The NFL has thankfully seen an influx of talent along the offensive line in recent years. That includes the first-round draft picks like Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Christian Darrisaw the last two seasons. The trend continues this year, with Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, and Charles Cross consistently mocked in the top ten.
Cross is the subject of this scouting report. The former five-star recruit and fifth-ranked tackle in the class of 2019. The Mississippi State offensive tackle has started over 20 games at left tackle and declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore, giving him more than enough opportunity to grow the first few years of his career. Under Mike Leach at Mississippi State, Cross was used much more as a pass-blocker than run blocker in the air-raid scheme. Cross has been marked as a potential top ten choice, so let’s see if the tape backs that claim.
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Name: Charles Cross
Jersey: No. 67
Position: Offensive Tackle
School: Mississippi State
Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Weight: 310 lbs
Games Watched: Texas A&M (2021), Kentucky (2021), Alabama (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Pass Blocking (14/15)
Cross has plenty of experience pass blocking. He has a quick pass set, thanks to his fantastic athleticism, which allows him to climb the pocket and contain pass-rushers from getting to the quarterback. Cross quickly engages with players right from the snap and has an advantage almost immediately. Another thing here is that he is routinely patient with late blitzes. In the three games watched, Cross could sense pressure coming and leave a double-team to block a player rounding the corner late.
Run Blocking (10/15)
Cross didn’t have much experience run blocking. When he did, it didn’t go very well. He doesn’t have the greatest power and strength to succeed in the run game and often resorted to boxing out defenders to keep them from the ball-carrier. Defenders would shed the block attempt by Cross regularly. While his athleticism is elite, he would take bad angles at the second level, and the defenders would get by him to make the tackle. The lack of experience may be the root of the problem, but this is a concern heading to the next level.
Cross has elite size for a left tackle that teams will covet. At six-foot-five, he can control the edge with his size and has long arms that allow him to get an advantage right from the snap. Cross continuously gets his hand into the defender’s chest to control them in the passing game with ease.
Cross gets into his pass set very quickly. He has fast feet and gets to depth in an instant. While that hurts him a bit on his inside and becomes a weakness against bull-rushers, his quick feet help him regain balance when a defender rounds the edge. As a result, he can redirect his feet, which helps against stunts and late blitzes. Even with his quick feet, Cross maintains his balance and rarely trips over his feet.
His mechanics is another area that needs work. His hand placement is average at best. He got called for holding in the game against Alabama due to his hands being outside the shoulder pads twice. Cross could’ve been called for holding several times in the three games, but it was missed by the officials. His hands being continuously outside is very concerning heading to the next level. Cross often boxes out the defender in the run game instead of truly blocking them to keep them out of the running lane. While that is a good technique to have, he used this far too many times when he could’ve completely blocked them out of the play. Hopefully, offensive line coaches will get him out of this tendency at the next level.
As already mentioned, Cross is an elite athlete. He routinely climbs to the second-level quickly in the run game and can get out in space in the screen game. Cross has quick feet, which help him in his pass set to keep up with twitchy pass-rushers and control them. He’s a tremendous athlete, and that, paired with his pass-blocking skills, has made him one of the top darlings in the draft.
His best traits come from what the NFL looks for in their tackles. Cross has elite length, athleticism, footwork, and pass-blocking skills, but his skills in the run game falter. He is strictly a tackle at the next level.
The lone weakness in his pass-blocking skills is his anchor. When Cross goes against a bull-rush, he struggles and is almost driven straight back into the quarterback. He struggles with his power, and it shows up when the defender gets a grip on him and drives him straight back. In one of the games, the pass-rusher drove him straight back into the quarterback for the sack. While he is better in this regard than he once was, there is still room to grow.
This trait is a tale of two different stories. In the passing game, Cross can control blockers easily and gives them a path to go. In the run game, he struggles mightily. Cross is often on the ground at the end of run plays due to missed blocks or getting tossed by a defender who sheds his block to get to the ball carrier.
The hype surrounding Cross would leave many to believe he comes with little to no weaknesses. After watching three games, that is false. Cross will have plenty of growing pains at the next level, as he will go from an air-raid offense to an NFL-style playbook. Whichever team drafts him will have to be patient with him. Cross will go early in the draft because he’s an athletic freak that comes with quick feet and NFL-level length. He will struggle in the run game due to some of the techniques he currently has.
Teams that run the ball a ton will have to deal with the growing pains that Cross comes with. Teams like Pittsburgh or Denver at the top of the draft will have to be patient with the young tackle as he transitions from a college offense to an NFL one. Some teams that come to mind that would be ideal fits for Cross include Carolina, Baltimore, Arizona, and Cincinnati.
Rookie Projection: Starting Left Tackle
Third Year Projection: Potential All-Pro Tackle
Final Grade (82.5/100): Mid Second Round
Player Comp: Andrew Thomas