Lack of elite talent at offensive tackle should help prospects like BYU’s Blake Freeland – but it might hurt OT-needy teams

NFL Draft News

It’s not a great year draft-wise to need an offensive lineman.

For starters, look at the list of free agents, and you won’t have to search far to find a young Pro Bowler (26-year-old Orlando Brown Jr.), an older Pro Bowler (Taylor Lewan) or just a solid vet (Donovan Smith, Riley Reiff, among others).

How about a former Super Bowl winner still under 30 who can start at tackle or guard but has a bit of an injury history? (Isaiah Wynn).

The list of solid free agent offensive linemen will almost certainly impact the draft, as teams won’t feel as much of a need to reach as they would otherwise with a class like this one.

With that said, history says at least one team in the 2023 draft will take a lineman that ends up performing at a Pro Bowl or All-Pro level. It’s just hard to figure out who that might be thus far.

And, supply and demand being what it is, you’ll still see teams overdraft at offensive tackle.

As of now, there’s only two, maybe three, tackles who are regarded as Day 1 prospects: Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson and Georgia’s Broderick Jones. Skoronski and Jones, though, are seen as candidates to move inside to guard at the next level due to their size and/or length.

But the list of starter-quality (or at least contributor-quality) prospects after those three is pretty sparce, which will force teams to consider taking prospects like Tennessee’s Darnell Wright, Ohio State’s Dawand Jones, Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron and North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch (also a guard prospect) a round or two earlier for fear of losing out on a serviceable tackle.

This will eventually correct itself after the third- or fourth-round because all of the perceived “good” tackle prospects will be gone by then – even though many of those prospects would have gone later in the draft had it been a stronger year for the position.

That makes things problematic for teams like Kansas City or the Los Angeles Rams who might want to keep costs down at that position over signing a big-name veteran (both of the Chiefs OTs are free agents, including Brown). Or, in Los Angeles’ case, teams that want to take a more conservative financial approach to the position and who also doesn’t have a ton of premium draft capital to work with.

In cases like that, those teams will almost have to take a tackle earlier than the prospect’s ranking would suggest.

But the opposite is true, too, as this works in favor of the aforementioned Tier 2 group of tackles as well as prospects like Oklahoma’s Wanya Morris, Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan or Alabama’s Tyler Steen.

One player in particular who should benefit from the lack of depth at the position is BYU’s Blake Freeland, who is currently ranked as a Day 3-type of prospect in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.

Prior to the Combine, Freeland was ranked as the 14th-best tackle prospect by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. Teams and draft analysts alike loved his size, experience and athleticism, but dinged him for his core power, leverage and anchor and his overall technique. And things didn’t get much better for the 6-foot-8, 302-pound Freeland after the early practices at the Senior Bowl.

Then came the Combine, and suddenly you started hearing phrases like, “will have to turn the tape back on” when describing him. That’s because Freeland wowed evaluators at Indianapolis after setting a Combine record for offensive lineman in the vertical jump with an astounding 37-inch leap. He also had a 10-foot broad jump, also incredible for a lineman.

Suddenly, national evaluators were back on the Freeland bandwagon, with some like Pro Football Network calling him a Combine “riser.”

However, that doesn’t change the other concerns with Freeland. Instead, it gives teams hope that they can “coach him up,” thereby justifying the reason behind selecting him relatively early.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

More news on offensive linemen, and this one isn’t getting nearly the press it deserves: USC guard Andrew Vorhees tore his ACL while working out during the on-field drills last Sunday.

Vorhees was considered projected to go anywhere from the second- to the fourth-round prior to the injury. Now? At least one draft analyst said it’s possible Vorhees goes undrafted.

However, that seems a bit harsh, especially considering the recent cases of players with similar draft grades to Vorhees and how their serious injuries pre-draft injuries had little to no impact on their eventual draft standing, as pointed out by the Steelers’ Depot’s Alex Kozora.

With that said, no one is questioning Vorhees’ toughness. The day after tearing his ACL, Vorhees still put up a Combine-best 38 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press after shuffling to the event while on crutches.

The injury had a slight impact on his Fanspeak rankings in the Rigdon big board, but not by much, as he’s still ranked as a fourth-round prospect.


Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for His big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft. Message him on Twitter to receive $3 off your new Ultimate GM subscription.

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