Pro Football Focus named the best Day 2 draft fits for each NFL team, and the 49ers were linked to a familiar face. As you’ve noticed, we’re going overboard on mock drafts. It’s a way to see different names that San Francisco might be interested in.
The trendy pick this year is BYU’s left tackle, Blake Freeland. Here’s what PFF had to say about Freeland:
Freeland is one of the most athletic tackles of all time, and he even set the combine record for offensive linemen with a 37-inch vertical. That athleticism played in a zone scheme at BYU, where he earned an 87.9 run-blocking grade. He’s still a project in pass protection with serious play strength concerns, but that may cause him to fall right into the 49ers’ lap at the end of the third round.
He’s 6’8”, 302 pounds. And there’s no doubt about Freeland’s athleticism. His combine was historical and tops among all tackles:
Blake Freeland is a OT prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.83 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 23 out of 1287 OT from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/oLbFEGY4px #RAS pic.twitter.com/s2ygdvD6qf— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 5, 2023
To put Freeland’s vertical jump into context, he jumped 2” higher than George Kittle did, but 55 pounds heavier.
BYU relied on zone runs and plenty of RPOs. You can get away with an offensive tackle who is susceptible in pass protection with a quick passing game that includes RPOs.
Freeland started 41 of 45 games during his career, with 26 of those coming at left tackle, 14 coming at right tackle, and another one coming at right guard.
Generally speaking, the top players were multi-sport athletes growing up. Freeland was an all-state basketball player and a state champion javelin thrower and shot putter. Pair that with his athletic profile and those are the types of athletes you want to bet on.
Applying Freeland’s athleticism on the field
It doesn’t take long to see Freeland’s traits show up. Watch No. 71 below at left tackle. This is the fourth play of the game. He reaches, or blocks the defensive tackle in the gap to his right, effortlessly.
Freeland does an excellent job of firing out of his stance and getting his helmet across the body of the defender. Freeland is consistent in taking great angles, which only helps him execute cutting off blocks on the backside of these zone runs.
Speed kills. At every position. When your linemen can move like this, you have a numbers advantage. That, in turn, is how teams get explosive rushes.
You can learn a lot from one rep. The play above also illustrates one of Freeland’s greatest areas of improvement, which is his hand usage. Inside hands win in the trenches. Look where Freeland goes to punch. His hand is on the left shoulder of the defensive tackle.
Because he’s fast enough to get there, Freeland won the rep. But, in the NFL, he’ll need to put it all together to be a consistent starter. You’ll notice the same issues in pass protection with Freeland, where his hands are too wide. This allows pass rushers to get into his chest or forces Freeland to absorb contact first, which is not a winning formula for trench play.
Freeland has to get stronger if he’s going to outperform his draft status. There’s no doubt he’d beat out Colton McKivitz at right tackle, but to be a functional starter, Freeland must improve on his strength at the point of attack, getting stronger in his lower body, and playing with better pad level.
Everything you’d consider a “weakness” is fixable, which makes Freeland an intriguing prospect who can play through some of his faults.