2021 NFL Draft: James Hudson Player Profile

James Hudson 2021 NFL Draft Overview

Position: Offensive Tackle
Height: 6’-5”
Weight: 310 pounds
School: Cincinnati 

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James Hudson 2021 NFL Draft Profile

From Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, James Hudson was a four-star recruit with offers from college football powerhouses, such as Michigan, Alabama, and Ohio State. However, Hudson was recruited as a defensive end after he posted 16.5 sacks (combined) in his junior and senior seasons at High School. In addition to playing defensive end, Hudson also started at left tackle for Central Catholic. Finally, Hudson committed to Michigan to play under Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor after withdrawing his junior year commitment to Kentucky. 

Shortly after joining the Wolverines, Hudson received a request from the coaching staff: switching to tackle. The coaching staff cited arm length, frame, and upper-body strength as driving factors for the move, one that Hudon was on board with. Hudson redshirted in his freshman season to learn how to play left tackle and hoped to work towards the starting spot in 2018. But, 2018 turned out to be a difficult year for Hudson. In his redshirt freshman season, Hudson battled mental health issues and depression, causing him to enter the transfer portal. The Michigan coaches implied that the reason was playing time, rather than mental health issues. Hudson joined the Cincinnati Bearcats, but was forced to sit out the 2019 season due to transfer rules. 

Entering 2020, Hudson was slated to be the starting left tackle for the Bearcats. In the 2020 season, Hudson did not allow a single sack, which is especially impressive given his lack of experience. Last season, Cincinnati surrendered under two sacks per game, 1.9. This was a massive improvement over 2019, where they allowed 2.4 sacks per game. In the Peach Bowl against Georgia, Hudson held his own against a potential first-round pick, Azeez Olujari, in the first half before missing the second half due to a targeting penalty on a cheap hit after the play. Olujari had a massive second half for the Bulldogs including a strip-sack late in the game, his third. 

Hudson was magnificent in the run game with his incredible athleticism. He anchored the 22nd rank rushing attack in the country as Cincinnati averaged 212.4 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry, which was 13th in college football. In 2019, Cincinnati ranked 40th in yards per carry at 4.7. 

As a whole, Hudson played exceptionally well in his one year as a starter in college. With his background as a defensive end, Hudson displayed tremendous athleticism in space, especially in the run game and even off the line in pass protection. This could be a valuable asset at the next level in zone blocking schemes where Hudson can work to the second or third level, paving the way for the running back. In pass protection, Hudson also showed flashes against speed rushers off the edge with his quick first step and strong hands. 

Strengths

  • Excellent athlete in space with speed and physicality in the run game; 
  • Explosive first move in pass protection and holds his own against speed rushers;
  • Could be a versatile option with the attributes to be a quality guard;
  • Strong lower body and hands; solid foundation to be an above-average pass blocker;
  • Almost a perfect fit in a zone-blocking scheme with the potential to impact screen plays and pull on pitches/tosses.

Weaknesses

  • Incredibly raw, particularly in pass protection, after only receiving significant playing for one season;
  • Does not have the consistent technique in pass protection (lunging), stemming from inexperience;
  • On the light-side for an offensive lineman at 310 pounds; may need a year to sit to build upper-body strength to handle NFL bull-rushes;
  • Disappointing NFL Combine with a 5.27 40-yard dash and may lose some athleticism if he bulks up. 

NFL Comparison: Morgan Moses

Teams with a Need at Tackle: Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Football Team, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers

Projection: 2nd-4th Round

Bottom Line on James Hudson

While James Hudson may not be the most “NFL-ready” tackle in this year’s draft, he presents unique raw talent and the potential to grow into one of the better tackles (or guards) in the league. He is already an NFL-caliber run blocker, with his athleticism and burst off the line of scrimmage, but he lacks the pass blocking technique and upper-body strength to play right away in the NFL. Early in his NFL career, Hudson may not be able to be a reliable swing tackle given his lack of experience, better suited for the fourth tackle on the roster, but he could provide depth at guard with reps in the offseason. A team like the Dallas Cowboys would be an excellent fit for James Hudson. He could sit behind and learn from Tyron Smith without the need to be rushed onto the field. 

In an incredibly deep tackle class, perhaps the deepest position group in the class, Hudson may slide to the late third round, which would be a direct consequence of the tackle depth in the class. Hudson is very much an unknown in this year’s draft as he has started just one season at left tackle. While he could very well make another position switch to guard in his NFL career, James Hudson is an intriguing tackle prospect who could be a franchise left tackle given adequate time and coaching. 

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