Some of the less-heralded names to look out for while prepping for the upcoming NFL Draft.
With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching, it is prime season for mock drafts and big boards. While these are always a blast to come up with, every year there are prospects who get pigeonholed into rounds and rankings that are lower than where they should be.
Whether it be poor combines, a lack of exposure or scouts and pundits’ misinterpretation of where value lies, diamonds in the rough get overlooked every draft season.
With this piece, we’ll be looking at tight ends, interior offensive linemen and offensive tackles.
TE – Briley Moore
If you’re looking for a complete tight end with a no. 1 tight end ceiling, look no further than Kansas State’s Briley Moore in rounds 4-7.
Moore is a 6’4” 250-pound explosive tight end who blocks his tail off every play.
With a somewhat low amount of targets, Moore only racked up 338 yards and three touchdowns in 2020. However, he did well with the low share that he received — his 15.4 yards per catch is tied for eighth among TE’s with at least 20 targets in 2020, and his 1.86 yards per route run was 16th.
He has serious burst off the line and speed to get past linebackers and get to the second level.
And while his under 31” arms are a concern, he did catch over 50% of his contested targets last year. He won’t be a guy you throw a fade route to, but he can be a real threat as an underneath option, as well as a leak-out guy who can get by people.
He isn’t a refined route-runner at this point by any means, but he has the hip flexibility and agility to get low and burst out of breaks. He could me a menace potentially on in-breaking patterns against linebackers.
The receiving potential is exciting, but what’s most promising about Moore is his blocking. This is what makes him a safer bet on Day three.
His 74.1 PFF run blocking grade last season was 20th among 200 tight ends with at least 100 run blocking snaps. And he did it in different ways, with 46.1% of his RB snaps coming on Zone runs and 41.6% coming on gap schemes.
He explodes off of the line of the scrimmage and gets those short arms under people, playing with aggression near the line and getting to the second level to maul back seven players on Zone schemes.
Overall, it seems that Moore presents a high floor and somewhat of a high ceiling, because his blocking ability alone might get him on a roster. And if you’re getting that type of profile from a player on the third day of the draft, that’s good value.
IOL – Aaron Banks
Notre Dame left guard Aaron Banks may not be the most exciting prospect in the world, but the man with the steady frame brings a steady presence in pass protection on the interior.
A three-year starter for the Irish, Banks was consistently one of the most reliable pass protectors in the country. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound behemoth held his own against bull rushers, stayed pat against incoming stunts and got his paws into the chest of those trying to spin off or elude him.
Over a huge pass blocking sample of over 1,200 snaps over his career, he only allowed two sacks, four QB hits and 26 total pressures. And with the second-most true pass sets among qualifying guards last season (236), he allowed the least amount of pressures (10) of any of the top 15 in true pass sets.
So, he’s just a battle-tested protector of the quarterback at this point who seems NFL-ready to come in and anchor immediately.
However, his limitations will come in the run game on Zone schemes. He’s not the most nimble or agile guy in the world, and he won’t wow you in open space. He’s a gap/man scheme blocker who can drive people back once he has his hands on them.
Once he really gets locked onto someone, he can drive them in the dirt with ease.
While these athletic limitations will keep him out of the first couple rounds most likely, I would feel more than comfortable getting a solid product like Banks in the third or later round, who can come in and immediately hold his own in pass pro and block his man in the run game. That’s a pretty high floor for someone getting drafted late.
At the very least, Banks won’t screw over your quarterback very often. And that, in and of itself, is pretty valuable.
OT- Walker Little
This one might be a bit out of left field, as Walker Little is a very difficult prospect to evaluate, but the 6-foot-8 former Stanford Cardinal has all the tools to be a really good left tackle.
What makes him so tough to figure out as a player is the fact that he’s only played 72 snaps over the past two seasons. He had his 2019 campaign cut short by injury then chose to opt out last season.
While there is obviously uncertainty that comes with this lack of tape for two entire years, what we saw from Little in 2018 was pretty darn encouraging.
Coming out of high school, Little was tagged as a five-star recruit and the ninth-best overall recruit in the country. He had offers from more than 30 schools and held official visits with Stanford, Florida State and Georgia before committing to Stanford.
He showed flashes in limited snaps as a true freshman, but really took it to another level during his sophomore campaign. With a high number of true pass blocking sets in 2018, he graded out at 81.2 in pass blocking from PFF.
Among tackles with the 50 most true pass sets in 2018, he was T-1st in fewest pressures given up, with a mere 12.
His savviness and athleticism are apparent, as well as his recognition in recognizing stunts, shoving his man to the side and picking up the looping rusher.
He has great strength for a 313-pounder, and is fantastic at mirroring pass rushers and reacting to moves.
His weaknesses come in the running game. He’s a very tall guy who can lose his leverage at times, not being able to get quite as much of a push as he needs on the move.
He’s better on pulls or in space on screen passes, where he can utilize his athleticism and quick feet.
Ultimately, Little is a bit of a question mark with a pretty high ceiling. He has every trait you’d look for in a tackle, but he’s got to prove he’s still got it after barely playing football for the past two years.
He could be a quality late day two pick for any team that has the right infrastructure to develop a talented offensive tackle for a year before watching him sprout.
What do you think of these prospects? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.