As an NFL draft analyst, it can be wise to initially avoid too much noise when it comes to prospects. The expectations that come from hearing the viewpoints of others can often times introduce biases into film study and skew the final synopsis of a player.
But every so often, a nugget comes through on a player that demands attention and must be addressed — sooner rather than later. Such is the case with Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, a junior lineman who declared for the 2020 draft earlier this month. With his decision made, rumblings from well-respected names in the industry have begun to surface. When Daniel Jeremiah and Dane Brugler speak, you would be wise to listen, as a colleague or fan.
Especially when they start throwing around comparisons like Bryant McKinnie, a former top-10 overall selection back in 2002.
McKinnie would go on to start 162 games in his NFL career and log an approximate value score of 82 from Pro Football Reference, one of the 20 highest cumulative scores given to any offensive tackle for their career since 2000. Some of the notable names ahead of McKinnie on the list?
- Andrew Whitworth
- Jason Peters
- Joe Thomas
- Walter Jones
- Orlando Pace
- Tyron Smith
The McKinnie comparison is high praise for a player like Becton who was generally regarded as a middling prospect over the course of the summer. So I took to the tape to find out if Becton lives up to the standard set by comparisons to McKinnie (Jeremiah) and Trent Brown (Brugler).
Spoiler alert: He does.
Becton possesses rare skill in his fluidity at his size. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 369 pounds, he is an absolute mammoth of a human being and the stalwart of the Cardinals offensive line in 2019. Turn on the tape and you'll find moments of pure domination at the point of attack, not just with brute strength and power but also with grace, explosiveness and rare physical qualities for an athlete of this stature.
But for all of the ways he wins that will surprise you, it is the dominance and strength you would hope for at this size that steals the show.
The upper body strength is unparalleled; and with Becton moving better than in years past, he's got a better functional application in space, meaning he's not just a straight line mauler like so many big brutes on the line. No, no.
Becton will whitewash defenders on down blocks but he'll also torque and extend with a notable wingspan to soften the edge. Louisville seemed to gain 10 yards every time it ran off his inside hip across the slew of games studied for his final report.
There are some parallels to Jawaan Taylor in Becton's game too, given that he's blossomed in his final season at the college level and possesses rare physical qualities. It was pointed out to me by TDN publications intern Carter Donnick during a recent film session — and it has stuck. Taylor made rare plays on the edge and showed even more rare range as a blocker but ultimately fell to the early second round due to medical concerns. The former can also be said for Becton, who on one rep provided a backside cutoff block on a 1-technique defensive tackle: a surreal play for a 369-pound blocker aligned two gaps away at the snap.
Becton got an early-season endorsement from another strong offensive line evaluator, Duke Manyweather. Manyweather is a prominent coach, analyst and figure in the offensive line subdivision of the football world. Becton caught his eye by the end of September with some of these dominant reps on film.
With Becton officially in the 2020 draft player pool, time is running out to hop on the hype train before it leaves the station. But make no mistake — this train will leave the station soon. So check the tape and hop on board.
It's going to be a fun ride to April for Becton.