competition: This will be the biggest question Radunz faces for the majority of the draft process. People will be questioning whether or not he can play due to the level of competition he faced in the FCS. As I mentioned earlier with his length, it doesn’t matter if defenders get into his chest because he’s naturally big enough and strong enough to prevent them from driving him back. Well, in the NFL, when you give your chest up to a guy like Nick Bosa, it doesn’t matter how big or strong you are. He will be driving you into the quarterback for a sack, and probably a forced fumble. A strong showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl would be huge for Radunz stock.
NDSU’s Radunz could be a hidden gem in the 2021 offensive tackle class. He possesses great physical gifts for the position in his elite length and above-average athletic ability. He also possesses a well-developed intellect with great situational awareness, something not commonly seen in FCS prospects. Additionally, he has a motor that runs hot, and he’s a player you want on your team both on the field and off.
However, if Radunz is to be a top prospect, and develop into a top NFL tackle, he must refine his technique, as that’s what separates the physical specimens from the All-Pros. Radunz currently projects as a second-day pick with high upside, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a team fell in love with his physical abilities and career accomplishments, and took him in the second half of the first round.