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Comparing the advanced numbers of top OL prospects in 2021 NFL draft

Alijah Vera-Tucker
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Jets need some offensive line help in the 2021 NFL draft. How do the top OL prospects compare in terms of statistical production?

When it was healthy, the New York Jets‘ 2020 offensive line was an upgrade over previous years, as the unit’s five primary starters (Mekhi Becton, Alex Lewis, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, George Fant) combined for an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 65.6 that ranked 21st out of the league’s 32 units of top-five offensive linemen in terms of snaps. That was a major leap forward from the 2018 and 2019 seasons in which the Jets ranked last or second-to-last in nearly every offensive line category.

Nevertheless, a No. 21 ranking is nowhere near where the Jets need to be if they are going to compete for championships. There remains plenty of room to grow – and after a free agency period in which essentially nothing was done to improve the unit, it is going to be crucial that the Jets find a way to bolster it in the draft.

The 2021 NFL draft is stocked with talented offensive linemen who will go off the board over the first two days of the draft. How do they all stack up against one another in terms of their productivity in college? Let’s dive into the numbers.

Here are the prospects we will be comparing today:

  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (2020 opt-out: stats will be from 2019)
  • Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (2020 opt-out: stats will be from 2019)
  • Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma St.
  • Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota St. (shortened 2020 season: stats will be from 2019)
  • Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
  • Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
  • Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio St.
  • Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee
  • Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
  • Ben Cleveland, OG, Georgia
  • Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
  • Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
  • Josh Myers, C, Ohio St.

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Allowed pressure rate

This stat showcases the percentage of pass blocking snaps in which pressure was allowed.

As will be the case for every stat in this piece, each player’s percentile rank in the category among qualified FBS players at their respective positions (centers, guards, tackles) is also listed.

*an asterisk denotes a player whose stats are from the 2019 season.

  1. OT Penei Sewell: 1.49% (98th percentile)*
  2. OT Rashawn Slater: 1.52% (97th)*
  3. OT Teven Jenkins: 2.01% (95th)
  4. OT Christian Darrisaw: 2.23% (93rd)
  5. OT Samuel Cosmi: 2.36% (92nd)
  6. OG Trey Smith: 1.77% (90th)
  7. C Landon Dickerson: 1.37% (88th)
  8. OT Alijah Vera-Tucker: 2.77% (86th)
  9. OG Aaron Banks: 2.28% (82nd)
  10. OG Ben Cleveland: 2.28% (82nd)
  11. C Creed Humphrey: 1.75% (81st)
  12. OT Dillon Radunz: 3.31% (78th)*
  13. OT Liam Eichenberg: 3.48% (76th)
  14. OG Wyatt Davis: 4.23% (39th)
  15. C Josh Myers: 4.44% (16th)

Living up to their prestigious billings, Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater topped the list by a wide margin, while fellow projected first-round tackles Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma St.) and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) weren’t too far behind. The average pressure rate allowed by a qualified FBS tackle in 2020 was 5.4%, and all four of these prospects were well under half of that mark. This tackle class is truly strong.

The interior is lacking in high-quality names. Two of the interior offensive linemen who will be among the earliest selected – Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers – were actually below-average when it came to preventing pressure in 2020. Tennessee’s Trey Smith is the only one of the seven interior offensive line prospects in our 15-player group who landed in the top-10% at his position in regards to pressure rate.

USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker played left tackle in 2020 and was mostly great. He allowed only two pressures (at an 0.81% rate) over his first five games until he was crushed by future NFL draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship, giving up six pressures in that game. However, most scouts are projecting Vera-Tucker to play guard in the NFL, as he played the position prior to 2020 and was phenomenal. Over 13 starts and 590 protection snaps at left guard in 2019, Vera-Tucker gave up only six pressures, yielding a 1.02% pressure rate that was the second-lowest among Power-5 guards.

True pass set percentage

Some offenses make a lineman’s job easy and some don’t. If a lineman plays in an offense that throws a lot of screen passes, runs a lot of play action bootlegs, and frequently gets the ball out immediately, he is not going to allow much pressure, simply because he often doesn’t even have to block anybody. On the other hand, if a lineman plays in an aggressive offense that loves to air it out downfield and runs a lot of long-developing concepts, he is naturally going to allow more pressure than most of his peers, as his offense is consistently asking him to engage in long-lasting one-on-one battles.

To get a better grasp of how difficult each lineman’s job in pass protection is, Pro Football Focus tracks the number of “true pass sets” that each lineman plays. To get these totals, PFF excludes passing plays with less than 4 rushers, play action, screens, short dropbacks, or time-to-throws under 2.0 seconds. This provides a good look at the number of plays in which the lineman actually had to protect the pocket for a significant amount of time.

Here is a look at how the top offensive line prospects compare when it comes to the percentage of their pass blocking snaps that were considered “true pass sets.” This provides a lot of context to the pressure rates seen above and also gives us a good idea of which players were aided the most and least by their scheme.

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