Written by Mason LeBeau
Well my deep dive into the Big-4 iOL for the 2020 draft is done and in case you don’t feel like reading four separate scouting reports, I made this handy little article for you so you can still have a good feel for all the prospects. The four I most saw at the top of the positional group are; Tyler Biadasz from Wisconsin, Nick Harris from Washington, Lloyd Cushenberry III from LSU, and Cesar Ruiz from Michigan.
Best Intangibles: Lloyd Cushenberry
Cushenberry is going to look very attractive to a locker room that needs a little leadership. He’ll also be popular among coaching staff who believe in their ability to coach up a lack of technique. Cushenberry was considered LSU’s team MVP by peers who valued his leadership on and off the field, which led to his honorary #18 jersey (an LSU honor for leadership on and off the field). He could only carry that number in the form of a patch but make no mistake, he was a key piece of that LSU locker room.
He also doesn’t quite look like a Center. He’s bigger and longer-limbed than the other three prospects, with an inch in arm length over the next closest. Despite this, he carries his weight excellently, whereas oversized iOL prospects usually struggle with flexibility and leverage Cushenberry did not. There will be technique he needs to learn with his hands and eyes, but his solid play, intangibles and natural strength, you have a recipe for a high upside day two guy that some coach will be banging the table for.
Highest Floor: Cesar Ruiz
If you need a plug and play iOL look no further than the Michigan product. Ruiz was extremely effective in his final season but showed consistent development season to season that alludes to some upside left to hit. Ruiz is very experienced, considered the nation's top Center recruit as a high school graduate. He managed to get solid playing time as a true freshman for Michigan and has been a mainstay on the interior ever since. Ruiz’s combination of athleticism, technique, and experience has him as a scheme and position-versatile player who can produce year one.
Highest Ceiling: Cushenberry
This could also be the ‘lowest floor category’ depending on how you look at it. Cushenberry still has plenty to fix and if he is able to properly develop those areas he can be a very good starter for a decade. His natural size and strength give him a basis for this, and playing with an NFL QB and OC for two seasons should only put him in a better position going forward.
Best Movement Ability: Tyler Biadasz
He may not necessarily be the best blocker in space or on the move, but you can’t help but notice how natural it is for him to get into space. Those types of blocks can be developed over time but sometimes you’re either a natural mover or you aren’t. Biadasz is, with the proper footwork, hip flexibility, and body type that helps him carry his weight so well.
Best in Space: Nick Harris
Ruiz was a solid second, but Harris’s footwork and mental processing helped him become a dynamic run blocker. Able to make reach blocks, second-level blocks, and pulls all effectively. His angles were often perfect putting him directly in between the runner and the defender. Was able to smoothly work off of combo blocks to then seal off the LB. Positioning, timing, and results were all superb.
Best IQ: Harris/Biadasz
These guys are high in IQ for different reasons. With Nick Harris, it’s his on-field, in-play IQ that makes me so high on him. His eyes were incredibly active and he had the reaction time and footwork to be able to act on blitzes, twists, and others failed blocks. He even was able to catch a CB blitz and just get enough of him to let the QB step up and hit the pass. I was repeatedly impressed with Harris’s mental and area awareness.
Biadasz has some of that as well, but I was more impressed with his ability to lead and utilize his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. Biadasz is known for his off-field intelligence and was All-Academic Big-10 both his final years. However, I have genuine concerns about his strength and how he’ll hold up to it in the NFL because very rarely did he win by moving a guy backwards or was able to stonewall a bull rush. He was, however, a very important piece of a run-heavy offense and Jonathan Taylor frequently ran his way. This is because what he lacked in strength he made up for in angles, leverage, footwork and hand usage. He commonly got in the way of his blocker by either redirecting him away from the run or having a great grip that wasn’t able to be shed. He didn’t try to be what he wasn’t and won doing what he could. A simple concept that usually goes over players and coaches alike.
Best Strength: Cushenberry
From a pure strength standpoint, I think Cushenberry is pound for pound the strongest in this group. This was easier to tell because he often abandoned technique and was able to hold up by pure brute and will. His anchor was very difficult to get past when his hands and feet were right, and against the middling competition, even when they weren’t. He worked against himself in this regard a good amount and was still able to hold his own. His lower body is further ahead than his upper, but this only goes back to the upside, getting these worked out could yield great results.
Best Hands: Ruiz
Shoutout to Biadasz who likely has the best grip, and Harris who was a very close second. Ruiz does it all though. He had a solid extension advantage over Harris, whereas their punch, placement, and timing are all similar. They’re able to win with their hands maintaining leverage against both the run and pass and don’t let go very easily. Harris demonstrated his ability to deconstruct opponent’s hand usage a little better, while Ruiz was clearly ahead of everyone else in their ability to reset and restack should they lose the initial hand fight. The rest would go into panic mode and let the defender into their body hoping to get enough to give the QB or RB enough time, while Ruiz showed poise and on several occasions, was able to reset his hands and maintain the block on second effort, frustrating defenders.
Worst Hands: Cushenberry
For his length and extension, Cushenberry was not able to use his hands well in a bunch of ways that were perplexing, because all of his other traits should equal quality here. Instead, he relied on his legs and a hug technique which was a very high risk for reward. It started with placement where he frequently hit outside or underneath letting defenders into his body. From there his punch and grip were both extremely underwhelming. His punch he more or less opted not to use, while his outside grip often let defenders shed easier they should be able to. At the second level, he went for punches on LBs instead of locking them down. It was very frustrating to see him not use the tools he seemingly should have otherwise.
Best Footwork: Biadasz
Biadasz’s footwork is where he made his upcoming money. It was so sound and consistent that he was able to overcome all his other issues by simply being in the right place and the right time over and over again.
Ruiz - San Francisco / New England
Harris - Miami / Denver
Biadasz - Seattle / Baltimore
Cushenberry - Cincinnati / Tampa Bay