Christian Darrisaw NFL Draft Profile
One of the biggest risers throughout the 2020 college football season was Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. In a draft with a lot of uncertainty and lack of verified tape, that will not be the case for Darrisaw, who has been a three-year starter at left tackle for the Hokies. Physically, he checks all the requisite boxes for being an NFL offensive tackle. He’s got great size and length, being listed at 6’5 and 315 pounds. Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater have the top two offensive line rankings locked up, but that third spot is very much up for debate and Darrisaw has earned the right to have his name thrown into that ring.
Top Three Player Traits
Second Level Mobility
With the rising popularity in the NFL of rushing attacks built around outside-zone schemes, offensive linemen need to be able to effectively work the second level of defenses in space. This is Darrisaw’s best attribute. He is a fantastic athlete for the position and understands angles well enough that he excels at working up to block linebackers and safeties. Once he is there, he has the mentality and urgency to sustain blocks down the field or bully defenders into the ground. The combination of his high-level awareness and mobility will make him a valuable asset as a blocker in a scheme that asks its lineman to block defenders in space.
Darrisaw combines his mobility with the ability to dominate rushers with his powerful strikes. He is one of the most physically strong tackles in this class, and it shows up in his ability as a run blocker and a pass blocker. He’s got the ability to blow defenders off the ball, both while executing reach blocks on the perimeter, or scoop blocks on the inside. He also possesses one of the best anchors in this class as a pass blocker, which allows him to absorb contact and withstand any speed to power rushes from defensive ends. Since most edge rushers in college lack a true pass rush arsenal, Darrisaw is able to physically dominate in this regard.
Earlier this week, Darrisaw was interviewed by Justin Melo of the Draft Network and he dropped one of the best quotes by an offensive lineman in recent memory:
“I’m going to whoop your ass up and down the field on every single play. I’m gonna talk about it too (laughs). I’m gonna let you know that you’re getting your ass kicked out here.”
One of the things every offensive line coach looks for in a college prospect is toughness. Whether or not the prospect has the ability to go out and dominate his opposition, handle adversity, and be a leader on his team is crucial for how they will translate to the next level. That quote shows that Darrisaw has the intention every single week to demoralize his opponents, and that mentality absolutely shows up on tape.
Top Three Traits To Improve Upon
Urgency As A Pass Blocker
When watching Darrisaw, I noticed that he’s someone that will play at his own pace. He wants to stay under control and be able to react to whatever the defense is giving him. Once he is able to react, he will attack aggressively, but it takes him a little bit to work up to that point. Think of it as a taller track athlete that takes longer to work up to his top speed because they have longer strides. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Darrisaw, but in the NFL, that patience is not going to work as often as it did in college.
He will need to learn how to blend his patience with his aggression, and learn to attack edge rushers from the jump. He does show the ability to be explosive out of his stance in glimpses, but he needs to demonstrate it more consistently, otherwise, he will struggle with the top-tier speed rushers in the NFL who are able to get a jump off the ball and turn the corners around him.
Diversity As A Pass Blocker
One of the reasons that some analysts have Slater pegged as the top offensive lineman in the class is because he displays the most diverse skill set as a pass blocker. He is able to win with any kind of pass set and hand placement. He can take a true deep-set and handle a speed rusher, he can take a quick set and win with aggression, and he can take a balanced angle set to prevent rushers from winning on the inside. He can win with a two-handed strike, he can keep rushers at bay with a single-arm, and he can win with leverage and patience.
Darrisaw is not as well-rounded or diverse in his ability as a pass blocker. His tendency is to quick-set and strike with both hands. Which again isn’t really a bad thing, obviously that approach has served him well and put him in a position to be a first-round draft pick. However, if he is ever going to reach his true potential, he will need to diversify his approach if he is going to survive being on the island of a franchise left tackle.
Bend And Flexibility
Because he has such powerful hands, Darrisaw does have a tendency to over-rely on those hands. He does display the ability to anchor down on occasions when it is needed. He and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham had a fantastic battle this past season. Basham is one of the strongest and most violent edge rushers in this class and uses the speed to power rush with a high frequency. Darrisaw won a lot of reps against Basham and showed that he is able to stay in a balanced and powerful stance, but Basham did also expose the lack of consistency in that regard on a couple of occasions. If NFL defensive ends see that Darrisaw stands high too often, they will expose that weakness on a consistent basis.
Overall, Darrisaw possesses all the requisite traits to merit a top 20 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, there are a few things that he will need to clean up if he is going to reach that kind of ceiling. He does have the kind of skill set where he doesn’t need to land in a certain scheme, but I do believe that getting him on an offense that would allow him to use his athleticism on the perimeter would help make his transition to the NFL much smoother.